MARK Cooper has said Jack Stephens “could be key” for Swindon Town in League One this season, with the on-loan defender set to make his first start of the campaign at Oakwell tomorrow.
Stephens, who arrived from Southampton on Deadline Day, has been laid low with tonsillitis but is back training and, with Raphael Branco injured and Josh Lelan’s loan spell set not to be extended, he will find himself in the thick of the action at Barnsley.
In 10 games for the Robins last term, the young centre-back impressed fans with both his ability on the ball and his organisation of the back three, and Cooper is looking forward to his return to the fold.
The Town boss said: “Jack’s been flying in training. Another good session for him today (Thursday) and hopefully we may have to throw him in. You get injuries and illness and you have to get on with it.
“He could be key if he shows the form he showed last year. If he shows that form he could be a big bonus and a big plus for the team and the squad because he was exceptional last year.
“If he can find those levels in his performance then that’s another outstanding young defender we’ve got.”
During Stephens’s absence, however, Cooper has been pleased with the performances of his other defensive options, saying: “Nathan Thompson has been an incredible find as a sweeper, it looks as though the position was created for him and I thought he was unbelievable again the other night. The boys who have played have done great and to add Jack to it is fantastic.”