AN Amble teenager is ‘over the moon’ after receiving a birthday present that few can even dream of – a professional contract at a top North East football club.
Luke James, a former pupil of the town’s James Calvert Spence College – Acklington Road, signed up with Hartlepool United, where he spent last season as a Youth Team scholar, on the day he turned 17.
“I’m absolutely over the moon,” Luke said. “It still feels mad and it hasn’t sunk in yet.
“It was the same day as my 17th and it was the best present I could wish for.
“I have always wanted it but never knew if I was good enough.”
But it seems the contract is a reward for a season in which Luke has impressed at the League One club.
So far this term, the young winger, who has been with Hartlepool’s Centre of Excellence since 2007, has scored six goals in 12 games for the Youth Team.
“It’s been going well, we are doing really well in the league and then we got a few injuries,” said Luke.
“We are still doing well and we have our local derby on Saturday (against Darlington).
“I have been playing well this season so far, but it’s important to keep working hard and trying to get better.”
Luke has also relished stepping up a level to play in the Reserves, where he has made four appearances from the bench and two starts.
“I started against the team I support – Sunderland,” he said. “It was hard but I really enjoyed it.”
And while getting professional terms at 17 might make a teenager’s head spin, Luke is keeping a level view of his future.
“I’m taking it step by step,” he said. “I’m trying to get into the Reserves to start regularly and then I’ll try to get to the first team.
“But you can never look too far ahead.”
This attitude is part of the reason why the club made their decision, according to Pools boss Mick Wadsworth.
Speaking to the Hartlepool Mail, he said: “He’s a highly-talented and very intelligent footballer.
“He’s wise beyond his years and is physically very strong but still has a lot of development to come – so that’s a nice situation when they can cope at 16 or 17.
“The most important thing is his talent and he’s got a great eye for goal and is a good finisher.
“We’re very hopeful that he’s going to be a terrific player for us.”