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Cooper feels progress is being made
Colin Cooper feels the penny is starting to drop with his players.
Today is Cooper's tenth game in charge of Hartlepool United and progress, while not being spectacular and swift, has been steady.
He is sure the ideas, principles and beliefs he and Craig Hignett have been getting across to his players are registering.
Cooper has long felt the players had bought into those ideals, but now the results are beginning to show.
A first win of the League One season two weeks ago was followed up with a point at Bristol Rovers seven days back.
Against one of the play-off chasers this afternoon, Oxford United are the visitors to Victoria Park, Cooper wants to see his players take another step forward.
He said: "I want us to try and put our stamp on things and all the things we have been talking about in recent weeks - are you brave enough with the ball, are you physically brave enough without the ball?
"Can we compete technically, tactically, physically? Are we improving - we would like to think we are but the test always comes on a Saturday.
"I feel things are coming together and we are improving. I think as a group, with all due respect to each and every one of them, younger and older players, I'd like to think they are buying into what we are trying to do.
"I reiterate that they are doing things differently and it's the way I like to do things. I think the plus point is that we have had a lot of praise for the way we are trying to do things and I'd like to put some results together for the fans as a reward and a thank you for their support and give them something to be happy about.''
Pools should really have won at the Memorial Stadium last weekend. Two decent scoring opportunites went begging to make it 3-1, before they conceded a last-minute equaliser.
But there's no disappointment lingering. There's a new challenge set today.
"We got our first home win a couple of weeks ago, and followed up with what should have been another win at Bristol,'' reflected Cooper. "This is a challenge against a top four team and see if what we are trying to develop is developing game by game, week by week.
"We will only see that when the game comes on a Saturday. You can be a training ground player, but it's about crossing the white line on a Saturday, especially at home in front of your fans and that is a test for any professional footballer.
"Good players in good teams will back up performances with results. Performances, I've been OK with from day one. Results not so. If you are going to progress then you have to follow up a result with a result.
"We haven't scored enough goals in the early games, but have been scoring in the last couple.''
Luke James scored two last weekend, to make it three for the season. He will start up front today in an unchanged side, with Cooper looking for him to build on last weekend's lively goalscoring outing.
"Luke was a real threat last week, a constant thorn in Bristol's side,'' he said. "I would have loved him to have slotted in that chance and get a hat-trick. I said to him at half time that he had stood up and been noticed with his two goals towards the end of the first-half.
"Then to come off with three goals and the match ball would have seen him get the headlines and rightly so. For a young player, confidence is a massive thing - as it is with strikers so he should be feeling good about himself and carry on that form.''
Today's opponents lost to leaders Chesterfield last weekend, a first defeat of the season after Ritchie Humphreys, the ex-Pools man, scored the game's only goal.
Boss Chris Wilder was critical of his side and Cooper expects a response today.
"Oxford have been doing well, we have had a home win last time out,'' he said. "For us, it's a game which, in order to progress, it's a big game.
"A chance for us to test ourselves and see if we are progressing in a way in which we think we are.
"Dave Kitson is out suspended and we are at the stage now where a few people will be accumulating bookings and Andy Whing was sent off last week.
"But I suggest Chris Wilder is wise enough to have replacements and a game plan lined up.
"We had Dave at Middlesbrough when I was there. And I like him as a player, he's six foot three and technically clever, so for him to be missing doesn't mean there won't be another challenge for our players.''