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Pools don't have to sell in January
COLIN COOPER has a message for the many admirers of his talented group of Hartlepool United players: We don’t have to sell.
On Sunday, Pools fielded a team with an average age of little over 22 as they beat Morecambe 2-1 with an eye-catching display.
After being installed as Pools boss, the former Middlesbrough youth-team coach outlined a vision to develop a vibrant team at Victoria Park.
Few could have envisaged such dramatic progress after just half a season.
On his appointment, Cooper said: “I want the players to understand what, in my opinion, it takes to be a top-class professional. It’s about high standards, I set them myself and will expect the same of them.
“I want them to buy into it and, when me and Craig Hignett get out on the grass and get some technical work into them, I’d like to think we can produce a young team that can play some good, open exiting football and get a smile back on the faces of the fans and make the players realise that they come to watch them because they want to come.’’
For the past couple of seasons, Luke James and Jack Baldwin have been on the radar of Championship and Premier League clubs, with Sunderland known admirers of the pair.
Their development this season raises the expecations of bids to come next month.
But anyone thinking of making a cheap or cheeky offer need not bother.
“The only answer I can give is that we don’t have to do any business, we don’t have to sell,’’ he insisted.
“I read a tweet that said because Luke (James) didn’t play the other day it was because we had a bid lined up in January!
“We don’t have to do anything, we really don’t. The club is ran well, we don’t have to make up a (financial) deficit.
“If a bid comes in for anyone and it is right for the club we will consider it. We can decide and make the choices.
“We are not under any pressure or forced to anything. I can’t see the need to do any business – unless someone comes in with something stupid and the chief executive and chairman say ‘listen…..’.’’
Cooper moved from Boro to Millwall for £300,000 in in the 1990s and then back to Boro from Nottingham Forest for £2.5m in 1998, and referring to his experience as a player, he said: “I had it through my career as a player, although not at their age. I had people saying we can’t turn this money down for you. Your career has to progress.
“I won’t stop progression for an outstanding young talent who deserves to go.
“But while they are playing in this manner, gelling as a group and doing as well as they are we have to ask if someone moves up will they play every week in the Championship? Probably not – the best thing is stay here and then whenever the right time is then consider it.
Jack Baldwin thumps home Pools' opening goal
“I will be batting people off in January, because we have some outstanding footballers here, but it’s nice not to be forced into making any decisions.’’
Neil Austin (30) and Scott Flinders (28) were the elder statesman of Sunday’s team.
In terms of Pools’ youngest-ever starting XI, there’s 30-odd younger teams been fielded.
The difference is that in the past players have been thrown in out of sheer desperation during times of necessity and need.
Each of Cooper’s players are in there on merit.
And Cooper admitted his pleasure at the standard of player he has inherited at Victoria Park.
“It was a young team. We have brought Matty (Dolan), Christian (Burgess), Nialle (Rodney) and Michael (Duckworth) in – but the rest of the group was already here.
“So, for me, that’s something that Hartlepool United should be proud of. A great group of young players, allied with the experience of the older players who have been a credit to themselves for helping to develop the younger group and give them the belief to do what they are doing.
“I think they feel they are suited to what we are trying to do as we all want to play good football.
“But what they have to realise in League Two and League One – and even going higher - that it’s all well and good wanting to play nice, pretty patterns of football, but you have to be able to take a dig as well from big men.
“They have shown again they can do that. There’s an awful lot of talent at Hartlepool United and that’s why the scouting list gets longer by the week.
“Scouts and clubs are coming to watch the players because they know they can handle a football and have technicality. What we are trying to teach them is the physicality. Get them both and there’s no stopping some of these players, there really isn’t.’’
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