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Pools skipper hails boss for his pride and passion
Final Score: Hartlepool United 2 Shrewsbury Town 2
SAM COLLINS has played under his share of managers but perhaps not one with a character like Neale Cooper’s.
Captain Collins was one of many on the end of Cooper’s ire as Hartlepool United were rolled over at Preston last week.
They went some way to redemption on Saturday, although a home point against Shrewsbury should hardly be cause for celebration.
But instead of the anger and the fury, there was a calmer Cooper on display after the game.
Nicknamed Godzilla during his midfield-enforcing playing days, the manager was more teddy bear than monster this time out.
Collins admitted: “The gaffer is an emotional guy, who wears his heart on his sleeve. If he could put his boots on with his suit he would want to be out there and play.
“All managers are different, some are reserved and take things in quietly. But you can all see how he is, a passionate guy.’’ Cooper took over from the straight-laced Mick Wadsworth with the aim of bringing his spark back to the club. So far, the results have been mixed. Everyone wants to see Pools back to the flying football they played during his previous tenure, no one more so than Cooper.
But it’s a different set of players and a different club and mindset these days.
For Cooper, honesty is his policy.
“It hurts, games like at Preston, and when you are questioned by your manager it hurts,’’ admitted Collins. “A lot of us have been doing this for a long time and we are honest lads.
“None of us are trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes – there’s an honest bunch in there. We know when we have done well and know when we haven’t.
“There are no smokescreens put up and we don’t tell people lies – everyone is honest, the players and staff.
The gaffer comes in and says what he does because he’s honest. If he’s got something to tell you, he will tell you.
“We have to react to it.’’ They started out with a reaction at the weekend, as they were up for it from the off.
Yet it was 14 minutes before their first effort, Steve Howard shooting across goal and at keeper Chris Weale.
A minute later they had the lead. Evan Horwood’s measured ball was into the zone for Howard to reach. He was able to head down for Jonathan Franks and the ball sat up for him to crisply dip a volley in from the edge of the box.
When Pools go behind they have a habit of crumbling.
After going ahead, they weren’t able to stay there.
After the Shrews hacked off their own line from a scrambled corner, 12 minutes after the goal, a free-kick pumped into Hartlepool’s area was headed on for Marvin Morgan to knock in.
It took until the latter stages for the game to spark into life again.
Franks had the chance to shoot from a decent position in the area but instead he took the ball down and rather than feed unmarked Monkhouse or Howard for what should have been a tap-in, he crossed deeply.
Of his three available options, he went for a strange fourth. The visitors cleared and set off on the counter attack.
Collins and Peter Hartley were square and beaten and Morgan ran through to score.
Quite where a home loss would have left Pools is open to conjecture.
But instead, Horwood again found Howard and this time he knocked the ball for Andy Monkhouse, dropped from midweek, to volley in. Cue relief.
“All week the gaffer said he wanted a reaction when we go behind, rather than heads going down and waiting to see what happens,’’ added Collins.
“Andy came on and scored a good goal – he came on and didn’t sulk, got involved and scored.
“The gaffer made changes and it could have been anyone left out after Tuesday. He wanted a reaction from those playing and the same from those on the bench. It’s a squad game and the gaffer will be pleased.’’ Both Pools goals came from Howard assists and it looks like they are working out how to utilise his strengths.
“We are getting better at playing with Stevie, he’s new to us and the sort of player we have been looking at for a few years,’’ said Collins.
“He is a handful and both goals came from him.
“I’ve played against him loads of times so I know how difficult it is to keep him quiet.’’