Craig Hignett reveals why he handed teen prodigy Jack Blackford a shock debut

Luke James in action against York
Luke James in action against York

Hartlepool United are not shy in giving their most gifted young players first-team exposure.

Luke James and Brad Walker are examples of that and Craig Hignett has given the next player off the Victoria Park conveyor belt an early opportunity.

Teenage town talent Jack Blackford was offered his first pro contract on Friday and within 24 hours was offered his League Two debut.

The winger, who has flourished in John Hewitson’s youth team this season, came on for the final eight minutes of the 2-1 win over York City.

Young Jack did not get the chance to pin his lugs back and take on the Minstermen a la Nathan Thomas.

But the 17-year-old looked neat and composed and what ball he saw he used well and fitted nicely into the shape of a side defending a hard-earned lead.

“Jack’s now signed his first pro deal – he’s a young, talented lad with promise and ability,” said Hignett.

“He will have to develop physically a bit but he could go onto have an unbelievable career.”

The Pools boss said he had no doubts about handing a player who has attracted the interest of Man City and Aston Villa his first action.

Hignett took him to Notts County on Tuesday night and while he was not in the match squad of 18, he wanted him to get the experience of being involved in the first-team.

That moved up a notch on Saturday when, with number 27 on his back, he came on in the latter stages for Michael Duckworth.

“Jack, has worked hard,” said Hignett. “He has been training well and I knew full well I would give him his debut.

“He’s a smashing footballer and I wanted to make it a special day for him.

“He’s exciting to watch and I’m delighted to have him and see where we go from here – there’s a lot of interest in him.”