Hartlepool United’s Neale Cooper will not rush Luke James

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LUKE James is back in training after a month on the sidelines – but Hartlepool boss Neale Cooper will not force the fitness of his young star.

The sight of the 17-year-old upping his comeback bid this week has been a welcome one for the first-team coach, who rates his starlet as highly as any of the youngsters he’s ever worked with.

James – who has missed the last six matches because of a back complaint – has a chance of making the substitutes’ bench for this weekend’s visit of Sheffield United, but Cooper insists he will not risk the long-term condition of the striker.

“It’s really encouraging to see Luke back out doing a bit of training,” Cooper said.

“He’s still doing his rehab with the physios as well but he says he feels good. It’s great to have him back because there’s no doubt we’ve missed him.

“But we’ve got to be careful with him because he’s at the age where these growth spurts can be dangerous.

“A few of the youth-team lads have had problems the same as Luke and one of the boys has grown three inches – we’re still waiting for that to happen with Luke though!

“But the good news is he’s feeling a lot better and we’ll have to see tomorrow or on Friday how he is for the weekend.”

There was more positive news coming from the Poolie camp today as Cooper confirmed that Peter Hartley has avoided a broken bone in his leg.

The star defender went for an x-ray this week to determine the extent of the damage to the injury he picked up in the weekend win at Yeovil Town.

There were fears Hartley could have suffered a serious break, ruling him out for the rest of the season. But the 23-year-old now looks set to return ahead of the Easter weekend double-header away at Colchester United and at home to Brentford.

“Peter’s been for an x-ray and the good news is his leg isn’t broken,” explained Cooper. “The sheath which covers the bone is damaged and there’s an indent in his leg.

“But thankfully it’s not as bad as it could have been, although he’s a doubt for this weekend.”