COLIN Cooper and asistant Craig Hignett could be facing one of the most challenging selection discussions of their Hartlepool United reign.
The duo will have to decide how and where to use new signings Jack Barmby and Luke Williams.
They also have a decision to make at the back following the injury to Michael Ducklworth and the suspension of his replacement, Jordan Richards, who was red-carded early in last week’s 2-0 defeat at Fleetwood Town.
But it is the make up of the forward line for tomorrow’s League Two confrontation with 13th-placed York City which will provoke the most interest.
It would be a surprise were Cooper not to go with the frontline pairing of Luke James and new signing Marlon Harewood against the Minstermen.
Cooper was planning to unleash the ‘Little & Large’ combination on Fleetwood Town last weekend, only for all his plans to get ripped up in the early stages of the match at Highbury.
The red card for Jordan Richards forced a reshuffle at the back and the decision to bring on veteran central defender Sam Collins meant a forward player was sacrificed.
James was the man to see his number go up on the fourth official’s board and it would be a shock were the teenager not to be given an opportunity alongside Harewood tomorrow.
Cooper may opt against starting with both Barmby and Williams.
With Harewood also a new arrival it would mean the manager would effectively be changing a third of the team and that would probably be too great an alteration.
Williams and James could be used just off Harewood, with Barmby likely to be an impact sub.
But that is merely conjecture.
Cooper says he has a vision of how the players will fit in – fans and observers will have to wait until 3pm tomorrow to see what the jigsaw will look like.
“I have a picture in my mind about what I’d like to do with both of them,” Cooper explained.
“It is a case of looking at them and seeing where they fit into the equation for Saturday.
“We have them both initially for a month and certainly as that period goes on I can see them being a part of an exciting forward line.
“For Jack and Luke they are in place where they can say ‘here I am, I’m ready to pit my wits against some League footballers’.
“I have to say I’m delighted and excited to have them both in because I recognise the talent they have.
“We’ll see what it brings.
“If we have options across the front line who are progressive and exciting, hopefully it will bring us some goals.”
Both players would describe themselves as strikers, though Cooper believes both can fit anywhere across the forward positions.
“When you are a young player and you are not 6ft 2in and built like a brick outhouse, you end up being a number 10 or playing in one of the wide positions,” said Cooper.
“I think that’s proabably what’s happened to Luke.
“At 16, he was very slight but manipulated the ball beautifully, could drop his shoulder, had pace and had a tremendous shot on him.
“I would say he could fulfil any number of roles.
“Jack is one of these lads who can play anywhere across the front.
“He’s a left footer who can play left or right and is a good size, 6ft 1in.
“He looks very elegant on the ball, he is able to beat defenders and he’s a positive young player.
“Having spoken to Jack he’s very excited at the prospect of pitting his wits against defenders in the Football League.
“I mean no disrespect to Developmnent football, I have worked in it, but this will test him more than any Under 21 fixture, particularly regarding physicallity and mentality.
“Technically, when Manchester United Under 21 play there is a high level of ability, I understand that.
“But this will test him.”
Defensively, Cooper would appear to have two options – bring in Darren Holden at left-back and move skipper Neil Austin to his old home down the right.
Last week though at Fleetwood, the manager brought on Collins to play alongside Christian Burgess and Jack Baldwin was the defender charged with filling the void down the right.
Given Collins sat out the Central League Cup fixture at Mansfield Town on Wednesday night that may indicate he is being kept fresh for a first start since the stunning 4-1 win at Field Mill in October.
Club captain Antony Sweeney has operated at right-back previously, though it woould appear Cooper will go with either Austin or Baldwin there tomorrow.
“I have players who have been sitting on the bench for a while and it presents them with an opportunity,” said Cooper.
“I have a plan which I think will be fine.
“Those who will be fulfilling the full-back roles I have no problem they can come in and do a job for us.”
Pools (possible): Flinders, Baldwin, Collins, Burgess, Austin; Williams, Walker, Walton, Monkhouse; James, Harewood.
Subs (from): Rafferty, Holden, Franks, Sweeney, Barmby, Compton, Rodney, Hawkins