Hartlepool United's youth development problem for upcoming League Two season

Hartlepool United will mark their return to League Two without a youth development programme in place.

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 6:00 am

Last summer a decision was made to scrap Pools’ paid scholarship programme in favour of a partnership with Hartlepool College as a cost-cutting measure.

As a National League club, the decision was understandable. But now the club are back in the Football League, it’s one that could come back to haunt them.

Many Football League clubs are able to turn to their established academy set-ups to bolster their squads impacted by injury, coronavirus cases or simply to give youngsters a chance – Pools will not have that luxury this season.

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Harry Close comes on as a substitute against Gateshead in pre-season. 24-07-2021. Picture by Bernadette Malcolmson

This is down to the nature of Hartlepool’s youth set-up which simply takes on college players rather than developing them internally as it has done previously.

“We’re victim of something that we would have wanted to set up,” Challinor told The Mail.

"Potentially we’ll have the opportunity to set it up next year but the timescales were just ridiculous for us.

"As much as the club would benefit from being Cat. 4 again, it’s probably something that is beyond us this season unfortunately.

"What we’ve got to do is use the next 11 months to make sure everything is in place and set-up to allow us to have it sorted for next year. A big part of that is us remaining a Football League club so we still get the funding and that will be pivotal to what ever we do.”

One stand-out player from Pools’ youth partnership has been 17-year-old forward Harry Close.

The teenager featured for Pools in pre-season and netted a brace in the 5-0 win at Dunston UTS in the final friendly match ahead of the League Two season.

Despite his promise, Close remains a Hartlepool College player and will be unable to sign a professional deal until he turns 18 in October – he cannot feature in League Two until then.

The situation is different from Joe Grey’s last season as he was part of Pools’ scrapped scholarship programme so was eligible to feature for the club before signing a professional contract.

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