Cambridge United right-back Liam Bennett striving to make further improvements after picking up fourth Love Cambridge Player of the Month award
Such is the rate that Liam Bennett has been racking up Love Cambridge Player of the Month prizes, he is soon going to need extra space to store the trophies.
After winning the award, which is voted for by Cambridge United supporters, twice during the second half of last season following a loan spell at Walsall, the right-back has now picked it up two more times this term.
His latest triumph is a reflection on his performances in January – a month were he helped the U’s to keep back-to-back Sky Bet League One clean sheets alongside racking up seven points from a possible 12.
After collecting his trophy from Hotel du Vin, located centrally in Cambridge’s Trumpington Street, Bennett said: “As a player, I try to give my all every single week and do my best for the club. I think the fans can see I give everything on the pitch and they see how committed I am to getting better.
“That’s a big thing that fans appreciate. Over time, the more and more I’ve played, they’ve taken to me and I can’t thank them enough for all the support.”
And unfortunately for his team-mates, Bennett is determined to continue putting in the hard yards that are likely to ensure that a fifth award is not too far away.
There was a feeling that the 22-year-old – like many in the squad – had suffered a dip in form towards the end of Mark Bonner’s tenure in charge.
But he has been one of the shining lights under Neil Harris, who is pushing the defender to improve his game further.
“It takes time for a new manager to get used to us as players and us to get used to the way he wants to play and form his type of culture within the club,” added Bennett.
“Within the last month we’ve managed to nail down lots of good habits that the manager demands of us and I think that will continue to get stronger and stronger as the months go by.
“He’s highlighted a few areas that he feels I can improve on. We’ve had a couple of conversations where he says how highly he rates me as a player and where I can improve to take me to the next level.
“A big part of what he’s trying to install as part of his culture, and something that is important in my role as a full-back, is having a clean sheet mentality in every single game.
“As long as we’re in games and have a clean sheet, we’ve got enough attacking quality to go and win the game at the other end.
“A big area of my game is that final ball in and around the box. I want to add more assists to my game and help to create more chances with better decisions when I do get forward. That’s something we’ve been working on.
“And another aspect is understanding when it’s right to drive forward and drive us forward as a team, but also when it’s right to slow the game down and play in gear two to create space on the opposite side and attack from there.
“Working in training every single day with the gaffer, his attention to detail has been really good.
“He’s been very motivational in terms of trying to get the things he wants me to improve on out of me. There’s been times after training where he’s pulled me aside and worked with me individually to focus on certain aspects of the game so when it comes to matches I can be even better.”
The improvement will be needed as well because unlike during the opening few months of the campaign, Bennett now has competition for his place in the starting line-up.
He had been the only recognised right-back in the squad until last week when James Gibbons arrived on loan from Bristol Rovers.
But rather than see the addition of Gibbons as a threat, Bennett is embracing the battle for minutes.
He said: “That’s football. As a manager you want to have two people in each position so that you’ve always got cover and some healthy competition in the squad.
“I’ve been the main right-back so far and it’s up to me to continue what I’m doing and pushing myself.
“Me and Gibbo will work together as well to push each other on so that we can both become better players.”
Cambridge United has teamed up with Cambridge BID to give supporters the chance to vote for their Love Cambridge Player of the Month, supported by the Cambridge Independent. Sponsors Love Cambridge is part of Cambridge BID, a collaboration of 1,200 businesses working together to promote and improve the city of Cambridge.