HOMETOWN boy Peter Hartley will again lead out Hartlepool United at Crewe on Saturday, writes CRAIG HOPE.
The 24-year-old former Sunderland defender was handed the captain’s armband for the first time by boss Neale Cooper ahead of Tuesday’s visit of Sheffield United.
It was a show of faith from the Scot in his out-of-form centre-back, who had just days earlier been threatened with the axe following the 3-1 defeat at Colchester United.
But it was skipper Sam Collins who made way to allow for Jack Baldwin to partner Hartley in the middle of defence.
And the pair responded with a strong display, marred only by the two breakaway goals which allowed The Blades to steal a 2-1 victory.
Cooper, though, looks set to name the same back four for Saturday’s trip to Gresty Road – scene of the 5-0 League Cup horror show in August – and he has explained his reasons for Hartley’s elevation to his new role.
“I decided to give Peter the captaincy and he responded,” said the Pools chief.
“I know what this club means to him, he’s a Hartlepool boy.
“I asked him ‘are you happy doing it?’ and he was absolutely delighted.
“He went through a hard time on Saturday and he was really hurting – I like to see that.
“So he had to bounce back from that disappointment.
“But I thought he was excellent – he showed a lot of leadership and character.
“I thought I’d play him and give him that authority to support the younger lads at the back, the likes of Jack and Darren (Holden) and he did that.”
Hartley, named Players’ Player of the Year last season, had been out of sorts in recent matches.
Cooper, though, never doubted the temperament of his defender.
“In terms of character I’ve no worries about Pete,” he said.
“Give me a team of 11 Peter Hartleys any day.
“He has to work on a few things defensively and cut out those errors, but he looked back to his usual self on Tuesday.
“I wanted more balance and I’ve seen Peter and Jack play together so that’s why I paired them – I thought they were excellent as well.
“Jack was just superb – he’s not fazed by anything.
“So I was pleased, but we’ve still got to work on cutting out goals and I’m confident that will come.”