COLIN Cooper has no qualms in giving his Hartlepool United squad a couple of days off, but has warned them to come back firing as they look to push up the table in 2014.
Pools’ 3-0 New Year’s Day defeat to Bury brought a disappointing end to a busy run of four Sky Bet League Two matches over the festive period.
But the FA Cup exit to Coventry City – and the postponement of tomorrow’s trip to Southend – means Cooper’s players now have a free weekend.
If Pools had beaten the Sky Blues in their replay last month, they would be playing Barnsley tomorrow, but instead their next match isn’t until next Saturday, when Rochdale visit Victoria Park.
Cooper said: “Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be playing Barnsley in the FA Cup.
“That is not the case, so what I have said to our players is we have been in six months and the lads have worked extremely hard.
“Christmas is a hard time for professional sportsman, although they do get very well rewarded for that.
“What I have said to them is because we do have that little break, if I was the manager of Manchester United then I think we would be jetting off to the sun somewhere to get a bit of sun on our backs and freshen the batteries.
“But I’m not manager of Manchester United so all I can do is say ‘go and have a couple of days with your family and your friends, celebrate the New Year, knowing that on Monday, when we start ploughing towards Rochdale, I want you ready’.
“2014 hasn’t started brilliantly for us, so I’m going to wipe that from my memory and say that our 2014 starts on the 11th.”
Cooper has also called on his players to maintain the high standards they set themselves in the 2-1 win over Morecambe last Sunday, three days before the Bury defeat.
Asked how he summed up Pools’ festive period following five points from four matches, Cooper said: “It has been great.
“Let’s be honest, other than Coventry (in the FA Cup), we hadn’t lost since we’d played Bury away in the league.
“So I can’t complain about that.
“If we had turned a couple of those draws into wins then great, but a couple of them could also have been a defeat.
“I can’t ask any more of them as we are not a big squad.
“The performance on Sunday was very good and, in spells against Bury, we pinned them back, I don’t think anybody could argue with that, but you have to give them credit as they have really defended when they have had to.
“But the high of Sunday you have to maintain.
“That will dictate where you are and if you set such high standards, as we did as a group, then you have to try and maintain them.
“We still played some nice stuff (against Bury) and created chances but we have left our back door open a wee bit, which was disappointing.
“But we’ll just crack on and when Rochdale come here, who are definitely one of the best footballing sides in the division, we have to be ready.”