Former Hartlepool United chairman Ken Hodcroft opens up on the emotional departure of Neale Cooper in 2005
Ken Hodcroft has opened up about the heartbreaking decision to part ways with one of Hartlepool United's most successful and popular managers, Neale Cooper, back in 2005.
Speaking for the first time about Cooper's departure, former Hartlepool United chairman Hodcroft described it as a 'sad, sad day' but it had reached the point were all parties knew it was time.
Cooper enjoyed two spells in charge at Victoria Park when the club was in League One with an impressive win percentage of nearly 44%.
Hodcroft has been reflecting on Cooper's first spell in charge, when the Scot left abruptly before the play-off campaign in 2005 that ended in the 4-2 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in the final, when assistant Martin Scott had stepped up to take over.
Hodcroft, speaking to the Switch of Play podcast featuring Micky Barron and Mark Simpson, said: "Without trying to big Neale up, if you’re talking about managers under IOR’s regime that really stood out, not based on success or non-success, I think Chris Turner and Neale Cooper are the two that stand out in our 15-years.
"Neale was a breath of fresh air walking in the place, he uplifted the whole club.
"It’s a shame that it unfortunately ended like it did. If Neale hadn’t had his personal problems which were ultimately his downfall and not the football club, his kids weren’t with him and all that.
"If he hadn’t had that we could have gone on to absolutely great things and even if we go back to the Millenium Stadium, he would have probably finished that game off for us.
"Unfortunately, he did have his issues and we tried to help as much as we could because that’s one of IOR’s policies.
"While he was there, there was just pure pressure trying to sort out his personal life 300-miles away and I think he just felt his kids had been removed from him and at first he could handle it but it eventually just came on top of him and we tried to help but what can you do?
"The difficult thing for us was we were hearing all these rumours and we’d have chats with him and he’ll always say he was fine but at the end of the day we knew he had to go and he had to move on because he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to take on these important games.
"We had to do a lot of checking and soul searching before Neale was honest with us and told us that he had to [leave] and of course Martin [Scott] stepped in. It was a sad day that, a sad day."
Tragically Cooper died in May 2018 after a fall at his home in Aberdeen.
Tributes from around the world flooded in following Cooper's death and a stand was named after him at Victoria Park, a true Pools legend.