LUKE James has given Brad Walker his total endorsement to back up his first-season excellence.
Walker said that he wanted to emulate his fellow young gun by kicking on from his debut campaign for Hartlepool United in Sky Bet League Two.
The teenager was fast-tracked from youth team to first team by boss Colin Cooper and his then assistant, Craig Hignett, in a breathtaking period for the 17-year-old at Victoria Park.
Walker was taken on the pre-season tour to the Netherlands and then shone in the friendly programme, carrying that form into the real thing come August.
The midfielder turned into the real deal and made 31 appearances scoring three times – all stunners.
Walker said that he hoped to take a leaf out of the book of 19-year-old striker James.
“Brad has been absolutely quality,” said the double Player of the Year.
“For a 17-year-old to come into the first team and play 30-plus games has been incredible. Brad was brilliant, all season.”
From the outside it looked as though James had proved a guiding to a youngster still not old enough to vote or buy a pint.
But the leading scorer said that Walker took everything in his stride.
“He didn’t need any help!” smiled the forward, who is also a product of the club’s youth system.
“Ever since Brad came in for his first training session, he’s been one of the best players.”
Both Walker and James had been ordered to rest by Cooper, who did not want them to suffer from any burn-out.
Preparations are moving along nicely at Pools – they have arranged two high-profile friendlies already.
Premier League neighbours Sunderland, who were believed to have been watching James closely last season, will visit Victoria Park on Wednesday, July 23.
Seven days later, it is the turn of Sky Bet Championship promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough to come to town (both are 7.30pm kick-offs).
Hartlepool also visit Conference North outfit Bradford Park Avenue on Saturday, July 19, and Evo-Stick Northern Premier team Whitby Town the following Saturday.
James can’t wait.
“I’m looking forward to the season,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll push on from last season.”