SAM Collins says he cannot wait to use his wealth of experience to help inspire the next generation of stars at Hartlepool United.
The 36-year-old was out of contract this summer but recently signed a new deal which will see him combine playing with the role of assistant first and reserve team coach at the Sky Bet League Two club.
As part of his new role, Collins will help coach the first team and is also in overall charge of the second string at Victoria Park.
And one player the veteran defender will be working closely with is midfielder Lewis Hawkins, the latest youngster to sign a new contract at Pools.
Coaching isn’t new to Collins of course.
The former Hull City and Huddersfield Town defender, helped out with the reserves last season assisting Craig Hignett before he left for Middlesbrough and then Pools’ director of youth John Hewitson, working both on match days and in training with the club’s young players.
Collins told SportMail: “I helped out last year with Craig [Hignett] when he was here and then John [Hewitson] and enjoyed getting my foot in the door and getting that experience under my belt.
“In many ways it is not new to me, I have that experience from last year, but now I get to be in control of that and plan and pick teams and help our young players come through.
“We have a lot of young players, whether it is the ones in the first
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team, reserves or those in the youth team stepping up to play in the reserves.
“I want to pass on a lot of the experience that I have gained over the years and it is something I’m really looking forward to doing.
“The role was something that we had been speaking about for a couple of weeks and I had a lot to think about, so I wanted to take my time and make sure I’d thought it through, that it was right for me and right for the club.
“I couldn’t be happier to have got everything sorted out.”
Pontefract-born Collins, who turns 37 next month, will enter into his 20th year as a player when the first team squad return to pre-season training on July 1.
Among the players keen to make a good impression will be Hawkins.
The 20-year-old has performed well in the reserve team this season and was a regular on the bench in the closing weeks of the season, making five sub appearances in League Two.
Middlesbrough-born Hawkins joined Pools in 2011 and made his debut in the following March, then boss Neale Cooper sending him on as a sub in a 0–0 draw with Walsall in League One.
His successor, Colin Cooper, has been suitably impressed with the young prospect this season and offered him a new deal.
“I’m over the moon to get a new contract sorted,” Hawkins told the club’s website.
“I’ve been working hard and I ended up getting a few substitute appearances last season so now I want to make sure I come back fit and hopefully play some more.
“I thought I did well and made an impact in the games I came on and the Manager said as much to me afterwards – but now he’s asking for more from me and hopefully I can give it to him.”
The midfielder has been on the books at Pools since being spotted playing for Horden Colliery Welfare four years ago.