Smurf’s up for Neale Cooper as he looks to future season

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NEALE Cooper has joked he could join the fancy-dress-clad Poolies at Charlton Athletic this weekend – admitting he is looking forward to the end of the season, writes Craig Hope.

The Pools chief cannot wait to get down to the business of reshaping his squad for next year, having grown dissatisfied with recent performances.

However, Cooper remains in good spirits and with 150 Smurfs set to descend on The Valley in the now traditional end-of-season novelty garb, the Scot admits he would not mind joining in the fun.

“It might cheer me up if I go to Charlton dressed as a Smurf,” laughed the 48-year-old. “I might go as Father Abraham – the leader.

“But, joking aside, we’ve got to go there and give a good account of ourselves.

“It’s been frustrating recently and I won’t hide that.

“I want to see better from these players and that means this Saturday as well.

“We can still finish in the top 10 and Charlton are going for 100 points, so there’s something to play for.”

Cooper did not hold back in his assessment of Saturday’s performance during the 2-1 win over Leyton Orient, demanding more from a set of players which he believes can be too “soft” on occasions.

Saturday presents one last chance to leave a good impression on the boss ahead of his summer rebuild.

“The lads know I wasn’t happy,” Cooper went on, “And I hope they weren’t surprised by that.

“They have to be stronger as characters.

“Every match is a chance to show that and there is no better test than against the best team in the league.”

Shortlists have already been drawn at Victoria Park ahead of close-season recruitment and Cooper will step up his efforts once Saturday’s game is out of the way.

“We’ve got a number of targets,” Cooper explained.

“We know the positions we want to strengthen and we’ve had a number of conversations about different players we could be looking at.

“Obviously, there are a number of options because not everything works out.

“I still say we’ve got a good core here, but additions are needed.

“It’s an exciting time of the year and a chance for myself to stamp my mark on the team.”