Pools report back for pre-season with Neale Cooper expecting his players to be in good nick

Neale Cooper shouts out his orders from the side line. Picture by FRANK REID
Neale Cooper shouts out his orders from the side line. Picture by FRANK REID

NEALE Cooper will today learn if his Hartlepool United players have kept to their summer fitness regimes when they undergo intensive physical tests at Maiden Castle.

The Scot will come down heavily on any player who has failed to maintain their fitness levels during the close season.

The squad returned to their Durham base this morning for the first day of pre-season training, where they will be assessed by experts from the city’s university.

Cooper expects all of his number to report with a clean bill of health with Colin Nish (knee) the only player who was sidelined towards the back end of last season, but he is now fit and ready to rejoin the first-team group.

Former boss Mick Wadsworth was less than impressed with the condition of some of his squad 12 months ago, but Cooper believes his bunch will return in good shape this time around.

“They’ve all had their programmes to do over the summer and we expect them to have kept to that,” said the 48-year-old.

“We don’t expect them to be 100 per cent, that’s why you have pre-season to build towards that, but they should have a good base to work from.

“They’ll be tested straight away by the people from Durham University and that gives us the levels of their fitness.

“I know quite a few of the lads have already been in the gym because I’ve seen them, and they look fit and strong, which is encouraging.”

The Pools boys can expect to see little of the football over the next seven days as Cooper and his coaching team concentrate on improving those fitness levels still further before the trip to Holland.

There they will play two friendlies against Dutch second-division opposition before returning to the UK for a trio of home matches against Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Hull City.

And Cooper went on: “We’ll work the boys hard this next week before Holland.

“It’s one of those things which is necessary and you have to do it.

“But the players are lucky that they return nowadays in decent shape because of those programmes they are given.

“When I was a player it was just down to yourself to go on a few runs over the summer.

“It’s all changed now, though, and it’s a change for the better.”

Cooper will welcome just Jonathan Franks into the group for the first time with further signings not expected until next week.

And the boss added: “I really can’t wait to see the boys.

“It’s been a long summer what with the Euros and the early finish, but this is an exciting time getting back down to business and I’m looking forward to it.”