NEALE Cooper is backing Simon Walton to go on and become a “real player” for Hartlepool United – if he can prove his fitness.
The 25-year-old summer signing was recalled to the side for Saturday’s trip to Bournemouth and responded with a well-taken penalty and combative display in the 1-1 draw.
Walton had been dropped in the wake of a sluggish start to his Pools career which had drawn criticism from Cooper.
The Leeds-born midfielder was even demoted to the reserves last week, but there were words of encouragement from his manager when he spoke to SportMail today.
“Simon’s not had the best of starts but I thought he was excellent on Saturday,” said Cooper.
“He’s had ups and downs so far but he did well in the reserves earlier in the week.
“I still think he needs to be fitter and he looked better on Saturday.
“He just has to control other things in his game and work hard at the physical side of it.
“He’ll be a real player for us if he does that.”
Walton showed no hesitation in stepping up to tuck home his first for the club after Evan Horwood was felled 17 minutes from time.
And that, says Cooper, is typical of the Yorkshireman’s personality.
“He showed a bit of character to take the penalty but that’s the type of boy he is,” said the Pools boss, whose side were subsequently left floored by a 93rd-minute equaliser.
“I didn’t really see the incident which led to it - I just saw Evan go down and I didn’t know he’d given a penalty.
“Simon took his penalty well but I know he’s taken them before.
“His general play was good as well and that’s the level he has to perform at every week.
“He wasn’t happy being left out recently.
“But I don’t hold grudges – I brought him here, I just want him to be a bit sharper.
“He’s got to show that now.”