Will Hartlepool striker play at Wimbledon amid Peterborough interest?

Turning his back on Pools? Luke James

Return: Scott Harrison

Loan return: Charlie Wyke

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

SMILES in and around Victoria Park are all too rare at the present moment; Colin Cooper is out to change all that.
Goaless and winless in three League Two games this season, Pools go to Wimbledon today seeking a much-needed lift in outlook and fortunes.
Pools have lost back to back games in the last week, Bury last Saturday followed by Dagenham on Tuesday. 
With consternation and speculation affecting striker Luke James, who has put two transfer requests in this week, it’s fair to say Pools are not in the best of health. 
“I’d dispute the assertion that there are a lot of fans chuntering,’’ insisted Cooper. “I accept there is frustration and if they are frustrated at me, I apologise for that
“I am trying very hard, working hard with this group and working hard to add to the group. I understand if people get frustrated with me, I am the manager, I haven’t a problem with that as long as they back the team.
“I have broad shoulders, I’d rather people had a pop at me but back the players.
“We all want the same thing – we all want the season to be up and running and everyone feeling better.
“Our job is to make the players feel better in order to perform to make the fans feel better.
“I am an up person, not a down person, this is the best job in the world.
“I will keep reiterating that to the players – I don’t want them to play with any fear or restrictions, because that stifles you.’’
With leading striker James wanting out and Peterborough tabling an offer for his services, the striker is unlikely to play today. 
Not being part of the squad is a statement on both his and Pools’ behalf. Pools could be playing hard-ball. Chairman Ken Hodcroft doesn’t like agents or working with them. James, on the advice of his agent, is angling for a move. 
Peterborough claim they won’t up their bid, which isn’t close to the £1m mark. 
His absence reduces Pools attacking threat, and he’s likely to be replaced by loan signing Charlie Wyke today, but Cooper is concerned about the opposite end of the pitch too. 
Pools have gave away four goals in their last two games, and shipped an unhealthy six at Port Vale in the Capital One Cup. 
Before signing Scott Harrison on loan from Sunderland yesterday, he said: “They have to realise that in order to give yourselves a chance to win matches you can’t give opponents goal starts. 
“All I would say to the fans is stick with us – we’ll turn the corner and get people feeling good again. There is no hiding place, the games are not going to go away.
“We have to roll up our sleeves, stop the ball going in our goal and be more decisive when we get into the opposition 18-yard box. We need to get the confidence levels higher
“We are working hard, we are nowhere near where I want us to be, but the lads are working hard, they want to well for the club, themselves and fans.
“We want the whole picture to change but that will only come through hard work and no fear.’’
Pools form this season has been a continuation of the last campaign, in more ways than one. 
They have started the season with a run of poor results, struggled to score goals and been unimpressive at Victoria Park. 
“I understand the frustrations of the fans. I am trying to do the best I possibly can,’’ said Cooper.
“From day one, people have said good choice, then people have said bad choice and they will say I told you so. Those who said good, I have to say, I’ve been very buoyed by what’s been said by them. 
“I don’t need any more help than what I’m getting, but I’m wanting the fans to be happy with what we produce on the pitch.
“It won’t be for the want of trying we don’t get them smiling.’’
And at the back today, Pools are up against a new strike partnership, but one which has quickly clicked.
Adebayo Akinfenwe and Matt Tubbs have linked up, with the latter scoring three times. The Dons have had away wins at Luton and Southend in the last week and Cooper is well aware of their threat. 
“Akinfenwe knows the division, knows the Football League, he knows his game,’’ said Cooper. “Having stepped up with Gillingham last year and now back with Wimbledon he will be feeling comfortable and confident. 
“He notches his share of goals every season, and with him and Tubbs they have goalscorers. We have to be solid and look to cause them problems. 
“Look at the goals we conceded last year at Wim, when we were one up and completely in the ascendency. It seems a long time ago, but we should have won it comfortably with the passages of play we had. They said afterwards it was one they got away with and hopefully I’ll be able to say the same on Saturday.’’

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