NEALE Cooper is set to inform at least half a dozen of his players that their time at Hartlepool United is up – but he admits it is the hardest job in football.
The Pools boss will sit down with all of his out-of-contract players over the course of the next 24 hours to discuss their future.
It is expected that the vast majority of those will be released, with the deals of Adam Boyd, James Brown, Steve Haslam, Colin Larkin and Nolberto Solano all set to expire this month.
Gary Liddle and Paul Murray will also enter talks with the club, although there is no guarantee Cooper will choose to retain both central midfielders, while player-coach Ritchie Humphreys is another whose deal is up.
The Scot has long since insisted the need for change at Victoria Park, but he concedes that the process of showing players the door is never an easy one.
“To go and tell boys they’re being released is hard – it’s the hardest job a manager has to do,” Cooper told SportMail.
“It’s not about sentiment.
“I like all the players at this club – there’s not one I don’t get on with.
“When you like people it’s harder – it might not be so bad if I didn’t like any of them!
“They are a good bunch of boys, but this team needs to change because it’s not good enough.
“That shows by where we are in the league.
“Performances since I came in have not been good enough.
“I have worked with what I’ve had but I’m lacking the players I feel would make this team a lot better.
“To do that you have to release players to get the money and finance to bring others in.”
Cooper himself was released as a player towards the end of his career at Dunfermline Athletic.
However, the former midfielder admits he suspected that news was coming and believes some of his players should harbour similar suspicions.
“If you’re generally honest with yourself and you haven’t featured then maybe you think your time is up,” he went on.
“But I have been in that position myself – it’s not very pleasant.
“I had to do it with some young players recently and I hate that side of football – but that’s my job to do it.
“I’ve been released myself twice and it’s not nice – but I knew it was coming.
“That happens, people move on.
“And for me, to make this team my own, people have to come in and this will be a busy period.
“We need four or five to make this a strong team but I need to free funds for that to happen.”