COLIN Cooper has tipped impressive Hartlepool United full-back Michael Duckworth to play Championship level football “at least”
The 21-year-old German-born right back has been a revelation since joining Pools from non-league Bradford Park Avenue in the summer and is already attracting interest from elsewhere.
Cooper was asked to take a look at Duckworth by his then manager, John Deacey, who the Pools gaffer occasionally plays alongside in a Harrogate Veterans team.
Pools’ management team of Cooper and Hignett were so impressed during his trial at the Sky Bet League Two club they immediately looked to secure him on a permanent contract.
Now Cooper has backed his marauding defender to play at a much higher level and says credit has to go to his former gaffer at Conference North side Bradford Park Avenue.
The 46-year-old has been so impressed that fan favourite Duckworth will remain in the side until he is injured or suspended.
Cooper said: “A lot of credit has to go to John Deacey, who asked me to have a look at Michael.
“There were two lads at Bradford Park Avenue, who had a good season in Conference North last year, and John has a good eye and was a good footballer in his time.
“His own son, who was going on trial at Carlisle, and Michael were the two he highlighted.
“He asked me to have a look and to see if it would be of any interest and I have to be honest, as soon as he walked in the building and did a few training sessions, I think myself and Higgy both knew we had to sign him.
“Nobody beats him in the air, nobody beats him on the ground regularly, nobody is tougher than him or tougher in the tackle and on the back of all that, at his age, he has a hell of a lot that he can still learn.”
Cooper, a former Middlesbrough and England international, added: “We will have interest in Michael, because Michael can, having done it myself and been there, play Championship football at least.
“While you may have managers saying he is only 5ft “8, I wouldn’t have a problem if he was 5ft “4 because he delivers what he gives.
“He gives an awful lot going forward and Michael can handle the ball, can drop his shoulder, can manipulate the ball and link up with the wide man.
“I don’t think you can ask an awful lot more for a full-back.
“Because of where he has come from, maybe people might take their time and have a look at him.
“But I know people are watching him, and rightly so.
“That is credit to him, credit to him taking a chance because he came here and he was being funded to be here by his family because he wanted that opportunity.
“Michael has now, in my opinion, secured himself a career in football by taking that chance.”
Duckworth, who initially signed a month-to-month deal, now has the security of a two-year deal as a result of his consistent form down the right flank.
Cooper added Deacey was so disappointed to lose his star defender he’d even asked for him back, but Pools had already tied him down to a contract.