Neil Harris has expressed his joy after Jake Cooper put pen-to-paper on a new long-term contract with Millwall.
Cooper has signed fresh terms after becoming a hugely popular figure at The Den among fans and players alike, and Harris has described the defender as ‘outstanding’ since bringing him to the club in early 2017.
“We’re definitely delighted,” Harris states.
“Since Jake came into the football club on loan in League One, his performances have been outstanding.
“He has certainly been one of our standout performers, was our Young Player of the Year last year and has been a huge part of our success over a period of time. He has captained the side this season in the Carabao Cup, and there are leadership qualities in him which will continue to flourish. He deserves a new contract, and he deserves to be rewarded.”
Harris has spoken of his gratitude to chairman John Berylson in his part in securing the deal, and highlights the intent shown by the club in securing both Cooper and Jed Wallace’s futures in a matter of weeks.
“I’m delighted for the club – the chairman has been hugely supportive in trying to tie down our young players, and Jake along with Jed a couple of weeks ago [signing new deals] is a statement of intent.
“Yes, winning games is of course the most important thing for us. But we must look at the long-term future of the club as well – stability is key. Jake signing, on the back of Jed signing a couple of weeks ago, is really important for us.”
The manager claims there is still plenty of room for improvement for Cooper, and says he has ‘shown his class’ during his time at The Den.
“He has shown his class as a player, developing over a period of time, and he will continue to get better.
“The Championship is a tough, tough division. The period he had in League One with us was important for him, but the many games he played last year and those he has played this year are key to his long-term improvement.
“The work he does on the training pitch – with Adam Barrett in particular – is important for him, and he will get better and better.”
Harris concludes that the 23-year-old has what it takes to go on and compete at the highest level further down the line, and outlines his importance in the dressing room.
“Jake is a key part to the camaraderie of the squad – he’s a cracking lad. He’s important in the dressing room, and the players not only like him as a person but respect him as a player, which is key in a young man.
“It’s all set for him to just keep developing. For me, Jake is a player who in the next 12 months could easily go on and play in the Premier League. But he has to perform week-in, week-out, and I believe he has been one of our standout performers this year.
“With players now coming back to form, if Jake sticks to the standards he has set, it certainly bodes well for the future.”