HARTLEPOOL boss Neale Cooper says Luke James is as good a teenage player as he’s ever worked with.
The 17-year-old was the two-goal hero on Saturday as Pools smashed northern rivals Carlisle United at Victoria Park.
James – who announced his arrival on the senior stage with a stunning strike in the 2-0 win over Rochdale earlier this month – was again the star turn and netted a goal in each half to earn another man-of-the-match prize.
The Amble-born starlet is fast becoming one of the most talked about talents outside of the Premier League, and Cooper believes Pools have unearthed a real gem.
“Luke is right up there with the best young talents I’ve ever had,” said the Scottish chief after James’ goals helped rocket Pools to 10th in League One.
“James Brown was just coming through when I left, but from what I’ve seen Luke is way up there. He has no fear, not just about his play on the ball, he takes knocks and is not scared.
“To have that courage for a young lad is very good. He’s a level-headed boy and got man of the match again – that’s more sweets and he will probably get a bottle of milk instead of champagne!”
But Cooper admits he is already aware of outside interest, adding: “I know there’s a lot (of clubs) watching him, but there’s been no approaches.”
James took just six minutes to break the deadlock against the Cumbrians, a first-time effort with his left boot finding the back of the net via a deflection.
His second came as reward for his own hard work when, having blocked the clearance of goalkeeper Adam Collin, the ball found its way to his feet and he drove into the area before lashing into the roof of the net.
And Cooper reflected: “You see how he takes the first goal? OK it’s a wee deflection, but he’s not scared to have a shot. It’s his goal.
“His second goal was fantastic and was all down to him for closing the keeper down in the first place. That work-rate is always there with him but he’s also got the quality as well. He could have then gone down for a penalty later – but he’s an honest boy.
“But overall I thought he was fantastic. His hold-up play was a lot better against a big centre-half and he gave them all sorts of problems running in behind.”
After James’ opening goal, Pools went two up when Antony Sweeney rose to head home a right wing cross from Neil Austin.
The visitors then suffered another telling blow when striker Lee Miller was sent off for what the referee deemed to be a dangerous tackle on Andy Monkhouse – although it did look a tad harsh.
Nonetheless, that wasn’t of Pools’ concern and they set about varnishing a victory which was their biggest on home soil since 2008.
James got the third on 67 minutes and before the end sub Colin Nish got in on the act with a neat finish from a Monkhouse flick.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood (Haslam 39), Sweeney, Liddle, Murray (Baldwin 84), James, Brown (Nish 70), Monkhouse. Subs Not Used: Rafferty, Humphreys. Booked: Brown, Liddle. Goals: James 6, Sweeney 17, James 67, Nish 81.
Carlisle: Collin, Simek, Livesey (Cook 46), Michalik, Parker, Noble, Thirlwell (Chantler 75), Taiwo (Madden 46), Zoko, Miller, McGovern. Subs Not Used: Gillespie, Murphy. Sent Off: Miller (27). Booked: Michalik.
Att: 5,995 Ref: Robert Madley (West Yorkshire).