COLIN Cooper is refusing to underplay the importance of a positive start to the season with Hartlepool United.
It was 12 months ago that Pools, then under the care of Neale Cooper, were thumped 5-0 at Crewe Alexandra as the tone was set for a disastrous campaign.
With that and last season in mind, Cooper is keen to alter mindset this time around.
“I can’t sit here and say a good result in the first match is not important, because it is,” said Cooper ahead of tomorrow’s opener at Rochdale (kick-off 3pm).
“We have to shake the negativity of last season off very quickly.
“That’s not easy, to step across a white line as a footballer when you’re not 100-per-cent confident is hard.
“I have already said to them that I will gladly take any knocks on my shoulders.
“We need to give ourselves the confidence to build from.
“Do that and you don’t know where it will take you.
“If this group got off to reasonably good start then I could see it rolling because there are some good players in that squad.”
And Cooper expects his players to be fully pumped for the big kick-off.
“A nice stadium, cracking pitch, first game of the season and probably 30 degrees – if you can’t enjoy it then don’t bother,” he added.
“I want the lads to go out there and play without fear.
“I saw an element of fear in them for the first 20 minutes against Preston last week and I wasn’t happy.
“That isn’t what we’ve been about.
“I want our players to make the right decisions and do that without fear.
“They have that in them, it’s about being brave enough to show it and taking responsibility.”