OUT but not down.
That must be the feeling at Victoria Park today.
For as one cup door was shut firmly, another is about to open for Hartlepool United.
A youthful Pools reserve team were taken apart last night by an equally-young Sunderland at Billingham in the group stage of the League Cup.
Now these Pools prospects must get themselves up for the opening round of the FA Youth Cup on Tuesday night when Bury visit Victoria Park.
That will surely be the genuine test of the class and character of the teenage prospects at the Vic.
A 6-1 home defeat at the hands of precocious and wealthy neighbours is nothing to be ashamed of – just look at Sir Alex Ferguson.
Days after his Manchester United team were ripped to pieces by City he was back in the firing line and guiding the Red Devils into the last eight of the Carling Cup.
And Pools reserve-team chief Michael Barron was far from downcast despite being hit for six at Bedford Terrace – Craig Lynch and subs Jordan Cook and Ryan Noble doing the damage for Keith Bertschin’s second string.
Put simply, Sunderland’s gifted youngsters were that bit better than their counterparts at Pools.
“Their young players are obviously a little ahead of where our young players are,” Barron told SportMail.
“But that’s what you’d expect, isn’t it?
“They have youth internationals, which we haven’t, and they have lads pushing for Premier League places.
“Their quality in the final third is better than ours.
“But it was terrific experience for our squad – we had four YT players who started, Darren Holden, Luke James, Greg Rutherford and Lewis Hawkins, and none of them looked out of place.
“I think Tuesday’s game against Bury will be much more like what they are used to.
“Their coach [director of youth] John Hewitson has got some DVDs on Bury so in that respect they will be going into the FA Cup tie like our first-team approach their matches.
“They will be playing on the Vic as well which will be great experience.
“All the staff will be there watching and hopefully they will now go and get a good result on Tuesday.”
FULL story in Thursday’s Mail ...