Cooper hails Hartlepool’s centre-back pairing

Christian Burgess in action against Northampton Town. Picture by Frank Reid
Christian Burgess in action against Northampton Town. Picture by Frank Reid
Have your say

HARTLEPOOL United boss Colin Cooper is in no rush to replace Jack Baldwin given the impressive recent form of Christian Burgess and Sam Collins.

But the Pools manager said he is in a position to react and bring in short-term cover if the defensive duo were to pick up an injury or suspension.

Baldwin left Pools on January transfer deadline day for £500,000, leaving Cooper with just on-loan Middlesbrough defender Burgess and 36-year-old Collins as cover in central defence.

Since Baldwin’s departure though, the pair have managed to keep five clean sheets in eight matches – including Tuesday’s goalless draw at Accrington Stanley.

The pair had an off-day at Wycombe last weekend but bounced back with a resolute display in Lancashire.

Cooper is wary of putting too much pressure on the pair though, with just 10 games left of the Sky Bet League Two season.

When asked if the defender’s form has lessened the need for defensive cover to be brought in, Cooper said: “I have to be careful.

“Careful that I don’t batter the life out of Sam because he is doing brilliantly for me, but we are one twist, tackle, red card or suspension away from being very, very short.

“The one thing I am ready to do, though, is that if anything does happen, then I can react.

“That is what I need to do, rather than just bring somebody in to just sit.

“If I am able to react if that situation occurs then that is what the job needs to be from me, rather than bringing somebody in for the sake of it.”

The form of Boro defender Burgess, in particular, this season has been a real positive of the League Two campaign, with the 22-year-old playing every league match so far this term.

Cooper likened Essex-born Burgess to Gary Pallister and Alan Hansen, given his aerial prowess and ability on the ball, as well as launching it when needed.

Cooper, who said playing alongside Collins is helping his progression, is pleased Pools are helping him progress.

The Pools boss said: “Christian has showed signs throughout the season that he can be very good, but he has also shown signs he is a very young defender that can be naive at times.

“I brought him here for a reason though and I firmly believe he can go on and have a cracking career.

“I knew he would have no problem adjusting to League Two – the one thing I wanted to see was, whether he was prepared to get hurt and hurt people.

“If you can be prepared to get battered by centre-forwards and put your head and body on the line then it shows to me that you are learning your trade.

“As the season has gone on, he has learned more and more about that side.

“People can call him the new Gary Pallister or the new Alan Hansen because he also has the ability and the calmness to bring the ball down and be an extra man in midfield.

“Those are the differences that will dictate how high he eventually plays.

“If he goes to the very top then I will be more than pleased we gave him his first foot on the ladder.”

Burgess, who has a year left on his Boro contract, will leave Pools when his loan spell ends in May, but Cooper would snatch at the chance to have him back.

Cooper, 47, added: “If you ask Christian would he like to have another crack here, depending on where we are, then I think his answer would be yes.

“But that decision will be made by Middlesbrough Football Club.

“If he wants to come back then I would take him back tomorrow.”