COLIN Cooper admits confidence levels are low amongst some of his Hartlepool United players who are currently learning some “harsh lessons”.
With four successive defeats to start the 2014-15 season - including three in the league and a heavy 6-2 loss to Port Vale in the Capital One Cup - it is no wonder some in the Pools camp are struggling.
But Cooper is looking to the likes of creative on-loan Middlesbrough winger Ryan Brobbel to help inspire others.
The 21-year-old was one of the few bright sparks in Tuesday night’s 2-0 defeat to Dagenham & Redbridge at Victoria Park, a result which left Pools second bottom.
Cooper revealed afterwards: “I have spoken about confidence in the dressing room.
“There are all sorts of different kinds of confidence - confidence to play, confidence to get on the ball and confidence to try and do positive things.
“I would suggest one or two may be lacking in confidence but one or two others showed me that they have got the right ingredients to want to get on the ball and try and play.
“But at the minute we are struggling and that is the reality.
“We haven’t scored a goal in the league and conceded five and we need to find a way of turning that ratio around.
“It is no different to where we found ourselves last year but it needs to turn around quickly and confidence is a massive thing in football.
“I have said whether you are 17 or 37, your confidence goes high and low in football and when your confidence is low it takes an awful lot to step across the white line.
“That is when you need to be brave and there are some harsh lessons being learnt by the players at the minute.”
The Pools manager changed his formation and team for the visit of the Daggers, with Brobbel and Michael Woods brought into the side for their first league starts.
Cooper played a diamond formation, with Woods at the top, and Brobbel on the left-hand side, and their manager was impressed with their impact.
“Ryan was bright all night in his first game in front of his family and friends”, added Cooper.
“He showed me he had the ingredients to get on the ball and wanted to do something clever and creative with it.
“His delivery from set pieces was excellent all night and one or two people may want to take the lead from that.”
The Pools manager was also pleased with the impact of former Leeds and Chelsea youth player Michael Woods, who spent last year in non-league at Harrogate Town.
Cooper said: “I thought both Ryan and Michael were pretty good.
“They were both energetic and both positive and Ryan had a really good spell halfway through the first-half, in particular.
“Michael showed little bits and pieces, which I know he has.
“He has come from non-league and it won’t happen overnight and we have to work with Michael.
“I just thought having seen how Dagenham set up against Burton last Saturday, the game might have suited Michael, Jonathan [Franks] and Luke [James] rather than Marlon [Harewood].
“That is why I did it and with hindsight you ask was it right? I thought probably so.”
The former Middlesbrough and England defender added: “We controlled the ball and created chances but the only thing that really disappoints me is the manner of the goals that are going in.
“We are not being cut open and it hurts as an ex-defender.
“To give the opposition cheap goals doesn’t give you the chance to get the foothold in the game.
“The two challenges are can we be more resolute and can be a bit more calmer in front of goal when we do get those opportunities?”
Cooper knows it is his job to “galvanise” the current players and to bring in some new faces to raise both spirits and performance levels, adding: “The lads are trying hard but we are just not there and that is the reality.”