The fluctuating confidence levels of Hartlepool United
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It’s a funny thing, confidence. Where, sometimes, it can mask ability, it can also make those with ability seem worse – something which Hartlepool have experienced from both ends of the spectrum this season.
When dropping back into the National League it’s fair to say confidence and morale were low along Clarence Road. But when John Askey’s side secured a late, brave, win over Gateshead in their first home game of the season, despite being down to 10 men, you could see those confidence and morale levels shift.
Pools, in the end, enjoyed an excellent opening month to the season – their best in over 30 years – including four wins on the spin. At that point it looked as though they would take back to the National League like a duck to water. But things have changed. A number of key injuries and a subsequent loss of form has left confidence jittery as that relegation morale has crept back in.
One of those players to have been injured which coincided with the club’s loss of form is midfielder Callum Cooke, who was out for over two months with ankle ligament damage. The 26-year-old is a key player for Hartlepool, particularly at this level – his recent return to fitness demonstrating just how significant a player he is for Askey’s side.
But Cooke himself recently admitted how confidence has been an issue for Pools this season, even as he has returned to the dressing room on a weekly basis. And although Pools looked to have turned a bit of a corner in their away games with York City and Kidderminster, Cooke particularly impressing against York, they have yet to string back-to-back wins together since that opening month of the campaign – something Cooke believes is the key to rebuilding confidence levels on a more consistent basis.
"There’s no secret that we’ve had a few bad injuries and it’s impacted us heavily,” Cooke recently explained.
"But you only get confidence by winning football games at the end of the day, it’s as simple as that. And when you’re not winning that gets sucked out of you and you maybe don’t try a few things that you would do when you are confident, that’s just natural.
"Confidence is probably the biggest thing in football and I cannot lie, I can sense a bit of confidence isn’t there from the lads,” he added.
"I’m trying to take it upon myself whereby if I do my job on the pitch and I’m impacting the game it might give lads a lift.
"You can talk about captains, but you don’t have to be a leader to wear an armband, you can do it in different ways and I like to think of myself as a leader but in a different way in the sense of you let your feet do the talking.
"But I can sense a little bit of lost confidence, which is natural. All it takes is two or three wins on the spin and it comes back. It’s as quick as that.”