Leeds United protege Cook in demand

Lewis Cook
Lewis Cook
9
Have your say

Leeds United head coach Steve Evans has voiced his disappointment at the decision to field Lewis Cook three times in England Under-19 games over the weekend, but admitted: “In their position I’d probably have done the same.”

Evans’ request for Cook’s match-time to be limited during the international break went unheeded as the midfielder started twice and appeared as a substitute in three European Championship qualifiers in Spain.

Cook was heavily involved as England’s youngsters secured their place at this summer’s finals in Germany with wins over Georgia and Spain and a draw with Greece in the elite qualifying round.

Evans had described the talented youngster as “on his knees” after a 2-1 victory at Blackburn Rovers on March 12 and left the youngster out of his line-up for a 4-1 defeat to Huddersfield Town seven days later, United’s last fixture before the international break.

The Leeds boss hoped that Under-19s coach Aidy Boothroyd would use Cook in no more than a game and a half but the 19-year-old, who has played 38 times in his second full season as a senior player at Elland Road, is returning for Saturday’s clash with Rotherham United on the back of an intense run of outings with England.

He completed 90 minutes of a 2-0 victory against Spain on Tuesday evening, the result which confirmed England’s place at the European finals.

Evans said: “It’s disappointing that he played so much because we made a request for them to limit his games but I’ve known Aidy for years, he’s a good coach, and in fairness to him his priority was getting the England squad to the finals.

“It’s a big deal for them, as it will be for Cooky, and in Aidy’s position I’d probably have done the same. As a club we’re just trying to look after him and to make sure he doesn’t get pushed harder then he should. There aren’t many players of his age playing as England’s place at the European finals.

Evans said: “It’s disappointing that he played so much because we made a request for them to limit his games but I’ve known Aidy for years, he’s a good coach, and in fairness to him his priority was getting the England squad to the finals.

“It’s a big deal for them, as it will be for Cooky, and in Aidy’s position I’d probably have done the same.

“As a club we’re just trying to look after him and to make sure he doesn’t get pushed harder then he should. There aren’t many players of his age playing as regularly in the Championship and the reason we left him on the bench against Huddersfield was because we felt he needed a break.

“What I’m hoping is that he comes back with a spring in his step and take that into Rotherham on Saturday. I didn’t want him to play as much as he did but that’s me talking from the club’s perspective. Sometimes it’s hard to hold these youngsters back. He’ll be delighted to have got his country to the finals and rightly so.”

Several of United’s players departed on international duty last week, Liam Bridcutt, Liam Cooper and Stuart Dallas among them, but Evans is expecting a clean bill of health at Thorp Arch today as he begins finalising his plans for Leeds’ Championship game at Rotherham.

Evans is likely to make changes to his team on Saturday after a bad defeat to Huddersfield brought an end to United’s run of three straight league wins.

“We were very poor in the second half against Huddersfield, we made too many mistakes, and that obviously gives me plenty to think about,” Evans said.

“But it looks like everyone will report back from the internationals in good health. I’ve heard nothing to the contrary so we’ll have options available.

“Rotherham are my old club, I signed a lot of the players down there and they’re in very good form at the minute – as good as most clubs in the league. I know what they’re good at and what they’re not so good at and one thing they do very well is work hard. That’s the first thing we have to match.”

FEE AGREED: For Charlie Taylor.

Leeds United: Whites agree fee with Burnley over Taylor move