BRAD Walker is desperate to make the most of his second chance after being restored to the Hartlepool United side after a “horrible” spell out.
The 18-year-old was an almost ever present last season after breaking into the first team picture, earning rave reviews, call-ups to England U18 training camps and scooping the young player of the year prize.
But he has experienced the other side of the professional coin during his second season, struggling for form and a regular start since Ronnie Moore took charge.
That changed for the trip to Morecambe, Walker starting his first game in 2015 as Pools recorded the first of three wins in a week to propel them to within one point of safety.
Honest Walker admits he is now reaping the benefits from his extended spell on the sidelines, feeling fitter and refreshed as Pools battle to survive the drop.
And on Saturday he scored the winner from the penalty spot against Mansfield Town, his fourth goal of the season.
When my chance came, I had to grab it with both hands and when I got told I was starting at Morecambe, I didn’t feel pressured but I knew I had to take my chance and I have done that.Brad Walker, Pools midfielder
“I was frustrated and disappointed not being in the side but I knew I just had to keep myself ticking over and keep myself right,” Walker told SportMail.
“When my chance came, I had to grab it with both hands and when I got told I was starting at Morecambe, I didn’t feel pressured but I knew I had to take my chance and I have done that.
“It has been horrible being out of the team.
“I knew I wasn’t what I was but this past week I have felt fit and refreshed and more like my old self again.
“I think that showed and I was getting forward more and I have seen a big change in myself recently.
“I certainly hadn’t lost interest - I just felt like I needed to be playing.”
Walker played 42 times last season, scoring three goals including a goal of the season strike at Southend United but he has struggled to get in the side since the turn of the year.
The Billingham teenager admits he needed a break after bursting onto the scene, attracting interest from clubs higher up the league ladder.
“I have heard about second season syndrome,” added Walker, who found it a struggle earlier in the campaign.
“I played 40-odd games last season and needed a break, the gaffer has given me that and I think I have come back flying.
“It is all coming back now and I am enjoying myself because it has been harder being in a team that has been struggling.
“Last season we had some very good loan players, Luke Williams and Jack Barmby, players that could play at a very good level.
“I am certainly not saying we haven’t got good players this year but we have struggled massively.
“I think we will be alright though.”
Next up for Pools is the visit of Cambridge United on Saturday and Walker is confident Pools can make it four wins on the spin.
“The mood and atmosphere in the dressing room had just changed completely,” added Walker.
“You can see it in everybody and I didn’t doubt us getting three points on Saturday, not the way everybody was feeling.
“We can do this, you can see it in the fans, they all believe it, we believe it and the staff do.”