COLIN Cooper admits Jonathan Franks’ impressive pre-season form is giving him an early selection headache.
The 24-year-old has already netted three goals for Hartlepool United including a brace in the 9-0 Billingham Town rout and the winner against Bradford Park Avenue on Saturday.
Cooper has been impressed with his sharpness and improved technical ability since his return to training and insists Franks is firmly pushing for a place in the starting line-up for the League Two opener at Stevenage on August 9.
Stockton-born Franks has at times flattered to deceive during his time with Pools, with spells in and out of the team and questions over where his best position is.
But he has come back to training firing on all cylinders, including three well-taken goals.
The former Middlesbrough forward sees himself as a striker and while last season he only scored six times in 46 appearances, for many of those games he was pushed out wide.
“At the minute Franksy looks really sharp,” said a pleased Cooper.
“Over the years his receiving skills needed to be improved and the way he thinks about football but maybe he is now thinking about things a lot more rather than just head down and dribble and see what happens.
“In the last two games he has shown some really good football intelligence and on the back of that, I know he can score with his left or right foot.
“He is really putting himself in the picture, to be fair to him. He has looked lively, is trying to receive the ball on his back foot and be positive and get away from defenders.
“Franksy got his reward the other night at Billingham and could have scored four of five but got over enthused about wanting to score rather than looking to slide someone else in.
“Then against Bradford Park Avenue it was a lovely tidy finish across the keeper.
“This is an important time for him because as a 24 or 25-year-old your career can go one of two ways but he is working very hard and the goals he has scored are all credit to him.”
So, where is Franks’ best position then?
Cooper - who described the forward as a “bundle of energy and enthusiasm” - added: “Franksy sees himself as a striker.
“Even as a 15, 16-year-old kid at Boro he played as a striker and I think people thought that because he didn’t grow into a 6ft 2” bloke that you stick him out on the wing because he has a bit of pace.
“Personally, I see him as someone who reacts to situations and if he is in and around the 18-yard box centrally then he can go off his right or his left.
“I spoke with him at the end of last season and he firmly believes he’d have scored more than six goals if I’d played him more regularly.
“What he is trying to do is say “I’m ready”.
“To be fair to him, he looks ready and hopefully he looks as bright the Wednesday or Thursday before we play Stevenage and then I’ll have a decision to make.”
Cooper was speaking ahead of his side’s next pre-season match against Premier League neighbours Sunderland at Victoria Park tomorrow night Wednesday, July 23 (KO 7.30pm).
Tickets for the friendly with The Black Cats remain on sale from the ticket office at The Vic and are priced at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions.
Club officials say there should also be availability on the turnstiles prior to kick-off on Wednesday but fans are advised to buy in advance where possible.