Hartlepool Utd’s Luke is born again

LUKE AT HIS FACE: Luke James celebrates scoring his second goal against Notts County. Picture by FRANK REID
LUKE AT HIS FACE: Luke James celebrates scoring his second goal against Notts County. Picture by FRANK REID

WHISPER it quietly, but Hartlepool United are close to getting a striker into double figures.

Luke James, currently attracting a scout or two to Victoria Park, not to mention a couple of awards, is up to nine goals ... and it’s only November 15.

Latest Alnwick Town news.

Latest Alnwick Town news.

Andy Monkhouse, who has played both out wide and up front in recent times, has been a consisent supplier of goals and was the last in double figures, reaching 11 in the 2009-10 season.

But you have to go back to the 2008-09 campaign to find the last time an out-and-out striker got beyond single digits – Joel Porter bagging 18.

James though, barring anything calamitous happening, should get up to 10 very soon, may be even tonight at Newport County.

He scored twice in the 3-2 FA Cup win over Notts County last Saturday to set up an attractive second round tie at home to 1987 Wembley winners Coventry City on Saturday, December 9.

James was unlucky not to hit his 10th goal in midweek, Rotherham keeper Andy Collin making a super second-half save to deny the teenage striker.

The livewire striker, who turned 19 earlier this month, has not just been the man of the season so far he’s been the man of 2013.

James was a late arrival for the 2012-13 campaign and his brilliant end-of-season run almost inspired a great escape for John Hughes’s side.

And he has carried that form into the League Two programme, terrorising defence after defence because of his tireless running, not to mention his skills,

It’s all been done through the middle, the favourite position of the teen sensation who won the SkyBet League Two’s October best player award, plus the less high-profile PFA Player of the month.

And he admits it’s all a far cry from 12 months ago when he was at a “low point” of his young life.

“I was talking to my dad the other day about the award and things,” said the Northumberrland lad.

“He was asking how did I feel about it all because this time last year I’d not really played that much.

“I’d hardly played, I’d had a hernia operation and I never got back into the team until later in the season.

“A year ago I was at one of my lowest points but now? All this is totally off the scale, I’m loving my football and loving life.

“And to be playing through the middle, playing well and scoring goals is brilliant and hopefully I can continue.

“Playing through the middle is the icing on the cake.”

James burst onto the scene two years ago, making his debut just before Christmas 2011 aged 17, and then gave a man-of-the-match display in the Boxing Day win over Oldham.

He currently holds the record of being the club’s youngest-ever goal scorer, at the age of 17 years and 64 days.

Prospects have come and gone at the Vic and more than one have had their “15 minutes of fame”.

But James looks like a young man caopable of staying the coorse – or until a bigger club comes along and prises him away.

One of the great things about James though is his sheer enthusiasm simply to play for Pools and his desire to improve his game.

And he wants to play every game – he has no intention of asking for a breather.

“I don’t want a rest, I’m enjoying it too much,” he told SportMail.

“All the lads are, we are winning games and playing good football.

“We are all loving it at the minute, I definitely don’t want a rest.”

Modesty is another trait of James – deflecting any praise for his SkyBet League Two player of the month award on to his team-mates.

“I would not have won the award without them,” he said. “I’m very grateful to them.

“As I’ve said before, any one of our team could have been nominated for player of the month.

“Luckily for me, I was the one to win it.”