Matthew Bates reveals why Luke Williams won't just walk into his Hartlepool side
Luke Williams won't be rushed into Hartlepool United's first-team set-up.
The 25-year-old midfielder returned to the Super 6 Stadium last week, following a brief loan spell at the club in 2014, but didn’t feature in Pools’ 1-0 win over Chesterfield on Monday, as he was suffering from tonsillitis.
Williams, who came through the youth academy at Middlesbrough, should be major asset in the National League though.
He left Boro in 2015 and has since played for Coventry, Peterborough, Northampton, and Scunthope (who relesaed the player in May) in League One.
But manager Matthew Bates will resist the temptation to hurl his new acquisition straight into the starting XI, especially following three wins on the spin.
When he is ready, Williams is likely to be competing with Nicky Featherstone, Liam Noble and Michael Woods for a central midfield spot.
All three would be difficult to drop right now, and the trio have scored five of Pools’ nine league goals so far this campaign.
That will give Bates time to assess his options, especially given Williams’ lack of competitive game-time during pre-season, as well as his recent setback.
Even so, Bates is still hopeful Williams will be available for Saturday’s trip to Havant and Waterlooville.
“He was here today, he’s not quite right,” said Bates after the Chesterfield win.
“We hope he’ll be training Thursday or Friday and then we’ll make a decision for Saturday.”
Fully fit or not, Bates insisted Williams will need to fight for his place in a winning side, despite the player’s obvious ability.
“The plan wasn’t to rush him in against Dagenham, he wasn’t meant to be playing he was supposed to be on the bench,” said Bates.
“We all know the qualities Luke brings but I’ve got to be fair to the players that are playing well and they keep the shirt.
“Luke’s time will come and I’m looking forward to it. It will come but he has to earn that right first.”
The fact that a player like Williams may not immediately walk straight into the starting XI shows just how far Pools have come in a matter of weeks.
Just last month, there was an indication from within the club that there could be a difficult road ahead.
But Williams’ arrival will add yet more competition for places, after the midfielder became Pools’ tenth signing of the summer.
He followed Andrew Davies, Myles Anderson, Mark Kitching, Peter Kioso, Paddy McLaughlin, Liam Noble, Luke James, Marcus Dinanga and Niko Muir through the door at the Super 6 Stadium.
The aforementioned signings were made with the aim of promotion in mind, a goal which now seems a real possibility.
Monday’s victory moved Pools up to eighth in the table, but more significantly just three points off top spot.
The signing of Williams will only add to the feelgood factor around the club right now.
And, when he’s recovered from his illness, it shouldn’t take too long for the midfielder to get up to speed.
Williams revealed last week that he had been training with his new team-mates for the last three weeks as part of his pre-season.
He also explained the reason for rejoining Pools was to play football again, following frustrating spells on the sidelines at a higher level.
Pools fans will certainly hope he can hit the ground running. Still, his first challenge is to fight for his place and break into a winning side.