Brad Walker has admitted that the joy of becoming a professional footballer at Hartlepool United is something that may take time to get used to.
The 17-year-old was offered his first pro deal at the end of last week following an eye-catching pre-season campaign during which he has emerged as one of Pools’ star performers.
The promising central midfielder put pen to paper on the contract late on Tuesday afternoon but has revealed it may take a while to fully get his head around the news.
“It’s quality. It hasn’t really sunk in just yet but I am sure it will kick in soon,” Walker told us.
“I don’t think anyone of this age would be able to explain the feeling of getting a professional contract.
“I was just in the ice bath after the game on Friday when the gaffer asked to speak to me – I was trying to think of something I’d done wrong but I couldn’t think of anything so I guessed it was good news!
“He’s basically told me to just keeping on going the way I have been during pre-season and keep myself in and around the First Team – he told me to keep my head down and make sure I didn’t give him the chance to not involve me.
“The rest of the lads have made me feel so welcome and I kind of feel like there is no pressure on me – I can just go and express myself in the games.
“I got a lot of messages from the senior players when I signed my contract which was brilliant because to be involved with the First Team is great for me.
“The real work for me starts now – I don’t want to look back, I just want to work towards the future, keep my head down and hopefully get a place in the team.”
The pro deal caps a rapid progression for the Billingham-born youngster who has been with the Club since he was 13, following his release from Middlesbrough.
But rather than let his exit from Boro get to him, Walker showed a determined streak and vowed to prove a point by getting back in to football as soon as possible.
He threw himself in to training with the Club’s Centre of Excellence – often cycling to training if he couldn’t get a lift, such was his desire to cut it as a footballer.
“It was only a year ago that I signed apprentice forms with the Club but I did well during the Youth Team season and with the Reserves towards the end of the year.
“I haven’t been with the First Team too long but when Colin Cooper was appointed he saw me train and asked if I would like to travel to Holland and I think I’ve progressed and kicked on from there.
“To be a professional footballer was always my dream. I had a little setback when I was released from Middlesbrough which got my down for a couple of days but after that I didn’t think much of it really.
“I just wanted to get back to working hard and proving people wrong, so to play against Boro for Pools in pre-season was a dream really.”
Walker could now be in line for a starting spot in Saturday’s League Two curtain-raiser at Rochdale and he says there is a buoyant mood in the squad ahead of the big kick-off.
“There’s a good atmosphere in and around the camp at the moment and we all just can’t wait to get going now.
“All that hard work during pre-season - and it was hard work - is done now and we can look forward to hopefully having a successful campaign.”