Chris focuses on Hartlepool - not Bilbao

WHO would you rather beat - Hartlepool or Athletic Bilbao?

Carl Marston

WHO would you rather beat - Hartlepool or Athletic Bilbao?

There's only one answer in the eyes of Colchester United defender Chris Coyne, and it's not the eight-times Spanish La Liga champions!

Coyne is looking forward to the visit of Bilbao for the U's glamorous pre-season friendly, which will double up as a curtain-raiser for the Essex club's new Weston Homes Community Stadium, scheduled for Monday, August 4.

But the newly-capped Australian international is not focusing on Bilbao. Instead, he's looking five days later to the League One opener at Hartlepool.

“The match against Athletic Bilbao is going to be a fantastic occasion, but I reckon it's more for the fans than the players," insisted Coyne last night.

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“It's going to be a special night for the supporters, but if you gave me the choice between beating Bilbao and beating Hartlepool, then there's no contest. I want three points at Hartlepool so that we can get off to a good start in our quest for promotion.

“Bilbao are a big side, and you always want to play the best. It's a high-profile game, and it would be nice to start off with a win at the new ground.

“It's important that we quickly make our new home into a garrison. We need to feel settled and comfortable in our new surroundings, and this game gives us a chance to do so.

“We will be able to test out the pitch, and get used to the atmosphere. It will be like a dry run," added Coyne. All of the U's other pre-season friendlies are on the road, beginning with a trip to Essex neighbours Tiptree United next Wednesday. Other fixtures include trips to Heybridge, Woking, Chelmsford, Luton, Dagenham & Redbridge and Norwich City.

But it's the home contest against Bilbao that all Colchester supporters are talking about. It will be a unique and historic chance to see the U's play against one of the most famous clubs in Europe.

Coyne has been with the rest of the U's squad at Loughborough University all of this week, taking part in a fitness programme. In fact, the ex-Luton Town skipper, who signed for the U's from the Hatters for £350,000 in January, has not had much time to put his feet up this summer.

He made his long-awaited debut for Australia, by following up a few outings as an unused substitute with an appearance from the start against Iraq in the Socceroos World Cup qualifying campaign.

Coyne revealed: “I've only had about 12 days off this summer, but I've made the most of it. Now it's down to the hard work again. I always wanted to play for Australia, and now I can tick that box.

“We qualified for the next phase, which starts again in September, so hopefully I might get a few more games. The manager has my phone number now,” said Coyne.

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