HARTLEPOOL United’s youngsters wouldn’t look out of place in the youth set-up of the Premier League champions.
That is the view of ex-Manchester City youth graduate James Poole, who learned his trade in the north west before signing on the dotted line for Pools three years ago.
Poole, who is currently out of contract at The Vic, told SportMail that he believes the younger players at the Sky Bet League Two club have shown they have enough potential to play at the highest level.
The emergence of the likes of 18-year-old midfield powerhouse Brad Walker and top-scoring 19-year-old Luke James reinforce the view of Poole, who says there are other youngsters coming through the ranks.
Poole, whose former club secured the Premier League title at the weekend with a comfortable win over West Ham United, believes there is a nucleus of young players at Pools that can be successfully built on ahead of the new campaign.
The 24-year-old (pictured) said: “People have watched us and watched some of the ability of some of the players and it is frightening.
“For me, coming from an Academy set-up at Man City, I think there are plenty of lads here at Pools who wouldn’t look out of place playing at that kind of level.
“That is testament to the youth development system
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at Pools and the manager for putting his faith in the younger players.
“You have seen this season that there are definitely positives there and the lads will improve further.”
The 2013-14 campaign was a frustrating and ultimately disappointing one for Colin Cooper’s Pools side.
After a poor start to the season with no wins in the first six league matches, the team’s form did pick up during October and November to the extent that at one stage Pools were closing in on the play-off spots.
Sadly, they never managed to find a way into the top seven and Cooper’s youthful side eventually ran out of gas and slid down the table at an alarming rate after six straight defeats in March and April.
At one point, Pools had become realistic relegation contenders but an almighty 2-1 win over Morecambe at The Vic on Easter Monday secured the league status.
Poole believes the gruelling campaign, which had many highs and lows, will stand the younger players in good stead ahead of the new season.
He said: “It was a season of ups and downs.
“At times we showed some unbelievable stuff and for a number of months we were really passing it well and the lads were enjoying their football.
“But then we hit a tough spell and had a number of younger lads in the team and perhaps a couple of them may have been tired but the effort was always there from all the lads.
“Everybody will benefit from the situation we found ourselves in though.
“The way we showed character to get out of it.”