Thursday, July 28, 2011
Baldwin impressed Pools boss Mick Wadsworth while on trial at Victoria Park.
Only a few weeks ago, Eastbury School sixth-former Jack Baldwin was preparing for university life, but now the 18-year-old has had to put those plans aside after earning a professional deal at League One side Hartlepool United.
Defender Baldwin was set to study a sports therapy course at Kent University, but after trials at both Gillingham and Hartlepool, it was the latter and their boss Mick Wadsworth who offered the former Barking & Dagenham District representative player a deal at Victoria Park.
The defender had been on trial at League Two side Gillingham, and boss Andy Hessenthaler was impressed by the youngster.
But in the space of three days he played an under-18 match for Hartlepool against Newcastle’s academy, before a first team match against Blyth Spartans last Tuesday, where he impressed Wadsworth enough to bring him into his office the following day and offer him a deal at Victoria Park.
“It has been a crazy couple of weeks,” said Baldwin.
“From preparing to go to university in September and sorting out the accommodation and finance to now being able to play professional football is amazing.
“It is my first time away from home and in a way I was preparing for that anyway with university, but now it is just a lot further away!
“Monday was my first day at training, but all of the players have been welcoming and now it is just about settling down over the next couple weeks.”
Baldwin had been involved at non-league level with several Kent sides, including Erith & Belvedere, Chatham and Faversham Town, and now he believes he is ready to progress even further.
“Non-league has given me a good base to build on,” he added.
“I have already learnt a lot at a young age in non-league, but the learning process will continue, there is loads still to learn.
“The main aim is to get regular games for the reserves and push on from there.”
Speaking about his son’s achievements, father Alan Baldwin was understandably delighted.
“Jack lives and breathes his football and all the hard work he has put in has been rewarded,” he said.
“He would help train the teams at Eastbury from the years below and I am just really proud of what he has achieved.”
His coach at Eastbury School, Wayne Baldacchino admits he didn’t stand out from the crowd originally, but believes he now has the potential to match the achievement of former pupil and England international John Terry.
“In years seven and eight Jack didn’t stand out, but from then on he kicked on and we thought we were on for something special,” he said.
“Jack is one of the most level- headed people you will ever meet, and he has got a great footballing brain.
“His main strength is in the air, but his tackling is right up there as well.
“I have no doubt he can follow in the footsteps of John.”