LUKE James will not play for Hartlepool United again this season.
The teen sensation damaged ankle ligaments early in the 3-0 defeat at Burton Albion and missed Monday’s blockbuster against Morecambe.
James had told manager Colin Cooper that he was prepared to strap himself up and play through the pain if Pools needed him.
But Cooper says, with Pools safe from the drop in League Two, there is now no need to take any risks with his 16-goal striker who has been the outstanding player of the season.
“Luke won’t be there for this weekend judging by what I’ve seen of his ankle,” Cooper said.
“It’s black and blue and very swollen.
“In Luke’s own fashion, he did say if he was needed he would strap his ankle up and do all he could.
“I’ve said this from day one, if you have characters like that at a club, whether they are 17 or 37 or whatever, then you’ll be all right.
“Luke’s a great lad, but do we need to push him to get him out on the field?
“No. Do we need to make sure he is flying for the start of next season?
“That’s the most important thing, in my opinion.
“Pushing him back on the football pitch now might do him more harm than good.”
James will end the season on 16 goals, but there are opportunities for several colleagues to add to their tallies at Plymouth Argyle tomorrow.
Jonathan Franks (6), Andy Monkhouse (6), Jack Compton (5), Jack Barmby (4), James Poole (4), and Marlon Harewood (3) will all be in the squad for the long trek to Home Park.
Franks and Monkhouse started on Easter Monday, with Poole playing off Harewood and all four players did their bit on the day.
But Cooper has a clear dilemma of whether to start with either or both of his supersubs.
Compton and Barmby scored the goals which kept Pools up, Compton, especially, proving unplayable at times.
“The impact of the Jacks was outstanding, despite what people thought about me taking James Poole off!” said Cooper.
“When you come off the bench, you have to have an impact.
“They were both bang up for it and they really wanted to make an impact.
“With 10 men, we had five forward thinking players on the pitch and it was a massive gamble.
“But it paid off.
“It got us what we wanted, both Jacks, I suggest, would be knocking on the door to play on Saturday.
“I want players to want to play and I want them to be disappointed if they are not picked.
“If they are not picked and they come off the bench and make that kind of impact then that’s great credit to them.”
There will be one certain change in the central midfield, with on-loan Sunderland utility man Connor Oliver starting in place of the suspended Simon Walton.