Huddersfield Ben Cabango

Steve Cooper excited by young defensive duo

28th November 2019
First team

Steve Cooper has given his backing to the youthful centre-half pairing of Ben Wilmot and Ben Cabango, and will be more than happy to start them together against Fulham.

Wilmot and Cabango – who have a combined age of 39 – showed composure beyond their tender years to secure a point in Huddersfield at midweek.

Wilmot, 20, had started that game, and was joined by 19-year-old Cabango when Mike van der Hoorn was forced off by injury at half-time.

Their performance won praise from head coach Cooper following the draw at the John Smith’s Stadium.

And, with in-form Fulham due in SA1 – boasting Championship topscorer Aleksandar Mitrovic among their ranks – Cooper insists he will have no qualms about starting the two youngsters should van der Hoorn not be fit.

“It is a raw and youthful pairing, but I am excited about that. With young players, you never know until you give them a chance and often they surprise you,” he said.

Huddersfield Ben Wilmot

“It does not worry me, that’s for sure. If you have got a 19-year-old and a 20-year-old playing regularly there will be some up and down moments.

“But we won’t think any less of them if they make mistakes. That is how you learn. To become an established player you need an opportunity, support and a run in the team.

“Any player will have had mixed experiences when they first broke in and we are prepared for that.

“I’ve worked with young players throughout my coaching career and it is up and down.

“But I am excited to give young players an opportunity.”

And Cooper pointed to the example of the likes of Joe Rodon and Connor Roberts – young players who flourished once given a first-team opportunity – as evidence that Swansea’s young guns have what it takes to step up.

Joe Rodon

“I think this league is good for giving young players a chance. You look at last season with Joe Rodon here, or Max Aarons and Mason Mount,” he said.

“There were more examples at this club last season than just Joe. There was Oli McBurnie, Daniel James, Connor Roberts, and I am probably missing a few out there.

“We would love the two Bens to follow in the footsteps of those players.

“Ben Wilmot is a slightly different case as he is on loan, he is a Watford player. He has come here as an England youth international having played in the Premier League and Serie A.

“Ben Cabango was one who did well in pre-season and we wanted to keep in the first-team group as we felt with a good programme that he could develop with us.

“It’s still early, but if he is needed again, then great.”