Hartlepool United boss hopes young stars stay

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JOHN Hughes believes Hartlepool United have a pair of “special” teenagers on their books.

In the form of Jack Baldwin, 19, and Luke James, 18, Pools have a duo who have attracted attention higher divisions.

Hughes is keen to play down such speculation of possible moves, no doubt hoping they remain at Victoria Park ahead of next season’s League Two campaign.

But, when pressed on the talented two, the Scot concedes they will one day play at a higher level.

“They are a couple of special young players – they have big futures in front of them,” he said, as Pools continue their preparations for Saturday’s season finale at Crawley Town.

“It is their attitude which sets them apart. To have such an enjoyment and appreciation of what you do is a massive thing, and both of them have that.

“But I’m also determined to keep that expectation off them. I want them to go and play their football – to enjoy it, and keep on playing with a smile on their faces.

“I want them to learn by mistakes because, at that age, it’s okay to make them.”

It was Baldwin and James who combined to produce Pools’ goal during Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Brentford, the latter firing home for his second goal of the season.

James (right) has been an inspiration in recent weeks having been deployed as a lone frontman. And Hughes believes such isolation could well suit the academy graduate.

“Maybe Luke is best as a one-man striker with no one else getting in his way,” he said. “He certainly covers enough ground for two.

“There are parts of his game we’re working on but at the moment that role suits him.”

Baldwin, meanwhile, continues to shine in the centre of midfield.

The player himself believes his future lies at the heart of the defence, but Hughes is happy to see the youngster developing his game in the middle of the park for now.