NEALE Cooper wouldn’t be the first manager to talk of a James Brown renaissance – but the new Hartlepool United boss has been encouraged by his former starlet.
The 25-year-old scored his first goal in over a year during Saturday’s 2-0 win over Rochdale, heading Pools into a home lead for the first time in 15 hours.
Brown has again been dogged by minor injuries this season but has now been back in full training for over a month and has featured in each of the matches since Cooper’s return.
The Scot – who was in charge of Pools as the striker was making his way through the youth ranks – is well aware of what a “fully functioning” Brown could bring to his side, but he admits there’s still work to be done.
“James came on at the weekend and showed something and had the desire to get that goal,” Cooper said today.
“It was an important goal for us and credit to him.
“A fit and fully functioning James Brown is different class, no doubt about that. He has had injuries and has to get mentally stronger from it and you can’t get too carried away just yet.
“But if we can get him fit then what a player we’d have.”
Brown’s eye-catching weekend performance followed a rather more combative cameo in the home defeat against Scunthorpe.
But Cooper was heartened by that show of passion.
“He came on against Scunthorpe and was really putting himself about,” the first-team coach added.
“He got a booking as well – which we don’t want – but I think it showed that passion he has and he was obviously determined to make an impression.
“So that’s two good games for him now, the challenge is to get him doing it for a lot more than 10 minutes and on a weekly basis.”
Depending on his involvement at Exeter on Saturday, Brown could still feature for Micky Barron’s second string when they return to action at Gateshead on Monday night.