Hartlepool Utd boss believes friendlies will forge links with North-East big three

Hartlepool United Neale Cooper
Hartlepool United Neale Cooper

NEALE Cooper believes Hartlepool United’s high profile pre-season friendlies against the North East “Big Three” can only help strengthen links between the sides.

Pools take on Newcastle United at Victoria Park tonight (7.30pm kick off) in their final home pre-season fixture, after previous games against neighbouring Sunderland and Middlesbrough.

The League One side, who drew 1-1 with Hull on Saturday, are so far unbeaten at home after beating Martin O’Neill’s side 1-0 and drawing 2-2 with Tony Mowbray’s Boro side.

Cooper, who took the opportunity to speak with Hull City manager Steve Bruce on Saturday, said the games have given him the opportunity to make close bonds with neighbouring managers.

Cooper said: “I had a really good chat with Tony Mowbray at Middlesbrough and I spoke to Martin O’Neill over the summer and spoke to him briefly after the game last week.

“I don’t really know Alan Pardew but I have met him at a dinner.

“Hopefully we can get a closer contact with all three and that is in the plans.

“I have spoken to Martin and Tony and even Steve Bruce said anyway I can help you with players, they have got one or two that maybe could go out on loan.

“It is all about making connections with people.”

Cooper said there are no new signings on the cards but says he is still on the lookout for loan signings, including Sunderland striker Ryan Noble who had a spell on loan at Victoria Park last season.

Cooper said: “There is no secret I still like Ryan Noble at Sunderland.

“He has been featuring in the first team, and great for him to be able to do that.

“But if he isn’t come the start then I think he would love playing alongside Stevie (Howard).”

A goal from former Middlesbrough winger Jonathan Franks gave Pools the lead on Saturday, before Cameron Stewart equalised for Hull after capitalising on a spillage from Scott Flinders.

And it was Pools forward Luke James who caught the eye of his manager.

The 17-year-old broke in to the first team last season, producing some impressive displays, before dropping out of the first-team picture through injury.

But James has started all three home pre-season fixtures and Cooper says it won’t be long before he is back to his best.

Cooper said: “He is super fit and stronger and he will have learned from the spell last season, coming into the team last Christmas time.

“He has come back really fit and strong and I think he is a good foil for Big Stevie.

“It is important for him to get back to that level when he first came in but I think he will be better than that.

“In a matter of a few months he has gone from great, to being injured, to coming back and not doing so well.

“He will have learned from that experience.

“Luke is a great boy as well, he never gives up and always has a smile on his face.

“I have high hopes for him in the future.

“Steve has taken him under his wing already and he appreciates what Luke can do for him.

“Luke will do nothing but learn from Stevie.”