Hartlepool Utd putting faith in their youth academy

Connor Smith in action against Exeter City. Picture by FRANK REID
Connor Smith in action against Exeter City. Picture by FRANK REID

HARTLEPOOL United fans should not fear that the plethora of academy graduates in the first team is merely just temporary.

John Hewitson, the club’s head of youth who has overseen the rejuvenation of the club’s academy that had stagnated for a number of years, told SportMail that the team under the guidance of Colin Cooper will maintain a fresh, youthful look.

Luke James and Brad Walker both picked up the player of the year gongs and are likely to command minimum six figure fees when the club is inevitably the subject of offers for the duo.

Hewitson told SportMail of Cooper’s willingness to immerse himself into the youth department’s projects and how he has a wide knowledge of the next generation.

“Colin attends all reserve games and the youth games that he can make. He has an active involvement,” Hewitson, who assisted Cooper on the sidelines in the wake of assistant manager Craig Hignett’s departure, said.

“He meets me every day and comes to our youth meetings once a month.

“He knows what we are doing and is aware of the players.

“That’s why he gave Connor Smith the opportunity at the end of the season because he knew how well he had done.

“The gaffer has always said if they are good enough he will try him.

“The previous boss (John Hughes) wasn’t receptive to putting youth in the team when we were in a relegation battle.

“Colin has been a breath of fresh of air. He has pushed the youth element and he wants to expand it further.”

Hewitson is adamant that rather than reflect with satisfaction at the elevation of James, Walker, Darren Holden, Jordan Richards and co, he and his coaches will continue to improve the next crop of players, ensuring they are given the greatest chance to emulate the aforementioned.

He added: “You look at the current first team and it has a lot of youth in it which is terrific but now we have to produce the next one.

“We want to increase that number, not just maintain it.

“But we want high quality players in the first team and it’s our job to develop high quality players.”