HARTLEPOOL boss Colin Cooper admits picking his captain was not an easy decision – but he has backed Matthew Bates to be a huge success.
Ahead of last Saturday’s Sky Bet League Two 1-0 defeat to Stevenage, Cooper had been keeping his cards close to his chest over who would get the armband.
But when the teams were confirmed it was revealed ex-Boro, Bristol City and Bradford City defender Bates had got the nod.
Cooper wasn’t shy of candidates either, with player coach Sam Collins, Neil Austin, Stuart Parnaby and Tommy Miller all in with a good shout of being named captain.
Bates has been described as a “natural leader” by his former team-mate.
The 27-year-old central defender will once again be wearing the captain’s armband for tonight’s Capital One Cup first round match away to Port Vale.
Cooper said: “It’s not easy picking a captain.
“I have actually heard other managers talking about their situation and how they had players in the dressing room who were all capable and I have that here.
“Big Sam (Collins) has a slightly different role to Matthew (Bates), and there is also Oz, Tommy (Miller), Parns, Marlon (Harewood) - all good experienced players with great qualities.
“Matthew is a leader, a natural leader and can organise himself as well as other people.
“That will only develop. He is 27 and by the time he hits 30 he will be a top-class captain.
“He has captained teams – a bit like I did – at all levels from Under-10 upwards. Then, when you become a captain of a Football League team, it does come with other responsibilities.
“He can look after his own game and will look after others.
“I’m very happy to have four or five capable of doing the job, but he’s got the armband.”
Ahead of tonight’s cup match, the Pools boss has no new injury concerns, with goalkeeper Andy Rafferty again missing out after picking up an injury in training.
That means on-loan Sunderland keeper Joel Dixon will again start on the bench.
Cooper may tinker with his side that was beaten 1-0 at Stevenage.
Second-half substitutes Ryan Brobbel - on loan from Championship neighbours Boro for a month - and Jonathan Franks added a bit more creativity and energy when they came on.
The pair could be in line for a start at Port Vale tonight.
New signing Michael Woods, who signed last Friday the same day Pools confirmed Miller, Brobbel and Dixon had also joined, could also make his Pools debut.