PAUL Johnson has been assured that he has a big role to play at Hartlepool United next season.
Currently on loan at Darlington, the 20-year-old centre-back has seen Jack Baldwin – two years his junior – move ahead of him in the pecking order at Victoria Park this season.
But Johnson is well thought of at Maiden Castle and will return to the club for pre-season training very much in the first-team thinking of boss Neale Cooper.
“Jonno’s looked good every time I’ve seen him and he’s probably been a bit unlucky not to get as much of a chance this season,” the Scot told SportMail.
“So we’ve sent him out on loan and that will be an invaluable experience for him.
“He’ll come back here and will hopefully be looking to push the likes of Sam (Collins) and Peter (Hartley) and compete with young Jack as well.”
Johnson’s brief spell at the Northern Echo Arena has included both relegation from the Conference and the first red card of his senior career.
But Cooper believes it is all part of football’s steep learning curve.
“The whole experience will be good for him – no matter what happens when he’s there, good or bad,” he went on.
“Did he stay here when we don’t have many reserve games left or did he go and play and get the experience of playing for Darlington?
“This will do him good and we hope he has a big future.”
SEE Saturday’s Mail for full story