PEARS SHAPED – Pools fill No 2 hole with former Hartlepool Utd and Middlebrough keeper Stephen Pears

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stephen pears1a.JPG

HARTLEPOOL United have confirmed Stephen Pears will be the new assistant manager ending months of speculation.

The former Boro and Pools stopper will also double up as goalkeeping coach at the Sky Bet League Two club and will be joining the pre-season training camp in Spain next week.

Manager Colin Cooper has spoken of his “delight” at the appointment.

The arrival of Brandon-born Pears will come as a welcome relief to the Pools manager who has been without a permanent Number 2 since March.

Pears’ arrival came almost four months to the day since Craig Hignett’s shock departure to Middlesbrough, where he became Aitor Karanka’s assistant.

Following Hignett’s departure, director of youth John Hewitson stepped up to assist with first-team duties at Pools but after months of speculation Cooper finally has his new man in place.

Earlier this week, Cooper told SportMail: “It is not something I have taken lightly

“There have been people I have spoken to, but I am delighted with the choice.”

The pair have previously worked together in the coaching set-up at Boro.

A club statement said: “Hartlepool United are delighted to announce the appointment of Stephen Pears as the new assistant manager and goalkeeping coach.

“The experienced Pears has previously spent six years as goalkeeping coach at Middlesbrough where he worked closely alongside Pools boss Colin Cooper.”

The 52-year-old had been strongly linked with the role ever since Hignett left but

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several other names were also touted including Mark Proctor, another former member of ex-Boro boss Tony Mowbray’s backroom staff.

During a long and distinguished playing career, Pears featured for several top clubs, starting at Manchester United in 1979.

But after making only four appearances he was loaned to Middlesbrough and went on to make the move permanent in 1985.

During a lengthy stint at Boro he made more than 400 appearances and earned a testimonial in 1995, which also turned out to be their last-ever game at Ayresome Park, Pears famously scoring the last ever goal there in front of a bumper 19,000 crowd.

After a short spell providing cover for David James at Liverpool, Pears returned to his native North East when he agreed a deal to join Pools - under boss Keith Houchen - and he went on to make 19 appearances for the club in the 1996-97 campaign before retiring at the age of 35.

He returned to Boro to take up a coaching role in their academy before being promoted to work with the first team by then boss Gareth Southgate.

Pears has been out of work since parting company with Boro last November after the backroom staff reshuffle once Karanka was named head coach.

Pears joins an already-strong Boro contingent at Pools, following the summer signings of defenders Matthew Bates and Stuart Parnaby.

Club officials at Pools have also confirmed Jim Provett - who was coaching Scott Flinders and Andy Rafferty last season - will remain at the club, working with the younger players.

Alongside Pears, Cooper also has defender Sam Collins in his coaching staff, after the 37-year-old defender signed a new player-coach contract this summer.

The former Hull City defender and Pools stalwart will be overseeing the reserve team at Pools this season.