Dave Jones has marvelled at how Hartlepool United’s young players have taken to League Two football, writes Roy Kelly.
Pools are hardly teeming over with old heads in the side – the likely starting XI today at Notts County will have only four players over the age of 24.
Jones has been impressed with how the young players have stepped “up to the plate” and ensured the senior players have not been over-burdened.
The emergence of right-back Kenton Richardson, just 17, has been one of the highlights at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.
Jones, who started his Football League career at the same age in the 1970s, says the likes of the teenager and the other youngsters are now just viewed as a regular member of the squad.
“I broke into he first team at 17 and I got one game grace,” said the Scouser who played at the back for hometown team, Everton.
“After that I was told ‘you are not 17 any more, you are a first-team player
“I had one game to make mistakes, after that, forget it!.
“They did not look at me as a young player I was looked at as a first-team player. That’s what I’m trying to instil here.
“Yes they are still young and still learning and they will make mistakes.
“But you can’t rely on senior players all the time the older players need help too out there. Everyone has to step up to the plate.”
Richardson, following a good start to life in League Two, was pulled out of the starting line-up last week to allow for the return of Sean Kavanagh, with Liam Donnelly, hardly a veteran himself at 20, switching to right-back.
But the teen prospect was brought on by the half-hour mark against Exeter after Kavanagh suffered a recurrence of a hamstring strain which is likely to sideline him for the coming weeks.
Richardson was faultless, including a perfectly-executed last-minute tackle on Grecians dangerman Ollie Watkins when the home lead las only 2-1.
“We lost Kav early on, so we threw Kenton back on,” added Jones. “But he performed superbly.”