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First team

Ofoborh & Zemura earn Cooper's praise


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Shaun Cooper praised Nnamdi Ofoborh and Jordan Zemura after the under-21 pair made their competitive debuts for the Cherries in Tuesday's match with Crystal Palace.

The two players both completed their graduation from the academy in the Carabao Cup from the start, Ofoborh slotting in seamlessly in an unfamiliar defensive role, while Zemura impressed with his attacking threat from left wing-back. 

Ofoborh's latest landmark came after he helped Wycombe create history last season during his loan spell with the Chairboys, winning promotion to the Championship after a Wembley play-off win.

"I thought they both did really well," Cooper told to afcb.co.uk. "Nnamdi had a fantastic season with Wycombe last year, experiencing first-team football and winning a promotion.

"He was probably a bit more ready for it in that respect, but I still thought he did really well playing on the right of a back three. His passing in the first half was good and as a character he is solid and reliable.

"For Jordan, that was his first competitive game in men's football. I'm really pleased for him, really proud to see him playing in the first team.

"He was released by Charlton, came here and we've had some frank conversations, but since then I just think he's gone from strength to strength.

"To get released but then come here and make the impact that he has for us is a credit to him.

"It's nice for him to have a little taster and I know now he'll get his head down and continue to work hard, improve himself and hopefully he can kick-on his career from here and get the recognition he deserves."

After crediting the players for their determination to get their Tuesday chance, Cooper explained that for any of his players able to earn first-team opportunities, that's where the hard work starts.

He said: "I back all of my players to get through for one, two or three games, it's whether they can do it consistently, that's the challenge and the real mark of a good player.

"That's what you have to do to establish yourself as a professional footballer, they've now had a taster but now they have to establish themselves and continue the hard work.

"I was really pleased for those two to start and then to see the others from the academy to be involved in the squad as well."

Cooper also spoke about the pathway through the younger ages in the academy to the first team and how the movement is aimed to be as smooth as possible.

"The transition through the age groups, from the 16s to the 18s, the 18s to the 21s and then the 21s to the first team isn't too difficult for the players in terms of what's expected from them with the methods being quite similar all the way through.

"It's just whether the players can raise their level of quality each time they make the step up. Nnamdi and Jordan did in the game on Tuesday and we try to make the transition as smooth as possible by sharing the same methods and messages as the first team."


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