COLIN Cooper has hailed the contribution of Sam Collins – on and off the pitch.
The Hartlepool United boss was today set to hand the veteran defender only his fifth start of the season and his first in Sky Bet League Two since the 4-1 romp at Mansfield in October.
Cooper said he had “no qualms” about fielding Collins alongside Christian Burgess at the heart of the defence against high-flying Scunthorpe this afternoon.
The 35-year-old takes over from Jack Baldwin who has been suspended for two games after picking up his 10th booking of the campaign.
Cooper has praised the attitude of Collins – both in terms of his patience over his continual run on the bench and his coaching work with the reserve side.
“Sam has been great,” said the manager. “I’d told him at the start of the season what I’d thought about Jack Baldwin.
“If you are talking of consummate professionals you think of Sam Collins.
“If it’s any consolation for Sam, I was in the same position as him.
“I was given the chance to look from the outside in and started to work with and help the younger players.
“That is what I have tried to do with Sam, get him to use his brain and see what might come next in his career.
“He has taken that on board and is taking extra time to develop his skills on the coaching side.
“There is a disappointment of not playing, but he has something else to get his teeth into.
“I was conscious of that in my career and Sam has proved a very good experienced professional on that front while keeping himself very fit just in case.
“He recognises that if Jack and Christian are fit and available he probably won’t play.
“But what I have also said is that your main focus still has to be being a player.
“He’s working hard to keep himself fit just in case.
“I have no qualms about playing Sam in the team.”
Collins has played twice in 2014 – almost a full game when coming on as a sub at Fleetwood after Jordan Richards was sent off before playing the full 90 minutes for the reserves in a 5-2 win, ironically, against Scunthorpe
Cooper believes the experience and expertise of Collins will get him through the League Two test against a very good Iron side.
“When you get to the point in your career am is at, there are certain things you have to your advantage,” said the former defender.
“You may not have the pace, legs or the turning ability of a younger player but you have the nous.
“And that nous puts you into positions earlier than some younger players.
“By using your brain and communication skills then you can actually get players to do the job for you.
“I was doing that at the age of 36 and 37.
“If you are fit enough, it’s not an issue.”