CONFIDENT Colin Cooper has tipped Hartlepool United midfielder Lewis Hawkins to be the next “big thing” at the club.
The 20-year-old has only made five senior appearances for Pools in his short career to date - with four of those coming off the bench - but he could be in line for a start before the end of the season.
His manager says he has seen enough of what the midfielder has to offer on the training ground and in those cameo substitute appearances to know he has a talent on his hands.
On Saturday he was introduced in place of Brad Walker, who has excelled at times this season but the League Two apprentice of the year looked tired against Cheltenham Town in the Sky Bet League Two match, with his own manager admitting he looked like he was “treading water”.
Hardworking Hawkins - and fellow sub Greg Rutherford - brought a freshness to the Pools team in the final stages but were unable to find a breakthrough.
Cooper though has been impressed with the impact of Hawkins, who came up through the ranks at Pools, in particular. It was his third sub appearance of the season with all three coming in recent weeks.
“I thought Hawks was smashing when he came on,” said Cooper.
“Brad looked like he was treading water on Saturday and for a 17-year-old to have the season he has enjoyed, it looked like it was catching up on him.
“Hawks came on though and in whatever position you play him, in and around the midfield, he has some really good quality about him.
“He is certainly one moving forward that this club will be very proud of in the future.
“Lewis impresses me in training and you look at times when to give people
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opportunities and in the last three appearances he has had, he has come on and made an impact every time he has come on the pitch.
“It may be his turn this week.”
Pools, currently 14th in League Two, travel to Portsmouth on Saturday looking to build on their 49 points going into the final half-a-dozen matches of the season.
Hawkins made his first team debut in the goalless draw at Walsall back in March 2012 and he will be looking to get more appearances under his belt before the season is out.
Another young player to catch the eye of Cooper recently has been 19-year-old left-back Dan Jones, who came on as a second-half substitute in last week’s 4-2 defeat to Mansfield Town for his Pools and Football League debut.
Jones has suffered with injury since former Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest defender Cooper took charge of the club last summer.
And the Pools gaffer admits he needs to be spending more time on the training ground and football pitch if he is to nail down a future at Pools.
Cooper added: “Dan is great and is a bit like Darren [Holden] with bags of ability.
“He has a really powerful left foot, is quick and strong but has been belied by injuries somewhat in the eight or nine months I have been at the football club.
“I see things in Dan and there is definitely something to work with but he has spent a little bit too much time not on the training ground and not on the pitch.
“He is a young boy but we need to see a little bit more of him on the training ground because he has showed he has ability and might have a future.
“But his future will depend how much time he spends on the pitch and on the training ground.”
Jones, also comfortable at centre back, is another to come through the youth team at Pools but came to the fore playing for the youth and reserve teams during 2012-13 and impressed enough to be awarded his first professional contract.
- RICHARD MENNEAR