THE Middlesbrough connection at Hartlepool United is tested on Wednesday night with the sides meeting in a Victoria Park friendly.

Pools boss Colin Cooper has ex-Riverside team-mates Matthew Bates and Stuart Parnaby in his side and he’s now assisted by former Boro player and coach Stephen Pears.

Boro took Craig Hignett back to the club from Pools last season, while they are also likely to field Christian Burgess and goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos.

Loading article content

The centre-half spent last season on loan at Victoria Park and Cooper is keen to get him back again for the new campaign.

“Christian did smashing for us last season and he got better as the season went on,” Cooper said.

“The two lads Scott (Harrison from Sunderland) and, in particular Christian, both did a great job for this football club.

“Christian is a great lad and really enjoyed his time here but whether he comes back is really up to Middlesbrough.

“But we have made no bones about the fact that we’d love to have Christian back and Scott would be more than welcome too.

“From our point of view, though, the ball is in the parent clubs court.

“We have made lots of phone calls and inquiries about the possibility of players. You have a certain list and if you get two or three you’ve done well and we will continue to try.’’

Pools are in need of some new recruits and Tommy Miller is likely to play for the fourth time this pre-season as he hopes for a contract. Cooper has regularly praised the midfielder, but has yet to make him an offer.

Cooper has been playing defender Parnaby in central midfield and he is also interested in taking a look at former Boro and Nottingham Forest midfielder Jon Greening, who last week played twice for Rotherham on trial.

A young Pools side lost at Whitby last weekend, following last Wednesday’s 3-0 home defeat to Sunderland.

Cooper said: “We have to play without fear. You need to produce things against a Championship or Premier League team without fear. If you play with fear they will have all of the ball, all of the possession and all of the chances.

“Play without fear and express yourself. It doesn’t matter who you play against. We had a stern test against Sunderland and it will be the same against Middlesbrough.

“Can we match them when we haven’t got the ball and then use it when we have it. That’s the challenge.

“You want to put a good show on and give a good account of yourselves. The Sunderland and Middlesbrough games are two cracking games for the club.’’

Admission tonight is £10 and £5 concessions. Boro have been allocated the Rink End and Niramax Stand and Terrace, with Pools supporters in the Cyril Knowles Stand and Town End.