Hartlepool United president Jeff Stelling tips promising youngster Josh Hawkes to play at higher level

Jeff Stelling is ‘certain' promising Hartlepool United midfielder Josh Hawkes will play at a higher level.

By Ben Painter
Tuesday, 26 March, 2019, 12:50
Hartlepool United president Jeff Stelling.

In the past the club president has not held back when talking about his beloved Hartlepool United, regularly expressing his opinions on his show Soccer Saturday.

Stelling has been active behind the scenes for Pools, backing the appointment of Craig Hignett and hailing his impact since taking charge again.

And a couple of players have caught the eye in recent weeks, including Luke James - who won an England C cap last week - Hawkes, who scored the penalty in the 1-0 win over Wrexham at the weekend.

“James is different class and it’s great for the lad to have been called up for England C," Stelling told the Non League Paper.

“He’s a genuinely nice young man and a model pro. You won’t see a forward work harder. He’s never really been prolific in front of goal, but he’s created so much for other players.

“Not necessarily direct assists but being hauled down for free-kicks or penalties – he’s a fantastic player to have in your side.

“Josh Hawkes is another one. In the early parts of the season I would sit in the stand next to Higgy and say, ‘This is exactly the type of game where we need Josh Hawkes on’.

“As soon as Craig took over, Josh has been a regular starter.

"He’s a great creative, free spirit, within the team. I’m absolutely certain he will play at a higher level.”

Currently sitting 12th place in the National League Pools should arguably be doing much better, but with Hignett at the wheel things are certainly looking up.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Stelling added: “If Hartlepool United’s season was being marked for a school report it would be: Satisfactory.”

“After all of the problems we had last season where the club’s future was in serious doubt, there’s plenty to be pleased about.

“We sat down at the start of the campaign and the remit was for the manager to steer us to mid table of the National League with no worries about relegation and that would be OK. If we could just get the ship back on an even keel we could be satisfied.

“That looks like how it will end. We’ve had three managers, which wasn’t the intention, but financially we’re not in the crisis we were.

“Craig Hignett has taken over managerial duties again. He’s incredibly popular with the players. He’s got a sense of humour, can put his arm around a player and he knows the game. From a fans’ point of view, they want to see football on the front foot. They want attacking football and they hadn’t really seen that earlier in the season.

“We started well but had a drastic dip in form. The Confidence dripped away. But, before the weekend, we only had two defeats in eight, we came back from two down in two games – you can see the boys are really playing for him.

“When Jake Cassidy left to go back to Maidstone United he said the atmosphere was poisonous – and he wasn’t totally wrong. All fans want to see is players putting in a proper shift and they will get behind you.

“I’m not for one minute suggesting Jake or any of the players weren’t putting the effort in but that’s what fans want to see, along with attacking action. That’s what they’re getting at the moment. We’ve got an incredibly young squad and the general outlook is pretty positive.

“I hope we can finish this season strongly and give it a good push. I believe we’ve got good players, a decent squad and, although not every fan will agree with this, if we can finish top ten then that’s mission accomplished."