HARTLEPOOL United’s latest signing said he didn’t hesitate when asked to join Colin Cooper’s back-room staff.
Stephen Pears, the club’s new assistant manager and goalkeeping coach, has been friends and a former colleague of Cooper’s for more than 30 years.
The experienced former Boro and Pools stopper had been strongly linked with the No 2 role ever since Craig Hignett left back in March.
But Pears - who left Boro in November after Aitor Karanka reshuffled his coaching staff - said he was still “taken aback” when he got the call from Cooper.
The 52-year-old is adamant though that it took him no time at all in accepting the role at the Sky Bet League Two club.
“I spoke with Colin a few weeks ago and he asked me if I would like to come in,” explained Pears.
“I was taken aback to be honest because I had been out of the game since I got sacked at Middlesbrough before Christmas.
“It was nice to be asked to come back in, I didn’t think it was going to happen.
“I have known Colin for 30-odd years and coached with him, played with him, but I was still taken aback by him asking me.
“I said yes straight away and it didn’t take any thinking about at all really.
“I love coaching, love goalkeepers and it is good to be working with different goalkeepers.
“They are all different in many ways and all have their own issues.
“Thankfully the goalkeepers at Hartlepool United are good,” added Pears who said he has had a warm welcome allowing him to fit in “like a glove”.
The arrival of Brandon-born Pears came as a relief to Cooper, following Hignett’s departure.
As well as being the assistant manager he will also be coaching goalkeepers Scott Flinders and Andy Rafferty.
Pears, who joined the squad for the first time in Spain after a pre-booked summer holiday, added: “I met the lads for the first time on Monday and trained for the first time that night. First impressions are really good.
“I have watched Scott a few times when I was at Middlesbrough, when we were looking at goalkeepers, and I came to watch him.
“I like him, he has the physical presence of a goalkeeper and we just need to work on a few things that he needs to improve on.
“Andy is the same. He actually came on trial at Middlesbrough before he signed for Hartlepool so I knew of him and I was pleased that he got fixed up here.
“He has good ability as well.”
During a long and distinguished playing career, Pears featured for Manchester United and appeared more than 400 times for Middlesbrough before finishing his career with Hartlepool.
Pears agreed a deal to join Pools - under boss Keith Houchen - and he went on to make 19 appearances for the club in the 1996-97 campaign before retiring at the age of 35.
Pears, who lives close to the club’s Maiden Castle base in Durham, added: “People at Hartlepool probably didn’t see the best of me.
“I had the hardest pre-season of my career when I went to Hartlepool and it didn’t do me any good.
“I suffered with injuries all the time I was at Hartlepool, so the fans didn’t see the best of me and I only lasted about 20 games.
“I had an operation on a hernia and had a groin problem and didn’t play again.
“I am glad to be back and it has gone full circle really.
“That was a long time ago and it is different this time, I have done this job for 16 years now and I have loads of experience.
“I am sure I can improve all of the goalkeepers, no problem. That will help the team because the better the goalkeeper, the better the team sometimes.”
Pears had been coaching goalkeepers at Middlesbrough for the past 16 years - 10 years full-time in the Academy and a further six working with the first team.