Aaron Cunningham’s Blyth Spartans loan spell could be “make or break” for his Hartlepool United future, according to Matthew Bates.
The Pools boss rates the central defender highly, but thinks at the age of 20 he needs to prove he’s up to the rigours of men’s football.
And Bates thinks his spell in the National League North will be crucial.
"I have never really doubted Aaron. I like him. I gave him his debut last year," said Bates.
"The question mark about him is whether he can sustain playing the men’s game - it was the same for me when I was a similar age.
"Can he play the games, stay fit?
"This loan will make or break him.
"He has to go there and play games, which he has, stay fit and stand up to the pressures of the men’s game.
"I have no doubt he has all the talent to make it.”
Cunningham’s deal in Northumberland runs until January and Bates says the player could well be part of his National League plans for the back end of the season.
"We have a call back on loan - it is 28 days," he said.
"I have spoken to Alun Armstrong, he’s really pleased with him. If keeps doing what he is doing, he will be back part of the plans."