COLIN Cooper believes Hartlepool United should be “very proud” that the club has such a talented young squad to call on.
Against Morecambe at the Globe Arena on Sunday, Cooper fielded a team with an average age of just over 22 and his young stars dominated the game on their way to a 2-1 win in Sky Bet League Two.
Nine of the starting XI were aged 23 or under, with 30-year-old captain Neil Austin and 27-year-old stopper Scott Flinders, the elder statesmen.
The same team that started at Morecambe had finished the match at Chesterfield on Boxing Day, following Andy Monkhouse’s second-half red card and Cooper says the four points picked up in the two tough away games is testament to the character shown by his fledgling stars.
The 46-year-old’s side take on Bury at Victoria Park today looking to extend their five-match unbeaten league run.
Cooper, along with assistant Craig Hignett, brought in Matty Dolan, 20, and 22-year-old Christian Burgess on loan from Middlesbrough in the summer, while Nialle Rodney, 22, and Michael Duckworth, 21, also walked through the doors at Victoria Park.
But the likes of teenage stars Luke James, 19, and 17-year-old powerhouse midfielder Brad Walker, were already at the Vic and Cooper says the club deserves a lot of credit for giving youth an opportunity to shine.
Cooper said: “I know we have brought Matty [Dolan], Christian [Burgess], Nialle [Rodney] and Michael [Duckworth] but the rest of the group was already here.
“For me, that is something Pools should be very proud of.
“The young players, allied with the experienced players who have been a credit to themselves, for helping to develop the younger group and to give them the belief to do what they do.
“They feel that they are suited to what we are trying to do, because they all want to play good football.
“But what they have to realise is that in League One and League Two, and going higher, is that it is alright being able to play pretty patterns of football but you have to be able to dig with big men.
“Take Andy [Monkhouse] out of the equation against Chesterfield and that group was a young group.
“There is an awful lot of young talent here at Hartlepool United, hence why the scouts lists continues to grow every week.
“People are coming to watch because they know the young players can handle technicality and all we teach them is can they handle the physicality.
“If they can handle the physicality, as well as the technicality, then there is no stopping some of them, there really isn’t.”