Sam Collins still learning at the age of (almost) 37 at Hartlepool United

STILL AT HIS BEST: Sam Collins in action against Plymouth. Picture by FRANK REID
STILL AT HIS BEST: Sam Collins in action against Plymouth. Picture by FRANK REID
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SAM Collins admits he still has plenty to learn – even at the grand old age of 36.

Collins, who this summer penned a new player-coach contract Hartlepool United, insists it doesn’t matter how old you are as a player, whether you’re just starting out or an experienced pro, you should always be learning.

The veteran defender turns 37 on June 5 but he says age is no barrier when it comes to improving his own game, while also helping out with the younger professionals at the Sky Bet League Two club.

Indeed, Collins believes players would be foolish not to absorb all of the different techniques and playing styles different managers and coaches offer.

Collins told SportMail: “You should still feel as though you are learning all of the time as a player.

“You play under different managers and they have different ideas and philosophies about the way they want their teams to be playing and set-up.

“You would be a fool not to learn, listen and take things on board – whether you are 17 or 37, as I am in a few days.

“You always have to learn no matter how old you are.

“Since the manager and Craig Hignett [former Pools assistant manager who has since departed for Boro] took over last summer I have learned an awful lot and I really feel better for it.”

Collins in his new role as assistant first and reserve team coach at Pools will help coach the first team and is also in overall charge of the second string at Victoria Park.

It is a role he is looking forward to but insists he still loves playing just as much.

Pontefract-born Collins will enter into his 20th year as a player when the first team squad return to pre-season training on July 1 and he admits he was delighted with his own form towards the end of the last campaign.

He hadn’t played much for Colin Cooper’s first team prior to January given the impressive form of Jack Baldwin and on-loan Middlesbrough defender Christian Burgess.

But following Baldwin’s January deadline day sale to League One side Peterborough United, Collins regained his place in the starting line-up and impressed in the closing months.

“I didn’t play the first half of the season, just the odd game here and there,” added Collins, who has turned out more than 250 times for Pools since joining on the final day of the January 2008 transfer window.

“My job then was to help the young lads and pass on my experience to them.

“That is all I tried to do and in some ways that helped me because I was thinking I am going to go out of my way here to make sure the young lads are okay.

“While we of course need the enthusiasm of the younger players, they need our experience to try and help them along and they have all progressed brilliantly.

“When Jack moved to Peterborough I got the chance to play again and, in my eyes, last season was the best of both worlds for me.

“When I got back in the team, I really enjoyed it and was pleased with my own form.

“Consistency wise I was pleased and most importantly, physically, I felt really good.”