Colin Cooper makes progress at Hartlepool United but Antony Sweeney leaves for Carlisle

LEAVING: Antony Sweeney
LEAVING: Antony Sweeney

COLIN Cooper insists he is making good progress in the transfer market after wishing departed midfielder Antony Sweeney well.

The 30-year-old has opted not to sign a new contract offer at Hartlepool United instead agreeing terms on a two-year deal at Sky Bet League Two rivals Carlisle United.

Sweeney will join the Cumbrian side for the new 2014-15 campaign and his departure means Cooper’s first-team squad, as things stand, is painfully thin with just 17 professionals – including James Poole still yet to sign a new contract offered to him.

It has left Pools fans concerned about the lack of transfer movement with no new faces at Victoria Park while other teams have been quick to strengthen.

But calm Cooper has moved to reassure supporters and has revealed he is in negotiations with several players he believes will improve the squad, which returns to pre-season training on Tuesday, July 1.

Sweeney – who was due a testimonial match – won’t be among them though after agreeing to sign for Graham Kavanagh’s Carlisle after 13 years and 444 Pools appearances.

“I made Sweens an offer and gave him the opportunity to have a testimonial year with the club,” explained Cooper.

“He was unsure what he wanted to do but he’s now chosen to leave and of course we wish him well for the future and thank him for his service to the club over the years.

“I think he’s a great lad with an excellent attitude which is why I made him captain at the start of last season.

“Unfortunately for him he had a couple of injuries and didn’t play as many games as he would have liked to last year and now he’s gone for a fresh challenge.

“I think we all agree that change is what was needed here though and my job now is to make sure that we bring players in who are the better than the ones that have left – and that’s no disrespect to the service they gave to us.

“The positive side is that I am in negotiations with several players who I believe will improve the squad and they’re fresh faces who I hope the fans will enjoy watching next season,” added Cooper.

l TURN to Page 45

Sweeney was first linked with Carlisle a fortnight ago, as revealed in SportMail, but was also understood to be courting interest from relegated Bristol Rovers managed by his former Pools teammate Darrell Clarke.

Stockton-born Sweeney, who lives in Hartlepool, found first team opportunities hard to come by under Cooper last season, turning out 23 times in 2013-14 with 19 of those from the bench.

Next season though he will be plying his trade at Brunton Park.

“Antony fits the type of player we have been looking to recruit this summer,” Kavanagh told his club’s website.

“He has experience at this level and he’s a man in terms of the way he plays his football.

“He’s strong and he’s capable of going box-to-box which, in turn, helps when it comes to getting or creating goals.”

The attacking midfielder came through the ranks and made his Pools first team debut at just 18 when he was a late substitute in a 3-0 win over York City in October 2001.

While Sweeney has divided opinion among Pools fans in recent years, he was always capable of finding the back of the net earlier in his career and was the club’s top scorer in 2010-11 scoring 14 goals on his way to winning the Fans’ Player of the Year Award.

At the start of last season Cooper made him captain but he was struck down with an injury in the first home game and struggled to regain his place.

He then suffered another injury blow after coming on as a substitute against Mansfield Town in March - his last appearance in a Pools shirt.

Sweeney’s 444 appearances in all competitions see him sit third in the all-time rankings behind Watty Moore (472) and Ritchie Humphreys (543).

During his time at The Vic, he scored 62 goals and experienced two promotions and two relegations.