HARTLEPOOL United’s elder statesmen are a shining example in giving everything to the cause, according to their impressed gaffer Colin Cooper.
Veteran defender Sam Collins, 36, winger Andy Monkhouse, 33 and Simon Walton – who is only 26 but among the more experienced pros – have been praised for the hard graft they are putting in.
Central defender and stand-in captain Collins has impressed since returning after Jack Baldwin’s £500,000 transfer to League One side Peterborough United on transfer deadline day.
But it is Walton in particular who has recently stood out with his dogged and determined displays at the heart of the Pools engine room.
The Leeds-born midfielder has been operating at the base of the diamond formation, patrolling the area just in front of the back four and his recent performances in Sky Bet League Two have won praise from his manager and fans alike.
It is a far cry from the boos the 26-year-old was used to hearing during spells of last season as Pools failed to avoid relegation to the basement division in English football.
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The former Leeds United midfielder, who signed for Pools in the summer of 2012, impressed against Scunthorpe United, Dagenham & Redbridge and Newport County - helping Pools to three consecutive clean sheets and seven points from nine.
His bravery to stay on the field in the 1-1 draw away to Southend United also won him praise and he was one of the better performers in Saturday’s disappointing 2-0 defeat to Northampton Town at Sixfields.
His form has not gone unnoticed.
“There are players in the team which I think came under a bit of criticism last year,” said Cooper.
“I am asking lots of them this year and all I want is for them to pitch up.
“Simon is definitely one of them and he is putting everything into the games.
“Against Newport it was his delivery for the first and the second goal and some of the blocks and the positions he gets himself into, to help the back four, have become important for us.
“Andy Monkhouse is another one.
“I asked Andy that I needed a bit more at Dagenham & Redbridge and we got it.
“Then again at half-time in the Newport match I asked about a better shape in midfield, out of possession, and I thought Andy’s second-half display for the team was very good – he put a real shift in.
“Simon and Andy came off tired and I said to them it doesn’t matter whether you are 17 or 37 – at the end of a football match you should be exhausted.
“As the elder statesmen, for the likes of Simon, Andy and I would also add Sam Collins in there, to put that kind of a shift in and give the younger players an opportunity to go and express themselves is all credit to them.”
Cooper will be hoping for more of the same when Pools, currently 10th in League Two, take on Torquay United at Victoria Park this Saturday.