TWO of Hartlepool United’s younger players have been praised for their “fantastic attitude” by Colin Cooper who says they are a credit to the youth set-up.
Cooper has been impressed with 17-year-old midfielders Kieran Green and Connor Smith following their hard work on the training ground and goalscoring exploits against Billingham Town.
The pair came on as substitutes in the 9-0 win over the non-league side at Bedford Terrace on Wednesday, with Green nodding home the fourth before Smith bagged a quick-fire hat-trick with three well-taken goals.
“Connor and Kieran are two different players but both have a fantastic attitude and want to be professional footballers,” said Cooper.
“They are doing everything they possibly can to achieve that and they get upset, anxious and angry when they make mistakes.
“But at the same time they have high technical specification and when they have been training with us, both here and in Spain, and playing against Billingham they have been a credit.
“Credit goes to the people that work in our academy and youth set-up and it shows that Hartlepool is still producing good young players.
“Whether it is against Billingham Town or not, if you can handle the ball, move it quickly and in Kieran and Connor’s case get yourself a goal - then you will get noticed.”
Pacy Smith and Green both impressed against Town, adding to goals from Jack Compton, Marlon Harewood, Brad Walker and a Jonathan Franks brace.
It was Pools’ first pre-season friendly fixture since the squad returned to the North East from their pre-season training camp at La Cala Resort, in southern Spain.
Both youth players were on the plane as a reward for their efforts in keeping sharp over the summer break.
Cooper, 47, said it was a good opportunity for the pair to see for themselves the high standard they need to reach in order to break into the first-team on a regular basis.
Brad Walker - who captained the side against Billingham - is an example of what they can achieve after the 18-year-old broke into the first team last summer following an impressive pre-season.
Walker went onto be crowned Young Player of the Year and also walked away with Goal of the Season for his wonder-strike against Southend United back in February.
Smith has already made his League debut for Pools, coming on as a substitute in the final day of last season, the 2-0 home defeat to Exeter City.
Cooper told SportMail their performances against Billingham showed they can both play.
He added: “The group we have at the moment were all in Spain, including the two youth team players, which was great for them.
“It gave them a close look at the standards they have to reach in order to jump into my first-team squad.
“Brad Walker jumped straight across into the team last year.
“Connor is an exciting young player and we saw that little cameo at the end of the season, while Kieran is a boy who I think will do absolutely anything to become a professional footballer.
“If you look at his stats, he is 6ft 1” and works really hard on his technical spec as a midfield player - trying to receive it and pass it.
“You saw that against Billingham and the game showed both of them can play.
“Overall, the Spain trip gave me a picture of what we have and we can see the fitness levels are coming up day by day.
“Billingham was an extra 35, 45, 60 or 90 minutes worth of work for the players and that will only benefit them come August 9 at Stevenage.”