Hartlepool Utd boss says summer’s been a success

Neale Cooper. Picture by FRANK REID
Neale Cooper. Picture by FRANK REID

NEALE Cooper bids farewell to a “successful” pre-season this weekend – but admits it hasn’t been without its challenges.

Pools’ summer record – from the games in which Cooper has taken charge – reads played seven, won two, drawn two and lost three, the warm-up campaign bookended by defeats in Holland and against Newcastle United this week.

Results aside, however, the performances against Sunderland and Middlesbrough, in particular, have been a cause for much optimism.

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The Scot has settled on his preferred starting XI and will name that side for Saturday’s League Cup clash at Crewe Alexandra.

And, reflecting on the past five weeks with SportMail, Cooper said today: “On the whole, pre-season has been very good, it’s been successful.

“Holland was a little bit miserable because of the weather and we played two tough matches.

“We were working the lads hard at the time and the performances weren’t the best.

“On top of that we lost Scott Flinders to injury and had to play a young goalkeeper, which wasn’t ideal.

“But once we got back we found our feet and started to work more on shape.

“We settled on our team and we’ve stuck with that, which I think has helped with togetherness.

“We’ve seen a couple of very good performances and the lads seem happy with what we’re trying to do.

“The game against Newcastle probably wasn’t ideal in its timing, but we can learn from it because they were fantastic.”

Cooper was forced into one change from his strongest side for that visit of The Magpies, skipper Sam Collins missing out because of family reasons, with Jack Baldwin coming in.

The 18-year-old is now on standby for a start this weekend, and Cooper feels the centre-half would have learned from his outing against Premier League Newcastle.

“For our younger boys it was a chance for them to look at lads of a similar age at Newcastle and give them something to aspire to,” said the Pools boss.

“I thought Jack had a shaky first half but was much better in the second and did well.

“Young Luke James also came into the game more after half-time, although we’ve got to get him to settle a little bit more when he’s in possession.”

Meanwhile, with Andy Rafferty still sidelined, academy goalkeeper Dominic Scott looks set to occupy the bench as back up to Flinders at the Alexandra Stadium.