Ever since Luke James broke onto the Hartlepool United scene as a 17-year-old in a League One match against Colchester United in 2011, he has been a big fans favourite. It’s been no secret that the Amble born striker has attracted interest from many Championship and Premier League clubs since he made his debut and has recently had his most successful season in a blue and white shirt scoring 16 goals in 49 appearances in a League Two campaign which saw Hartlepool struggle towards the end of the season and finish in a disappointing 18th after an impressive mid-season.
Following his best season in a Pools shirt and winning the Fans Player and Players Player of the Year Award for the 2013/14 season, he has attracted the interest of Club’s in higher divisions but manager Colin Cooper was keen to tie down the Amble born frontman with a new contract. Cooper described it as a “reward” for his performances last season as James signed a new contract alongside right-back Michael Duckworth following an equally impressive campaign of individual performances.
The signings may not be coming in thick in fast for Hartlepool though as they approach their first game of the season away to Stevenage (3pm) on Saturday, with only centre-back Matthew Bates and full-back Stuart Parnaby signing at the back end of June but regardless of who Pools sign this summer, none will be as important as keeping Luke James at the club with a new deal. Luke James’ goals helped Hartlepool at the start of the last campaign, with James notching 10 goals by the end of November in a 2-0 win over then strugglers Northampton Town. He then went on a mini goal drought but by the end of January he found himself alongside experienced journeyman Marlon Harewood who helped James score more goals for the club, by taking away the added pressure of being a lone striker in a side who have been known for lack of goals over the last few years. The arrival of Harewood, a former FA Cup Finalist with West Ham United in 2006, in January was to take the hit and knocks that James was receiving from League Two defenders and he did just that. Without all the added pressure, James fired another 6 goals for Pools until the end of April where he suffered an injury in Hartlepool’s game at Burton Albion, they suffered a 3-0 defeat and were being dragged into a relegation dogfight, weeks after battling it out with the likes of Southend United and Newport County for that last League Two Play-Off spot.
During the painful relegation dogfight, us Hartlepool fans would ask ourselves ‘Where would we be without Luke James’ goals?’ and it was a good question to ask at the time as Luke James did score most of our goals last season. Every single one of them would end up being of vital importance as Pools would beat the drop and finish in a disappointing 18th place. Coming into the summer the objective was clear, sign players that would make us better, keep hold of the assets within the side and then go into the new season all guns blazing. Every Pools fan was delighted to read on the night that they played Middlesbrough at home in a pre-season friendly, that the Club’s talisman Luke James had signed a new contract and would eventually fend off the interest of bigger clubs lurking for his signature.
Last season Luke James did in fact play a vital part in whatever we did, whether it was battling out for promotion or a survival fight against relegation, but every Pools fan can now look forward to a campaign where Luke James can improve on what he personally achieved on the pitch and off it with the help of his team-mates