AT 29 years old, Jay McEveley is “getting better and better” in the eyes of Swindon Town manager Mark Cooper.
The Scouser, who has 34 appearances for the Robins this season, has been recently moved into a holding midfield role by Cooper and the Town boss has been delighted by the way McEveley has adapted to his new position.
While he has had to deal with knee troubles, time out of the game and the stresses and strains of rehabilitation, Cooper believes McEveley is reaping the benefits of his hard work.
He said: “I think he’s getting better and better, you know, I think his performances have been brilliant. He made the goal for us at the end (on Friday), he’s a great lad, a great professional and he’s got a lot to offer as well.
“I think he’s enjoyed what we’ve done this year and the way we played - it’s new even to people like Jay. He’s really enjoyed it.”
The formation employed by Swindon in the victories over Brentford and Coventry City - a fluid 3-4-3 with McEveley and Nathan Thompson shifting between defensive midfield roles in attack and their traditional full-back positions in defence - has laid a solid foundation for wins over two of the best footballing sides in League One.
Cooper is delighted that all the effort put in on the training ground appears to be paying dividends, saying: “It takes a lot of work. Initially we’ve got to start with the back three, to make sure they mark on the right channel.
“The two wide ones in the four are naturally full-backs so they give us the defensive stability when we’ve got the ball, and Pritchard and Byrne has got license to move into each other’s position when one moves out.
“It’s difficult to play against and it takes a lot of work.”
Five wins in seven matches have led to Swindon fans renewing their dreams of promotion and the calls for Cooper’s head have slowly drifted away.
Cooper said: “As a football manager you know if you lose two games everyone wants you to get the sack. It’s just the culture and the society we live in - because of social media and the phone-ins. Hopefully the majority can see what we’re trying to do.
“We’re trying to put the football club on a stable with Lee, the football we’re trying to play and the young players at the club.”