Hartlepool Utd head off on pre-season Holland trip

Neale Cooper
Neale Cooper

UNDER-the-weather Hartlepool United boss Neale Cooper heads to Holland today hoping for a sunshine pick-me-up – but it looks as though the Scot will be disappointed.

Despite landing two of his top transfer targets this week – Simon Walton and Steve Howard – the Pools chief has been feeling poorly in recent days.

But any hopes he had of a warm-weather boost have been dashed with a glance towards the forecast – for, like the North-East, the Netherlands is set for continued rainfall.

Nonetheless, Cooper is still looking forward to the north Netherlands boot camp.

“Hopefully the weather will be a bit better – it’s been awful here for this time of the year,” the 48-year-old told SportMail.

“Usually in pre-season it’s red hot and I watch the lads sweating while I stand in the shade!

“But it’s good to get somewhere different and it’s a chance for the new boys to bond with the other lads.

“I’m big on all of that and I love the overnight bus trips we go on in this country.

“The meal times are important and are good for togetherness.

“We’ll have a laugh while we’re away but it’s a chance to put some good, hard work in.”

Pools are taking all but one of their first-year pros to Heiloo with Lewis Hawkins (foot) missing out. Also absent is back-up goalkeeper Andy Rafferty who is sidelined with a knee injury. That means second-year Academy stopper Dominic Scott and striker Ben Wignall have been drafted in. However, there is no place for Nathan Luscombe in the squad and he has been left behind at Maiden Castle to work on his fitness levels.

The likes of Luke James, Josh Rowbotham, Nathan Buddle and Greg Rutherford will enjoy their first taste of the club’s annual European getaway, although Cooper is likely to give more game time to his senior players.

But he believes the experience of the week-long break will be invaluable for the squad’s younger members.

“For the younger boys the experience of coming away on their first trip is a big thing,” he went on.

“They will learn from being around our older players and I’ve noticed how much time they have for the younger lads.

“We’ve got some good, wise heads here and they seem to enjoy talking to the younger lads, which makes my job all the better.

“We’ll have to see what we do game-time wise and some of the lads will get longer than others.

“But they will be two good games and it’s a chance for me to look at a few different ideas.”