NEALE Cooper will step onto the Victoria Park turf for the first time in six and a half years on Monday – and he admits it will be an emotional homecoming.
The new boss will be paraded in front of what is expected to be a 6,000-plus crowd for the visit of Scunthorpe United (kick off 3pm).
Cooper hopes that reception, coupled with the dawn of a new year and new era on Clarence Road, can herald the end of the club’s run of eight straight defeats at the Vic.
The manager is honest enough to admit that, ultimately, only a result matters on Monday, but he will nonetheless enjoy his reintroduction to the Hartlepool public.
“I will be going out onto the pitch before the game,” he confirmed to SportMail.
“Maybe then it will hit me that I’m back, because it’s all been a bit surreal these past few days.
“But Monday is all about the result and we need that win.
“When you get a home run like that you can sometimes be locked into that losing mode – I’ve got to get them out of that, and we will.
“It starts now, and what better time with a new week, a new manager and a new year?
“To get a full house would be brilliant, for me and the players.”
And Cooper, having now taken in two training sessions with his new charges, believes that ability is not an issue among the Pools squad.
“The talent is there, I could see that straight away,” he said.
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“The goalkeeper, Scott (Flinders), works extremely hard in training and looks a big presence.
“The two lads at the back (Sam Collins and Peter Hartley) look strong and they’ve got presence as well.
“The full-backs are solid (Neil Austin and Evan Horwood) and I like that – if you’ve got a good back five then you can build on that unit.
“After that it’s about finding the right balance and the right blend in the front six, and I think we’ve got the players to do that.
“I like the look of the big lad up front, Andy (Monkhouse). He’s got good feet and good awareness and is a good size.
“So there’s plenty to work with, I’ve just got to give them that lift and get them to start believing in themselves at home again, and that starts on Monday.”