SAM Collins believes the future is bright for Hartlepool United thanks to the strong crop of teenage talent bursting through the ranks at the club.
The 36-year-old central defender has combined first team duties with helping out with the reserve team at Pools this season and he describes the potential among the younger players as “great”.
The veteran, set for a run in the first team following the sale of Jack Baldwin to Peterborough United, didn’t sulk when gaffer Colin Cooper made it clear his first choice pairing would be Baldwin and on-loan Middlesbrough defender Christian Burgess.
Instead, Collins insisted he wanted to do all he could to help the next generation coming through the ranks at the Sky Bet League Two side.
And Collins insists the reward is there for those younger players who want it most and points to Michael Duckworth, 21, Luke James, 19, and 17-year-old Brad Walker as examples of players that have grasped the opportunities given to them.
“When the gaffer came in during the summer he wanted to play Jack and Christian but I am not the type of lad to go around sulking,” said Collins, who helped secure back-to-back clean sheets in the 2-0 win at Dagenham & Redbridge.
“Straight away, right from day one, I said that’s fine but let me help you and let me help the young lads.
“We spoke about it a few times and he gave me the opportunity to do a lot of work with the younger players.
“Some of the stuff the reserves are playing now and the potential there is great.
“There are some really good young kids coming through and the signs are good for the club really.
“You look at the situation we have, Jack [Baldwin] has obviously gone but we still have Michael Duckworth, young Luke and Brad - the potential is fantastic.
“But they still need that little guide, that little bit of experience in the team and that is what the older lads have done.
“It also shows that the younger players can get a chance in the first team as the gaffer is not afraid to put them in, which is brilliant.
“To give them that freedom to say “right, we are prepared to give you a run as long as you learn from your mistakes and get better”.
“And they are getting better,” said the former Hull City, Port Vale and Bury defender.
Collins has been in impressive form since
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returning to the starting XI for the matches against Scunthorpe United, which ended in a goalless draw, and the 2-0 win over the Daggers in East London at the weekend.
Despite not being a regular for much of the season, Saturday’s appearance was only his 11th of the season, Collins now looks set for an extended run alongside Burgess thanks to Baldwin’s move to League One side Peterborough.
Collins has backed his 20-year-old former teammate to go on to even bigger and better things after his deadline day transfer, worth potentially £750,000.
Collins said: “It is a fantastic move for Jack and it is the right type of club to help him progress.
“When you look at the record of Peterborough United over the last few years, bringing in players for quite good money, but then they have moved on again for bigger and better things.
“Jack is more than capable of doing that.”