Colin Cooper happy to team up with ex-Middlesbrough keeper Stephen Pears at Hartlepool United

DELIGHTED: Colin Cooper
DELIGHTED: Colin Cooper

COLIN Cooper is “chuffed to bits” to be back working alongside his friend and former colleague of 30 years.

Ex-Middlesbrough duo Stephen Pears (left) and Cooper go back a long way and the manager has this week spoken of his delight at being able to work with his new assistant manager and goalkeeping coach on a daily basis.

The pair are currently out in Spain, putting Hartlepool United through their paces at the state-of-the-art La Cala Resort.

While Cooper and player- coach Sam Collins focus on the outfield players, Pears has been getting to know his goalkeeping unit – No1 Scott Flinders and Andy Rafferty.

It is a relationship which the Pools manager – who had been without a Number 2 since Craig Hignett left back in March – firmly believes will reap rewards for the Sky Bet League Two club.

Cooper has described his latest recruit as a calming presence but one with very firm ideas around players and formations.

“I made no secret that I was talking to a lot of people and Steve is someone I have known for a long time,” said Cooper, speaking to SportMail at the club’s Spanish base.

“The conversations we had were based around what I know he can offer – both on the coaching field with the goalkeepers and also as an extra support for me.

“The one thing that Steve has always done is have a strong opinion on players, formations and outcomes of games.

“We worked together at Middlesbrough and played together at Middlesbrough but we have very different opinions on football, which is great.

“Steve is always very calm, he was obviously a goalkeeper and goalkeepers are a different breed to outfield players.

“We have always gotten on well and I can trust him wholeheartedly, which is one of the main criteria.

“Not only is he a bloody good coach but he is also a fantastic man so I can’t hide how excited I am that he chose to link up with me again.

“Hopefully, we can go and have some success together as manager, assistant, goalkeeping coach - whatever title you want to put on him.

“He is just a very open, honest, good person and one I am chuffed to bits to have alongside me.”

The experienced former Boro and Pools stopper had been strongly linked with the Number 2 role ever since Hignett left to team up with Aitor Karanka at Championship side Middlesbrough.

But Pears – who left Boro in November after Karanka reshuffled his coaching staff when he was appointed – said he was still “taken aback” when he got the call from Cooper.

Speaking to SportMail earlier this week, the 52-year-old insisted it took him no time at all in accepting the role at the club.

Pears, a coach of 16 years, said: “I have known Colin for 30-odd years and coached with him, played with him, but I was still taken aback by him asking me.

“I said yes straight away and it didn’t take any thinking about at all really.”

Pears, who lives in Durham close to the club’s Maiden Castle training ground, met the Pools first-team squad for the first time when the group flew out to Spain last Monday.

Over the past week, the players and coaching staff have been taking advantage of the football facilities at La Cala Resort in a bid to hit the ground running when the Sky Bet League Two season gets underway with a trip to Stevenage on Saturday, August 9.