JACK Baldwin has already emerged as one of John Hughes’ favourites at Hartlepool United – and he wants to take advantage by staying in the first-team.
The 19-year-old was handed a late start ahead of the weekend defeat to Stevenage when it became apparent Peter Hartley’s conjunctivitis would not clear in time.
Baldwin responded with a typically composed display which earned him the sponsors’ man-of-the-match.
And, with MK Dons next up on Saturday, the classy centre-back hopes to have done enough to keep his starting jersey.
“I only discovered on Friday I would be playing and we spoke in training, did some team shape and it was nice to start,” Baldwin told SportMail today as he looked back on the 2-0 defeat.
“I enjoyed the game and it’s nice to hear positive things from the manager.
But playing well in a losing team is a strange one, I don’t know how to take it.
“But I hope I’ve done enough to stay in the team, that’s where I want to be.”
Baldwin had not featured since his needless handball, which led to a late penalty, cost Pools a point against Oldham Athletic last month.
Before that, the southerner had suffered in the 6-1 FA Cup defeat at Chesterfield.
However, there was no sign of any doubt at the weekend.
“My last game was Oldham, but I don’t think about the penalty, it happened, I learn from it and move on,” he said.
“If anything, the performance at Chesterfield was the worst thing that’s happened to me.
“Chesterfield was a bad one for everyone but nothing went right for me.
“I spoke to some of the players about it, Sam (Collins) and Ritchie (Humphreys) and couldn’t put my finger on why it went so wrong.
“I don’t think it was a mental thing, there wasn’t anything on my mind, I just put it down to experience I suppose.
“But I could tell last week that I was going to have a good game - I felt good in the warm-up and everything felt good.
“I’m glad it showed and I came through it well, it was just a shame about the result.”
Baldwin feels comfortable under the guidance of former Celtic centre-back Hughes, as he continued: “The gaffer is a former centre-half, he is very active, very hands-on in training and feeds little bits in every day to individuals - that’s what I want to hear all the time to keep developing.
“I need to know what I need to do personally as well as part of the team and it’s important to take it all on board.
“He wants to play football from the back and that suits me, I feel comfortable doing it and I’m confident in how he wants us to play the game.”