COLIN Cooper is “delighted” with his pre-season plans ahead of Hartlepool United’s first friendly at Billingham Town tonight.
Pools have organised six friendly matches in total, against opposition from all levels of English football and the action kicks off this evening at Bedford Terrace (kick-off 7pm).
The first friendly fixture follows the club’s week-long training camp in southern Spain at the plush La Cala Resort, which saw Cooper putting his squad through their paces on the training field.
Tonight though will be the first chance for supporters to see the players in action since the 2-0 home defeat to Exeter City on the final day of the Sky Bet League Two season, which saw the club finish in 19th place.
The Pools camp has since looked to move on from that and optimism is high ahead of the first League Two fixture against Stevenage on Saturday, August 9.
Cooper is looking to ensure his Pools side hit the ground running with a strong pre-season against the likes of Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Bradford City.
Tonight’s short trip to neighbours Billingham Town will also be the first chance for Pools fans to see new signings Matthew Bates and Stuart Parnaby in action.
The defensive duo were Cooper’s first signings of the summer and will be part of a strong squad taking on Town, with most of the squad expected to get a run out.
Billingham play in the Ebac Northern League Division Two following their relegation from Northern League Division One last season but Cooper is still expecting a competitive match.
“I am delighted with the pre-season plans,” Cooper told SportMail.“The games will all be competitive and we are looking to get as many people the minutes we feel as though they need.
“There is a good competitive element to all of the matches, which will see us play Premier League, Championship, League One and non-league opposition.
“I think the teams that we are playing are all of a good standard.
“Hopefully we can give a good account of ourselves over the next couple of weeks and get ourselves in the right place physically, technically and tactically for what we know will be a long, hard season in League Two.”
Tonight’s match will be followed by the trip to Conference North side Bradford Park Avenue on Saturday, July 19 (KO 3pm).
Pools’ pre-season fixtures will also see them play Premier League Sunderland at Victoria Park on Wednesday, July 23 (KO 7.30pm), the club’s annual trip to Evo-Stik Northern Premier League side Whitby Town on Saturday, July 26 (KO 3pm) before Championship side Middlesbrough at home on Wednesday, July 30 (KO 7.30pm).
The final pre-season match sees Pools travel to League One Bradford City on Saturday, August 2, (KO 3pm).
That is the club’s final warm-up match ahead of Stevenage on August 9.
Pools almost didn’t have a friendly fixture on the weekend before the League Two curtain raiser but the Bradford City game was then arranged, to the delight of Cooper.
He added: “The most important thing is to get your pre-season plans into place quickly.
“We were very nearly left in limbo but that gap on August 2 has been filled, thankfully, with the trip to Bradford.”
Fans can buy tickets for tonight’s game on the turnstiles prior to kick-off with prices fixed at £5 for adults, £3 for concessions and free for Under 16s accompanied by an adult.