THE 2013-14 campaign is proving one to remember for Hartlepool United’s teenage star Brad Walker – who is loving his first season as a professional footballer.
Walker is just 17 years old but has firmly established himself in the Pools starting XI after being promoted from the youth team during the summer.
The midfielder, who has so far turned out 28 times for Pools, scored his second goal of the Sky Bet League Two campaign in Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at Southend United.
And what a goal it was to pull Pools level.
Calmly chesting the ball down on the edge of the penalty area before volleying it first-time past Shrimpers keeper Daniel Bentley into the top corner of the net.
It was a marvellous strike and just highlighted Walker’s technical ability, which has seen him called up to two England Under-18 training camps as well.
Billingham-born Walker, who signed a pro deal after a successful pre-season which included a trip to Holland with Pools, is keeping his feet planted firmly on the ground though.
He started the season at the heart of midfield but lost his place to injury in mid-September.
Since returning he regained his place in the team in December and has since been a mainstay at the heart of the Pools engine room, currently playing on the right-hand side of the diamond formation.
“To be honest I’m taking everything as it comes,” said the modest teenager.
“I lost my place in the team through injury after the Wycombe game and I have just battled and kept working hard in order to get back into the team.
“Luckily the gaffer has put me back in and hopefully I have impressed.
“It is about working hard, listening to the advice and keeping my feet on the ground.”
It has appeared an almost seamless transition from being top scorer in the youth team last season to stepping up into the first-team, playing week in, week out, in a gruelling League Two campaign.
Walker added: “I have just stepped into very confidently.
“I got the chance to go to Holland with the first team and then ever since then I have just tried to kick on.
“I have been given the chance and tried my best to impress and I am really enjoying my role in the team.
“I don’t really care where I play to be honest - I will always work my hardest and try my best.”
Tuesday night’s draw away to Phil Brown’s Southend side was as dogged a performance as you are likely to see, with Pools battling back from a goal down courtesy of striker Barry Corr’s 43rd-minute opener, to come away with a point.
The draw against promotion chasing Southend, who occupy the last play-off spot, has further boosted confidence in the Pools camp after back-to-back wins over Dagenham & Redbridge and Newport County.
Next up for Colin Cooper’s ninth-placed side is bottom club Northampton tomorrow.
Walker insists his teammates are going there looking to bring all three points back to the North East.
“I’m buzzing for Northampton now – especially after a result and performance like that against Southend,” said the 17-year-old. “We know that we need to go to Northampton to do well in order to stay in and around the play-off spots.
“We are all very confident and will go there hoping to take three points.”