Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett has appeared to open the door to a Brad Walker first-team return.
The 21-year-old has been out of the picture at Pools so far this season, featuring just once off the bench in the club’s last Checkatrade Trophy outing against Sunderland Under-23s.
But Hignett has hinted that he could be set to hand the midfielder his chance, having been impressed by the youngster’s attitude and application on the training pitch.
When speaking about the options he has in midfield, Hignett made sure he brought Walker, who returned to the bench on Sunday in the FA Cup, into the conversation.
He said: “The midfielders I have got here it is really hard for me.
“It is difficult to leave some of them out.
“Brad Walker has been excellent in training. He could feature at some point.
“We have options in midfield.”
While Walker has not featured much at all this season, or in pre-season for that matter, he was very much in the manager’s plans last year.
The midfielder, who has played more than 100 games for the club since making his debut back in 2013 as a teenager, has found his route to the starting XI blocked by the embarrassment of riches Hignett has in that area.
This season Josh Laurent has leapfrogged Walker in the pecking order, and the form of Nicky Featherstone and Lewis Hawkins has made it hard even for the likes of Michael Woods and Nicky Deverdics to get a sniff in the side.
It could be the case that Walker, of whom Hignett is a long time admirer from his time as a coach at the club, is thrown into the Pools side for tomorrow night’s cup clash with Rochdale.
Hignett is keen to make changes to his team, especially with the game meaning little, given that Pools are already out of the competition.
And as well as Walker benefiting, it could be the case that the likes of Billy Paynter, and some of the club’s rising stars, like James Martin and Jake Orrell, get their chance to shine, too.
Two players who are almost certainly set to play are Woods and Deverdics.
Hignett heaped praise on the duo after their classy displays against Stamford at the weekend.
The gaffer said: “Woods is back. He gives us quality and energy in the middle.
“He needs minutes, though. Then he will get sharper.
“It will take him two or three games to get back to where he was before the injury.
“It is the same for Nicky Deverdics.
“He has been a bit part player and is now growing into the team.”