NEALE Cooper admits he would have loved to watch veteran midfielder Paul Murray at his peak.
The 36-year-old is now one of the first names on the Scot’s team-sheet having previously been left out at the start of the season.
And Cooper believes that Murray is exactly the type of character Pools need in their quest to escape the League One relegation zone.
“Paul Murray has been brilliant for me, brilliant,” he said of the former Queens Park Rangers star.
“I know what I’m getting from him, and that’s what you want.
“If he was 10 years younger he would not be here – I would loved to have seen him at his peak.
“He just does things properly and is model pro for any young player, he’s the one you look to.”
Cooper, though, has a daily battle on his hands when it comes to keeping Murray away from the training pitches, should he feel the anchorman’s ageing frame is in need of a rest.
“Paul has more bruises on his legs from the other night (against Sheffield United) than I’ve ever had in my whole life,” he laughed.
“But he does not want to be in the treatment room because that’s the sort of boy he is.
“He’s a winner and he was spreading it around the changing-room the other night.
“He is so important in there – I just sense that.
“It means a lot to him and I think others pick up on that.”
Murray’s spirit epitomised Pools’ much-improved showing against The Blades, but Cooper insists his players have to prove that was no one-off when they travel to Crewe Alexandra tomorrow.
“They were outstanding on Tuesday and I was proud,” said the Pools boss, despite the 2-1 defeat which kept his side one from bottom in the third tier.
“That’s what they are capable of and if we play like that week in, week out then we’ll be fine.
“I’ve been feeling really fed up, wondering what team will turn up on the day.
“Until we prove that we can go on a run then that fear will remain.
“But it was refreshing to go in there and give them praise rather than stick.
“Other than the Carlisle game last season, that is the best performance since I came back.
“I said to them ‘if Hartlepool people see you giving it your lot, with passion, and not allowing your heads to go down, then they’ll stick with you’.
“I want a set of boys who, when they go a goal down, go and get it back.”
Cooper is also mindful of that opening day 5-0 drubbing at the hands of tomorrow’s opponents.
“We have to get over the embarrassment of that,” he said.
“It has an effect for me to try and spur the boys on to perform – that was not a good day.”