Neal Cooper begins his Hartlepool United clear-out

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NEALE Cooper has begun his Hartlepool United renovation job, declaring: “We need to bring in better players”.

The Pools boss yesterday released five members of his senior squad – Adam Boyd, James Brown, Steve Haslam, Colin Larkin and Callum Hassan – while Paul Murray, Evan Horwood, Andy Rafferty and Jordan Richards all agreed new deals.

Gary Liddle and Ritchie Humphreys remain in talks with the club over their future, while news on Nobby Solano’s exit is also expected.

Cooper, though, is set to press ahead with his recruitment drive and a list of potential targets are penned on the wall of his Victoria Park office.

The manager now has a better idea of the financial parameters in which he is working, and he admits yesterday’s cull was necessary.

“Yesterday was hard – but it’s simple, we need to bring in better players,” Cooper said.

“To do that we needed to create space. It’s not a case of the hard work starting now, because we’ve been working hard for a while identifying targets, but now we are able to press ahead a bit more.

“We needed to change things – it’s my neck on the line and I want to build my own team.

“I want to build something here which will excite the fans and yesterday was part of that process.”

The biggest casualties of the released list were Boyd and Brown.

Both have been terrace favourites down the years at Victoria Park and the pair courted the attention of numerous top-flight clubs at their peak.

But recent seasons has seen them struggle for form and fitness, and news of their departure was expected.

Cooper explained: “I have known these two boys for a lot of years. I really like them and they are good boys. But it’s been frustrating for both of them because of injury and they’ll admit that they’ve struggled for fitness and form recently.

“They had no qualms when we told them the news and sometimes players need a change, it can be good for them.”

Cooper admits that the future of Gary Liddle is very much uncertain.

The 25-year-old remains in talks with the club having failed to come to an agreement over a new deal this week.

Liddle is out of contract and is now also free to talk to other clubs.

Cooper said: “We’ll just have to see what happens with Gary. He is a free player at the moment and he can do what he likes.”

It was 12 months ago that the club exercised their option to extend the contract of Liddle by one year having failed to reach terms on a new, long-term deal.

In that time the midfielder has appeared in 41 of the 49 matches this season and ended his campaign in scoring fashion with a stunning strike in last Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at Charlton Athletic.

But Cooper has long since expressed his frustration with Liddle’s overall form and has demanded more from the former Middlesbrough trainee.

“Gary has played a lot of games under me and was in the team right until the end of the season,” added Cooper.

“But he can do better than he has done since Christmas. He’s still a good footballer, though, and we’ll have to see what happens.”