JAKE Cooper marked 100 consecutive league appearances for Millwall on Boxing Day – and thanked Neil Harris and Gary Rowett for the faith they have shown in him.
The last time Cooper, 24, didn’t play a league game for the Lions was more than two years ago, on November 4 2017 when he was suspended for a fixture against Burton Albion.
Not only that, but Cooper has played every minute of the now 102 Championship games since then.
Cooper was the first player since 2011 to achieve that century milestone, when David Forde went on to make 138 consecutive league starts.
Copper hit the 100-game mark against Harris’ Bluebirds. Next in his sights are Dennis Burnett and George Fisher on 106. Cooper is the 12th Lion in the 100 club.
“I was thinking about it,” Cooper admitted. “I didn’t want to think about it too much but, listen, it’s good to have that amount of games in my legs and to be involved in so much.
“It’s more about what I do in those games, and I’m working on that. The more games I get the more I get to learn and figure out how I can get better.
“I’m just enjoying playing and I want to continue that run. I look after myself, definitely, make sure my body’s in the right place.
“I’ve learned a lot about my body. Growing up I had quite a few injuries so I had to learn to adapt. I learned what pain is and what pain you can carry on with. It was a learning process.
“I eat well, look after myself to make sure my body is ready for training and games.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the two managers as well. I can be fit or not but they’ve put me out there. I’ve not been brilliant in all of those 100 games so I’ve got to thank them for trusting me.”
If Rowett decides to rest him for a league game and break the run, would Cooper object? “He’s the manager so I can’t dictate that. I don’t think he’ll feel like he has to rest me, I think it will be down to my performances. I think he’s happy with me at the minute from the feedback I’ve had so I’m hoping I keep performing to the level to keep me in the team.”
Cooper has been given more responsibility on the ball by Rowett, and Millwall’s media account posted a clip of him dribbling down the left wing on the ball against Derby.
Millwall haven’t exactly adapted Sheffield United’s overlapping-centre-back system that stormed the Championship last season, but there are certainly more demands on Cooper in possession.
“There’s still a lot of room for improvement and that’s probably the most exciting thing about it, that there are still a lot of areas that we can get better in,” Cooper said.
“We’re learning more about shape and how the manager wants us to play. We’re just enjoying it at the minute.
“The manager has said to me to get higher up at times, not necessarily on the opposition’s byline, but maybe to drag one of their attackers out and break their attacking line and get our wing-backs higher up.
“He said to me I could be 10 yards higher up than when I’m playing in a four at the back. It’s refreshing, it’s nice to have new ideas and improve different areas.”
Image: Millwall FC