COLIN COOPER has backed Darren Holden for a big future in the game – as long as the left-back starts to believe in himself.

Holden has been impressive in Hartlepool United’s last two performances, giving his best display in a blue and white shirt to date in the 0-0 draw with Scunthorpe on February 1.

He followed it up with a disciplined and assured outing last weekend when Pools won 2-0 at Dagenham.

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The 20-year-old youth team product has made just 25 starts for Pools since his debut in 2011.

He’s started the last four games with Michael Duckworth and Neil Austin both injured and has made seven League Two starts this season.

Peter Hartley kicked off the season at left-back before moving to Stevenage, before Austin switched flanks after Duckworth’s arrival, leaving Holden on the sidelines.

“My advice to Darren – and I’ve said this to him – is that he needs to believe in himself a bit more,’’ admitted Cooper.

“It’s easy for me to say it to him because he can turn around and say that if I believed in him as much as I say I do then I would have played him every week.

“But Michael Duckworth has been outstanding at right-back and Neil Austin is the captain of the team as it stands at the moment and has been good and strong and steady for us.

“Darren could be anything he wants to be. He needs that bit more belief in his ability and technicality and that comes with playing more games.’’ And Cooper offered some advice for Holden to keep an eye on the very best in the business to help develop his own game.

“At the moment he is in the team and doing well and he will continue to do that,’’ admitted Cooper. “If he wants to improve as a young defender – and we will improve him – then I tell players with his pace and energy to watch Ashley Cole defend.

“He doesn’t allow opponents time and space because he gets in the opposition faces. Darren could do that and play that way.

“He has done what we asked and used his energy in the last home game well, believe in himself and use his energy out there – don’t leave anything out there on the pitch – and he’s been a credit to himself, he’s done smashing.’’