COLIN Cooper laid it on the line to his great Hartlepool United under-achievers on Saturday.
Utterly frustrated and let down by his players after a weak home defeat to Exeter – Pool’s tenth Victoria Park reverse this season – the manager admitted some of his players have a long way to go before they can consider themselves to be worthy of being professional footballers.
Cooper has never been one to lambast his players in public, the previous Cooper in charge not too long ago did plenty of that, but the frustrations and disappointment were plain to see.
Pools have finished an underwhelming 19th in League Two. And they stayed out of the bottom two by a mere three points. Simply not good enough.
The carnage of the first-half of last season, when Pools were rooted to the foot of League One was supposed to be the low. Pools had, everyone assumed, bottomed out and gained some sort of stability under John Hughes, before making real progress under Cooper.
He demands and expects a lot from his players and their response – and his marked words - prove too many aren’t good enough.
They were slack, slow and lackadaisical against Exeter; a team who only secured their Football League future the previous week were far too lively and inventive for Pools.
It was some way to send everyone off for the summer. A few of them, as Cooper intimated afterwards, were already thinking of the next few weeks.
It’s quite telling that while Cooper has long tried to improve standards and professionalism amongst his squad, some of them saw 5pm on Saturday as their parting shot.
“I have a formal meeting with the players on Tuesday,’’ he said. “The one thing I have found staggering is that, I don’t know what has happened in the past, but I’ve got players saying ‘I need to be here on Tuesday’ or ‘I need to be there on Wednesday’. Well no you don’t.
“This is your job, I haven’t released you yet from your job and said it’s holiday time. The players are where I tell them to be.
“There’s a formal closing down of the season on Tuesday and, again, having thanked everyone, players and staff, for their services on Saturday, Tuesday will back that up for season 14/15 to start.
“I can say the words and talk all I want, but that was not good enough.
“I don’t care what others think or how they perceive me, but I won’t accept what has gone on. If the players want to accept it then no-one will be here in 12 months’ time. I want to be here and I will work as hard as I can.’’ Cooper hopes to shortly appoint a new assistant manager and will announce his retained list after Tuesday’s meeting.
Two players were missing from Saturday’s ‘lap of appreciation’ at the end of the game and so it seems Andy Monkhouse and Simon Walton have played their last games for the club.
How many others have remain to be seen, but Cooper needs to reshape and restructure his squad if they are to shake themselves out of the malaise.
Losing ten times at home this season equals last season’s Victoria Park disappointments, and is actually one less than they suffered in 2011/12.
“This club has stuttered and stalled for a number of years now and that has to stop. I have to try and find answers and solutions to make it stop,’’ said Cooper.
“I’m enjoying this job immensely, but if we finish 19th in League Two next season I won’t be here.
“This is the most important summer of their football careers. Some players are better than others, some are more gifted, but I will not accept those levels of energy. Too many didn’t show enough energy.
“I could pick my way through the team and there’s not too many I could pat on the back.’’ The Grecians were always in control of this one, their movement and passing too crisp for Pools.
Bradley Walker was caught in possession by Matt Gill, Jimmy Keohane took the ball forward and his finish, in off the underside of the bar, brought applause from the home crowd.
Number two came when Gill sprayed a long ball over the back four and David Wheeler ran around Scott Flinders to tap in.
Pools did have a chance to get one back, but wasted another penalty. After Marlon Harewood missed their last one and, with Walton suspended and seemingly on his way, Jack Compton took it, but missed as keeper Christy Pym saved too easily.