Pools’ players now discover their fate

PLENTY TO PONDER: Hartlepool boss Colin Cooper is speaking to his out of contract players

PLENTY TO PONDER: Hartlepool boss Colin Cooper is speaking to his out of contract players

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

COLIN Cooper yesterday started his revamp of Hartlepool United when he informed the players of their futures.

Ahead of tomorrow’s final game of the season, Cooper has started the process of sitting down with his squad and telling the players who will be out of contract this summer whether they will be staying at the club or leaving.

It is normally club policy to wait until the season has been completed – and last summer it was even longer after the departure of boss John Hughes – before speaking to the squad, but Cooper, after his first full season as a manager, wants to lay out his plans before the players next week sign off for the summer and beyond.

The club will announce their retained list next week, possibly on Tuesday and there will be no news before the Bank Holiday weekend.

“I’ve been waiting a few weeks to do this,’’ revealed Cooper. “We have injuries and suspensions so the same group of players who were at Plymouth will be our squad for the Exeter game.

“I have had a conversation with the chairman. The right thing to do is to start giving people the opportunity to sort their futures by telling them where they stand here.

“I’d like to get it done as soon as I can. Players have been knocking on my door for a couple of weeks, but while we were searching for that result we needed I could not do anything. That has gone now.’’ The core of the squad has remained intact for a number of years and the futures of the likes of experienced Sam Collins, Andy Monkhouse, Neil Austin and Antony Sweeney are among those to be resolved.

“I think everyone knows that when I came here (last summer) everyone was in situ,’’ said Cooper.

“I brought in some players, permanent and on loan, and I’ve been pleased with what I’ve got.

“The lads who were already here have given me everything, but the fact of the matter is things have to change, without giving any names and details, there has to be changes.’’ Cooper has been working without an assistant manager since Craig Hignett left for Middlesbrough at the beginning of last month.

He is confident of landing a new right-hand man in the next week.

The players – those staying at least – will collect their summer fitness plans and schedule next week.

And, by the time the squad is back for pre-season training in early July, Cooper will hope to have made an impact.

“You have to be careful, but it’s about stamping my bits and pieces on things,’’ he said.

“The club’s finances mean there is some balancing to be done. The only thing I can say is that there’s things I would like to do, players I would like to bring in and things I would like to change.

“No disrespect to anyone if they stay or leave, but the football club, the playing staff needs freshening up.

“That’s part of life, it happens in every club and we are no different. There’s people leaving and people staying.

“In the lower leagues, for me it’s all about the next contract, the next contract, the next contract and that’s life, but we have to look at Financial Fair Play as well.’’ Pools have fended off relegation, or the threat of it, and sit 17th on 53 points.

The highest they could go with victory tomorrow is 14th and Cooper said: “If we finish just below halfway, over the season, that is probably about right.

“When we were in the midst of that horrible run I said to the players ‘we need to finish as high as we can’. Let’s not finish in 17th or 18th.

“We got close to getting amongst it, but we didn’t quite make it. But we owe it to the club, the fans, ourselves to try to finish the season off in style.’’

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