Leeds United defender Liam Cooper admitted to “doom and gloom” in the dressing room but denied that the club were facing a relegation battle after a 1-0 loss to Queens Park Rangers.
Cooper attempted to banish negativity about United’s Championship season amid criticism of the players by head coach Steve Evans and the unexpected return of owner Massimo Cellino at Loftus Road on Saturday.
Cellino ended his self-imposed exile from Leeds’ fixtures by appearing in the directors’ box and looking on as a second-half header from substitute Charlie Austin earned QPR a deserved win in London.
United’s majority shareholder – currently fighting to avoid another Football League ban – vowed to stay away from the club’s games after coming under verbal attack from their supporters last month but his unheralded attendance coincided with a woeful display.
An away crowd of more than 3,000 turned on Evans and his team after Austin stepped off the bench to score within a minute and take advantage of a performance which left Evans warning that certain players could be heading out of Elland Road during the January transfer window.
United will be under pressure to improve their squad at the halfway point of the term having fallen to 17th in the table on the back of a seventh league defeat.
Centre-back Cooper spoke of his frustration with United’s form but insisted Leeds would keep clear of the bottom three, saying: “I don’t look at that.
“Every time I look at the table I just look up, where we should be. I’ve got to keep looking up because there’s definitely not going to be a relegation battle.
“Everyone’s a bit doom and gloom. It’s one of those things. In football you’re going to lose games. We’re bitterly disappointed but we’ve got games to go so I’m not worried.
“It was a bad performance. We’re not happy.
“The manager keeps saying that football’s a game of fine lines and he’s right.
“If we don’t concede that goal, we go home with a clean sheet and a good point. But I can’t really put my finger on (what’s going wrong) at the minute. We just need to dust ourselves down, get back on the training ground and work hard.”
The scathing reaction of United’s following in London, many of whom berated the players at full-time, was an extension of the frustration which has hung over the club for the past two months.
Cellino sacked Evans’ predecessor, Uwe Rosler, midway through October and named Evans as head coach just minutes before the Football League announced that he was facing another Football League ownership disqualification.
Cellino is currently appealing that decision but faces being barred from running the club until next summer.
The Italian indicated last month that he was ready to sell his majority shareholding in Leeds after 18 months as owner but that plan appears to be on hold in the absence of any offers which Cellino is willing to accept.
Asked if the players were able to ignore off-field events, Cooper, pictured above, said: “I think it depends what type of character you are. I can personally, but the young lads who are maybe not as experienced might struggle a bit.
“It’s not something we talk about every day. I always say to the young lads that if they need anything, I’m there. I’m pretty young myself but I like to see myself as a pretty experienced player.
“I’d say to them come and see me no matter what. That’s just me talking from my personal view.”