Sam Collins and Richie Barker among the early favourites for the manager’s job at Hartlepool United

Sam Collins in action against Cheltenham Town. Picture by FRANK REID

Sam Collins in action against Cheltenham Town. Picture by FRANK REID

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HARTLEPOOL United player coach Sam Collins is among the early frontrunners for the manager’s job at Pools.

The 37-year-old defender currently oversees the reserve team at Pools and had been given increased coaching responsibility by the club’s former manager Colin Cooper, who resigned after the 3-0 defeat to Carlisle United.

Former Pools striker Richie Barker, who has managed Crawley Town and Portsmouth in recent seasons, is also among the early favourites for the Pools job.

The 39-year-old spent two years at Pools between 2007 and 2009, scoring 23 goals in 62 appearances.

Stephen Pears, the club’s assistant manager and goalkeeping coach, remains at the club and is also among the early favourites.

But Collins is expected to be handed the reigns on a temporary basis, starting with Sheffield United at home in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on Tuesday night at The Vic.

Speaking in Saturday’s Mail - before he handed in his notice - Cooper said he was happy for the veteran defender to help out more with the coaching on match days.

Cooper said: “Sam is having a superb career but is really keen on the other side.

“Having seen the way he works and the reserve lads, he has a lot to offer.

“Someone gave me that opportunity when I was Sam’s age and everybody needs a leg up from time to time.”

Other names in the frame at this early stage include former Wales international Dean Saunders, 50, who has previously managed Wrexham, Doncaster Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Meanwhile, Hartlepool-born Mark Venus - a former Pools player - has also been linked alongside Martin Allen, Gary Mills and former Accrington Stanley manager James Beattie.

Former Pools and Newcastle United winger Nobby Solano left Pools under a cloud but he did apply for the Carlisle manager’s job recently and could fancy a return to Victoria Park.

Pools legend Ritchie Humphreys, currently playing with League One side Chesterfield, is 16-1 for the job according to the latest figures from Sky Bet, who sponsor the Football League.

Humphreys, who played 542 games for the club scoring 37 goals, was named Player of the Century in 2008 and even has a street named after him and the current PFA chairman has regularly been put forward as a potential future manager of Hartlepool United.

One highly unlikely appointment is former Sunderland manager Paulo Di Canio, currently 50-1, while Hartlepool-born Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling is also in the betting at 500-1.

The club is likely to take its time with the appointment, as it has with previous managers, but whoever does get the gig has a tough task on their hands in rescuing Pools from their current plight.

Bottom of the Football League with just five league goals scored all season.

The latest odds from Sky Bet:

Sam Collins 3/1

Stephen Pears 6/1

Gary Mills 7/1

James Beattie 10/1

Martin Allen 12/1

Nicky Barmby 16/1

Nigel Worthington 16/1

David Hockaday 16/1

Ritchie Humphreys 16/1

Tommy Miller 20/1

Kevin Blackwell 20/1

Brian Laws 25/1

Phil Brown 25/1

Brian Horton 25/1

Terry Connor 28/1

Alan Curbishley 33/1

Dougie Freedman 50/1

Paulo di Canio 50/1

Jeff Stelling 500/1