THE shortest price you can get on Hartlepool United to win League Two is 33/1. Most bookmakers have them listed as rank outsiders for promotion.
As they start their season, it’s hard to disagree with them not being installed among the favourites. Pools fell way short last season when it came to a top-seven assault.
They start this afternoon at Stevenage, against opposition who were relegated last season. Improvement for Pools is on Cooper’s agenda.
Pools yesterday signed four players to boost their options, in Joel Dixon, Tommy Miller, Michael Woods and Ryan Brobbel. The latter has moved on loan for a month from Middlesbrough.
Goalkeeper Dixon signed an emergency loan deal as back up to Scott Flinders after Andy Rafferty was injured in training.
“We don’t go shouting we will do this or that. Get your head down and see what it brings,’’ he said ahead of his second season in charge.
“We have a squad more than capable of competing. I am still looking to add to it and whatever happens along the way we go with it.
“Players I have in I am happy with. Add something else and we will be better for it. I will be trying to do that all season. Everyone gets so wound up about the transfer window. The loan market opens when the marker shuts and everyone dips in.
“It’s the new season when everyone is excited and everything is geared up towards the opening day. You want as many people fit and healthy for the first game and hope not to be affected by injuries in pre-season.
“We have done well on that front so far, hopefully it continues.
“We finished 19th last season. We have massive ups and massive downs and we ended up where we did. It’s my job to make us better and if better means we can compete then brilliant.
“We should have finished higher, but didn’t. The job is to improve this year.’’
Pools' inconsistent nature was highlighted in the final third of last season. They went from flirting with the play-offs to worrying about relegation.
Cooper added: “It’s not the youth aspect that’s inconsistent – it’s the group. We will have massive highs, massive lows and we want to be somewhere in between.
“The experienced players can add to the squad and I have brought players in to go into the team. Experienced or not, age is no issue – I played when I was 17 and when I was 39. Show me the qualities and you can play. We have that massive spectrum. Every club will be up and down and, as long as you don’t get too up and too down, then you will be fine.’’
Last season saw Chesterfield win the league, after they stretched themselves financially. Fleetwood were promoted thanks to a hefty playing budget. Scunthorpe went up , spending £300,000 on a striker.
Only Rochdale of the promoted sides went up without breaking their bank.
This season, and Cooper said: “No one team stands out for me. You have seen over the summer those who have done a lot of dealings and those who went up last year, it was those with money to spend.
“Sometimes it can be a gamble. When I walked in last year, this squad was in place so it was evolution not revolution. As long as I am here I will make the squad stronger and the club stronger because I take an interest in all that goes on.
“You will see teams spring up like last year, teams like York and what they achieved. You hope to be in the mix.
“That’s the aim for everyone. I am sure, like I said last year, we can compete. Consistency is the question. Scoring enough goals, not conceding too many goals. All managers are the same.’’
Pools didn’t score enough last season. Luke James nabbed 16, but behind him the next best was Jon Franks with six.
There’s genuine interest in James from Peterborough, with talk of an £750,000 offer.
Goals for the team could again be in short supply this time out and Cooper admitted: “I spoke with Luke and his father about what he is capable of. He’s signed a new contract here and got a pat on the back for what he achieved last year.
“For a boy of 19, he had only played a few games the season before but enjoyed last season. It’s in the past. Now the challenge is to do it again. He looks you in the eye, wants to work and learn. Get us some goals and that will benefit him.
“But he was way out on his own last season and our aim is to get other people up at that level to give us half a chance.
“He’s worked hard all summer, done well, but hasn’t scored in pre-season. A good way to start is this weekend.’’