NEALE Cooper admits that Luke James is in desperate need of the summer break after his whirlwind introduction to senior football.
The 17-year-old – the undoubted success story of the season – has cut a jaded figure in recent weeks and Cooper left him on the bench for last Saturday’s visit of Leyton Orient.
A back problem which refused to clear has not aided his cause and the youngster spent nearly six weeks in the treatment room between February and March.
Cooper, though, knows that he has a gem of a player within his ranks and that is why he’s keen for James to enjoy a close-season breather before returning to Maiden Castle in early July.
“Luke hasn’t looked himself these past few weeks if I’m honest,” the Pools boss told SportMail today as preparations continued for Saturday’s curtain call at Charlton Athletic.
“He probably needs that summer break now.
“Everything happened all of a sudden and it was exciting for him and everyone else.
“But then he had that time out and he’s lost that wee sharpness.
“He’ll be fine though, he’s a top, top talent and next season I think he can step on again.”
Cooper, like James, burst onto the scene at Aberdeen at an age barely out of school.
He, too, soon felt the strains of being thrust onto the senior stage and admits that the mental and physical demands do take their toll.
“I played at 16 at Aberdeen and started playing regularly at 17,” he reflected.
“And you do need that break mentally from it all.
“Luke will benefit from that, I know I did.
“You just need that time to take it all in.
“It’s the same with Jack Baldwin because he’s another who has came in and been involved.
“But at that age you’re in and out. You can have good games and bad games and you’ve got to be strong to deal with that.”
James was introduced against Orient with the score at 1-1 in the second half but his impact was minimal and it was left to Ryan Noble to win the game with his expert header.
James Poole was also sent on by Cooper but he, too, struggled to have an effect.
And Cooper joked: “I was quite excited when the two of them came on but it just didn’t happen – I was thinking about taking the two of them off!
“But they’re probably not match fit to be fair.
“James Poole has had a really tough second half to the season since I’ve been here.
“Here’s another who could probably do with going away in the summer, getting his body right and coming back stronger for pre-season.”