AMID renewed speculation about his future, Bradley Walker, the Hartlepool United midfielder, was yesterday recognised for his talents.
With Norwich, Stoke and Celtic all reported to be monitoring the 17-year-old, Walker has been nominated for the League Two Apprentice of the Year award.
It’s an honour won by his team-mate Luke James last season.
Walker has enjoyed a run in the side of late and impressed with a string of mature performances in the middle of the park. He will start tomorrow against Scunthorpe at Victoria Park – provided there’s no quick move made for his services on transfer deadline day.
And he goes into the game against the League Two leaders with a glowing endorsement from his boss.
“I keep saying it that this club should be very proud of what we are producing. These two young men (James and Walker) are very proud and happy to be playing for Pools,’’ he said.
“They are both playing in the first team, Brad’s only 17 and Luke’s not long turned 19.
“Brad has had his nomination not only after jumping from the youth side to the first team but he’s catapulted himself into the England Under-18 development squad They gave been very impressed with him both as a technically gifted young footballer but also a really grounded, humble young man.
“To have consecutive nominations for this award is brilliant for the club.
“For the young players this club has produced and are still producing this is a shot in the arm.
“It shows that what we are trying to do since coming in since June is we are providing these young players with the tools not only to play for Hartlepool United but hopefully higher up.
“Brad has already had some pats on the back but this is another massive one. It’s also a pat on the back for this club that we produce not only good young footballers but good young people.’’ Pools will be without another one of their young talents, Jack Baldwin, for the next two games, as he serves a suspension for collecting ten yellow cards this season.
“It is a blow and he will be missed but we definitely have people who can fill in the position and do it well,’’ said Cooper, who will pitch Sam Collins in at centre-half.
“When I watched Pools a few tiomes last season Jack stood out for me, a very impressive young man who can go on and have a successful career. In the time I’ve been here he’s backed that thought up.
And Cooper admitted he was still bewildered by Tuesday’s result, when Pools lost 2-1 at AFC Wimbledon, in a game they controlled for the vast majority.
Pools conceded two goals in as many second-half minutes after taking a first-half lead through James.
“We played pretty poorly against York last weekend but we finished with a bit of a flourish and get the win so everyone goes home happy,’’ mused Cooper.
“On Tuesday we play a helluva lot better and create more than enough opportunities and end up losing 2-1 - I came away scratching my head.
“It’s cliche I know but that’s football, you can play well and lose and play pretty poorly and win.
“I want to win to send the fans home happy, but I also want us to play like we did on Tuesday night. What we need to do is to put the two together “You come away scratching your head, ‘how do you play that well, work their keeper’ and not get anything?
“We are going to have to learn, we need to produce that level of performance but go on to win.’’