SAM Collins may have taken the first steps towards a coaching or managerial career – but we ain’t seen the last of him as a player.
Collins took charge of Pools reserves for the first time this week when he guided the side to a 2-1 Central League East win over Scunthorpe at Billingham Town.
It was a dream start for the 36-year-old who managed the side calmly – and successfully – from the technical area.
So is this he end of his playing days?
“No way,” he told SportMail.
“I still feel really good and as fit as I did a few years ago so I want to keep playing for as long as I can.
“This is an opportunity, which is a bonus and something I really want to do, but I’m still playing so I’ve got the best of both worlds.”
Collins has been restricted to bench duty this season with boss Colin Cooper sending out the young central defensive partnership of Jack Baldwin, 20, and Christian Burgess, 21.
But the old master has proven his worth over the last two weeks when Cooper has sent him on as second-half sub and pushing Baldwin into midfield.
The current duo’s combined age is just five years greater than that of the former skipper.
However, the Yorkshireman is not bitter at losing his spot.
In fact, a cynic would suggest he’s talking himself out of a place given that he’s advising the pair.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love playing and I do miss that side of it,” said Collins.
“But at the end of the day there is a bigger picture and that is that Hartlepool United do well.
“And there are two young lads there that need my help.
“They are doing well and if my experience and know-how can help them a little bit then I will do it.
“I’d never turn my nose up at helping them or any of the lads for that matter.
“That’s how I see myself as a guy who will help them and that’s how it should be.
“They are doing great.”
Indeed they are.
And Collins says management and fans must be patient with such younng talents.
On successive Saturdays, Burgess and Baldwin have been tamely pushed off the ball which has led to opposition goals.
But Collins says both are outstanding players and are still learning.
“One of the good things for them is that the gaffer’s very understanding,” said Colins, who will be on the bench for tomorrow’s League Two match against Oxford United.
“He knows they are learning and there will be some little mistakes.
“We are there encouraging them, not getting on their backs.
“We all make mistakes, whether you are 19 or 36.
“It’s as the gaffer says, it’s how you learn from them, so we are all trying to help them.”
Collins is helping more than just these two prospects, given his work with the reserves.
So is this the shape of things to come?
“You are going to have to ask the gaffer and Craig,” he said.
“We have spoken about for a bit and I’m grateful they have given me the opportunity.
“It’s something I’m really interested in for when I finish playing and they were keen for me to do it.
“I’m quite far on with my badges and I just have to get my A licence.
“I’ve really enjoyed it, they’ve let me take the lads in training and now they’ve let me do the game.
“The gaffer and Higgy have been brilliant.”
And Collins has not been too bad himself: one match and one win.
All eyes then on Bedford Terrace next Wednesday against Hull City. Just let big Sam get Oxford United out the way first.