COLIN Cooper believes his midfield prodigy Brad Walker will prove to be an “enormous asset” for Hartlepool United.
The 17-year-old recently spent two days at an England Under-18 training camp alongside the cream of young English talent at the FA’s National Football Centre at St George’s Park, in Burton.
Cooper says the teenager “loved” his time away and has returned to the Pools camp at Maiden Castle with a “spring in his step”.
The imposing midfielder finished top scorer for the youth team last season and has so far made 14 first team appearances this campaign, including coming on as substitute in the last two matches.
Walker burst onto the first-team scene in the summer and was rewarded with his first professional contract before the season had even kicked off.
The Billingham-born midfielder started the season in midfield but lost his place through injury..
But Cooper has often turned to the youngster from the subs bench since his return to the first team squad.
Walker was given a 20 minute run-out in last weekend’s 2-0 win over Northampton Town at The Vic and 25 minutes against Bury in the 1-0 defeat at Gigg Lane on Tuesday.
His manager, himself capped twice by England and eight times at Under-21 level, is a firm believer in the youngster’s raw talent and said it is down to the coaching staff to help him shine.
The 46-year-old said: “Brad loved his time with the Under-18’s and has had a real spring in his step since he has come back.
“Other than a little blip against Northampton he looked great again.
“He drove forward and found passes.
“As a young lad, having been out of the first team picture for a spell with his injury, he is learning the where fors and whys of where he can take the ball and dribble and where he has to move it a bit quicker.
“It happened once against Northampton but he learned straight away.
“That is the sign of a clever footballer, someone who makes a mistake but doesn’t make it again.
“Despite only being on the pitch for a certain amount of time, Brad will be an enormous asset for this football club because of his physical stature and technical ability.
“Our job is to make him tactically more aware and give him the opportunity to let his talent flourish because he is a very talented young man.”
Walker impressed Pools’ management duo of Cooper and Craig Hignett during the club’s pre-season trip to Holland and made his senior debut when he was selected to start in the opening League Two game at Rochdale.