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I’m hurt, I’m honest enough to say that and it’s hard, admits Cooper
FOOTBALL management can be the most rewarding and enjoyable of jobs. It can also be one of the harshest.
Neale Cooper, the Hartlepool United manager, has experienced the full gamut of emotions.
But more often than not this season, it's been the former and not the latter he has gone through.
Raw and passionate at the best of times - this was the manager sent to the stands in 2003 for throwing a towel to the ground in a game at Grimsby - Cooper takes massive pleasure in victory, and takes defeats to the heart.
This season has so far been a struggle for Pools. Second bottom in League One, with a single victory to their name ahead of today's visit of Doncaster Rovers, Cooper is searching for the spark that lifted the club to the play-offs in successive seasons during his first spell in charge.
He has cooled off in recent weeks, but only after his frantic rant following the insipid defeat at Notts County and the angry and furious outburst after his side rolled over at Preston.
But Cooper wouldn't be the person he is without that burning attitude. For now, however, he is finding it as tough as anyone.
"I'm a happy go lucky fella, but it has been hard,'' he reflected. "I cannot be like that just now and we have to look at the situation we are in and get out of it.
"I'm hurt, I'm honest enough to say that and it's hard. We have to do better but I don't go out on the training ground and be negative as a character, I can't. The players can't see that.
"You have to be brave and front up, but it's hard. I was a fighter as a player, not in a bad way, but someone who gave his all.
"I've seen the side of winning and I've seen the side of losing. It hurts and if it didn't I shouldn't be in the game.
"It takes it out of you mentally as well. Speaking to the press is repetitive - 'I know we played quite well last weekend but we lost, there was good things the other night, but we lost'.
"And those things can knock you. I'm a bubbly person, but you can't blame me for not....''
He added: "The staff at the club have been great, supporters as well. At Crewe last week the support was great and it's hard for them too.
"It's quite a lonely place being a coach and manager. But I've good family back in Scotland who I speak to and we go with the best we can do.''
Even in midweek, as Pools took on Bradford City in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy the suffering continued.
After 90 goalless minutes, Pools managed to hit the frame of the goal three times from five penalties. When it goes against you, everything conspires.
"The need to win weighs heavily,'' admitted Cooper. "We are in a hard place and we have to fight out of it.
"Positives, if there are positives, are that we created a lot of chances in the last few games and played a lot of good stuff, without getting the rub of the green.
"Even going to penalties the manner of it isn't nice - the referee walks over and says the last one wasn't in and no-one was sure.
"Losing and playing badly is another issue, but we have played some good stuff and got the ball down and played with it, but we are low on confidence at the moment.
"It's easy to feel sorry for ourselves. It hurts me more than anybody and don't think it doesn't.
"We have training sessions and it is positive, we don't walk about with a big frown on our faces - we cannot afford to.
"Yes, after a game and the day after it feels like that, you are mentally tired and trying to turn things around. It comes back to you and you end up talking to yourself!
"But looking for positives, we kept a clean sheet and Charlie Wyke did well in his first game - there were plusses and we take them.''
Wyke signed on loan from Middlesbrough at the start of the week, and with Steve Howard back in the side today and Ryan Noble back at the club on loan from Sunderland, Cooper could be tempted to run with an attack minded 4-3-3 formation.