THIS wasn’t how Colin Cooper’s tenure as Hartlepool United boss was supposed to end.
He had often spoken about his vision for Pools and his aim of putting long-term roots down to improve the club both on and off the field.
But after just 16 months in the job and with Pools rock-bottom of the Football League, Cooper handed in his notice.
Cooper’s resignation came minutes after the final whistle of Saturday’s 3-0 home defeat to Carlisle United, who had started the day bottom but by the end of it looked like world beaters.
The heavy and humiliating defeat was the final straw and Cooper – who was barracked by the angry home supporters – had seen enough.
A club statement said he had taken the team as far as he could and the truth is Cooper’s players didn’t have the fight or the quality in them to get the win so desperately needed.
Pools have picked up just eight points out of a possible 33 this season, scoring just five league goals with a goal difference of -12.
A shocking record.
This team is currently heading for relegation out of the Football League and it is hard to see how the situation can be turned around without the quick appointment of an experienced manager and new, permanent signings.
The squad is too heavily reliant on loan players yet it will be no easy task bringing in fresh blood given the current predicament.
With 11 games of the season gone, time is just about still on their side but a quick-fix is needed.
There is a losing mentality to contend with too, with eight defeats out of 12 in all competitions this season.
The new manager will need to find a way of winning matches. Fast.
The squad is weaker than last season and the sale of Luke James has had a massive impact – as everybody knew it would – yet he still hasn’t been replaced properly.
It has all resulted in anger and discontentment against the management and owners both on fans forums and message boards.
But Saturday was the first time loud boos and chants of ‘Cooper Out’ could be heard from the terraces.
As soon as the final whistle was blown, Cooper was quickly down the tunnel. A sad end to his time at the club.
Still popular and well-respected by many, Cooper had given his all under tight financial restrictions but it hadn’t worked out and something had to give.
This is now a crucial time in Hartlepool United’s history and arguably the biggest managerial appointment in recent times with the threat of relegation looming over the club.
The chairman and owners need to get it right.
With the dramatic timing of Cooper’s resignation defeat to rivals Carlisle was almost forgotten about but it won’t be by the Pools fans who had to endure another miserable afternoon.
It was a tense and nervy atmosphere buoyed by 800 plus travelling supporters.
Pools actually started with intent, Brad Walker seeing a well-struck shot saved after good work down the left from Darren Holden.
But moments later it was Carlisle that almost snatched the lead.
Another lack of communication between captain Matthew Bates and Scott Flinders almost saw Steven Rigg sneak in before Bates poked the ball out for a corner.
It was a let off for Pools, who could have then gone behind in the 10th minute.
Rigg’s downward header from six-yards was just about scooped away by Flinders and for the second time in a week Pools should have been trailing early on.
Cooper’s side grew into the game but too many passes were going astray and the wingmen failed to deliver enough service to Marlon Harewood and Charlie Wyke, Ryan Brobbel the main culprit.
Keith Curle’s side were busy though, constantly probing and the ball spent a fair bit of time in the Pools penalty area, with the away side looking far more likely to score.
Pools’ confidence is rock-bottom and the best effort they mustered came from Harewood who shot just inches over the bar after good work from Tommy Miller and Wyke.
The sides went into the break goalless but it was Carlisle that came storming out of the blocks second-half.
Brad Potts waltzed through before teeing up Rigg, whose curling effort was just wide before Flinders then had to be alert to firmly block Potts’ shot in the 48th minute.
Sub Jonathan Franks forced Carlisle stopper Dan Hanford into a good save before the away side struck the first blow in the 54th minute.
A long Danny Grainger throw wasn’t dealt with and the ball was flicked on by Mark Beck towards Rigg who got there before Flinders to put Carlisle ahead.
Cooper turned to Michael Woods, replacing Walker who had endured another poor game, and he looked bright as Pools looked to get back into the game.
It was Pools’ best spell and Harewood had a low shot saved by Hanford before a deflected Michael Duckworth shot was cleared – if either had gone it the story would have been different.
Instead, Carlisle wrapped up the win with two soft goals.
Grainger’s cross to the far post in the 82nd minute was knocked back across to substitute Stephen Elliott who finished low from the edge of the area.
Then in the 89th minute, Beck got on the score sheet to cap off a miserable day.
It was far too easy and the Pools fans had seen enough, venting their anger towards the dugout.
The heavens opened as Cooper made his way down the tunnel to seal his own fate.
It never rains but it pours for Pools.