LUKE James is already looking forward to Hartlepool United’s European getaway, writes CRAIG HOPE.
The squad will leave for Holland on July 13 as they begin their pre-season programme with friendly matches against Telstar (July 15) and Almere City (July 18).
For 17-year-old James, most of his friends will be heading off on post AS-Level jaunts to Magaluf or Ayia Napa, but the young striker would rather be no other place than with his senior comrades on the flight to Amsterdam.
“Holland will give me more time to bond with the lads and I can’t wait,” said the striker, who has used the summer break to recover from a lingering back problem.
“It’ll be exciting for me to be part of that and it should be a great experience.
“It’s just so good being part of the set-up going into the new season.”
James still has to pinch himself to take in events of the past six months.
He was still striving to make a name for himself in Micky Barron’s reserves going into December when he was thrust into the first-team picture.
But his Goal of the Season blast in the 2-0 win over Rochdale in early January announced his arrival on the League One stage, and soon the scouts were flocking to Victoria Park.
James, though, remains grounded.
“At 17 I never really dreamt I’d be a part of the first-team so quickly,” he said, “I was fighting to get my place in the youth team this time last year!
“But now I’m there this is where the hard work really starts.
“All the advice I’ve had from the lads is exactly that, and it helps you keep focussed.
“There’s so many of the older lads here you can go to that’s it ideal for the likes of myself and the other young lads.
“So I can’t wait for pre-season to get to know everyone that little bit better and going away will be brilliant for that.”
James has been at home in Amble since the end of the season, where he admits his new-found star status has passed a little unnoticed.
“Amble is that small anyway that everybody knows everybody else regardless – so I can’t tell if people are recognising me more!” he laughed.
“But everyone has been congratulating me on what I’ve done and it’s been good.”