COLIN Cooper has sent a stark message to any big clubs hoping to court Luke James and Brad Walker: It will cost you millions.
The teenage Hartlepool United talents have been watched closely by clubs throughout the season – their first full campaigns in the Football League.
Double player of the year James bagged 16 goals in the league and cup before an ankle injury in the Easter Saturday defeat at Burton Albion ended hope of hitting the 20 mark.
Young player of the year Walker scored only three but each one of them was a sensational strike – his volley at Southend winning the Pools goal of the season award.
Walker only turned 18 last weekend, while James is just a year older.
Cooper acknowledges that the pair will go on to enjoy a career at a higher level – but hopes they can help Pools up a level or two first.
“It will be difficult [to keep them],” said Cooper. “We have had no official bids through but they cannot be small change.
“Ever since Jack Baldwin left us in January, people know we have a pool of talent here.
“But if anyone wants to try to prise either of these two lads away from us, it will cost millions of pounds.
“From my point of view, I’m chuffed to bits our club can produce talent like this but also that Luke and Brad are delighted to pull on a Pools shirt.
“At some point they will have big and successful careers. The longer we can hold on to them gives us an opportunity to get to a level that all Pools fans want this club to get back to.
“We need players like these two to do that.”
Cooper has praised the gifted youngsters after clinching the four main prizes at the club’s annual
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awards night this week.
“This has been their first full seasons in the Football League and they have far and away exceeded everyone’s expectations,” Cooper told SportMail.
“They have great energy and enthusiasm, but allied to some real high technical ability.
“I think the pair of them are an absolute credit to the club.
“That Hartlepool United have players not just of their ability but the grit, determination, eagerness to learn is a massive testament to the club.
“Whether we like it or not these two players have attracted an awful lot of attention this season and will continue to do so.
“If we can hang on to them it’s a brilliant opportunity for us to try to push on next year.
“The fact that they are being courted by bigger clubs is a huge honour for Hartlepool United.”