HARTLEPOOL United manager Neale Cooper has urged supporters not to expect too much, too soon from his young guns.
Fans have enjoyed their first glimpses of teenage talents like Luke James, Jack Baldwin and Callum Hassan in recent weeks.
And, in the case of James in particular, his impact has been immediate, with two man-of-the-match performances and a sizzling strike in the home win over Rochdale.
Baldwin, has also made an impressive start to life as a senior professional and he, too, was bestowed with star-man plaudits following his debut against Colchester United.
Hassan’s arrival was a little more muted, the towering frontman coming on as a late substitute at Exeter City
And, while Cooper harbours no fear when it comes to thrusting his starlets on to the first-team stage, the Pools chief believes it is inevitable that their level of performance will fluctuate.
“I’ve been there myself as a youngster coming into a team and you can be in and out, up and down,” said the 48-year-old, as preparations continued for Saturday’s trip to Sheffield Wednesday.
“That’s to be expected and it’s all part of the learning process.
“They will have off days – older players do as well – and you can’t expect too much from them over a long period at this stage.”
Cooper, though, is well aware of the rallying impact the introduction of academy players can have on both team-mates and supporters.
“I’ve never been afraid to use young lads because I know what a lift it can give everyone,” he went on.
“It sometimes makes the older lads sit up a bit as well and we’ve seen a big improvement all over the team in the past few weeks.”
Northumberland-born James again played for the full 90 minutes at Exeter at the weekend.
But the 17-year-old endured a far tougher afternoon up against the imposing centre-back pairing of Troy Archibald-Henville and Richard Duffy.
And Cooper believes that game was a case in point of the challenges ahead for James.
“Luke has done so well in the last few weeks, but knows himself he could do better,” said the boss, reflecting on the weekend.
Hassan, meanwhile, proved a big hit with his manager even before he’d made his bow.
“The young boys had to sing their initiation song at the team hotel on Friday night,” laughed Cooper. “Callum was the best, a rapper. He was a different class and he was looking straight down the camera, it was like a music video!”