CONSISTENCY is key to Hartlepool United’s success this season and Colin Cooper has urged his side to show they are up to the challenge.
At this time of year many clubs will be feeling optimistic about their chances of promotion in the coming campaign but the Pools manager is not getting carried away.
He knows his team lacked consistency when it mattered last season and despite, at one stage, flirting with the play-offs the season ended in disappointment, a 19th place finish in Sky Bet League Two.
Overall though the former Middlesbrough and England defender was happy with the competitive edge shown by his Pools players.
But he admitted the lack of consistency was a frustration.
Cooper is, therefore, calling on his squad to “push on” in 2014-15 and for his side to string together a series of positive results – especially after Christmas when the league reaches the “business end” of the season.
Cooper was speaking before his squad returned to the North East on Sunday after their week-long pre-season training camp at the plush La Cala Resort, in southern Spain.
They didn’t play any matches, instead Cooper and assistant manager Stephen Pears have been putting the players through a testing time.
They have done two to three sessions a day in the searing heat, including early morning 4k runs around the golf resort and hill runs plus the football sessions.
Work that Cooper hopes will stand them in good stead ahead of the challenge of another League Two campaign, which will be just as, if not more, competitive than last year.
“We were more than competitive last year but we weren’t consistent enough,” Cooper told SportMail.
“When we needed to push on last season we probably didn’t have the resources at the club and the squad was probably a little bit thin.
“I can’t do an awful lot about that but we do have some talented footballers and we can compete.
“It is whether we can compete often enough and be consistent enough and when you get to the business end of the season are we in touch and can we push on?
“That is what football is all about - when you get asked questions - can you answer them.
“Yes, everybody wants to get off to a good start and maintain that good start but the business end of the season is February, March time onwards and that is when we were found a little bit wanting.
“With another pre-season behind us and a few new faces in the building and a slightly-better mentality at the club than last year, then hopefully when we get to that stage of the season we are ready.
“But you never know. I could sit here and wax lyrical about whatever I want but what I do know is that we will be competitive and we will give a good account of ourselves.
“The key is to do it more often than not over the course of the season.”
The preparations will crank up a notch this week with the start of the club’s pre-season fixtures, with Billingham Town away on Wednesday, July 16 (KO 7pm) before the weekend trip to Bradford Park Avenue (KO 3pm) this Saturday.
After that Pools take on Sunderland at Victoria Park (July 23), Whitby Town away (July 26), Middlesbrough at the Vic (July 30) and their final pre-season fixture away to Bradford City on Saturday, August 2.