BILLY'S CONTRACT considers the return of Neale Cooper

25th December is the time of year we celebrate the coming of our Lord, but in all honesty none of The Poolie worshipping faithful expected the Second Coming of Our Lord Cooper three days later on the 28th of December. Talk about the best Christmas present of all.
They say it is a mistake to come back a second time, but I am convinced that this will be the exception in the case of Neale Cooper.

Yes, some things may have changed since his last tenure at the Vic. The squad might not be as good as the one he first inherited, and the players that remain from that squad might not be as young or as quick as they once were, but they do now have the experience. Cooper, however is a motivator who can seemingly get the best out of average or non-performing players (Boydie springs to mind). He knows how the Club and the Chairman work, and above all no other Hartlepool manager has had the same relationship with the fans as he enjoyed (contrast Turner, Newell and Houchen to name a few).

He recently stated during a talk in he gave at the Belle Vue Social Club a few months back, that given the chance to manage the club once more he would walk down on hot coals from Aberdeen to do so. The thing with Neale Cooper is that he probably would have done so if Ken Hodcroft had asked him to do this!

It will be great to see his passion on the touchline once more. Club tie askew, Shirt soaked in sweat and throwing his trademark towel down (not in) the grass when things are not going to plan."I am convinced that if Neale Cooper's side had gone on a 7 match losing streak at Victoria Park, at least it would have been a pleasure to watch."

A number of other candidates were in the frame for the job - some high profile ex-Premiership managers - but would they have been able to work within IOR'S parameters with little or no budget to work with, and possibly move on at the first opportunity? Immense credit to Ken Hodcroft and the board in burying hatchet and letting bygones be bygones for the benefit of the club.

I said in Monkey Bizz prior to the season kicking off that my dream team would have a Cooper/Wadsworth partnership. Wadsworth was installed as manager, and once that had taken place, despite results not going Mick Wadsworth's way, it would have been wrong to then bring in Neale Cooper to assist Wadsworth in the running of first team affairs. This would be seen to undermine Mick, and I am sure his pride would not have allowed this scenario to take place. Plus the Borer did this with Terry Venables when Bryan Robson was still in charge.

It is a shame in many respects that Mick Wadsworth had to go, but a combination of poor results and seven home defeats on the trot meant that the writing was on the wall. Sadly from a football point of view, the football that we had to endure at the Vic was not entertaining at all. To cap this off we were not creating any worthwhile scoring opportunities against some of the poorer sides in the league.

I think that the final nail in Wadsworth’s coffin was the alarming drop in crowd attendances. What chance of attracting crowds back next season even with £100 season ticket offers if the football on view was appalling to watch? On the consolation side if the boot was on the other foot I am convinced that if Neale Cooper's side had gone on a 7 match losing streak at Victoria Park, at least it would have been a pleasure to watch.

Cooper has brought back the 'wow' factor, and this was in evidence on the terraces at Sheffield United, when an estimated between seven to eight hundred Poolies made the trip to Bramall Lane, probably double that would have normally made the journey in the circumstances. To their credit they chanted non-stop for 90 minutes, out-singing their Yorkshire counterparts.

Yes, undoubtedly, we were well beaten on the day against one of the best teams I have seen in our league for a long time. Truth be known, we did well to keep the score down to three goals as it could well have been double that plus a couple more! To summarise Sheff Utd v Pools was men against boys.

Hopefully Neale Cooper will have seen what the rest of us did at Sheffield in terms of what needs changing on the pitch. He needs to look at the positives, which in fairness where not many excepting Luke James and Jack Baldwin. However the negatives far outweighed these.

He will see a side that is short of pace and without a recognised centre forward. He will no doubt be wondering why the defence does not work as a unit. The number of times they backed off and allowed the Sheffield forwards to run at them and past them was frightening. Although he is not in a position to do so (with the exception of Hartley) I would pretty much drop the rest of the defence, plus Murray, who has been dreadful of late. Collins is off the pace. Austin has lost confidence, and Horwood’s only ploy seems to pass back to his keeper at every given opportunity. One of these culminated in Sheffield's second goal being scored.

Because of his lack of pace, Ritchie is not suited to playing up front by himself nor out wide on the wing, and as such I would drop him in at Murray's position where he could spray balls about all day long as he did at Bramall lane. I would move Liddle into the middle of defence.
The other thing that stood out for me was how much quicker and stronger the Sheffield players were. I honestly do not feel our lads have the same levels of fitness as nor the physical strength as other teams in our league. These are a few of the problems that thankfully Neale Cooper and not I will have to address, but I am sure he is the man who will eventually get it right.

Welcome back Super Cooper.