Dave Jones has handed professional contacts to four of Hartlepool United’s brightest stars - now he has told them to go and win first-team jerseys.
Of course, right-back Kenton Richardson and attacking midfielder Josh Hawkes already have, given they have been in the League Twoi squad for the last month.
But Jones has challenged keeper Ryan Catterick and defendedr/ midfielder Aaron Cunningham to do likewise.
“The kids who have signed pro contracts have done the easy bit, as far as I’m concerned,” said Jones.
“The hardest part is keeping it.
“They have 5,000 kids after them chasing what they have achieved.
“I will give them the stage, all the knowledge i can give them, now it’s down to them to stake their claim for the first team.
“If they want a [first-team] shirt they have to earn it and once they have it they need to keep it.”
Catterick, 17, is a goalkeeper who joined the club at the age of 13 from hometown club Middlesbrough, and has been on the Pools bench this season with injuries to Trevor Carson and Adam Bartlett opening the door.
Cunningham, 18, is a central defender capable of playing in midfield, while Hawkes, who debuted against Crewe in February, has become a regular in the first-team squad of late as an attacking midfield option.
Richardson, 17, completes the foursome. He is a young right-back who has already made eight senior appearances for the club after making his debut against Mansfield last month.
Academy manager John Hewitson said: “As an academy we’re here to produce players for the first team so I am delighted to see the four of them sign their professional deals.
“The new manager has come in and seen these players for himself so we haven’t really had to do much pushing – he can see what they’re capable of and how much potential they all have.
“They’ve now been given the opportunity to push their careers on and it shows the outside world that there is a massive pathway for young players at Hartlepool United.”