NEALE Cooper admits that Gary Liddle is a hard act to follow – but he believes Simon Walton can help take Hartlepool United to the next level.
Liddle, who was out of contract, left Victoria Park in the direction of Notts County at the beginning of the summer and Cooper immediately identified a number of potential replacements.
Walton, however, did not feature on the manager’s shortlist.
But that changed the minute Cooper became aware of his availability, and the transfer from Plymouth Argyle was concluded within a matter of days last week.
And the boss, who is today settling into Pools’ Heiloo training camp ahead of tomorrow’s friendly against Telstar, explained: “When you lose someone like Gary it’s tough.
“I liked Gary but he wanted a change in his life and that’s fair enough, I have no issue with him.
“He was a hard one to replace and we’d looked at a few options.
“But then I got a phone call saying Simon was available and all of a sudden he was at the top of the list from not being on it at all.
“That happens, though, and that was great for us.”
Cooper continued: “We got him up here, I spoke to him and got on really well with him.
“I spoke to a lot of people connected to him and they said if you get him then it’s a real coup.
“I was probably disappointed to miss out on one or two others, but in hindsight if I’d known Simon was going to become available then he would have been my top target.”
Walton, 24, travelled with his new team-mates to Holland yesterday for their pre-season boot camp.
And Cooper admits that his new boy will be happy to finally see some action with the football.
“I told Simon we’d be playing with the ball all of the time but all he did for the first few days was lift tyres and pull sleighs,” laughed the first-team coach.
“He was asking Micky Barron what was going on, so I think he’ll be looking forward to the games in Holland and the chance to show what he can do on the ball.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him as well because I think he has all the attributes to help take us to where we want to be.
“He’s a good ball player but will get stuck in as well and that’s what we need in the middle.”
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