North East trio Newcastle United, Sunderland and Middlesbrough are all interested in young Hartlepool United midfielder Josh Hawkes.

Hartlepool United manager Craig Hignett admits he is impressed with the progress of young midfielder Josh Hawkes as clubs from the Football League continue to keep tabs on his development, as reported by the Hartlepool Mail.

TEAMtalk reported in February that Hawkes’ displays in non-league have caught the eye of three other North East clubs, Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Newcastle United.

Burnley, Huddersfield Town, Sheffield United, Hull City and Barnsley are also keen on the 20-year-old, who was born in Stockton and has eight goals in 25 league games this season.

The Mail believes that Hartlepool will take up their option to extend Hawkes contract for another year to ensure that they do not lose their prized asset for free in the summer.

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And Hignett has been quick to sing the youngsters praises after he scored the winning goal from the spot in Saturday’s Conference Premier win against Wrexham.

“I am pleased for him. To step up as a young lad and take a penalty shows he has something about him,” said Hignett.

“He is on a good run of scoring goals at the moment. Players who score goals from midfield are worth money, so the more goals he scores the better it is for our club.”

Hartlepool’s most famous fan, Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling, has also been full of praise for a player linked with Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough.

He told the Non League Paper in his most recent column: “In the early parts of the season I would sit in the stand next to Higgy and say, ‘This is exactly the type of game where we need Josh Hawkes on’.

“As soon as Craig took over, Josh has been a regular starter. He’s a great creative, free spirit, within the team. I’m absolutely certain he will play at a higher level.”

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