WEYMOUTH assistant-manager Paul Maitland has hailed new signing Mark Cooper as a “proven Southern League full-back” after his move back to the Bob Lucas Stadium from Chippenham Town.

Cooper re-joins Weymouth on a permanent basis having agreed terms with the Terras just three months after his initial link-up with the Bluebirds in May.

The full-back had been scarcely-used at his new club and had played in pre-season for Melksham Town, with Maitland believing him to be “too good a full-back to be sat around”.

He told Echosport: “He went with our blessing because it was an opportunity for him and for whatever reason Chippenham haven’t played him or used him and he’s too good a full-back to be sat around.

“He’s a proven Southern League full-back and one of the best ones, so it was a fairly straightforward decision for us to make.

“He’s got in excess of 200 league games under his belt. He’s an experienced player and he’s still really young.”

Despite a lack of game time, Maitland feels Cooper has “kept himself as fit as he could” for a player in his situation.

He said: “He’s gone out and played some games for Melksham to get his fitness level up. He looks like he’s kept himself as fit as he could for someone who couldn’t play regularly.

“He’s come with a slight injury which he’s had some treatment on. It’s nothing that’s going to keep him out for very long and he may well feature in the FA Cup on Saturday.”

And Maitland is pleased that Cooper’s

handling of his move away has allowed him to return “without any issue”.

He said: “I know that he did turn down another Southern League club who showed some interest in him. He never really wanted to leave.

“It was having the chance to step up and play in the next league and it also suited him geographically. It was a difficult decision for him and one that he maybe regrets.

“He did it in the right way, he left on good terms and that’s allowed him to come back without any issue. The fans understand that and they’re pleased to see him back.”

Cooper’s return gives Weymouth added strength in depth in their defensive ranks, with Maitland praising his “versatility”.

He said: “We have got good competition for places. Jordan has been good because he’s given us a bit more experience. It’s an area we are fairly strong in, but that creates competition in the squad.

“He obviously saw at the end of the league season what we were looking to do and he understands the different roles that we will be playing. His versatility is a big plus and he can also play centre-back.”

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