By Paul Jones
Ryan Bennett has been backed to fill the Joe Rodon gap at Swansea City and maybe bring something extra, too.
The Swans centre-back has impressed head coach Steve Cooper since his recent move from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Brought in as Rodon was sold to Tottenham for a cut price £11m earlier this month, Bennett has added a streetwise sense of solidity to the middle of the defence as well as an aerial attacking threat at set-pieces.
It wasn’t so long ago that the former England U21 cap, like Rodon, was being tipped for the top after signing for then Premier League Norwich City in 2012.
Ironically, he was on his way to join Swansea from Peterborough when he was told to turn around and head to Carrow Road instead.
That change of heart took him into the top flight and he was still playing there while on loan at Leicester City from Wolves last season.
Now, he is being asked to act as the ‘old head’ between the twin young towers in the Swans back line, Ben Cabango and Marc Guehi, following Rodon’s departure.
A clean sheet in the 2-0 home win over Stoke City was a positive step forward and now Cooper is hoping for more from his deadline day signing.
“He came to us from a training programme at Wolves and has had to get up to match speed in the Championship pretty quickly,” said Cooper.
“He told us he was ‘feeling it’ in the final 15 minutes against Stoke and so we were happy to bring him off and put Ben on. The games are coming so thick and fast at the moment managers are having to chop and change in their selection and off the bench, but he’ll be fine for the weekend.”
The 30-year-old Bennett is fit to face free-flowing Blackburn Rovers at the Liberty Stadium today (Saturday) when Cooper will be hoping to maintain the pressure on top dogs Reading and Bournemouth.
“There are so many games coming up the only thing you can focus on is the next game and the status of your squad,” said Cooper, whose side are currently in third place.
“We’ve got three tough games now before the international break, and thinking anything beyond that, particularly Blackburn, is not the thing to do.
“We’ve got a six month season in what is normally nine months. You’ve got to focus on the present and see where it takes you – we’re not looking too far ahead.”
Bennett, who spent the back-end of last season on loan at Leicester, put pen to paper on a three-year deal at the Liberty Stadium after three years with Wolves.
He hopes his experience will benefit Swansea’s young squad and help Cooper’s side in their push for promotion.
“I have been around a little bit now, I’ve been through good times and bad times as well,” said Bennett.
“Sometimes it can be nice for the younger players when you’re in those games and battles to have someone there who has been through it to just organise things and calm everyone down.
“That is the case throughout the week too, and not just in matches. You need that when things aren’t going so well, that is when the experience can sometimes play a part.
“There are a few lads here who have got experience, including Korey Smith who I played with before; he is a good head in the changing room too.
“We can help everyone to relax, focus and realise that it is normal, there are going to be difficult times but you just have to keep pushing, working towards your goals, and staying positive.
“It’s going to be bumpy at times but it’s riding those waves and making sure you reach your end target.
“There is one aim that everyone throughout the club will want and that is promotion.
“There’s no point sitting here and saying that isn’t the aim because it is.
“There are plenty of other clubs that have got the same ambition, it is going to be tough but I think if you look at it and ask what will be deemed successful, that will be the only answer. I believe the squad here and the staff are capable of doing that.”