COLIN Cooper has given his backing to young Hartlepool United defender Darren Holden and called on him to take inspiration from his captain.
The 20-year-old has made just four appearances for Pools this term but Cooper, a former left-back himself, is confident he will make his mark.
Holden was drafted into the starting line-up for the 1-0 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane last week because of injury to Sam Collins and Jack Baldwin being suspended.
But the youngster was dropped to the bench for Saturday’s 3-0 win over Exeter City, with Baldwin back in the centre of defence and stand-in captain Neil Austin returning to left-back.
Cooper believes Holden can learn a lot from 30-year-old Austin, who has made the left-back spot his own this season after Evan Horwood was released in the summer.
Midfielder Bradley Walker, who started against the Blades after returning from a five-week injury lay-off, was also benched at Exeter City.
Cooper admitted it was a tough team selection for the Exeter game and said the pair were both unlucky to miss out.
Cooper said: “Brad has been out for five to six weeks with his ankle.
“He played 90 minutes against Sheffield United, which I didn’t think he would get through 90 minutes, if I’m honest.
“Darren is a talented young boy but he is unlucky at the moment because of the way things are.
“We have the team captain doing a terrific job and it is hard for Darren.
“But if he takes Neil’s example by being a good professional, working his socks off and putting his body on the line when he crosses the white line, then Darren will be okay and I have said that from day one.
“They were both unlucky to miss out.”