WHILE all the talk has been of teen starlet Luke James, it is “superstar” Jack Baldwin who manager Neale Cooper enjoys watching the most.
And now the club have moved to secure his long-term future, the 18-year-old penning a new deal just 12 months after joining from non-league Faversham Town.
In that time Ilford-born Baldwin has eased through the ranks from reserve-team squad player to senior star, and the centre-back, who can also operate in midfield, has appeared 17 times for the first-team.
And it appears Cooper is his number-one fan.
“Jack Baldwin will be a superstar – I say that hand on my heart,” the Scot told SportMail today.
“He’s 18-year-old and one of the best centre-backs I’ve ever seen.
“He’s a wonderful player and I’m so excited for him.
“All the talk has been about Luke James, but I guarantee he’ll be a star centre-back in the future.”
He went on: “People like watching centre-forwards – but I played centre-back and I love watching him.
“His maturity is fantastic and the way he reads the game is excellent.
“For us to have him – a young kid from London – that’s credit to what we try and bring in to the club.
“I’ve got such high hopes for the boy and hopefully he’ll get better and better.”
Meanwhile, Baldwin admits the past year could not have gone any better.
“It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind to be honest and I’m delighted with how things have gone,” he said.
“Obviously I was pleased with the progress I’ve made during the season because my aim was just to try and make my debut this year, so to play 17 games and then get offered a new deal is fantastic.
“I think coming from down south and wondering what everyone is going to think of you, it was quite nerve-wracking, but now I know for sure that I am wanted in the future.
“I can’t really describe how much I’ve enjoyed being here over the past season – everything involved with being a footballer, from going out to the local schools to getting on the pitch.
“It’s just been an incredible experience and already I’m looking forward to getting back here next year and enjoying a full season as part of the first-team set-up.”