THERE’S been a regular path from Rockliffe Park to Maiden Castle in recent years. From Middlesbrough’s command centre to Hartlepool United’s training base, the route has been well worn.

And where Colin Cooper and Craig Hignett failed, Paul Jenkins is the latest to make the move.

A long-term coach at Boro’s Academy, Jenkins recently ended 22 years with Boro and is now assistant boss at Pools.

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Ironically, his position as Under-23s coach has gone to a former Pools player of the year and coach in Paul Stephenson, while working under and alongside Jenkins at the Vic is another ex-Boro skipper in Matthew Bates, taking his first steps into coaching.

The spells of both Cooper and Hignett ended with the sack. Two well-respected coaches, who earned their badges with Boro, failed at the managerial graveyard that is Victoria Park.

It is a little different for Jenkins, he’s No 2 to Craig Harrison.

“There’s been a link between the clubs in recent years with coaches moving from Boro to Pools – I hope I can turn that around and be successful,’’ he mused.

“Unfortunately for the lads who did come across here there wasn’t a great deal of success Now hopefully Craig and I can bring success here and we can be talking in a positive mind come the end of the season.’’

Boro-born and bred, Jenkins worked his way up through their Academy system right from the under-10s to a short spell with the first-team at the end of last season.

His career has been on an upward curve. But while his last spell before leaving Boro was in the Premier League, working alongside Steve Agnew and Jonathan Woodgate in an attempt to maintain top-flight status, he’s now out of the Football League, with the aim of getting Pools out of the National League at the first attempt.

It’s a big task; one he and Harrison are relishing.

Jenkins said: “I’ve followed Hartlepool for a number of years now, there has been a negativity around the place and we hope the new, fresh emphasis on the ownership of the club, the change and with the football side of it we can make big strides forward.

“I don’t feel any hangover around the club, certainly not in the dressing room. I think it helps we have brought a lot of new players in, so there’s no pre-conceived ideas of what happened last year – it’s all about what we can do this season and move forward.

“The challenge is a new one for us all. We are all aware of the league and know what we need to do, but until the games come around then you see it.

“We are experienced enough as a coach and manager what we need from the players.

“The manager identified areas he felt would enhance the group of players and we have that. It’s not complete yet, but we are almost there and everyone is challenging each other from a footballing perspective.’’

Leaving his position after so long, there was bound to be a tinge of apprehension for Jenkins, stepping into the unknown after being at one club for so long. He had worked under a welter of managers at Boro – from Bryan Robson to Aitor Karanka, before new boss Garry Monk opted for change.

Thankfully, the opportunity at Pools came around quickly. He wasn’t out of work and out of football for long.

“I guess when you spend so long at a club like I did maybe there’s an air of apprehension about making change, but it’s been fantastic,’’ he reflected.

“The extra responsibility I’ve got here is something I’m enjoying and the players have been responsive.

“We have a very good bunch of staff, well-driven who want to do well for the football club. We want to create something here, we want to do something and make our mark. It will be hard, but it’s something we are relishing.

“I left Boro and the opportunity came up quickly which was very good. I spoke to a lot of people in the game and asked about time away, what you do when you aren’t involved in the game.

“One of the most important things is to get back into the game quickly – more often than not it’s out of your own hands, it’s got to come when there’s an opportunity, perhaps when someone has lost their job.

“This came about quickly for me. Me and Craig have known each other for a long time, 22 years in fact. We weren’t close, but knew each other and had dealings, so we spoke regular when he was at TNS.

“It was refreshing having a couple of hours with him when we knew this was a good opportunity for us both.

“He is very knowledgeable, he has had a lot of success, he knows what it’s all about.

“This league is new to us both, so we embrace it and do what we can do have a positivity about this club.’’

Jenkins stepped up to the first-team environment at the end of last season. After Aitor Karanka departed Boro, chairman Steve Gibson put a new, temporary management team in place.

There were unable to halt the slide from the Premier League, but it gave Jenkins a taste for it; a real taste of first-team football as opposed to the somewhat velvety nature of the Academy game.

Jenkins felt he proved himself on a temporary basis. Now he has the chance to do it permanently.

He admitted: “From my perspective having a taste of it at Middlesbrough, in that environment sowed the seed in my mind about what I wanted. What my next career step would be – to a first-team environment after having 22 years as an Academy coach.

“I finally had the opportunity not only to work as a first-team coach, but to do it in the Premier League.

“It was an unbelievable experience for myself, working with international footballers.

“Being exposed to that environment and seeing what it was all about, I really felt I was ready to make that step up into a managerial position.

“I moved up from the Academy and it’s inevitable you question yourself because you have never worked at that level.

“Whatever step you make, you wonder: will I cope, will the players cope, will they like what I do?

“Fortunately the response I had was a very positive one. Unfortunately we fell up short and that’s life in professional football. We had the chance to turn it around, we felt we could have. But the fixture list was very unforgiving, it was a brutal last ten games and we fell short, we weren’t quite good enough in the end.’’

He added: “From my experience it was something else. I want to bring those experiences and qualities to this club.

“I hope Boro bounce back at the first attempt, I really hope so.

“Alright it may not have ended how I wanted it to end, but I’m a Middlesbrough lad and Middlesbrough is my team. I was honoured to work for them for so long.

“I’m now fully committed to Hartlepool United, but will I look out for them still? Of course. Do I want them promoted? Of course I do.’’