COLIN COOPER will go from facing one managerial rookie in Gareth Ainsworth to another in James Beattie tonight - and is glad to see young managers getting their opportunities in League Two.
Cooper, himself fresh into his role as Hartlepool United boss, saw his side defeated 2-1 by Ainsworth’s Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday, and travels to Accrington Stanley where former Southampton and Everton striker Beattie is learning his trade at the helm.
Cooper, Beattie and Ainsworth are all in their first permanent managerial roles - Ainsworth and Cooper having managed Queens Park Rangers and Bradford City respectively in a caretaker capacity - with six other League Two managers taking their first steps in football management.
With the average age of a League Two manager being 44 - Beattie the youngest at 36 - Cooper accepts that the Football League’s bottom rung is a breeding ground for new managers.
“I’d think so,” said Cooper. “Gareth, having had a successful time at Wycombe is well regarded at that football club, James is fresh out of playing. I'm not so fresh out of playing, I've been retired nine years and I've been waiting for my opportunity.
“I'm sure we're all as hungry as each other to succeed. We have to take our opportunities when they come along and Gareth and James have had their opportunities at their respective clubs – I've got a good opportunity here at Hartlepool and I'm going to do the best I possibly can.”
Beattie’s first foray into management proves how tough the transition is, with Stanley fourth bottom of League Two, six points off the drop zone. And while Cooper is not taking the challenge posed tonight too lightly, he appreciates that tenth-placed Pools have a good chance of closing the gap on the play-off places, which currently stands at five points.
“Every game presents you with an opportunity, we had an opportunity to bridge the gap on Saturday,” said Cooper, who has no fresh injury concerns after Saturday. “If we're good enough to bridge the gap, we're good enough. If we're not good enough, there's reasons behind that and maybe the little faults that we may have in us as a team, as a group, that will be the difference between us getting in there and not getting in there.
“We know we're good enough to get amongst it, it seems that when we have a genuine opportunity we haven't been able to take it. When we've been chasing, and we get our tails up and we're feeling good, we've clawed the distance back but we've not been able to take the big opportunity when it has come along. Had we bridged the gap on Saturday, great, but we didn't, so what can we do?
“We turn up to Accrington on Tuesday and try to give them a game because again it's another team trying to string some results together to get themselves safe, and it isn't going to be easy. I've been to Accrington before and it's a place where if you get anything you've earned it.”
HARTLEPOOL UNITED (probable): Flinders; Richards, Collins, Burgess, Holden; Walton; Barmby, Walker, Monkhouse; Harewood, James.