Joel Cotterill | Life on loan
Joel Cotterill has relished his latest experience of senior men's football on loan at high-flying Stockport County, and believes he will return to Swansea City a better player for his time with the Edgeley Park club.
The 19-year-old joined County in August on a season-long loan, on the back of an impressive 2022-23 campaign where he made his senior Swansea debut against Oxford United in the Carabao Cup and skippered the under-21s' side on a number of occasions as he scooped the academy player of the year award.
Cotterill has been with the Swans since the age of seven, signing a first professional contract in 2022 and recently putting pen to paper on a deal through to 2026.
His move to Stockport got off to a dream start with an assist within minutes of being introduced for his debut helping his side secure a draw against Crawley.
While Cotterill admits he would prefer to have more than seven appearances under his belt - most recently appearing in the FA Cup draw against Aldershot, he has taken a lot from being part of a side flying high at the top of League Two.
"It' been a big step up for me, something I've worked towards and it's an experience that is vital for me and my development," said Cotterill.
"I've been playing under-21s football for around three years now, and I'me sure the coaches can agree that it was time for me to experience men's football.
"I got an assist on my debut for the equaliser against Crawley Town, and it was such a great feeling to do that playing in front of fans at a stadium.
"We have been on a 13-game win strea, the mood is good in the camp. I've just got to be patient for when I get called upon.
"International breaks and the League Two both run at the same time, so sometimes it can be hard when you return, but as I mentioned patience is key."
The midfielder has since racked up four EFL appearances, making his first senior start for the club in their 5-1 win over Worksop in the FA Cup back in November.
And Cotterill is enjoying the taste of being in a senior environment, and feels it has helped him make a step forward.
"The intensity, the day-to-day set up and the environment is all completely different to what I've been used to, but that's important because it means I have to learn to adapt and that's vital as a footballer," he added.
"Everything is faster, you've got to think quick and everyone's a bit more physical. It pushes me to try and make my game more physical, so I can go up against these players and better myself.
"It has helped me loads, and I've learnt a lot already as a person and as a player. That's the importance of these loan moves when you're a young footballer.
"There are a lot of experienced and well-rounded players at County, it's great to learn off them and be around them every day.
"They're all great lads up here, I enjoy being around them. The staff and coaches are also very supportive, it's a good time for the club at the moment.
"I've never really lived by myself before, and that's a huge change for me. I even see Pep Guardiola and Rodri on a day-to-day basis as I live near them!"
At international level, meanwhile, Cotterill made his competitive bow for Wales Under-21s competitive debut in a European qualifier against Lithuania, and was able to mark the occasion with the winning goal.
Most recently, he was named in the starting XI for the young Dragons for the first time against Denmark in their final international match of 2023.
"A couple of days leading up to the Denmark game, I knew I was going to start, and I knew I earned the trust from the staff and coaches," he added.
"I'm still only 19 as well, so to keep getting these opportunities at that age-group is great. It's always a big achievement for me to pull on the Welsh jersey, and it's always a proud moment for my family, who support me no matter what.
"We knew what Denmark were capable of, they're the top seeds of the group. Although we lost, we're still in a good position going into the next round of qualifying in March."