Colin Cooper may look to add to his squad at Hartlepool United

VERSATILE: Stuart Parnaby. Picture by FRANK REID
VERSATILE: Stuart Parnaby. Picture by FRANK REID

COLIN Cooper is happy with his defensive options at Hartlepool United.

But the Pools boss admits he could further strengthen if the opportunity arose.

Defence is one area that Pools enjoy genuine strength in depth going into the pre-season friendly fixtures, which start tomorrow night at Billingham Town.

Cooper has added experienced and versatile duo Matthew Bates and Stuart Parnaby, who have both played in the Premier League with Middlesbrough, to his squad this summer.

Their arrival means the former England defender now has good options right across his back four.

Jordan Richards and Michael Duckworth are likely to battle it out for the right-back berth, with Neil Austin and Darren Holden competing for the left-back slot.

In central defence Cooper has Bates, player coach Sam Collins and young centre back Josh Nearney while Parnaby can play a variety of positions including right-back, central defence or central midfield.

Indeed, from the current options available, Parnaby is likely to start pre-season in the holding midfield role alongside the more attack-minded Brad Walker.

“Looking at the training sessions in Spain, we are not short on defenders,” Cooper told SportMail. “Big Sam – as much as he is doing other bits and pieces – still looks fit and still wants to play.

“On the back of that, we have brought Matthew [Bates] and Stuart [Parnaby] in who can play in various positions along the back four or in front.

“Hopefully, it will give us some options but that doesn’t mean that I am still not on the lookout.”

Defensively, Cooper also has central defender Biko Bradnock-Brennan on trial at the club, alongside fellow trialist midfielder Eugen Bopp.

Pacy Bradnock-Brennan has previously played youth level at Blackpool, under Ian Holloway and Gary Parkinson, and has more recently spent time in America at Charlotte University.

Cooper is also looking to add an experienced holding midfielder to his squad, with ex-Premier League stars Michael Brown, Jonathan Greening and David Prutton all on the Pools gaffer’s radar.

In the meantime, Cooper believes it is also a position that Bates, and in particular Parnaby, could perform admirably in.

He told SportMail: “The one thing that I stressed when I signed Matthew and Stuart is that they are good professionals, who have high standards and hopefully they will help set the standards day in and day out.

“They both have great leadership qualities in their own way and they will only add to the dressing room.

“We will look as we go along but both Matthew and Stuart could play in front of defence.

“We will see how things develop but I am pleased to have them both here and I am looking to add some more.”

Cooper added he is “forever on the lookout” and will also be looking to the loan market to help boost his squad, who have spent the past week training at La Cala Resort in southern Spain.

Cooper was speaking to SportMail ahead of Wednesday night’s friendly match away to Billingham Town (KO 7pm).

That will be followed by the weekend trip to Bradford Park Avenue on Saturday, July 19 (KO 3pm).

Pools’ pre-season fixtures will also see them play Sunderland at Victoria Park on Wednesday, July 23 (KO 7.30pm), the club’s annual trip to Whitby Town on Saturday, July 26 (KO 3pm) before Middlesbrough at home on Wednesday, July 30 (KO 7.30pm).

The final pre-season match sees Pools travel to Bradford City on Saturday, August 2, (KO 3pm), the club’s final warm-up match ahead of Stevenage away on Saturday, August 9, in the Sky Bet League Two opening fixture.