SAM Collins may have left him out – but he is thrilled to see Brad Walker back in the team.
After relegating Walker to the bench during his stint as Hartlepool United’s caretaker boss, Collins lined up alongside the teenager in last weekend’s League Two trip to Cambridge – new boss Paul Murray’s first match in charge.
And the oldest and youngest members of the Pools XI will be in the side this Saturday for the crucial match against Newport County at Victoria Park.
Collins told SportMail he was thrilled with the contribution of Walker at the Abbey Stadium where he scored his second goal of the season and rivalled the veteran for the man of the match billing.
“We know if we can see that Brad Walker from the second half he can be a match-winner,” said Collins.
“He’s all-action when he’s got his head screwed on and he looked fresher on Saturday.
“I said a couple of games ago that he needed a break so hopefully he’s now back and bang on it.
“He was different class second half at Cambridge.”
The teenager scored in the 59th minute with a superb shot from the edge of the box after some tremendous work by Marlon Harewood.
Walker too warmed the hands of the Cambridge keeper with a great strike from outside the box, Chris Dunn also denying him with a diving stop late in injury time.
The 18-year-old also had a header nodded off the line as well as splitting the home defence in the first half when trying to play in Matt Crooks, only for the pink-clad keeper to slide out and deny the on-loan forward.
Collins had selected the 18-year-old for the bench in his three matches in charge of Pools, feeling the Billingham teenager was a little jaded.
Walker was a revelation on his debut season when Colin Cooper plucked him from the youth team and made him a first-choice in the midfield, scoring two spectacular goals along the way.
Now, he’s back and looking dangerous.
With Pools struggling to score – only Blackpool have managed fewer goals in the Sky Bet Football League - Walker’s return to the goal standard could be vital.
Both stars left out by Collins during his spell in the Pools technical area – Marlon Harewood did not even make the match-day squad of 16 – won instant recalls by Murray.
There was no indication of any ‘hangover’ involving the trio at the Abbey Stadium.
Collins was also restored to the team by Murray and the 37-year-old led from the back, with a tremendous performance.
While fellow Yorkshireman Scott Flinders is the skipper, former captain Collins will continue to put his leadership qualities to good use.
He said he would not select himself when he was the acting manager but Murray decided he wanted his old comrade back out on the park.
“I’ll do whatever the gaffer wants me to do,” said Collins.
“The most important thing is that we start winning matches – if me playing helps then I’ll do it.
“Sometimes [as manager] you can do all the planning and organising but you can still feel that little bit out of control from the sideline.
“On the plus side. If I’m on there I can talk to the young boys.
“I can shout and bawl a bit when it needs to be done, but I’ll only do it for the right reasons, I don’t scream for the sake of it, there’s no point doing that.”