Hartley happy to play anywhere for Hartlepool Utd

Peter Hartley in action against Preston North End  .Picture by FRANK REID

Peter Hartley in action against Preston North End .Picture by FRANK REID

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PETER Hartley says he will happily play anywhere in the team as long as his name features in Hartlepool United’s starting eleven.

The former captain has been moved from his familiar berth in central defence to left-back for the pre-season fixtures after his friend and former team mate Evan Horwood was released by Pools at the end of the season.

Hartley, set to start his fifth season at Hartlepool United, joined the club from Sunderland and started his career at the club in the left-back spot but in recent years developed into a mature centre half and made the position his own.

But under new gaffer Colin Cooper the 25-year-old has reverted back to his old position and he again impressed on the left hand side of defence in last night’s 1-0 defeat to Preston North End at Victoria Park.

Pools-born Hartley says he believes he is now better equipped for the role after watching his friend Evan excel in the position over recent seasons.

Hartley said: “I have a lot of league games under my belt now so I’m a lot more mature.

“When I got flung in there it was my first real season as a professional footballer and I was having my ups and my downs.

“But I sort of understand left-back a lot more now, especially speaking to Evan a lot and knowing him as a friend as well.

“You learn the type of decisions that Evan makes on the ball, you take them in and I have watched a lot of Evan’s passes.

“He is great at playing the ball forward and I am trying to bring that into my game if the gaffer is going to play me there.

“I’m just getting my head down and working hard because a week is a long time in football and I might not even be playing next Saturday.”

Hartley is looking to work on his partnership with left winger Jack Compton, who won a penalty but then missed the resulting spot-kick last night.

He said: “My strengths are not taking people on, my strengths are one-on-one defending.

“I have got an engine so I get forward and support Jack but I just say to Jack let me defend, don’t drop deep and you go and get at people and if we really do get that going this season, and the gaffer chooses me there, then I think it could be a good mix.

“I am not a bad defender and he is not bad going forward, as he showed when he won the penalty.

“I’m just enjoying it and I’m not bothered where I play.”

Cooper has given his squad the weekend off as a reward for their efforts on the training ground so far this pre-season and Hartley says he is enjoying life under the new regime.

Hartley said: “I really enjoyed last night.

“I’m not bothered where I play as long as I’m in the 11; the gaffer could play me off the striker if he wants, I couldn’t care less.

“Honestly, I’m just enjoying it because the gaffer wants to play football and we are footballers, as long as we do it in the right way.

“A lot of the lads are enjoying it and I’m coming to training every day with a smile on my face.

“It is brilliant the way he wants to play and long may it continue.”

Despite his responsibilities at left-back the defender did have a good chance to equalise for the home side but his second half-header drifted wide.

Hartley added: “I could have scored that header but took my eye off the ball.

“The connection wasn’t great but it was pre-season and hopefully I’ll save it for the season.”