COLIN Cooper has backed Luke James to play in the Premier League one day.
But has called on the striker to let his football do the talking in future.
Before his deadline day switch to League One leaders Peterborough United, James had handed in two transfer requests and missed three days of training before eventually sealing his move.
The Hartlepool United manager described last season’s 16-goal top scorer as a “diamond” to work with but said he needs to learn the lessons from the past few weeks.
Cooper didn’t want to criticise the 19-year-old but said he needs to let his talent do the talking on the pitch for Posh - which will further benefit Pools with a sell-on clause as part of the deal.
Asked whether he felt let down by the actions of James in recent weeks, Cooper was adamant.
He told SportMail: “I am not going to feel let down by Luke James because he is a great kid.
“The conversation I had with him after he had signed for Peterborough was if this is a lesson learned, then make it a lesson learned.
“It is talent that defines where you end up.
“Luke James is a smashing kid, who I hope will go on and play in the Premier League.
“That will make me very proud and the football club very proud as he has been here from such a young age.
“All I said, was to allow your talent to flourish and to allow your talent to decide where you go and not to force issues, because things like that don’t leave a nice taste.
“There is no need because he is one of the nicest young men I have had the pleasure of working with in football.
“I wish him really well and for him to get off the mark for Peterborough the other night, fair play to him.
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“If he goes on and has a successful career then we see the benefit and yes, of course, I am disappointed to see good young footballers leave this club but we have to realise there is a big wide world of football out there.
“We should be proud we can produce players that can go on and play a lot higher.”
The nature of James’ departure on deadline day left supporters angry and frustrated as he hadn’t been replaced.
But Cooper insists the club can manage without James and said some business is already in place ahead of the emergency loan market re-opening on Monday.
Speaking at his weekly press conference, Cooper said he understands the frustrations of supporters after a poor start to the season and the lateness of the James deal being announced.
Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony announced the signing live on television just 90 minutes before the deadline.
Despite the deal being in place on Monday morning Pools couldn’t announce it until late evening at Peterborough’s request, with MacAnthony keen to do it live on air.
The League Two club had earlier in the window rejected a £500,000 bid from Posh for James before they came back in with a new offer.
The deal is short of the club’s record sale - the £750,000 secured for Tommy Miller back in 2001 - but there is a sell-on clause which could give Pools a financial boost if and when James moves on.
Cooper added: “Luke is a great kid and an absolute diamond to work with.
“As I have said many time, he looks in your eyes and is eager to learn, but when I looked in his eyes this time he was eager to play somewhere else.
“For him it’s the excitement of the next step, for me it’s about signing players to address the balance.
“We would all be very naive if we thought it was last minute. He expressed a wish to leave early. “So it was always a case of getting the right deal for Hartlepool, not if it would go through.”
- RICHARD MENNEAR