Walker a week for Hartlepool Utd’s Brad

Brad Walker in action against Bristol Rovers. Picture by FRANK REID
Brad Walker in action against Bristol Rovers. Picture by FRANK REID

IT has certainly been a week to remember for award-winning Hartlepool United midfielder Brad Walker.

But the recently crowned League Two Apprentice of the Year remains modest and instead chooses to heap praise on his older team-mates for helping him flourish this season.

Billingham-born Walker is just 17 but his form this campaign, since signing his first professional contract in the summer, means he is now high on many scouts wanted list.

Three technically superb goals against Burton Albion, Southend United and Bristol Rovers last weekend have also helped elevate his rising status in the game.

Walker, though, is more interested in praising the older pros in Colin Cooper’s starting XI who have helped him progress this season – including his midfield partner Simon Walton.

The 26-year-old has been in fine form since re-establishing himself in the team following Hartlepool-born Matty Dolan’s return to parent club Middlesbrough after a loan spell.

Walker says Walton allows him to play with freedom by giving him the licence to roam forward, while the Leeds-born midfielder is also constantly talking the teenager through games.

“A lot of the older lads, especially Simon Walton, have helped me so much throughout this season,” said Walker.

“It is great playing in the middle alongside him.

“Simon just sits in there and he tells me before the game: “The freedom is yours, I will always be behind you. Just kick on and do what you do.”

“He talks me through games as well and has been helping me out loads, which is good to have.

“That experience beside me is really important.”

In the space of 12-months, Walker has gone from playing youth team football to being called up to two England Under-18 training camps at St George’s Park National Football Centre, in Burton – impressing national football coaches along the way.

While there the teen has had the chance to further hone his skills alongside fellow youngsters from Premier League and Championship teams.

Walker added: “The involvement with the England set-up has really helped with my development.

“The tempo and pace is much quicker and there is a really high standard of football.

“The players come from Premier League and Championship clubs and it is great to mix with them and the coaching is brilliant.

“The recognition that comes with it is great as well and that is a real confidence boost for me.

“I know I am doing something right, so if I keep doing what I am doing, then it will all kick into place.”

Walker was speaking ahead of his side’s trip to Oxford United on Friday night where Pools will be looking to build on last weekend’s 4-0 win over Bristol Rovers.

Pools came roaring out of the blocks with Marlon Harewood netting the opener after just 58 seconds, before Walker stepped up with a 25-yard beauty to put his side 2-0 up after 15 minutes.

Second-half goals from Walton and Jonathan Franks sealed the win and Walker is hoping for an equally impressive start tomorrow night.

He added: “Before the Bristol Rovers game the manager said we can’t level off after the draw against Accrington, that we had to do better and get the three points.

“He sent us out and we had a great start, the early goal obviously helped a lot but we managed to kick on from there.

“Everyone was buzzing in the dressing room afterwards and already looking forward to the next game.

“Oxford will be a tough match but we can kick on, there is more to come from us and hopefully we can go on and do it.”