“There is no doubt we have players that can play in the Championship”
Colin Cooper on Hartlepool’s youth.
It could be expected that a manager would attempt to shield his youngest protégés in order to keep their services. Not in Colin Cooper’s case.
Plying his trade as a youth coach for the duration of his career, Cooper has deployed the same ethos since becoming a manager. The ethos being that he will not stand in the way of a player should they be granted an upgrade in team. Cooper assisted Middlesbrough talents Stewart Downing and Adam Johnson throughout their careers until both were allowed to move on to higher echelons. Both have spoken highly of Cooper’s talents.
Cooper’s current young guns are regarded as the key component to success at Hartlepool. He has alluded to this and in uncharacteristic managerial style has been open to the media about the talent at his disposal. In only his first berth as a manager a more selfish outlook would have been expected. Considering the contemporary managerial merry go round that is in motion, Coopers open attitude is a surprise.
This week Brad Walker, a 17-year-old midfielder who has burst onto the scene since Cooper’s appointment, was called up to England’s under 18s. He has been tipped by Cooper to play at “the very highest level”. Alongside him are Jack Baldwin and Luke James who have been described as “integral” to any success ‘Pools can muster. Last season it was revealed that 21 scouts were present at a game to watch James, an impressive feat.
“I think you have to understand, for young players who desperately want to succeed, as long as they have that drive and ambition I think we can provide them with the tools to go higher,” he told Sky Sports News. The plus points of playing regular football rather than sitting on the bench for a higher team has been spelt out to Luke James who is in a rich vein of form. These are the tools that Cooper speaks of and he will hope he can continue using them beyond January.
“The list of scouts coming to Victoria Park from day one of the season has doubled,” Cooper continued, ““Some lower league managers might not want to acknowledge with January approaching but I have to accept that as a form of flattery. There’s some really high-profile clubs watching Hartlepool now, which is a real shot in the arm for us and for the players they are watching.”
Cooper, who was rewarded the October manager of the month award, believes that his players have “bought into” the style of football he wants to play. Gone is the dreaded route 1, replaced by a zippy passing game that pleases fans that have flocked to Victoria Park to support.
“We’re giving everyone a football match, which is good. I have very strong beliefs in how I want us to play. I want everyone to be fit, I want our players to be really fit. I want us to express ourselves. I want us to pass, I want us to play fast football, to stretch the opposition and to be clever”.
In an ideal world the progression of Hartlepool’s young talent will be with Hartlepool but should the inevitable happen expect to see the names Baldwin, James and Walker “at the very top” very soon.