Hartlepool Utd goalie hails impact of new keeper coach

Scott Flinders in action for Hartlepool United against Middlesbrough. Picture by FRANK REID
Scott Flinders in action for Hartlepool United against Middlesbrough. Picture by FRANK REID

CONFIDENT Scott Flinders has hailed the impact of new goalkeeping coach Stephen Pears and is convinced the “teacher” will improve his game no end.

Ex-Pools and Middlesbrough keeper Pears joined the club during the summer as the goalie coach and new assistant manager to Colin Cooper.

And his arrival has been keenly felt by Flinders and Number 2 Andy Rafferty who are being put through their paces ahead of the new campaign at the club’s Maiden Castle training ground.

Rotherham-born Flinders has heaped praise on Pears, who had been strongly linked with the assistant manager’s job ever since Craig Hignett left in March.

The 28-year-old describes Pears, a coach of 16 years, as a “teacher” and says him and Rafferty are being pushed daily to improve their individual games.

Flinders told SportMail: “I can tell you now, he will improve my game so much.

“Pearsy’s record speaks for itself at Middlesbrough and the goalkeepers he brought through at the club.

“As goalkeepers, we have been taken out of our comfort zone and he wants to improve us every day and I think he will improve not only the keepers but everyone in the football club.

“I am thoroughly enjoying working with him and he is the sort of character that I need to push my game on.

“He is a teacher and wants to improve our game all of the time.

“Not only me, but all of the goalkeepers, and you are learning something new every day - it has been going really well.”

Pears left Boro in November after Aitor Karanka reshuffled his coaching staff and has previously told SportMail he didn’t hesitate when Cooper offered him the chance.

The 52-year-old joined Pools on their pre-season training camp in southern Spain at the start of July and Flinders says the club’s keepers have been reaping the rewards ever since.

Flinders added: “It is always a close unit when it comes to goalkeepers, it has to be because you spend so much time with each other.

“The best week was when Pearsy came to Spain because we had the chance to spend a lot of time with him.

“We know how he works - he works at a high tempo and we are at it every day and if you are not then he is cracking down on you.”

Flinders was talking to SportMail after Wednesday night’s 2-0 friendly defeat to Middlesbrough at Victoria Park, which saw a second-half power cut in the Clarence Road area.

He said Cooper had pre-warned his players to expect an even tougher test than the one they experienced against Sunderland the week before - a game Pools lost 3-0.

Despite Wednesday’s defeat, Flinders is fully focusing on the Sky Bet League Two opener at Stevenage on August 9.

Flinders said: “The gaffer said beforehand that Middlesbrough would be a harder test than the Sunderland game and it turned out that way.

“Middlesbrough popped the ball around well and maybe we sat off them too much in the first-half.

“They are a good side and will be up there in the promotion scene this season.

“Pre-season is always hard because players are coming in alongside trialists but it is getting ready for the Stevenage game that is the most important thing.

“It is important to get minutes under your belt and it is good that we have come up against two good sides - Sunderland and Middlesbrough.

“Losses are not nice to look at but at the end of the day it is all building up to the game on August 9.”

Flinders, a former stopper with Barnsley and Crystal Palace added: “It was a bit different playing the second half without any floodlights and it was hard at times.

“But as a goalkeeper it is a good workout to keep your concentration.”