SIMON WALTON is happy to be one of Hartlepool United’s ‘piano pushers’ - as long as they continue developing their young players.
At 26, Walton could have another ten years ahead of him in the game, but at Pools he is considered one of the older players. Only Sam Collins, Andy Monkhouse and Marlon Harewood are older than he, while Luke James, Bradley Walker and on-loan Jack Barmby are the younger players of the first team.
Having amassed more than 200 career appearances, Walton is pleased to play a role to help those youngsters develop in the game.
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“It's one of the best set of young players I've been involved with,” said Walton, after Hartlepool’s 2-1 defeat to Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday. “There's five or six that could easily go on to bigger and better things, as long as they're willing to learn.
“Inconsistency is something levelled at young players but luckily for us most of them have stepped up when needed, they're thriving with the games. The more you play the better you get. It's enjoyable to be part of and to watch, bringing players on.
“There's a running joke with us that I've come away with cuts and bruises, and gashes on my ankles, the flair players just get on with it.
“There's two types of players here, piano players and piano pushers, I come under the piano pusher category at the moment.
“It's refreshing when you see young players coming in and expressing themselves without the pressure. The gaffer takes a massive part in letting the young players flourish and playing as many games as they have done.”
A victory at Adams Park could have closed the gap between Pools and the play-off places to just two, as the teams above Colin Cooper’s side all lost. Walton remains positive that, with 11 games left of the League Two season, they can make the play-offs.
“After the start we had, if we'd have been told we'd be in this position, ready to pounce, we'd have bitten your hand off,” said Walton. “We always had the belief and we've still got the belief now that we're capable of matching and beating anyone on our day in this league, and as long as we don't let disappointments happen like we did on Saturday there's no reason why we can't be in that final push.”
Pools were beaten by second-half goals from Dean Morgan and Matt McClure after Barmby volleyed the visitors ahead, and Walton admitted he was at fault for the winning goal.
“There was a bit of confusion,” he said. Scotty's [Flinders] shouted, looked like he was going to get it and at the last minute he's either stopped or been blocked off. I can't answer it, it went so quick, then the man's run off the back of me and headed it in.
“It's a poor mistake, but something we need to eradicate if we want to get to where we want to be.
As Pools’ penalty taker, Walton had already strode up to collect the ball when Luke James was felled in the area by Anthony Stewart, but referee Andy Madley failed to award the spot kick.
Walton argued: “I don't think I've ever seen one so blatant. I was right in line with it, stood behind it, and I'd already picked the ball up for the penalty. I've heard some excuses in my time but the less said about that one the better.”