BRAD Walker has got his “appetite” back after returning to the Hartlepool United first team following a loss of confidence.
That is the view of manager Ronnie Moore who has revealed he has seen a “massive change” in the teenager in recent weeks.
Walker hadn’t started a match in 2015 after being taken out of the first team picture, but he has started the past two games which has seen Pools record back-to-back wins over Morecambe and Oxford United.
The gap to safety is now just four points, ahead of the visit of Mansfield Town today, and Moore says Walker has an important role to play with Michael Woods out for the season with a broken leg and dislocated ankle.
Moore admits he knew little about Walker, who was last year called up to England U-18 training camps during his breakthrough season, before taking the Pools job in mid-December.
“I don’t know Brad all that well, I had never seen him play before,” Moore said.
“I have heard an awful lot about what he has been and what he was but he looked a bit off the pace when I came in, considering his call-ups to the England training camps.
“He was a young kid that had had an awful lot of games but he looks now like he has got his appetite back.
“I have not seen in training anything that made me think ‘wow, we have to be playing Brad every week’.
“But I have seen a massive change in him.
“He wants to feel loved, wanted and feel part and parcel of playing in the first team.
“Because he hasn’t been, that has affected him deep down, I think.
“He just lost a bit of confidence, now we have shown that trust in him and put him in there, I am hopeful he has benefited.”
Walker, last season’s young player of the year, played alongside Nicky Featherstone and Aaron Tshibola in the wins over Morecambe and Oxford and showed glimpses he is approaching his best.
Moore added: “He has shown us in spells that he can play.
“The other day at Oxford he almost got through a few times.
“He has a great energy and can smack the ball so well.
“Brad should really be getting 10 goals a season, if he is a regular in the first team, because of the ability he has got.
“I think he is feeling a lot better in himself now and being in the first team will only benefit him and us,” added Moore, ahead of the visit of Adam Murray’s side.