COLIN Cooper believes rookie defender Darren Holden should seize the opportunity presented to him by the departure of Peter Hartley.
Hartley had started the season in the team at left-back but, with his move to Stevenage in the offfing earlier in the week, Holden deputised during the League Cup defeat at Nottingham Forest.
Now, though, the 19-year-old (pictured above) has a chance to nail down a regular starting berth, starting with tomorrow’s visit of Southend United (kick-off 3pm).
“Hopefully Darren will see this as a chance to cement a place in the team now that Peter has gone,” said Cooper.
“The thinking with playing Peter at left-back previously was to make it as solid as possible, he’s a left-footed player and defensively minded.
“But Darren did himself no harm at Forest, he contributed to the game at both ends.
“It’s up to him now to take his chance and I’m sure he’ll be absolutely fine.”
Holden, then just 17, was handed his debut more than two years ago and has made 23 appearances over the past two seasons.
And in that time he has caught the eye of Cooper, as the manager went on: “When I came to watch Hartlepool last year, when they weren’t going well at all, two people stood out – Darren Holden and Jack Baldwin.
“They played with no fear. They handled the ball and got on with it.
“With regards Darren, he has worked his socks off this summer.
“He is a good, young footballer.
“Yes, he has an awful lot to learn but we were all like that once.
“I’ve had a chat with him and I’ve told him that he’s talented young man.”
With Holden set to continue at left-back, the back four is likely to be unchanged for tomorrow’s first home game of the season.
Goalkeeper Scott Flinders remains a doubt with a backside injury he aggravated at Forest, as Cooper explained: “We’re still assessing Scot.
“He says he feels a lot better so we’re hopeful.
“We’ll just have to see how he is today to do the real game prep for Southend.”
POOLS (probable): Flinders; Austin, Baldwin, Burgess, Holden; Franks, Walker, Walton, Compton; Sweeney; James. Subs: Rafferty, Collins, Monkhouse, Poole, Howard, Rodney, Richards