VETERAN defender Sam Collins has hailed Hartlepool United manager Colin Cooper as the among the best he has ever worked with.
Indeed, the 36-year-old central defender insists if players cannot play under Cooper than they cannot play anywhere because of the freedom he gives players to express themselves.
Collins, who penned a new player-coach deal with Pools on Friday, has been at the club since the 2008-09 season and has played under Danny Wilson, Chris Turner, Mick Wadsworth, Neale Cooper and John Hughes at The Vic before the former Middlesbrough defender took over the reigns last summer.
It was a gruelling first season in management for Cooper, with the Clarence Road club finishing 19th in Sky Bet League Two despite at one point threatening to gate-crash the play-off party.
Despite the disappointing league placing, Collins has hailed his manager and said the Pools players couldn’t wish for a better gaffer to work under and learn their trade, especially the younger players.
Cooper has been keen to promote the younger players into the first-team picture this season, with 18-year-old Brad Walker and Luke James, 19, impressing once again but there was also regular starts for the likes of Jordan Richards and Darren Holden too.
He also brought in young loan stars Christian Burgess and Luke Williams from Middlesbrough, Jack Barmby from Manchester United and Sunderland duo Scott Harrison and Connor Oliver.
Collins has nothing but praise for Trimdon-born Cooper.
“If you cannot play for this manager, with the way he is and the way he tries to promote players, then you can’t play anywhere,” Collins told SportMail.
“It isn’t just with the young players either but also the older players and he has been different class with everyone.
“It is then up to everyone to listen and to learn because he is giving everybody that freedom to express themselves in a team environment, as well encouraging players as individuals.
“The players are in a good place at Hartlepool United.”
The big Number 5 turned out 27 times for Pools last season, the majority of which came in the second-half of the season after Jack Baldwin’s January transfer to Peterborough United.
Alongside Pools’ 34-year-old centre forward, Marlon Harewood, the veteran centre-half is among the most experienced at the club and the former Huddersfield, Bury, Port Vale and Hull city defender is well placed to assess Cooper’s standing.
When asked if Cooper was among the best manager’s Collins has played under, the veteran centre-half said: “He is brilliant.
“The way that the gaffer is with everyone is great, he is so calm and relaxed.
“But when someone needs telling, at the right times, then he will make sure he tells them in no uncertain terms that if they are in the wrong then they are in the wrong and need to do something about it and put things right.
“That is the way it should be.”