HALLAM Hope is a young man with a decision to make.
If Bury boss David Flitcroft has his way, the 20-year-old Everton striker will be returning to the JD Stadium on loan again next season.
But after scoring his first senior hat-trick in Saturday’s 4-4 draw with Portsmouth, Hope was in no rush to narrow his options.
“It’s a big summer for me,” he said, mindful that he needs more league experience before trying to break into the Goodison first team.
“Obviously, I will keep fit, go into pre-season and see what happens.
“A step up is always the aim, and it is important which team you pick to go out on loan to – there is a lot of thinking behind it.
“I may be interested in a season-long loan (at Bury), but I’m not too sure when it will be sorted.
“I am looking forward to playing league football again and moving on from there.
"I’m not sure (about targets) but hopefully I will be able to get a few more goals and play a few more games.”
Hope more than doubled his tally for Bury on Saturday, moving to five goals in seven appearances and adding a match ball to his bargaining chips.
It was his most significant performance to date in a brief foray into league football after scoring once in three appearances on loan at Northampton earlier in the season.
“I’m glad to have got a hat-trick – it is something I have always wanted to do,” he said, after adding to his first-half double with a third goal three minutes from time.
“I was trying to get a shot away all second half and finally managed to do it and luckily it went in.
“In my mind, I think I have now learned how to work out defenders in the lower leagues – to be sharp around them, show proactive movement and just be ready really – so it has been a good experience.”
The youngster had already shown a high work rate and willingness to run the channels, but after adding clinical finisher to his list of attributes Flitcroft felt compelled to make his move.
“He’s different to what’s out there,” explained the Bury boss, as he made his pitch. “I would love to be able to work with Hallam, he knows that.
“I will try to speak with (Everton manager) Roberto (Martinez) and see if we can do something because he is certainly a player that the supporters buy into.”
The concern for Flitcroft, however, is that Hope’s final flourish to the season may have moved his young target onto the radar of League One and Championship bosses.
So his praise came with a warning.
“If they go too high, then they don’t play,” he said, speaking in general of young strikers, but pointedly towards Hope.
“The only way you can learn is to play. I hope he makes the right decision and we can work with him again.”