Pools boss keen to reward top performers after offloading others

The Advertiser Series: New deal? Michael Duckworth could be one of those set for improved terms New deal? Michael Duckworth could be one of those set for improved terms

COLIN COOPER is keen to show Hartlepool United’s top performing players how much he wants to keep them by handing out improved contracts over the summer.

After releasing higher earners such as Andy Monkhouse and Simon Walton – along with younger men such as Zak Boagey and Greg Rutherford – Cooper is going through a period of readjustment before pressing ahead with plans to strengthen his squad this summer.

While he intends to bring in some fresh faces before his second season in charge at Victoria Park, he could be handing out new terms to a number of players already at his disposal.

Hartlepool have already exercised their options on Jack Compton, Michael Duckworth, Scott Flinders, Jonathan Franks, Darren Holden, Luke James, Andy Rafferty, Jordan Richards and Josh Rowbotham, who are all tied to the club for a further year.

But the likes of Duckworth, hugely impressive since arriving last summer from non-league outfit Bradford Park Avenue, could be set for a nice boost before the start of the new campaign in August.

Cooper said: “There are some lads who have been outstanding, been very good and improved, so I have been to ask if there is a possibility that, of the revenue we are trying to save on wages, we can give others a pat on the back for what they have done.

“We want to show people we are desperately keen to keep players here and offer them better deals. The most important thing is that I let people know I respect what they have done for me and for the club. Hopefully over the next week or two, everything will fall in to place.”

Discussions are ongoing with Neil Austin, Sam Collins, James Poole and Antony Sweeney about their deals. While the contracts are due to expire, negotiations are aimed to agree extensions.

But Cooper made up his mind to allow both Monkhouse and Walton to leave. He said: “People will have pluses and minuses about any decision I have made. I have seen that throughout the season.

“Every single fan has a valued opinion. It’s changed here and it’s as simple as that. I have players on good salaries and we are not in a place to be paying that kind of salary any more. I have to change something.

“Andy and Simon have given everything for the club, for themselves in the time they have been here. I have to make some change. It can’t be revolution, I wouldn’t be doing myself a service to revolutionise, so it has to be evolution. I have to do a bit by bit.

“In my opinion it has to change. I needed to generate some income to go out and buy some players and it was also time for Hartlepool to change. It is happening at every football club. It’s nothing personal and it’s time to change and try to generate some.”

Another pressing issue is who will be his assistant manager next season. Cooper has been without a contracted No 2 since Craig Hignett left and he thinks he is close to bringing one in.

He said: “It’s still an ongoing process. I have got one man in particular I am keen to bring in. We are all trying hard. I want somebody in alongside me before we go back for pre-season.”

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