Ollie Cooper | I could never have imagined going to Qatar a few months ago
Before the season began, Swansea City’s Ollie Cooper was hesitant about booking a holiday during the World Cup break in case he was playing on loan in the lower leagues.
Just four months later he is missing that holiday, not because he is on loan at a lower league club as their competitions continue during the global showpiece, but because he is boarding the plane to Qatar with Wales’ World Cup squad as a travelling standby.
It’s the young midfielder’s first senior Wales call-up, but he’s earned his seat on the plane with impressive performances during a breakthrough season at Championship level.
Cooper has registered three goals and one assist from 17 second-tier appearances and has ticked off plenty of milestones, including his first league start and goal, while he wrote his name into Swansea City folklore when he opened the scoring in the south Wales derby in October.
Now, he will join up with six other Swansea City academy graduates who will be heading to Wales’ first World Cup in 64 years.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Cooper of the news that he will be travelling with the squad.
“It’s hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I don’t think it will until I turn up at camp and see the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.
“It’s been a bit of a mad week with all the speculation. You try not to get carried away. I was always just focused on playing for Swansea this season. That is what my aim was and then to find out I was on standby for Wales was great.
“There’s always a bit of disappointment that I wasn’t in the squad but to find out that I will be travelling and get to be part of the whole thing is just a massive, massive moment. It’s a huge achievement for me and I’m looking forward to the experience.”
When the season started , Cooper’s name was not one being mentioned with regards to Rob Page’s 26-man squad, and it says much about his development and performances that he soon came to be a genuine contender.
And Cooper admits the notion of being in contention for a World Cup squad was far from his mind when he reported for pre-season.
“I’d never have imagined this at the start of the season,” he added.
“I remember speaking at the start of the season about this international break.
“Me and my girlfriend were planning a holiday and we knew the boys here at Swansea would have a week off, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be on loan somewhere where they wouldn’t be stopping for the World Cup.
“Now I’m missing that holiday because I’m going to the World Cup! I really just couldn’t have predicted or expected anything like this.”