COLIN Cooper wants his Hartlepool United players to go out with “no fear” when they take on high fliers Burton Albion.
The game at the Pirelli Stadium is vital at both ends of the division – Burton are chasing promotion to League One while Hartlepool have been dragged into a fight for survival (kick-off 3pm).
By the time Pools take to the field, the situation could look even worse.
Burton v Pools is one of only two fixtures in the division tomorrow – the rest of League Two play today.
Could, in this case, is with a small “c”, the sides who have the chance of going above Pools this afternoon, Morecambe and Exeter, have games against Scunthorpe and Chesterfield.
Pools do find themselves in trouble but boss Cooper wants to see them play positively and does not want them paralysed with fear.
“I say to the players ‘don’t have any fear’ because if you have, then you can’t express yourself properly,” Cooper said.
“I’ve played games in my career when I’ve been scared.
“The hardest thing in our profession is crossing that white line in front of people and expressing yourself under pressure.
“If you are feeling pressure, it is hard to cross that white line, really hard.
“All I keep saying to our players is keep having the belief about what we are trying to do.
“We’ve had a lot of pats on the back from people about the way we are trying to play football.
“But fom day one, I’ve never said we were going to be perfect, I never felt we were quite in the higher echelons but nor in the lower echelons either.
“I know we can compete with anyone in this division and I thought we’d be somewhere in between.
“Our job now is to finish in between.
“Football is about confidence and you can see during our run that certain players at at certain times the confidence has ebbed away.
“But we can finish the season with a bit of a spring in our step.
“With most of the clubs playing today, we will know where we are after the Burton game.
“Hopefully we can get a positive result there and, if we do, everyone will be feeling more relaxed.”
Cooper has called for “big hearts” this week and asked that players “roll up their sleeves” for the cause.
He will be reminding the players of their skills ahead of the match with the Brewers and does not want any relegation hangovers from April 2013 affecting the squad of 2014.
“Some of the players who have been through relegation may be having things floating around in their minds, left right and centre,” said the manager.
“If we go into these (last four) games thinking we are going to lose, what’s the point of turning up?
“We are not going to lose, we’ll be all right.
“I’m more than positive that the players are more than capable of taking us over the line.
“I have total belief in these lads, I keep telling them that.
“I will give them the belief to express themselves because when they do, their game flows and we create chances.
“We don’t want them being stifled on restricted.
“I will be telling the players ‘believe in the expression that I’m allowing you to have’.”