Hartlepool’s Flinders: Stephen Pears is one of the best keeper coaches I’ve ever had

Scott Flinders in action against Sheffield United. Picture by FRANK REID

Scott Flinders in action against Sheffield United. Picture by FRANK REID

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SCOTT Flinders has hailed the impact Stephen Pears is having on his game stating he is among the best goalkeeping coaches he has had.

The 28-year-old Hartlepool United stopper will no doubt have been mightily relieved Pears didn’t follow former manager Colin Cooper out of the door after he handed in his notice last weekend after the Carlisle United defeat.

Pears and Cooper are close friends going back 30 years and were both players and coaches at Middlesbrough together.

But the 52-year-old remains with Pools and is helping player coach Sam Collins out on an interim basis as caretaker manager.

Before Cooper left his post at Sky Bet League Two Pools, he had praised the impact Pears was having on his Number One keeper and now Flinders has backed that up saying it is “brilliant” working with the experienced coach.

Rotherham-born Flinders has improved as the season has gone on, despite only managing to keep three clean sheets so far this campaign.

“Mine and Stephen’s relationship is brilliant,” Flinders told SportMail.

“I was looking forward to his appointment as soon as it was confirmed in the summer as his record at Middlesbrough speaks for itself.

“I am just like a sponge at the moment – soaking everything up that he is telling me.

“I have had some brilliant goalkeeping coaches in the past and he is up there with the very best I have had.”

A coach of 16 years, Pears used to play for both Middlesbrough and Pools and was drafted into the Clarence Road club in the summer as assistant manager and goalkeeping coach.

Pears - who left Boro in November after Aitor Karanka reshuffled his coaching staff when he was appointed manager - replaced Craig Hignett who left the club back in March to join Karanka’s revolution at the Championship side.

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 from playing at the age of 35.

Flinders, whose current back-up is Newcastle United’s teenage stopper Freddie Woodman, added: “It is such a specific position.

“It involves a lot of talking and Stephen is very experienced and he has played hundreds of matches for Middlesbrough at a good level.

“It is good to take all of his knowledge and experience in and he has vast experience of playing in my position.

“It is a hard position to play and you need to sometimes talk about things if you are going through a difficult spell.

“The mental side is very important as is touching on little things that happen in games - things that the normal guy in the stand might not pick up on.

“We are always trying to improve my game and we are both on the same wavelength, all of the time.”