COLIN COOPER believes his players can lift Hartlepool United away from relegation danger over Easter so he can press ahead with plans for next season.
Cooper is keen to have any lingering threat of dropping in to the Conference Premier extinguished when the full-time whistle blows at Victoria Park at 5pm on Bank Holiday Monday.
Provided that has been achieved, he will then start to seriously look at his second season in charge and his first full summer in frontline management.
Firstly, though, he knows Pools can’t really afford to lose both of the next two games, at play-off contenders Burton Albion tomorrow and then against fellow strugglers Morecambe 48 hours later.
“We are going to need strong minds and strong hearts,” said Cooper. “We have to try to allay the fears people are trying to put in front of us. Once we have made sure we have the points on the board we can put plans in place for 2014/15, which I have had in place for four or five months.
“I know the fixtures ahead, my job is to look at Burton and make sure my players withstand what they have to offer. They want to make the play-offs by the end of the season and we have to address the bleeding if you like.
“If we go there and not lose we will be heading in the right direction. The easiest thing in football is to keep churning out positive results when things are good. The hardest thing is to stop negative results when things are poor. Our first challenge is to do that this Saturday.”
Hartlepool head to Burton on the back of five straight defeats, which has seen them go from genuine contenders for a top seven spot to within just three points of a bottom two place in League Two.
Cooper, who expects striker Marlon Harewood and winger Andy Monkhouse to be available tomorrow, said: “This league has been close all season. You are only as good as your last result and our last few results have not been good enough.
“We have not been a million miles away, but the fact of the matter is they have not been good enough. We have three Saturdays to go. We have four games and our challenge is to get as many points on the board as we can.
“We don’t want to be looking at games with Plymouth and Exeter as games we need something out of to stay in the league. Are we capable of winning all four? Yes. Are we capable of losing all four in the present circumstances? Yes. We have a challenge and it is a different kind of challenge to win everyone was patting us on the back."
Hartlepool have introduced a £5 ticket offer for Monday’s visit of Morecambe, who are level on points at the wrong end of the table, and Cooper is hoping for an extra boost in attendance over the holiday period and to give the fans something to cheer.
“The support is vital at any stage of the season. On the whole, they have seen some brilliant football over the course of the season,” said Cooper, who gave his players an extra day off this week. “What we try to do in football is to send fans home happy on a night. Whether it is 3,500 or 15,000, then if we send them home happy then it means we have done something good.
“I have total belief in the players here, I keep telling them that. When they cross the line on whatever day it is, a player’s own mentality kicks in to play.
"Some have a strong mentality, others not so strong. What I try to do is give them the belief to express themselves. When they do, they create chances and they flow. My words are to continue to believe in the expression that I am allow them to have, I am more than positive about it.”