JOHN Hughes today urged Hartlepool United supporters to leave the booing to him after their criticism of Simon Walton.
The midfielder was subject to boos from the home crowd when he was introduced during the second half of Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Stevenage.
Walton responded by cocking his ear in the direction of the Town End and was subsequently jeered following his first few touches.
Fans have not taken to the Yorkshireman since his free-transfer switch from Plymouth Argyle in the summer.
Hughes, though, insists the former £1million teenager has a major part to play at Victoria Park, and has asked supporters to get behind their player.
“I don’t know if the supporters were booing him or my substitution?” the Pools boss said.
“Let’s say it was the latter.
“If not, try to cheer him and let me boo him if needs be!”
He went on: “I thought he came on and slotted in the midfield role deep and never gave the ball away.
“He has a part to play and has worked very hard in the weeks he’s had off with injury and he is a real good footballer.”
Walton was returning from a hamstring strain at the weekend having limped out of last month’s 2-1 defeat to Oldham Athletic.
Hughes wants the 25-year-old to challenge Paul Murray for the anchorman role in Pools’ midfield, and will this week sit down and explain as much to him.
“Simon’s got a big part to play,” said the Scot, who also has Ritchie Humphreys vying for a midfield berth after an impressive display at the weekend.
“I’m going to have to sit him down and tell him that.
“He can play that quarterback role for us, sitting and protecting the two centre-backs and making play.
“He’s good on the ball and he can pass it.
“Murray is an absolute trooper but it would be nice to have another option.
“Can Simon get himself a little bit fitter and challenge Muzza for that position?
“He’s now injury-free and we’re hoping he’ll continue to build his fitness this week ahead of MK Dons on Saturday.”