COLIN Cooper is set to split his Hartlepool United squad with tomorrow’s group against Middlesbrough those at the forefront of his first-team thinking.
Pools fielded two different outfield sides during each half of Wednesday’s 2-0 win at Whitby Town.
But Cooper is now ready to focus his attention on those players who will be involved when the campaign kicks off at Rochdale in a fortnight’s time.
“We’ll split the squad for tomorrow,” he explained, a trip to Billingham Town next up on Tuesday evening.
“Those who don’t play will face Billingham.
“One group will be the senior, starting group, those who we think have the best chance of getting us to Rochdale.
“The other will be a little bit younger but all of those still have a chance of breaking in, they’ve done very well so far and there is a lot of talent in there.”
Cooper today tasked assistant Craig Hignett with scribbling what he believes is their strongest XI.
But the Pools chief says they are both open to persuasion.
“I’m still thinking about what my strongest XI is to be honest,” he went on.
“I’ve said to Craig as well, when we come in today I want to see what he considers to be our best team - we’ll see if we agree.
“But we’re still only three-and-a-half weeks into this tenure so everyone has a chance.”
Boro come to the Vic on the back of a 2-0 win at Morecambe on Wednesday.
While incomings have also been slow to materialise on Teesside, Cooper believes his old club will be challenging at the top end of the Championship.
And, to that end, he expects his players to rise to the challenge against their second-tier opponents
“It’s good to get a test against a team from two divisions higher who are, hopefully, plotting a way to the Premier League,” said Cooper.
“We will try to be organised and disciplined and see if we can create them problems at the other end.
“But it’s a great game to have.
“If I’m a footballer playing in League Two and I’m up against a team with Premier League ambitions then I think it’s a great challenge.
“But they will be up for it, they’re a smashing bunch of lads.
“Let’s see how we fare because this is a very good test for us.”