NEALE Cooper has threatened his Hartlepool United players with the exit door – five days before League One kicks off.
The Pools boss – seething in the wake of Saturday’s Capital One Cup humiliation at Crewe – has promised to get rid of any players who were not shamed and left distraught following the 5-0 drubbing.
Cooper tore into his side at both half-time and after the game at Gresty Road as a shambolic defensive showing got the campaign off to the worst possible start.
Max Clayton and debutant Mathias Pogba both pounced for doubles for Crewe.
Despite his shock, straight-talking Cooper certainly wasn’t lost for words today, and he had this warning for his men.
“They have got to hurt after that – it was embarrassing,” he sounded.
“I’m hurting, the fans are hurting and if they don’t hurt then they can get lost.
“I’ve told them – I don’t want boys like that here.
“Some boys did not turn up.
“And if that didn’t hurt them afterwards in that changing room then they can come and see me – see you later, honestly.
“I’m furious and they got it with both barrels because that’s what they deserved – it was garbage.
“I’m the first to praise them and I look after them.
“But they should not be playing football if they’re not embarrassed by that performance.”
However, the reality is that Cooper’s hands are tied when it comes to manoeuvring his squad, meaning he’ll have to work with what he’s got going into the league opener at home to Swindon this weekend.
“I’m devastated because I was really looking forward to it,” he said. “I went down full of optimism because we’d looked good and I did not see that coming at all.
“They’ve done well over pre-season, but that doesn’t matter, this is our bread and butter and that just was not acceptable.”
Skipper Sam Collins admits that Pools’ early collapse – they trailed 2-0 inside 12 minutes – “killed” the tie.
The defender said: “Some of the goals were individual mistakes and we’ve got to be better than that.
“We can only apologise to our fans and put it right next week, we have to do.”
Meanwhile, Kilmarnock have shown an interest in taking striker Colin Nish on a season-long loan and Cooper is likely to welcome such a move.
CREWE: A Martin, Davis, Ellis, Dugdale, Robertson, Moore, Westwood, Osman (Murphy 76), Pogba, M Clayton (Turton 84), Leitch-Smith (Daniels 78). Subs not used: Garratt, Mellor, Ray, White. Goals: Leitch-Smith 7, M Clayton 13 & 39, Pogba 34 & 90
HARTLEPOOL: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Franks, Walton, Sweeney, Monkhouse, James (Poole 46), Howard. Subs not used: Humphreys, Nish, Luscombe, Baldwin, Murray, Holden. Booked: Hartley
Att: 2,501. Ref: Carl Boyeson (E Yorkshire)