HARTLEPOOL United were today facing up to life without Luke James after he signed a four-year deal at Peterborough United in a deal believed to be worth up to £1million.
The sale was widely expected, but wasn’t confirmed until 90 minutes before the summer transfer window closed in bizarre fashion by Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony live on tv.
Neither club have confirmed the transfer fee but it is believed to be a Pools record sale, eclipsing the £750,000 Tommy Miller went for in 2001.
A sell-on clause is also likely to have been included in the deal.
The 19-year-old had a medical at the League One leaders yesterday morning and he goes straight into the squad for their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy match tonight against Leyton Orient.
There was widespread anger from upset Pools supporters as once again the club had sold a big-name player to Peterborough on deadline day – without bringing any permanent replacements into the club.
Jack Baldwin left in similar circumstances in January, for a fee of £500,000.
The emergency loan window re-opens in seven days but next transfer window does not open until January 1.
Peterborough United manager Darren Ferguson though was “delighted” to have finally got his man, with Posh chasing James for almost a month.
The long-running transfer saga finally came to an end last night when MacAnthony confirmed the news live on BT Sport, during their deadline day transfer show.
Pools then confirmed the news on their own website but manager Colin Cooper was not available for comment despite attempts by SportMail.
Posh, though, were understandably delighted to get their man who will wear the number nine shirt.
Unsettled James was first linked with a big money move to League One Posh on Thursday, August 7 – two days before the opening match of the Sky Bet League Two season away at Stevenage.
They initially had a bid, believed to be in the region of £500,000, rejected by Pools who deemed it “unacceptable”.
James – who handed in two transfer requests – then failed to turn up for training at Maiden Castle for three consecutive days and was subsequently missed the visit to Wimbledon.
He returned to training after the Bank Holiday break and was included in Saturday’s trip to Cheltenham Town where he was named on the bench.
Cooper said he wasn’t tempted to start with him as he hadn’t trained enough but he did come on after Koby Arthur had scored a 90th- minute winner for Town.
It was to be his final appearance for Pools after Posh came in with an improved offer over the weekend.
Pleased Ferguson said: “I am delighted to get this bit of business done.
“I think everyone is aware that we have been interested in Luke for quite a while.
“We have had to be patient, but we have used our experience from other deals in this transfer.
“I am grateful to my chairman and to Barry Fry for getting this deal over the line.
“We are delighted to get him. We felt we needed a number nine.
“He is a goal-scorer, he has a great attitude and he can’t wait to get started.
“I am looking forward to working with Luke.
“It has dragged on a bit, but it is pleasing everything is sorted and he will be in the squad for the JPT tie with Leyton Orient.
“We have done some excellent work in bringing the players we have over the last few weeks.”
James finished top scorer last season, netting 16 goals.
He went on to be named player and supporters player of the season for the 2013-14 campaign and signed a new two-year contract in the summer but there continued to be interest in him.
Pools, currently languishing in 20th place in League Two after four defeats out of five matches, must now look to the future without their star asset.