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Teenage Star Surpassing Expectations

6 January 2014

Looking back on the last year with Pools and one of the main stories to have come out of The Vic was the emergence of 17-year-old midfielder Bradley Walker.

To those within the Youth set-up at the Club, the ease at which the youngster has adapted to professional football may come as no surprise.

But to those outside of the Club, Brad has quickly burst into the limelight to grab the attention.

And the pace at which he has progressed is something that has exceeded the expectations of the player himself,

"This time a year ago, I didn’t think I would be where I am now," Walker admitted. 

"This year has been unbelievable in a way.

"Obviously I have signed my first professional contract and then went on to play nine games straight. I dropped out of the side with my injury but I’ve just been chomping at the bit to get back in and hopefully now I’ve got myself back in there.

"And then to finish the year with the England call up was just another massive plus as well – I’m really enjoying my football at the moment."

Before returning to Youth Team training in July, Walker put together his ambitions for 2013/14 but just half-way through that campaign and it is time to re-evaluate,

"Before I came back for pre-season in the summer me and my Dad set targets for me, as we have every year I have been playing football.

"He said I should push on and play week in week out with the Reserves and hopefully start training with the First Team so that I was there or there abouts when it came to the end of the season and contracts were being handed out.

"My Dad has done everything for me with my footballing life and without him I wouldn’t be where I am today."

As a 17-year-old making the step up to men's football, the level of Walker's success could depend on the support received from his teammates.

But, as the lively midfielder reveals, he has been warmly welcomed by the entire squad - of which he is now an integral part,

"The lads have been fantastic with me, they have welcomed me in and been very supportive and they are always encouraging me to do things and be myself. They encourage me to get on the ball and express myself and I don’t think every club would want you to do that but here everyone wants you to do well for yourself."

His first involvement with the First Team came when then new Manager Colin Cooper and Assistant Craig Hignett decided to take him on the pre-season tour to Holland.

But unassuming Walker insists the call came as something of a surprise, despite encouragement from his Youth Team boss,

"John Hewitson told me that they were going to try and push me up to the First Team level and to be honest I thought it would be good if it happened but I wasn’t sure it would. But then the Gaffer and Higgy got me in their office and said that they wanted to take me to Holland for pre-season. I don’t think I have ever been so nervous – I knew I could handle it but for the first few days I didn’t want to try stuff. But once I settled in and the lads helped me, I felt like I could try more stuff."

Anyone around the Club will confirm just how much Walker has developed and matured off the pitch as well this season.

While he admits his uncertainty at first when joining the senior squad, Brad's confidence and self-assurance now sees him at the heart of the dressing room banter,

"When I was first starting games, we’d come in on a Monday and we would rest and the Reserves would be out training and I was thinking I should be out there as well. But the older players were telling me that I don’t have to do that now and that took some time to sink in – in fact, it all hasn’t sunk in yet!

"I just loving playing football really and I am loving the team I am in.”

As well as getting used to his new role within the First Team this season, the midfielder has also had another squad to gel with - after being called up for England's Under 18s.

"It is a different level to be honest," Brad says of his first national training camp experience.

"Everything that is there, I just don’t think you would witness it anywhere else. The players were all fantastic and the way they welcomed you in – it is all laid on for you. It was surreal to be honest.

"At one point I was washing my boots and Raheem Sterling was waiting behind me to do his. I didn’t speak to him though, I just finished my boots and put the brush down for him – I didn’t think it was real to be honest.

“The training was very good but the first day I was nervous but I soon settled in. I didn’t really know any of the lads but I got to know a few of them who will be there next time so I will be full of confidence when I go back."

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