by Paul Eddison
WHILE his former youth teammates Ben Gibson and Dael Fry might be in a battle to take Middlesbrough back to the Premier League, Adam Jackson insists he’s happy just to have helped North East neighbours Hartlepool preserve their Football League status.
When Ronnie Moore left Hartlepool in February, they were just four points clear of the relegation zone and in real danger of dropping out of the League.
Although Tuesday night’s 1-0 loss at Carlisle ended a seven-game unbeaten run, Pools have turned things around under Craig Hignett and are all but guaranteed their place in League Two next season.
That streak was founded on a rock-solid defence, with 21-year-old centre-back Jackson, who is on loan from Boro, forming a promising partnership with Matthew Bates – another who came through the ranks at the Riverside.
“We have picked up a lot of points in the last month and a half and I think we are probably safe now,” said Jackson. “We really managed to improve our shape and are a lot harder to break down as a team.
“When we lose the ball, teams struggle to get past us, and because of that we’re able to win the ball back more easily. The aim now is to finish the season on a high and get as far up the table as possible.
“Of course it is a bit strange to be watching how Middlesbrough get on from afar but I really hope they manage to go up.
“I watch as many games as I can, even if it is a bit different not being in there every day to see the guys.
“But I know the coaches have been along to see some of my games and I still speak to them regularly.
“I know some of the lads from the youth teams, I played with Ben Gibson for a few years and then Dael Fry a bit more recently.
“It’s great to see them get that opportunity, and as a young player, it’s good they’ve been able to take their chance.”
While his plans for next season are still unclear, with another year left on his Boro contract, the youngster is clearly relishing his opportunity at the League Two side.
Pools conceded just three goals in their unbeaten run in March and April, and Jackson admits he’s already learned a lot.
“It’s been a great experience,” he said. “I came on a month-long loan (in November) initially but when I had the chance to extend my deal through to the end of the season it was a no-brainer.
“It’s such a big step up from Under-21 football and physically I’ve learned a lot. It’s not been so much about strength and power, more coping with the pace of the game.
“When you play at Under-21s, people play a bit more on the ground but the pace at adult level is a lot quicker. It was tough but after the first two or three games I started to get used to it.
“Playing alongside Matthew Bates has been great. He’s really helped from a positioning point of view and I feel my game has improved a lot.
“I’ll see what Middlesbrough think is best for me at the end of the season, but I’ve definitely learned a lot from this opportunity.”