Cooper keeps cool over Hignett departure

Craig Hignett and Colin Cooper prior to the assistant manager's departure to Middlesbrough
Craig Hignett and Colin Cooper prior to the assistant manager's departure to Middlesbrough
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CALM Hartlepool United boss Colin Cooper insists there is no reason to panic after the departure of assistant Craig Hignett.

Cooper will take his time to replace Hignett, who this week rocked Pools by handing in his notice to become Number 2 to Aitor Karanka at Middlesbrough, with just eight weeks of the season left.

Staffing wise it has left Cooper thin on the ground but the 47-year-old said it is business as usual ahead of Saturday’s Sky Bet League Two match at Wycombe.

Cooper was staying positive and said it reflects well on Pools and the job he has done when other clubs want his staff.

But there is not likely to be a replacement joining him in the dugout anytime soon, especially as ninth-placed Pools face Wycombe and then Accrington Stanley away on Tuesday as they bid to keep up the pressure on the other play-off contenders.

“The timing is crap, let’s be honest,” said Cooper.

“We are eight weeks from the end of the season and we have plenty to play for but these things happen in life and football.

“While I wish Craig and Middlesbrough every success I have to concentrate on what is happening at Hartlepool United.

“I don’t want to belittle it but basically Middlesbrough made an approach and it was something Craig wanted to do.

“I have to get on with life and that is what I’m doing.”

He added: “Craig has been good at his job - the job that I employed him to do.

“What it has done is proved, probably to himself and other people, that the opportunities that he hasn’t been given in football he actually can do.

“But with all due respect we have bigger fish to fry.

“Aitor Karanka and Craig are looking forward to Ipswich, I’m looking to Wycombe and nothing else.”

Cooper’s phone though has been red hot with calls enquiring about the vacant post at Victoria Park - but the gaffer won’t be rushed into making an appointment.

He added: “I have ideas, which I had in the summer.

“I didn’t think for one minute I would be re-addressing things but that has happened. I will probably mull it over for a week or two, rather than jump into something and see whether it is something I really need to do now.

“The one thing I know about the staff I have here is that as soon as everything went through I had every member of staff asking me what more they could do to help.

“They are all willing to go over and above their job descriptions to help each other and that is a great credit to them.

“Craig was good at his job and I want someone equally as good but there is no panic.

“I have had messages and the club has had messages so the plus point is there is a lot of people that would like to come here and join what we are trying to do - both people I know and people I have never worked with.

“They have acknowledged that I must be doing something right, for people that I have never worked with throwing their hat in the ring.”

Academy manager John Hewitson will travel with the squad for Saturday’s game at Wycombe.

And it will be a case of business as usual for the first-team squad, looking to build on last weekend’s 3-0 win over Torquay United which put them to within five points of the top seven.

Cooper said: “There has been no distractions.

“I have noticed from the players a re-centring and the older players have taken a lot more responsibility on.

“On Tuesday, I left here and then drove down to the reserve game but there was an afternoon session the lads had to do.

“The older players took that on board and made sure the session was good and professional.

“I had a meeting with them and threw a bit of an onus on them. Staff wise we are thin on numbers so I expect older players - which was expected of me when I was a more senior member of the squad - to put a bit more of themselves out there.

“Not to add any extra pressure but just to make sure that if my eyes and ears can’t be everywhere, I still have people in the dressing room with that.

“We have a lot to do and it could still be a very exciting end to the season.

“We can’t allow what has happened to throw that because then you are using excuses.”