JACK BARMBY has been challenged to prove he has the mindset to become a team player to match the ability he has shown at Hartlepool United.

Following Middlesbrough’s decision to recall Luke Williams following a successful loan spell at Victoria Park, Pools boss Colin Cooper will have to come up with something different against Torquay United this afternoon.

It could be that Cooper mixes up his formation, although he also has the option of giving Barmby an opportunity to play at the top of the diamond behind the strikers, which was were Williams often performed.

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After starting life in the North-East with a stunning debut goal in the 2-0 win over York City on January 25, Barmby has only started two of the five appearances of his loan.

But having agreed to extend his temporary switch from Manchester United for a further month, an admiring Cooper wants the gifted 19-year-old to develop a greater understanding of playing as part of a team when he gets his next opportunity.

“I have had a couple of long conversations about Jack with Warren Joyce (the Manchester United coach) who was at Northampton last week to watch him,” said Cooper. “We all know Jack is an exciting talent and Man United were happy to extend his loan so he can learn how to play league football.

“That means in possession and out of possession. We can all see the talent when he has the ball at his feet but it's maybe my job to help his development as a young player and make sure he does a good job for the team when we don't have the ball.

“You don't stay at Manchester United into your late teens if you don't have talent. Jack has talent and we're more than delighted his loan has been extended.”

The loss at Northampton, who were bottom before beating Hartlepool, dented the chances of edging even closer to a top seven spot.

Cooper’s team head in to today’s meeting with the Gulls sitting tenth and seven points adrift of Southend United, the occupants of the final play-off spot.

The Hartlepool manager, who turned 47 yesterday, said “I understand there is not much of a gap points wise between where we are and down to fourth/fifth bottom but teams end up in the bottom reaches of the table for a reason.

“Torquay will give us a tough game but we're going to have to be ready. We have to make sure all the things we did not do brilliantly last Saturday, like defending our goal, we address.

“We need to try to get back to being hard to beat while finding some creativity in the final third in order to get a really positive result and bounce back very quickly from the defeat.”

Every time Hartlepool have gone on a decent run of form and edged closer to the top seven they have tended to blow out with a defeat. That was the case last week, when they lost at Northampton.

Cooper said: “You don't get into the higher echelons thanks to other people doing favours for you. You have to win your own matches.

“February, on the whole, was good but it finished on a bit of a damp squib but start March on a high in front of our own fans. If we don't get back to winning ways we have to make sure we don't lose.”

Torquay, now sitting bottom, have actually won more matches away from home than they have enjoyed at Plainmoor this season. A sixth victory on their travels would mean back-to-back defeats after a run of four games unbeaten for Pools.

Cooper said: “The one thing they'll do is scrap for everything. If you give them something to hang on to they'll fight harder, that's what happened at Northampton. We gave them a goal before half-time and the goal in their first attack in the second half should never have happened.

“The one thing we must do is stay in the game. If you get your noses in front against a team from the bottom half their confidence tends to ebb away.

“But if you give them something to hang on to their confidence grows, the energy increases. That's what Northampton did and they got the result they thoroughly deserved. We've got to match that fight, stay in the game and try to get our noses in front.”