NEW loan signings Scott Harrison and Connor Oliver will today join up with their Hartlepool United teammates for the first time.
The Sunderland pair signed on Thursday afternoon, on loan until the end of the season, before the loan window expired but they were not in the squad for Saturday’s match at home to Cheltenham Town.
Speaking afterwards, Colin Cooper explained the duo will join up with the first team at Maiden Castle today after they had played for Kevin Ball’s Sunderland U21 development side away to Manchester City on Friday night.
Harrison, 20, is a central defender while Oliver, also 20, is capable of featuring in either defence or midfield.
But with regular central defensive pairing Sam Collins and Christian Burgess fit to play against Cheltenham and holding midfielder Simon Walton also back from a one-game suspension, Cooper felt there was no need to have them just sitting on the bench for the 1-0 home defeat.
Cooper explained: “The agreement is they will come and if they are not playing for my first team then they will do a bit of training at Sunderland and maybe play for the U-21s with Kevin Ball.
“The agreement initially was we’d get the paperwork done and they’d play for Sunderland’s U-21s at Manchester City on Friday and then we’d get them this week in the build-up to Portsmouth and see how things go.”
Cooper added: “I’d said to Sunderland that because Sam and Christian were going to be fine and Simon’s suspension was only one game, then I wouldn’t bring Scott and Connor in just to sit on the bench.
“It wouldn’t have been fair on them and, with all due respect, where Connor and Scott play wouldn’t have affected things on Saturday as I still thought we had more than enough to win the game.
“They will join us on Monday and we will have a week’s build-up to Portsmouth and they will strengthen us a wee bit.
“Everybody knows we are a bit short defensively and also in the position that Si plays, who is still only one booking away from suspension.
“Christian is also one booking away, so basically they are both one kick away from playing a few games for Hartlepool.
“I don’t wish suspensions on anyone but both will probably, at some point, get some game time between now and the end of the season.
“That is good for us and good for them and good for the relationship between the two clubs.
“We might be at the back end of March but it is something myself and Kevin Ball have been trying to get together all season.
“This could be the start of a relationship moving forward.”
Harrison is a former Darlington youngster and spent a month on loan in League Two with Bury earlier this season, albeit he only made one appearance from the bench for the Shakers.
Oliver, meanwhile, only returned to full fitness just before Christmas after spending almost a year on the sidelines through injury and has looked bright since coming back into the fold at Sunderland.
Cooper added: “I am looking forward to getting them in the building. I have seen them both play a few times this season, they both have good technical ability, are physical and worthy to be put in the team at any point between now and the end of the season and I have no qualms they would both acquit themselves very well.”
- RICHARD MENNEAR