Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cooper Takes Pool to the Brink of History

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cooper Takes Pool to the Brink of History

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul Gilder

There was a time when Neale Cooper eked out a living by impersonating successful football managers. Nowadays he is one ( the most-successful in Hartlepool's history, to be precise.

Having steered the club to their highest-ever league position last season ( only a devastating play-off defeat ended the club's hopes of securing a place in English football's second tier ( Cooper could become the first man to steer United into the fifth round of the FA Cup this afternoon. That promotion is on the agenda once again at Victoria Park suggests there is little the astute Scot cannot do.

"When people talk about me being Hartlepool's most successful manager, it's a major honour," said a man whose appointment 18 months ago wasn't greeted with universal acclaim. "I love it here."

The appointment of the former Ross County chief ( Cooper had departed Dingwall in 2002 ( was a shrewd move on the part of Ken Hodcroft, the Hartlepool chairman, after it was decided Mike Newell wasn't the man to mastermind United's post-promotion fortunes.

Cooper had been in danger of drifting out of football and was a regular on the after-dinner speaking scene. His routine wasn't popular with all, though, and the chance to revive his managerial career came as a relief.

"I used to do a lot of speaking but I don't do it any more," he said. "I used to like taking off other managers but Fergie (Sir Alex Ferguson) found out I had been doing him and wasn't too happy. I used to do a good Graeme Souness as well.

"I found there was a lot of pressure doing that stuff, it was hard work. One of the last ones I did was in front of a couple of thousand people and I was very nervous. I prefer being a football manager ( there isn't as much pressure."

Cooper doesn't let pressure enter the equation and with his side so well placed ( Hartlepool stand fifth in League One and can still consider automatic promotion to the Coca-Cola Championship a realistic ambition ( he has no reason to.

A promising league campaign will be put to one side this weekend as United meet Brentford for the right to face Southampton in what would be an historic fifth-round tie. …

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