NEALE Cooper has revealed that none of his young guns have done enough to win a place in the side at Tranmere Rovers tomorrow.
The Pools chief travelled to North Lincolnshire on Tuesday to watch Micky Barron’s reserves take on Scunthorpe United, revealing to the youngsters that they had a chance of earning a first-team spot this weekend.
But Cooper, already seething following his side’s defeat to Chesterfield at the weekend, was not impressed with what he witnessed as Barron’s boys slumped to a 4-1 reverse at Glanford Park.
That means he will stick with the same set of senior players who have disappointed of late for the trip to Prenton Park.
“I was already angry following the weekend when I went to watch the reserves on Tuesday and they didn’t cheer me up either,” he explained.
“I told them beforehand that I wanted to play some of them in the first team.
“I wanted to see them prove themselves to me and show what they can do.
“But they didn’t, and I told them that. I need better from the boys who are pushing to be involved.
“So now it’s up to the first-team lads to bounce back from last week.
“They need to do that and I want to see a massive performance tomorrow.”
Cooper points to Luke James as an example for his peers to follow, the 17-year-old having seized his senior chance this season.
“You’ve got to grab opportunities as a footballer,” said the former Aberdeen enforcer who had the task of impressing manager Sir Alex Ferguson when he was an apprentice at Pittodrie.
“At 16 or 17 you’ve got to be able to handle it.
“Luke James has done it. It’s a mental toughness.
“As a footballer you have got to handle it, it’s a mental toughness as well.
“If I was at Scunthorpe on Tuesday as a young boy I would want to impress and make my mark and give the manager something to think about.
“If ever Fergie did come and watch us play then I’d make sure I’d give my best.
“I wanted them to give me something to think about coming back on the bus but they didn’t.”
That being the case, the likes of Josh Rowbotham, Jordan Richards, Lewis Hawkins, Nathan Buddle, Greg Rutherford and Darren Holden will have to do more to make a first-team breakthrough before the season’s end.
The only change enforced upon Cooper tomorrow looks like being the return of Jack Baldwin to the starting line-up with Sam Collins struggling with a calf strain.
And Cooper explained: “Sam has a bit of a sore calf and he’s touch and go.
“Evan Horwood picked up a knock in training – he thought he’d broken his leg but he’s okay.
“James Poole is back training but it might be too soon for him.
“And James Brown is still out with his groin problem.”
Pools (probable): Flinders; Austin, Baldwin, Hartley, Horwood; Liddle, Murray, Sweeney; James, Noble, Monkhouse. Subs: Rafferty, Humphreys, Boyd, Rutherford, Haslam