Sunderland’s kids showed Hartlepool Utd how to do it

Brad Walker in action against Sunderland. Picture by FRANK REID
Brad Walker in action against Sunderland. Picture by FRANK REID

IMPRESSED Colin Cooper admitted Sunderland’s younger players showed his side what level they need to be performing at if they are to succeed.

Pools had managed to withstand an hour of pressure from Gus Poyet’s more established first team squad members before the Sunderland boss brought on an entire team of Under-21 players.

They then proceeded to tore shreds through a tiring Pools team with all three goals coming in the final 20 minutes.

A double from Andrew Cartwright and a lovely curling strike from Carl Lawson enough to secure the pre-season win.

Last season Cooper took Sunderland duo Scott Harrison - who played last night - and Connor Oliver on loan towards the end of the season and he will be looking to his neighbours for help again this season.

He was impressed by the high standards of Sunderland’s Under-21s adding they have set the bar that his players need to reach.

Cooper said: “That was the workout I was expecting, and some, to be honest.

“The first 60 minutes they played a more senior side with some established Premier League and International footballers and at times, they stretched us and tested us and at times we did alright but other times we looked vulnerable.

“We had spells were we were quick in possession but then at other times we were slow and made it easy for them to tackle and we looked like a League Two side.

“But all of the elements are there.

“I have said to the players if you have any aspirations to want to fulfil your career to a high level, then that was the standard.

“Gus threw on the younger players for the last half hour and they showed great verve and vigour and he should be very pleased with what Sunderland have underneath, whether they actually make the first team you never know.”

Cooper added: “I said to our players that are 18 to 21, if you think you are good enough to go and play Championship level football and beyond are you good enough to get in that team?

“If the answer is yes, then crack on but the answer is probably “I have a lot of work to do”.

“That is all I want our lads to do - to want to soak it in and want to work, to get better.

“The lads are disappointed because they worked their back sides off in what was a strong, stern test.”

Carlisle United boss Graham Kavanagh was in the stands at Victoria Park, just 24-hours after his side were narrowly beaten 1-0 by Sunderland at Brunton Park.

Kavanagh is understood to be running the rule over several of the Sunderland Under-21 players and can’t have failed to have been impressed with their second-half performance at Victoria Park.

Former Pools assistant manager Craig Hignett, who left the club in March to become Aitor Karanka’s Number 2 at Boro, was also in the stands.

Boro have long been linked with Pools midfielder Brad Walker, who struggled to make an impact in last night’s match.

Cooper insists he is looking to take full advantage of the loan system, building on the links with Sunderland and Middlesbrough, in particular.

He added: “We had a good relationship with Sunderland last year and want that to continue with all three of the North-East teams and hopefully nick one or two players on loan.

“First of all can they handle a ball? Yes. Do they have the physical capability to handle League Two football. That is the question.

“Having the bravery to play the way they did with a bit of pressure on a Saturday afternoon, when you have three thousand people wanting you to win, is a different scenario.”