In Saturday’s clash against Northampton Town, the win was made even sweeter for Hartlepool as Joe Grey – who has missed a significant amount of football owing to a back fracture – came on and assisted Luke Molyneux’s crucial winning goal.
At just 18 years of age, Grey will have a bright future ahead of him. With Hartlepool 7th currently, and a feel-good factor returning to Victoria Park, it’ll be intriguing to see how many opportunities he’s afforded after such a lengthy lay-off.
Speaking with The Hartlepool Mail, Dave Challinor commended the youngster’s instant impact at securing a narrow win: “He made a brilliant impact. That’s why we’ve been so careful with his rehab because we hope he can have a really good impact for us. He’s a really young player but we’ve got high hopes for him and he’s got really high hopes for himself.”
With confidence evident in Hartlepool so far this season, Challinor making Victoria Park a fortress and his Pools side tough to play against, it’s a great environment for Grey to be involved with.
The Hartlepool manager commented on Grey’s changes since coming back from his injury, the youngster adjusting himself for the challenges he’ll face in League Two: “For people who last saw him six months ago, he’s different in his shape and he’s becoming more what we want him to become physically and more robust so he can be an effective player in the Football League which for an 18-year-old is an accolade to have.”
With The Pools accustomed to playing a five at the back formation, with Molyneux their main source of goals, an injection of youth may work in their favour as opposed to winning matches purely off determination alone.
Challinor wants Grey to be a regular for his side, stating: “He’s got quality and you could see that from the half hour he played, we just need to turn him from a player who can start three games to one who can start 30 over a season.”
Playing him in these cameos will prove to be worthwhile for Grey in the meantime, a highly thought of youngster needing time to get back to full fitness. Play him too much, and you run the risk of the 18-year-old becoming a constant name on the injury list.
With a recent promotion to the Football League still in the memory, Hartlepool’s start to this season may well have gone better than some would have expected. Moreover, Joe Grey’s return from injury resulting in a pivotal assist feels as if it’s running to a script.
Challinor needs to manage expectation at Victoria Park, continuing to feed off the harmony at Hartlepool without getting carried away. In Grey, he too needs to manage a player who is expected to go on and have a lengthy career. Play him sparingly at the moment and manage his injury, you then might well see the 30 game a season player Challinor wants from the Pools prospect.