FORMER Sunderland defender Stephen Wright could find himself thrust in to the heat of a League One midfield battle after agreeing a deal with Hartlepool United yesterday.

The free agent, who had spent a number of weeks training with the squad, was handed a contract at Victoria Park after head coach Mick Wadsworth convinced chairman Ken Hodcroft the player was worth a deal.

Wright was released by Coventry City in the summer and he had expressed a desire to return to the region after enjoying his six-year spell in the area with Sunderland.

The 31-year-old, who was sold by Roy Keane in 2008 after Peter Reid had paid £3m to Liverpool for him in 2002, has been well received by everyone within the Pools camp since his first training session a month ago.

"He's the consummate professional. He's enjoyed a terrific career but it's just stalled a little bit recently down to the fact that he's been unable to find a suitable club," said Wadsworth.

"We've been more than happy to have him train with us and if you asked any player in our squad they would tell you he is in fantastic condition and has a great attitude."

Wright will wear the No 12 shirt at Pools and Wadsworth has hinted his "versatility" could see him play in midfield despite preferring to play as a right-back.

He could even find himself pitted straight in to the action against Exeter City this afternoon, with left-back Evan Horwood ruled out for two matches with a thigh injury.

It was the club's injury situation that strengthened Wadsworth's attempts to persuade Hodcroft to give the go-ahead for another signing.

There are also concerns over the fitness of Sam Collins and James Poole ahead of this afternoon's fixture, although Antony Sweeney, Nolberto Solano and Colin Nish are all fit to start if Wadsworth wants them to.

After delivering a first win of the season at Rochdale last week, Hartlepool want to build on their unbeaten start to the League One campaign by delivering a success story at Victoria Park.

Two draws with Walsall and Huddersfield were encouraging in front of crowds of more than 5,000 and midfielder Gary Liddle is keen to repay the supporters that have taken advantage of a £100 season ticket offer with an early season win.

Liddle said: "It has been a good start for us. We have drawn games, but the unbeaten record speaks for itself in the league. We got our first win at the weekend and we have to back that up with home performances.

"If we can win more than our fair share at home we will do well this season. That is the key. Against Walsall we were disappointed we didn't win. We wanted to put on a show for the fans in our first league game in front of them. The sooner that comes the better for everyone. Let's hope that comes this Saturday."

It was in the draw with Walsall that Liddle fractured his cheekbone early on before playing the remainder of the match in pain. After missing two matches, he returned to the side at Rochdale wearing a protective mask.

He also donned the mask in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy defeat at Scunthorpe on Tuesday night, but has adapted to playing football in the new gear.

"It's moulded to my face, it was like Play-Doh when they were fitting it," he said. "It will take six or seven weeks before it properly heals, but I'm happy to gamble and wear this mask just so I can play.

"There's no way I will shy out of headers or situations that wikll do damage, even though there is a real danger of it worsening, because the manager would not be playing me if that's what I was like."