NEALE Cooper has reassured James Poole that his chance to shine will come.
The Scot has taken the bold step of naming his preferred starting line-up for the new season and has used that XI in the last two friendly matches, with Hull City next up at Victoria Park tomorrow (kick off 3pm).
That has meant no place for the likes of Poole and last season’s Player of the Year Paul Murray.
The pair both played the full 90 minutes of the midweek reserve-team win at Bishop Auckland, Poole scoring twice during the 3-1 triumph.
The forward had hoped to win a first-team starting spot going into the new campaign having endured a frustrating start to 2012.
He started just once between Boxing Day and the end of the season after a mystery hamstring problem precluded his involvement.
Cooper admits that he is yet to see the very best of Poole - who scored seven times last term - but he is nonetheless hoping for a big season from the former Manchester City trainee.
“Everybody told me how good Poolie was when I first came in, but he never got back to that last season,” said the Pools boss.
“But he looks a lot stronger this season.
“He’s gone and worked hard over the summer.
“It was hard for him last year but he’s always positive in his attitude.
“It could have affected him negatively but there is always a smile on his face.
“He was up there with the best of them when we first came back – the weights, the running, all of it.
“He came on against Middlesbrough on Tuesday and looked very bright.
“But he will get his opportunity.”
Tomorrow’s visit of The Tigers is the final first-team friendly before the campaign kicks off at Crewe Alexandra in the League Cup first round next Saturday.
A Pools XI will travel to Spennymoor Town on Tuesday, although it isn’t expected to feature any of the senior players who Cooper has named in his strongest side.
The boys from the Vic are now unbeaten in three in pre-season, although the boss insists results are still immaterial.
“It’s nice for the fans to get the wins like we did against Sunderland last week,” said Cooper.
“But ultimately it’s about what we take from the game.
“I’ve seen an improvement throughout pre-season and in turn that has probably been reflected in results.
“But I’ll be looking for us to build on those performances against Hull tomorrow in what should be another very good game at the Vic.”