For myth would have it that when a club turns it pages in reverse order and selects a previous gem to return to their old stomping ground, the results rarely mirror their fortunes of yester-year.
Hartlepool United have a strong case in providing evidence to that footballing thesis. Adam Boyd, once a goal magnet, is now someone who struggles to hold down a place even in the first sixteen, and has seen his chanted name on the terraces dwindle into more of a grumble when he takes to field since signing for his boyhood club for the second time in 2008.
But all is not lost for Boyd; not by a long stretch. His goal-scoring exploits, which pressed neighbours Sunderland into seriously considering a rumoured £1million offer the him, occured whilst under the stewardship of Neale Cooper.
And Cooper is back at Pools – despite that saying, “don’t go back”.
Under the Scot, Pools propelled themselves to the club’s highest ever finishes: successive sixth place finishes in League One, the latter culminating in a play-off final defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, though, famously, Cooper departed the club days before the season finale to “family and personal issues”, as the club later revealed six-and-a-half years later.
After a club record seven home defeats on the bounce, Mick Wadsworth was axed, Micky Barron kept things ticking over, occupying the throne whilst the big man returned. And boy oh boy has Cooper revitalised things.
In just six weeks he has a turned a previous confidence-sapped side into one who don’t register the word “losing” and “unspirited” in their minds.
For, under Cooper, he has elicited the very best out of players who were reminiscing hibernating tortoises – retreating into their shell.
Perfect examples include Paul Murray who had endeared himself to the Vic faithful with his no-nonsense approach to dictating play and quenching attacks while sitting as the commander in front of the back four. He has turned around his poor displays by earning a series of man of the match accolades.
Andy Monkhouse, often a victim of being labelled “only good in a winning team”, hasn’t shrugged that off as Pools are winning. And such positive results owes testimony to the way in that Cooper has made Monky thirsty to fight for the ball and produce his scintillating talent on more occasions. He is now hungry – something uncommonly seen in the past
That renewed work ethic, though, could also be down to teenage sensation Luke James. James’ determination is astounding, and his predator-like nature in hunting down lost causes beggars belief. One would argue he is rubbing off on Monky and James Brown.
And that’s just four players I’ve mentioned. Neil Austin, the right-back, is looking more like his old self, Evan Horwood played one of his finest games in the blue and white in the weekend trouncing of Notts County, and there’s more.
Under Cooper, Boyd can extinguish the old chestnut that coming back to a club has a negative effect.
As for Cooper, well, he has already dampened most of that cliché in just six weeks. His attitude has dramatically changed Pools’ fortunes and it is clear just who is responsible to that.
The messiah is back, long live his magic wand.
By Chrissy Bell