Hartley happy to back his Hartlepool United pal

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FORMER Hartlepool United captain Peter Hartley says he is not bitter about losing the armband to his best friend at the club.

Hartlepool-born Hartley was made captain under Neale Cooper last season but the honour has now been bestowed upon central midfielder and club stalwart, Antony Sweeney.

The pair drive together to training at Maiden Castle and 25-year-old Hartley says he is “absolutely delighted” that his pal has been given the role under new gaffer Colin Cooper.

Hartley, who has been moved to the left-back position under the former Middlesbrough coach, is adamant losing the captaincy won’t change the way he plays and he has backed Sweeney to be a “great captain” for the League Two side.

The pair both played in Friday night’s 1-0 defeat to Preston North End at Victoria Park, the club’s final pre-season friendly before the first league game of the season, away to Rochdale this Saturday.

Hartley said: “It was up for grabs. I got the captaincy under Neale Cooper.

“That was his era and that has gone, this is Colin Cooper’s era now and he does what he wants to do.

“Tony Sweeney is probably my closest friend at the club and he is a mate for life, so I am absolutely delighted for him.

“I am not going to change the way I play though, I’m very vocal and I’m very commanding.

“He is a different type of captain. He has a good mix in the dressing room with the lads.

“He has a respect throughout the full club and he is going to be a great captain for the club.”

Hartley joked that the kit man may have to replace last season’s armband for the wiry Sweeney, saying: “The armband won’t fit him – we’ll have to get him an under-nine’s one I think!”

Hartley replaced Sam Collins as skipper midway through last season but Cooper decided to explore all of the candidates within his dressing room during pre-season and opted for a change.

Sweeney, 29, is the club’s longest-serving player but has never captained the side on a permanent basis until now.