Attack-minded Hartlepool United star happy to have chance at home

Craig Hignett and new signing James Martin. Picture courtesy of HUFCCraig Hignett and new signing James Martin. Picture courtesy of HUFC
Craig Hignett and new signing James Martin. Picture courtesy of HUFC
James Martin hopes a return '˜home' will put his promising young career on the move.

The teenage defender this week signed his first professional contract at Hartlepool United.

Martin had spent a year up at Queen of the South where he was a scholar at the Scottish Championship club, the second tier of the game north of the border.

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But issues over international clearance meant that he never got to play for the Dumfries club.

After leaving Queens, he was given the chance of a trial at Pools – a chance he took with both hands ... and feet.

An attack-minded left-back, Martin, like fellow new arrival Ben Pollock, impressed boss Craig Hignett and first-team coach Curtis Fleming in training and out on the field.

The 17-year-old, from Washington, has signed a one-year contract and is thrilled with the opportunity.

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“I am delighted to have signed for Hartlepool United,” he told SportMail.

“It’s a challenge I’m looking forward to and would like to thank my agents, Catalyst4 soccer, for arranging it.

“They have been great for me and I’d like to thank Craig Higgett and John Hewitson and the staff at Hartlepool for giving me this opportunity and believing in me.

“I’ve recently spent a year up in Scotland at Queen of the South which has helped me improve and I now look forward to my new challenge with Hartlepool.”

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His youth and fresh-face appearance belie a tough competitor who loves to “throw” himself into a tackle.

How far he goes this season remains to be seen.

Jake Carroll will start the season as the first-choice left-back having come into a rich vein of form in 2016.

But Pools have released Dan Jones so there is scope for the Wearsider to stake a claim and he wants to show his ability going forward as well as in defence.

“I am a left-back, but I always used to be a winger,” he said.

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“I am a very attack-minded player, I like to join in and get forward and I’m a bit of an exciting player.

“The reason I play at left-back is because I also love to defend, to throw myself into tackles and blocks and then add the attacking into that as well.

“Everyone always says I have the heart of a lion when I’m playing.

“I’m just looking forward to learning and improving every day as much as I can. I will push myself to the maximum I can get to.”

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Martin is so relieved a frustrating period of his young life is over.

“It was a hard season for me because I couldn’t really play as I couldn’t get international clearance and so, at the end of the year, I decided with everything that had gone on, it was time to try and improve myself somewhere else,” he said in an interview with the Pools website.

“The week I left Queen of the South, I got a call from my agency saying I could come and play a game for Hartlepool United, which was a trial game against a team from Fulham.

“I then played in the final Youth Alliance game against Bradford City.

“I’m really happy to have been given a contract.

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“It’s what I have been working for and it is nice to get that reward for the hard work that I have put in.

“I’m really looking forward to getting started. I will keep myself going over summer and then just work as hard as I can to push myself on.”