IT took Keith Curle just one look at Benny Couto to convince him the young left back was worth a first team call-up. Talk about first impressions.

The left back had been invited to train with the senior squad on Monday, after the head coach had heard all about how well he had been performing for the Academy this season - winning penalties and scoring them.

Injury to Sam Hart had created a gap that needed filling for Latics' Papa John's Trophy first group stage game. But Curle insists that Couto was not just there to make up the numbers against Salford City, but had earned his place.

“He did well didn’t he,” beamed Curle.

“I’ll be honest with you, the lad had one training session with us. But good communication with the Academy through the sporting director got the lad up. He said he’d been playing very well.

“I saw him last season against Fleetwood and did okay. He said he’s come back in great shape, good mentality and he’s been a standout player.

“One training session, saw enough to say he’d be playing. I thought the lad did well as well.

“He was being babysat by Jamo, Jamo’s instruction was ‘look after him, make sure that you’re there, any doubt that the lad’s got put him right’, and I thought Jamo did very well at that."

And Couto was grateful for the words of advice and encouragement he received from the likes of Kyle Jameson and captain Carl Piergianni as he settled into the side for the first time.

"They always talk me through the game and tell me where to be so that helped me a lot and I appreciate it," said the 17-year-old, who also received reassurance from head coach Curle.

"He just said for me to do my own thing and just listen to the other players and their instructions, and really just play how I feel I can play.

"He just really made me feel very welcome and I appreciate him wanting me to play.

"It's a very good moment for me and my family and I'm very grateful for the opportunity from the coaches, and it was good to get 90 minutes," added Couto, who revealed how he first discovered he would be the latest in a recent line of youth team players to make the step up, following on from fellow second year scholar Harry Vaughan, as well as new professionals Junior Luamba, Vani Da Silva and Will Sutton

"On Saturday I got brought off after 70 minutes and the manager told me there'd be a possibility of me being involved on Tuesday night," explained the Portugal-born youngster, who scored a penalty as the young Latics earned a 1-1 draw against Mansfield in their opening group game of the EFL Youth Alliance Cup.

"Saturday night he rang me and said that I was training with them (the first team) on Monday morning. They were doing shape and when I was named in the starting line-up I was just blown away.

"I never thought it would happen."

But Couto revealed he had worked hard over the summer to boost his chances going into the final year of his scholarship.

"During pre-season I took some time and worked on my fitness and got myself ready for the season and I think it's showing in my performances for the youth team," said the teenager, who admitted the pathway that Vaughan and co have created had proved inspirational to the rest of the youth team.

"I think as the lads see a player going to the first team it pushes everyone else to want to be there and work on certain things and push for the first team.

"The head coach has given us an opportunity and it pushes everyone else to perform better in games and in the youth team."

Although the call-up came sooner than Couto expected, he was pleased with how it went.

"It was really good to get a win on my debut," he said.

"The fans were great and I was really happy at the end of the game when I was walking back to the tunnel, they all clapped me and it was just a really great feeling on my debut."

And Couto hopes this is just the start.

"I'm looking forward to other opportunities and I just hope that I get them," he said.