Hartlepool United boss still looking for leadership material

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BOSS Colin Cooper insists that the captain’s armband at Hartlepool United is very much up for grabs as he looks to recruit more leaders to his squad.

Last summer, long-serving midfielder Antony Sweeney was handed the armband, but, despite starting the season, he was soon struck down with injury and never regained his place in the team.

In his absence, committed defenders Neil Austin and Sam Collins took over the mantle, but Cooper has revealed he has no firm plans yet for the coming campaign.

Cooper – who is looking to add a further four new faces to his squad before the League Two curtain raiser against Stevenage – has challenged the squad to push themselves into his thinking for the armband.

Speaking at the club’s pre-season Spanish training camp at La Cala Resort, the manager said he would love to add more strong leaders to his team.

So far he has recruited experienced former Middlesbrough defenders Matthew Bates and Stuart Parnaby, with more new faces expected to join them in the coming weeks.

When asked whether he had a captain in mind for the season, Cooper said: “I am trying to recruit people that will add something to the dressing room.

“We do, of course, have some people within the club with natural leadership qualities already.

“The reason I gave Antony Sweeney the captaincy last year was because he wore Hartlepool United on his sleeve and his heart and soul was in the football club.

“He was disappointed not to be used as much last season, whether it be through injury or whatever and in the end he chose to take on a fresh challenge, which is fair enough.

“When it comes to the captain’s armband, I am looking for someone to jump out at me and say ‘I’m your man’.”

Sweeney, who appeared 444 times for Pools, turned down the offer of a new contract at the club in favour of signing a two-year deal with Carlisle United.

The 30-year-old found first-team opportunities hard to come by last season, turning out 23 times in 2013-14, but 19 of those were appearances from the bench.

Cooper says the captain’s role is an important one. But he added that, in an ideal world, he would love to see a Hartlepool United team made up of several players with “leadership qualities”.

Cooper said his captain doesn’t necessarily have to be a “shouter or screamer” just show they have leadership qualities.

Cooper, a former captain himself in his playing days, added: “The captain becomes your eyes and ears on the pitch, as an extension of yourself.

“But I’m also trying to put a group of people together in the dressing room that will basically run it themselves.

“That can be achieved by putting the right kind of people in. We have some with natural leadership at the club and the players I am trying to add have the same kind of mentality and substance that I feel I had as a player.

“Hopefully that will give us four, five, six captains on the football pitch.

“I was a captain at 21, so you can be a captain very young or in the later stages of your career – it just depends what kind of mentality you have as a person.

“Are you a leader? You don’t have to be a shouter or a screamer but do you have leadership qualities

“Either by setting high standards and showing people the way or by encouraging other people to follow you.

“That is what leadership is all about really, getting people to believe in what you are trying to do

“I want as many of them in the dressing room as possible because it then drives the whole thing on its own, hopefully.”

The Pools camp are spending the week in southern Spain, close to Mijas, and will be returning to the North East on Sunday ahead of the pre-season friendlies.