COLIN COOPER admits he harbours hopes of his two Sunderland loan signings returning to Hartlepool United next season.
Both Scott Harrison and Connor Oliver started in the weekend draw at Plymouth, centre-half Harrison making his fourth start, Oliver impressing on his Football League debut.
The pair are part of Kevin Ball’s Under-21 squad at the Academy of Light, but their development will be boosted by appearing in League Two.
They will both start Pools’ final game of the season, at home to Exeter on Saturday, and return to Wearside.
And Cooper would have no hesitation in the 20-year-olds joining Pools on longer-term loan arrangements for the 2014/15 campaign.
Cooper, who has made a number of successful loan captures this season, said: “Scott (Harrison) did well and showed his strength against two strong strikers. He learned his trade out there against two lively and strong strikers in Enoch Showumni and Reuben Reid.
“All in all he has done smashing, I’ve been really pleased with both of them.
“Connor did well. When you play in development football you play at big grounds as well, so the Football League stage won’t worry him, but I thought he looked every bit a good player.
“Whether he gets his opportunity or not at Sunderland I don’t know but he can come and play for me.
“It’s a development squad and they are at a Premier League club because they are quality young footballers, and I have to add, quality young men as well.
“I’ll be trying to see if Gus (Poyet) and Bally will let me have them back.’’
Before starting at Home Park in place of the suspended Simon Walton, Oliver had experienced just ten minutes first-team football, appearing as a late substitute during Pools’ home defeat to Chesterfield in April.
But he played with freedom against Plymouth and impressed in central midfield.
Cooper reflected: “Connor looked comfortable out there, he was excellent. He has been patient and waited for his chance. Simon has done well, but he’s not here now and he would have been looking forward to playing at Plymouth, his former club.
“But he was at the pitch of it from the off. He will not have had this level in his development so far.
“From day one with us in training, I heard some of the lads about him sliding someone in and that’s progression.
“I’ve seen him shoot from distance and thunder in with his right foot.
“I’ve seen him flash into the top corner from 25 yards in training. He’s got the ability, but the learning side of it is that if you have had a shot can you next slide someone in there.’’
Oliver sat at the base of Pools’ diamond midfield shape, but the Walker-born prospect is not restricted to playing only one role.
Cooper said: “He is a midfielder, not a sitter, but I’ve seen him play right back, centre back  midfield, as a sitter in midfield. You could see by shooting he wanted to join in and the learning part – when do you sit, go, let someone else go, but in and out of possession he did well.’’