SAM SHEPHERD – Caretaker Collins taking care of his young Hartlepool flock

Kieran Green in action against Sheffield United. Picture by FRANK REID
Kieran Green in action against Sheffield United. Picture by FRANK REID

SAM Collins insists he has a “long-term” duty to look after his young Hartlepool United players.

The caretaker manager has made instant changes since taking over with a new-look attacking 4-3-3 formation packed with pace and energy.

The 37-year-old has also turned to youth with Dan Jones, 19, Lewis Hawkins, 21, and Kieran Green all starring for Collins.

Left-back Jones and midfielder Hawkins have started both matches under Collins but 17-year-old Green was rested for the win over Exeter City.

Green was one of the stand-out performers against Sheffield United but Collins revealed he was in need of a rest after a busy few weeks.

Collins told SportMail: “Kieran was playing in the youth team and the reserves as well and we wanted to change that a little bit and look after him.

“He has grown so fast and you can see by the size of him so we are trying to look after him physically.

“He’d played for the youth team the Saturday before then for the first team on the Tuesday against Sheffield United, which was his debut and all the emotion that comes with that.

“I spoke with him [before Exeter] and he wasn’t dropped.

“We just have to think about him in the long term and what is best for Kieran Green.

“It’s hard to play a lot of games and it’s about looking after the younger players.”

Another player Collins is keen to protect is Brad Walker, the 19-year-old midfield powerhouse who stormed League Two last season but has struggled to maintain the same standard this campaign.

He has been on the bench for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy against Sheffield United and the trip to Exeter.

Collins explained: “Bradley is a young boy and he has done brilliantly.

“But it is about looking after him as well at the right times.

“It is hard in this league and it is knowing when to give them a break and I have done that with Brad.

“He also hadn’t been too well and a few lads had been under the weather before the game [against Exeter].”

Pools, while still struggling at the wrong end of Sky Bet League Two in 21st, have been buoyed by the introduction of the younger players.

The caretaker boss has maintained since he took over temporary control that he was always going to give the young fringe players a chance.

He added: “I’ve known about these young lads for a long time at the club and I’ve always kept an eye on young players, I’ve tried to help them in training when they have trained with the first-team.

“I’ve spent a lot of time working with them and seen them develop and get better.

“When I was asked to look after things I was always going to make changes and put them in my team.”