Collins wins Cooper approval – but veteran won’t play every week

Sam Collins. Picture by Frank Reid
Sam Collins. Picture by Frank Reid
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COLIN Cooper has praised the impact player coach Sam Collins is having on and off the pitch but admits he is unlikely to be playing every week.

The 37-year-old signed a new deal in the summer which has seen him combine playing with a coaching role at the club.

Collins, who has overall responsibility for the reserve team, did start the first two matches of the season, away to Stevenage in the league and Port Vale in the Capital One Cup.

But he was then left out in favour of Neil Austin, the left-back moving to central defence to partner captain Matthew Bates for the home matches against Bury and Dagenham & Redbridge.

Collins was thrown back in for the trip to Wimbledon, a game Pools won 2-1, to help combat the physical presence of man mountain Adebayo Akinfenwa.

And he was left with a nasty cut above his right eye for his efforts during the match.

While his manager has praised the veteran centre-half for his performances on and off the pitch, he admits they have to take it week by week.

“We have options in defence,” said the Pools manager.

“Sam played the first two games but said the third in a week was too much of a stretch for him.

“He is still, in my opinion, good enough and fit enough to be playing. Whether it is week in, week out? Those are the conversations we have.

“The challenge last week against Wimbledon was never going to be a one where people were making clever movements – it was always going to be a stand up and be counted challenge.

“Sam is more than capable of doing that all day long, as he showed.

“Other teams offer different challenges and while you try and get some level of consistency you also have to think about what is the best combination at the best time.

“Sam got a smashing big gash across his eye on Saturday as well.

“As I said to him, when you get those things at that age you sometimes wonder ‘what the bloody hell am I doing?’

“But if you get a gash across your head as a defender and you then go on to win the game, I’m telling you, it feels good about being a player.

“There wasn’t a doctor on call at Wimbledon and we had to wait until he got home and he went to an A&E near his house and glued it rather than stitched it but he is fine to play.”

As well as still being an important part of the first-team set-up at Pools, Collins is in charge of the reserve team and helping guide the younger players.

The former Hull City defender is also working towards his A-Licence coaching qualification next summer.

Cooper, who is happy to help him along the way, said the defender needs to have two mind sets but said if Collins knows he is playing that weekend then his focus is fully on being a player.

Cooper added: “Sam’s (coaching)responsibility, as it stands, is still with the younger players.

“All the first team stuff I’ll do because I enjoy it, it is as simple as that. I love being out on the grass everyday.

“Sam does something every day with the younger players at the club and he is keen for them to stay out on the training ground, which is good.

“He wants to hone their skills and he takes that and enjoys that.

“When there is a reserve game I give Sam free rein to pick the team and formation he wants because that is an education for someone stepping across to the other side.

“There was a couple of manager’s that gave me the opportunity and you appreciate it while you are still training and playing.

“Sam is smashing and is trying to get on to his A-licence in the summer and it is all part of his education.

“You have got to tick boxes as a football coach.

“That is about spending your time in the summer getting your qualifications and not going on holiday or having any spare time.

“I am still ticking those boxes now!”