Midfielder Brad Walker set for centre-half role again for Hartlepool United

Brad Walker
Brad Walker

Brad Walker doesn’t mind where he is selected as long as he plays.

The midfielder delivered the old cliche bang on cue and there was nothing wrong with that.

Given my size, I shouldn’t be getting bullied by people


However, Walker might just have become the first name on Dave Jones’s Hartlepool United team sheet for tomorrow’s clash with Plymouth Argyle - at centre-half.

The 21-year-old was dragged back into defence at Luton Town on Tuesday night when Matthew Bates was injured in the dreadful opening exchanges.

Bates limped off in the fifth minute after treatment following the opening goal, returned, only to concede defeat to a hamstring strain in the 14th minute

By that point, Pools were 2-0 down and sliding to their fourth straight away defeat.

Anyone fearing a drubbing with a makeshift central defensive pairing of Walker and Scott Harrison up against Danny Hylton and Isaac Vassell need not have panicked.

Hylton, by all accounts, is on the thick end of eight grand a week, and earns it as one of League Two’s main men, with 18 goals and Vassell, wage unknown, is not too shabby himself on eight goals.

They are seriously good, but Walker and Harrison dealt with them masterfully.

It would be a slight exaggeration to say Walker had Hylton in his pocket.

The number nine, the scorer of the opening goal, had one further glorious chance when he jinked his way past both Teessiders, only to blaze over.

Vassell, kept in check by Harrison, was denied by one great Joe Fryer save.

Beyond that, the division’s premier frontline were silenced.

Walker was simply imperious. If it was up in the air he used his strength and if it was on the deck, he used his skill.

“Given my size, I shouldn’t be getting bullied by people,” said the midfield who is remarkably in his fourth season in the first team and he’s still shy of his 22nd birthday.

“Obviously I was up against two top quality strikers, both quick strong, good in the air.

“But I thought me and Scotty and the back four did well against them.”

Walker says there were no incredulous looks of “who me?” to the bench when he was told to drop into defence.

“Batesy must have been struggling if he came off,” said the Billingham lad.

“If I am given a job by the gaffer I will do my best and I thought I did OK when I slotted in there.

“We didn’t have a centre-half on the bench and think they probably thought my physique, stature would go well at centre-half.

“I think I did myself justice.”

He did that and don’t be surprised should be there tomorrow at the Northern Gas & Power Stadum.

It wasn’t just the way he stopped Hylton, it was how assured he was, bringing the ball out of defence with confidence.

You suspect he prefers midfield, but he said: “As long as I’m on the pitch, I couldn’t care less.

“Centre-back is a great position, you get to see the whole picture.

“As long as you win your battles, the headers and challenges, then you get a chance to play.

“We played some really good stuff in the second half, not many teams will go to Luton and do that. It was the first 15 minutes which killed us.

“We can say all we want about how well we performed after that but we need to start winning games and doing that quickly.”

It would be premature to get carried away. Many North East football observers still recall in awe the Sunderland debut of Stanislav Varga in the opening game of a Premier League season against Arsenal.

Alas, he almost sank without trace though that had as much to do with a long-term injury as anything else.

That is not this reporter putting the kiss of death on Walker, just putting a warning out there that you should not judge a book by its cover.

While there are specialist centre-halves at the club, like (in alphabetical order), Isaac Assenso, Josh Nearney, Ben Pollock and Harly Wise, Walker’s greater experience is likely to win him the nod.

If you add the quartet’s senior appearances together, they do not reach Walker’s total ... and that’s just for this season.

He could get another chance to prove his worth tomorrow and it would not be undeserved.