STEVE Howard insists Hartlepool United must show a “nastier streak” going into the new League One season.
Neale Cooper accused his players of being “too nice” following last weekend’s humiliating 5-0 Capital One Cup drubbing at Crewe.
It was a criticism which was levelled at Pools on occasions last term as well, none more so than during the club record run of nine straight defeats at Victoria Park.
Tomorrow, Pools kick off their league campaign with the visit of Paolo Di Canio’s Swindon, who are tipped for a second successive promotion.
Howard is well aware of last season’s woes on home soil, and he believes a tougher exterior is perhaps what is needed.
“I think you need to have that nasty streak on the pitch,” the 36-year-old said.
“Sometimes you have to kick your way out of situations and I’m not afraid to do that.
“I don’t know what went wrong at home last year, but Micky (Barron) has told me how it killed the season a bit.
“We’ve got to maybe be a bit tougher and if things aren’t going well then I’d like to think I’m the sort of character who could help.”
And Howard, who found himself frozen out at Leicester City last season, admits he has some making up to do.
“I’m up for the challenge and I can’t wait to get the league season started,” he went on.
“I want to get the buzz back and I think I’ll do that here.
“I want to make up for lost time a little bit with regards last season because I went a bit stale at Leicester.”
Howard could be paired with either Luke James or James Poole tomorrow.
Teenager James has been by his side for the bulk of pre-season, and Howard sees potential in their pairing.
“Luke’s a good lad and a willing lad who wants to learn,” said the veteran targetman.
“He’ll run all day long – which is fantastic for me.
“He’s still just a kid don’t forget but hopefully I can help him along.
“All of the young lads here are so enthusiastic and sometimes they are too excited, they want to make runs they perhaps shouldn’t do – but better that way than the other.
“It’s part of my job to help him learn otherwise.”
Pools are still seeking a back-up for keeper Scott Flinders, with Andy Rafferty ruled out by a knee injury. Right-back Neil Austin will act as stand-in keeper if Flinders gets injured.
HARTLEPOOL (probable): Flinders; Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood; Franks, Walton, Sweeney, Monkhouse; Poole, Howard. Subs: Baldwin, Humphreys, Murray, James, Luscombe, Nish, Holden.