AT 19 years old, being likened to a “veteran” might not seem like a compliment to Jack Baldwin – but Hartlepool United boss John Hughes insists it is a worthy accolade.
Hughes was blown away by the teenager’s impressive performance during Tuesday’s 3-0 League One win over Crewe.
Baldwin was recalled to the side and installed in a midfield role some seven games ago by Hughes, since when Pools have remained unbeaten.
During that period, he has also broken his scoring duck and chipped in with a couple of assists, and Hughes believes Baldwin is a player destined for the highest level, pointing to the maturity of the second-year pro.
“Jack Baldwin is playing like a veteran,” the Pools chief said. “He was an absolutely different class on Tuesday.
“The way he was getting about people, tackling, recovering, winning his headers – he was immense.
“He takes everything in his stride and nothing fazes him.
“He’s got a massive future in the game.”
Baldwin laid on the opening goal for Charlie Wyke, out-leaping his marker at the far post to steer into his team-mate’s path.
And Hughes admits the southerner has that penalty-box threat in his repertoire.
“It was him who got up to create the first goal, he showed great desire to climb and win it,” he added. “He’s scoring goals as well and he can bring that to his game.”
Meanwhile, Hughes has rewarded his squad with a second day off today ahead of Saturday’s trip to leaders Doncaster Rovers.
The players will not reconvene at Maiden Castle until tomorrow, with Hughes saying: “I talk with the boys after every game and see what they think is the best way to prepare for the next game. You have to trust your players in that respect.
“If they think a couple of days at home with their family will put them in the right frame of mind for the weekend then so be it.
“The games are Saturday-Tuesday right now and they are for the next few weeks.
“All we’re doing is recovery work really, everything else is in place.”
Meanwhile, Hughes will today discover the extent of the calf injuries to Simon Walton and Evan Horwood picked up during the midweek win.