Matthew Bates has told Josh Hawkes to keep delivering for Hartlepool United as big club eye teenager

Debutant Josh Hawkes nets Pools' opener after 10 minutes.
Debutant Josh Hawkes nets Pools' opener after 10 minutes.

Matthew Bates has warned Josh Hawkes not to take his foot off the pedal, amid speculation linking him with a move.

Sunderland lead a lengthy list of clubs who are monitoring the progress of the 19-year-old, who has burst on the scene under Bates this season, as Pools fight tooth and nail to stay in the National League.

The Black Cats have already made contact with Pools regarding the player, but their advances have been rebuffed in recent weeks for the midfielder, who still has a year left on his current deal.

Sunderland were understood to be keen on playing Hawkes in a behind-closed-doors trial game, but that was rejected by Pools.

Championship rivals Middlesbrough and Leeds United are also keeping tabs on Hawkes, as well as Premier League Newcastle United, managed by Rafa Benitez.

Bates is not shocked that any number of clubs have started to watch Pools that little bit more closely with Hawkes in such form.

But he says the player must not let his standards drop as delivering at Victoria Park is what will get him a switch elsewhere – nothing else.

“He has done magnificently,” Bates said of Hawkes performances of late.

“To come into a team and perform as well as he has when they are struggling says a lot about his character.

“There is a lot to come from him.

“He needs to keep working to improve and not take his foot off the pedal.

“He is going to play a big part between now and the end of the season.”

After the story broke in our sister title, the Sunderland Echo, a number of managers were asked about the links to Hawkes.

Leeds boss Paul Heckingbottom played a straight bat when queried about a move, although he did not close the door on any potential switch south.

He said: “He’s not our player, he’s not someone who we’re in a position to talk about, anything like that.

“It would be one for the summer, while reports are going in on players, we’re speaking about individual players.

“Until they’re our player or we’re making a move and there’s news to tell you in that respect, it’s pointless us mentioning it because all that’ll happen is you’ll ask me about a player who I’ve probably never even heard of and I tell you that.

“Then the next person I do comment on you’ll think ‘he must be going for him then.’ So it’s easier not to bother.”

Hawkes started his fourth National League game for Pools against Solihull Moors at the weekend.

He is the latest player to come through the youth system and into the first team at Hartlepool.

Teenage striker Conor Simpson, who made a big impression at the club, was sold to Preston North End for £50,000 in the January transfer window.

The 18-year-old made his PNE debut as a late substitute against Aston Villa, but has since been farmed out on loan to Evo-Stik Premier Division strugglers Lancaster City as Preston boss Alex Neil wanted him to get more game time.

Simpson was on target in their 2-1 defeat against Altrincham in Lancaster’s last game.