Hartlepool Utd face losing Luke James on transfer deadline day

Luke James applauds the travelling Poolies at the end of the game Cheltenham Town. Picture by FRANK REID
Luke James applauds the travelling Poolies at the end of the game Cheltenham Town. Picture by FRANK REID

TODAY is transfer deadline day and Hartlepool United are bracing themselves for the departure of star striker Luke James.

The 19-year-old is the sole transfer target of League One side Peterborough United who have already had one bid rejected for last season’s top scorer.

The transfer window closes at 11pm tonight and Posh are expected to make a further move for the Northumberland teenager before the day is out.

Speaking after the 1-0 weekend defeat to Cheltenham Town, Colin Cooper told SportMail that, as things stood, no deal had yet been agreed.

But Posh say they are playing a “patient game” over James after their first bid, deemed “unacceptable” by Pools, was rejected.

It is understood their original bid wasn’t close to the £1m mark reported but if Peterborough were to up their offer then a deal is likely to be concluded today - with James replacing outgoing Posh striker Tyrone Barnett.

Unsettled James, who has handed in two transfer requests and missed three days training over the past fortnight, returned to the bench for Saturday’s Sky Bet League Two match at Whaddon Road.

He was left out of the squad for the previous game at Wimbledon after missing training.

Cooper said he wasn’t tempted to start James, who scored 16 goals last season, on Saturday because he hadn’t done enough training.

When asked if he was expecting James to depart on deadline day, Cooper told SportMail: “There is nothing new [to report].

“As it stands, from day one there has to be a deal agreed between two football clubs and that has not happened.

“I’m not saying there won’t be but there isn’t.

“It isn’t a stock answer, it is the truth.

“Until there is a deal agreed between two football clubs, there isn’t anything to talk about.”

Posh, who signed Jack Baldwin from Pools for £500,000 on deadline day in January, last week signed Gateshead forward Marcus Maddison.

They have said they won’t be upping their bid for James but a deal will be done if an acceptable offer is made for the teenager, who signed a new contract in the summer.

Peterborough manager Darren Ferguson, whose side are now top of League One, said they are playing a “patient game” in their ongoing pursuit of James.

Speaking on Saturday, a confident Ferguson, said: “We are playing a patient game with our main transfer target.

“If we don’t get him the loan market opens in a week, although I’m not sure of the merits of going down that route.”

Cooper admitted he wasn’t expecting a busy day of incomings on transfer deadline day, with the loan market and free transfers still open to clubs.

But if James - who made his 100th appearance on Saturday - has played his last game then it ended in defeat.

A 90th minute header from Koby Arthur snatched the late, although not undeserved, win for Mark Yates’ side.

James came on as a substitute after they had scored and when asked if he was tempted to start him, Cooper was adamant.

He told SportMail: “No I wasn’t tempted to put Luke in from the start because he hasn’t done enough training.

“I had a couple of conversations with him and we got him down to Cheltenham and part of the team, which was the important thing in my opinion.

“We said it might just have been his afternoon.

“But unfortunately it wasn’t to be and I will have a look to see if there was anything I could have done anything different to help the team.

“We were getting overloaded in midfield and the ball wasn’t sticking up front in the second-half.

“That is why we put young Michael Woods on and he was fine.

“Wherever and however you set up, to have Trevor Carson who can kick it from one box to the next and then lads who can throw it in to the 18-yard box from anywhere inside their own half, is a pretty leathal weapon.

“Sometimes it doesn’t matter how the ball ends up in the box, it is what you do when it is in there - winning the knock-downs and second ball.

“All be for one bit we did okay but that one bit was hard to take.”

Pools dropped a place to 20th in League Two, with just one win from their opening five matches - the other four league games all ending in defeat.