THIRTEEN years and eight clubs after leaving, Tommy Miller will today make his return to Hartlepool United.
The £750,000 George Burley paid for the midfielder in 2001 remains Pools’ record sale. He re-signs on a free, following a month and four games on trial after his release from Bury at the end of last season.
Miller will start in midfield at Stevenage tomorrow, Cooper’s third summer signing after Matthew Bates and Stuart Parnaby were recruited. And Cooper revealed he’s signing him at the second time of asking.
“Tommy is a good pro and you get to a point in your career when you just enjoy yourself,’’ said Cooper. “Tommy is 35 and he’s at that stage now.
“I’ve known him a long time, from when he first started playing here. When I was at Bradford I tried to sign him there, but he went to Sheffield Wednesday at the time.
“He is someone who has energy, enthusiasm and technical ability. Whether he is bombing on from midfield or supporting Bradley Walker in there, he adds a lot. I had a list of players in the summer to sign and I’ve got three of them.’’
Pools’ striker Luke James has been linked with a £750,000 move to Peterborough, who have just sold striker Brett Assombalonga to Nottingham Forest for £5m.
Cooper is also keen on keeping Michael Woods, the former Leeds and Chelsea prospect, at the club. He has also been on trial, but his appearances have been hampered by a groin injury.
But that won’t be all, with Cooper out to explore the loan markets when they start to open up. Tellingly, Christian Burgess wasn’t given a squad number at Middlesbrough this week, raising the probability of the centre-half leaving for Pools.
“Michael is next. I’m trying something and he has showed enough to justify his talent and an offer of something,’’ he said.
“We are looking for more. Loans and we have to wait for clubs to release players after things have worked for them. At Middlesbrough, Aitor Karanka is trying to build a squad to get out of the Championship.
“We have a good relationships with the other North-East clubs and we have to wait for things to happen.
“But I’m more than happy to head into the weekend with what we have knowing we have enough to get off to a good start. I’m sure there will be opportunities in the coming weeks to maintain relationships with those clubs and others who we are keen to keep developing.’’
One player who won’t be extending his stay is former Middlesbrough wide-man Cameron Park. He played for Pools at Spennymoor on Monday, but rejected the chance to train with Pools in favour of working with a personal trainer.
And Cooper, who said Bradford midfielder Jason Kennedy is not amongst his targets, is confident his squad is falling into place nicely.
“We are in good shape. I am still working to get players in, signings and the like. Everyone in management is the same,’’ he said.
“Over the next few weeks, I’ve spoke about other clubs having their priorities and things happening on the back of that for us. It’s not materialised just yet for the parent clubs, so we are patient.
“I’m happy with how we are.’’
Experience has been the key, so far at least, to Cooper’s recruitment.
Miller, Parnaby and Bates have all played at the highest level and rack up plenty of games between them. There’s also been the appointment of a well-versed number two in Stephen Pears, a former Boro team-mate of Cooper’s.
“The lads who left this club by choice or by not having their contracts renewed, my aim was to add experienced to the ranks,’’ said the manager.
“Tommy, Matthew and Stuart and good people, good technical footballers.
“They set an example each day in the dressing room and around the club. It was a conscious effort on my part
“Stephen Pears is a different character to Higgy. I’ve known him a long time. As well as having an impact with the goalkeepers, every time I’ve sat on a bench with him over the years he’s had a different opinion to me.
“He’s very calm and composed, not demonstrative and gets his point across quietly.’’
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