Boss urges Walton to go from boo boy to Hartlepool Utd fan fave

John Hughes shakes hands with Simon Walton as he is substitute against Shrewsbury. Picture by FRANK REID
John Hughes shakes hands with Simon Walton as he is substitute against Shrewsbury. Picture by FRANK REID

JOHN Hughes has urged Simon Walton to follow his own example and go from boo boy to terrace favourite.

The Pools boss accepts that his 25-year-old midfielder is not the most popular player at Victoria Park when it comes to the home support.

Hughes himself has revealed that he was the target of similar scorn when first signing for Falkirk in 1990.

However, the Scot went on to become a legend with The Bairns, returning to the club as player and then manager between 2002 and 2009.

And Hughes says Walton, who has started the last three matches, can tilt the thinking of those doubters with his performance on the pitch.

“There’s no doubting Simon’s football ability – he’s probably the best passer of the football at the club,” the 48-year-old told SportMail today.

“But there’s still that thing when we play at home, I don’t think he’s the fans’ favourite.

“He has to overcome that.

“It happened to me when I was a player and I first went to Falkirk from Swansea City.

“I was a boo boy for six months but I turned it around – that was for my effort and commitment, I wore my heart on my sleeve.

“I was centre forward at the time, I was never a centre forward in my life, and I dropped back but I won them over and became one of the heroes.

“I’ve told Simon that he can turn it around, you can’t use that as an excuse.

“You have to embrace it and endorse it and show the supporters that you are going to play your part.

“He has been doing that to be fair to him in the way he has been training and his performances over the last three weeks.”

Fitness, however, remains an issue for the former Plymouth Argyle captain.

A slight hamstring strain saw him withdrawn during the 1-0 home defeat to Preston North End earlier this month and he was substituted during the second half of Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Shrewsbury Town.

Hughes, though, says Walton is heading in the right direction, and he is almost certain to start for this weekend’s visit of Colchester United.

“He could still do with getting a little bit fitter,” the manager went on.

“Can he still be strong in the 95th minute and keep going?

“I’m watching him very closely in training.

“He just needs to stay injury-free and show people the quality he has.

“I’m here to help him, I’m giving him a game in the team.

“It’s up to him to hold onto the jersey now.

“It is up to Simon to show the strength of his character.”