JOHN Hughes will turn to “loveable rogue” Nathan Luscombe in a bid to revive Hartlepool United’s survival push.
The 22-year-old is set to earn his first start of the season for tomorrow’s visit of Yeovil Town having impressed from the bench during the midweek stalemate with Colchester United.
Luscombe is out of contract at Victoria Park in the summer but Hughes believes the Gateshead-born midfielder still has the chance to win a new deal.
That, though, will be down to the player himself, argues the Pools boss, who admits he has a soft spot for the former Sunderland player.
“In terms of being a football coach you have to engage with people,” Hughes told SportMail.
“I look at him and I think ‘what was I doing at that age?’.
“But the penny has to drop with Natty in the next two months.
“If he’s going to be let go by Hartlepool then where is he going to go?
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“He has to make sure his future is at Hartlepool.
“To do that he has to get in the first-team and stay there.
“But I’ll put my arm around him and say, ‘Listen Natty, I love you to bits, what can I do to help you and what can you do to help me?’.
“If we do that then we’re off and running.”
Luscombe’s rotund figure has long been the subject of concern among the club’s coaching staff.
But Hughes, while believing the player does need to “shed a couple of pounds”, also insists the powerful Geordie does not lack a turn of foot, nor the football ability which once had him billed as a future star at the Stadium of Light.
“Natty still has to look at his lifestyle and he could still do with shedding a couple of pounds,” Hughes went on.
“But at the same time one of his strengths is that robust nature.
“He’s quick, he’s fit and he’s a great lad to have about - he’s one who lights the place up with his banter.
“I think he inspires the crowd as well - I don’t know if he’s a loveable rogue sort of guy.
“But there’s no doubting he’s a real, good footballer.
“He takes the ball well, can see a pass and can get at people.
“I think he’s got a goal in him as well and he has that desire to win a football match.
“He has to realise now that he has to grab that chance because he could have a big part to play.
“He came on the other night and did exceptionally well.
“He was unfortunate not to score the winner and he might have come off the hero.
“But he definitely did enough to keep his place.”