Neale Cooper admits that Darren Holden is perhaps lucky to still be at Victoria Park – but the Hartlepool United manager has hinted at a senior role for the teen star next season, writes Craig Hope.
The Scot was so taken with the 18-year-old’s impact towards the end of the campaign that he is considering the left-back as an alternative to first-team regular Evan Horwood, who could move into midfield.
Holden himself is equally comfortable at full-back or on the wing and Cooper is already pondering various permutations ahead of pre-season.
But the Academy graduate was very nearly on his way out of the Vic having failed to build on his debut outing in April of last year.
He had to wait another 12 months for his next taste of first-team action but did well enough to win his first professional contract.
And Cooper said today: “Darren was close to not maybe being here.
“I think he got a bit down after getting a taste of it the previous season then not getting in.
“People told me how he’d dropped away after coming through at 17, but credit to him, he came in and did very well as the end of the season.
“He was maybe a bit nervous in the home game when I started with him and he faded after a good start.
“But he came on in a couple of others and was lively and impressed me very much.”
And those cameos were enough to persuade Cooper that Holden is a viable alternative to Horwood in the left-back position.
“He’s got great pace, which you need in this day and age,” said the Pools boss.
“He’s got to be a bit more positive and believe in himself at times, but hopefully that will come with more experience.
“He’s adaptable, though, and we hope he can give Evan some competition next season.
“But I think Evan could easily play higher up the park.
“So why can’t Darren play left-back and Evan further forward? It’s certainly an option for us and a good one to have.”