THERE was a time when Jack Baldwin was beaming from ear to ear no matter how many minutes he was afforded on the pitch.
Plucked from sixth form and thrust on to the professional stage, the teenager was “living the dream” each time he stepped into action in the blue and white of Pools.
But there has been a shift in mindset over the past 12 months and Baldwin is no longer happy to settle for a bit-part role.
And who can blame him?
The 18-year-old is a player tipped for the top by boss Neale Cooper and, having been restored to the side for last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Shrewsbury Town, he duly landed man-of-the-match plaudits.
And, ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Colchester United, Baldwin, who will continue at right-back, told SportMail: “I just want to play as many games as I can now.
“I’m still living the dream and I’ve got to keep on working hard.
“Last season there was a few times when I was playing centre-half when Sam (Collins) was injured but the next game I wasn’t in the team.
“But I’d like to think that now I’m putting in performances where I’ll stay in the team.
“The gaffer said that he wants me to be pushing the regular first-team players and I’d like to think that I’m giving a few people a run for their money in a few positions.
“I think I give the gaffer options in a few areas and I hope I can be part of his plans.”
Cooper’s emotions were mixed in the wake of last weekend’s draw at home to The Shrews, but the one subject he was very definite on was that of Baldwin, once again bestowing fulsome praise on the southerner.
And Baldwin, reacting to his manager’s words, went on: “It’s nice of the gaffer to have faith in me and put me back in.
“The fact I’m on the pitch is all that matters.
“The game time and the experience is what counts.
“But it always gives you a confidence boost when you know the gaffer is right behind you and you see things like that.”
Other than the result, the only downside for Baldwin is that his parents, Alan and Allison, are currently on holiday in the Canary Islands and missed last weekend’s game.
“My parents are away on holiday and they’ll miss tomorrow’s game as well,” he explained.
“I spoke to them and they said they’ve been able to get on the Internet and read the papers, which was good.
“I was gutted they weren’t there but there’ll be plenty of more opportunities in the future I’m sure.”