HARTLEPOOL United veteran Sam Collins has issued a stark warning to his fellow League Two defenders.
That teenage sensation Luke James is by no means the finished article just yet.
The 36-year-old is twice the age of his Pools team mate who he describes as a “pest” to play against but he is convinced the top scoring teen can still get even better.
James has so far netted nine goals this campaign, including a brace against Notts County in last weekend’s 3-2 FA Cup First Round win at Victoria Park.
His experienced team-mate, who has seen many youngsters fail to make the grade during his professional career, says Pools are reaping the rewards of the improvement shown by the 18-year-old.
But Collins believes he still has a lot to learn.
The Yorkshireman said: “Young players always have little spells where they go off the boil and then come again and this is what he is doing.
“Luke has improved massively.
“He was very raw, and he still is to a certain degree, but he is getting better and better all the time.
“Luke still has a lot of work to do, don’t get me wrong, but there is certainly a player there.”
Collins compares the inform 18-year-old to former Manchester City striker Paul Dickov, although he doesn’t believe Dickov reacted quite so well to getting lumps kicked out of him every game.
Collins admits Amble-born James is an “absolute pest” to play against in training and doesn’t envy his fellow League Two
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The former Hull City defender said: “When you play against him in training he never gives you a minute but he is a great kid.
“All the lads love him and he will work so hard for the team and is obviously scoring goals as well.
“He reminds me of Paul Dickov, just an absolute nuisance.
“But the difference with Luke probably to Paul Dickov is that Luke is a nice kid when someone kicks him.
“There are times in games when he has been kicked and we will say: “He has left his foot in there.”
“And Luke will say: “No, he is a nice lad.”
“We are thinking, ‘Luke he is not a nice lad, he wants to kick you’.
“I tell him: “If I were playing against you I’d want to kick you. He said: “But you’re a nice guy”. I said: “I’m not, I want to kick you.”
“That’s just the way he is.
“I suppose it is that honesty, that youthfulness, and the type of lad he is, he is a really nice lad.
“But he is doing great and hopefully it continues.”