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Can Hughes get Luke James back to his best?
JOHN Hughes is hoping to get the best out of Luke James, and help the teenager rediscover the form that put him in the headlines last year.
Since bursting onto the scene 12 months ago, the lively Hartlepool United attacker has struggled to hit the heights he achieved in scoring his first professional goals last January.
A bout of growing pains sidelined the teenager for couple of months and, since his return, he first struggled to adapt his game and then needed a hernia operation.
But new Pools' chief John Hughes believes he has seen enough in James to know he can be an asset.
"He hit a fantastic left-foot volley at the end of the Preston game,'' said Hughes. "We are trying to work on him to give us that pace over the top, maybe a big, slow centre-half sees this young whippersnapper running at him and might not like it.
"We are trying to teach him to play on the front foot, on the shoulder of the defenders.
"He plays with a great enthusiasm.''
And Hughes is also keen on helping develop another of the club's younger players.
Jordan Richards has started the last six games at right back following Neil Austin's suspension.
However, even though the more experienced performer has been available the last two games, Hughes has kept faith with Richards.
"We got plenty of crosses in on New Year's Day and I will analyse it in watching the DVD to pick up bits and pieces,'' said Hughes.
"It's a bit narrow with a midfield diamond, but the full-backs play with an enthusiasm and have to get crosses in.
"Jordan has done well and not done anything to play himself out the team. Could Jordan push wide right? If he is playing further forward and wrapping his foot around the ball, he can put some quality in there.
"Neil Austin is what you want - he inspires the way he trains and is a leader of men.
"Aussie has played a role in midfield in the last couple of games. But if you get the jersey then keep it.''
Hughes looks like missing out on Matty Dolan from Middlesbrough, after Boro boss Tony Mowbray yesterday confirmed Yeovil is his likely destination after training at Huish Park last week.
"I was desperate to get Matty in - Yeovil are chasing him too,'' said Hughes. "My first signing is important, he's Hartlepool born and bred and has good legs. The chairman and chief executive have told me to have a go and try and get him.''