Former Leeds United defender on Tottenham Hotspur boss Antonio Conte, Liam Cooper and why Gjanni Alioski is missed by Whites
Leeds United will find themselves up against an impressive individual in Antonio Conte, when they visit Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
What is clear is that Conte is very demanding, he really does get into the minds of the players so they can work together at such a high level.
That’s key, it’s what makes him so successful, he will worm out the ones who won’t go along with him and those who will he turns into a force.
He’s done that wherever he’s been.
At Juventus they were always very much the favourites, he was winning year after year, then did very well at Chelsea. Going back to Inter last season, he was impressive again.
Yes, he’s demanding not just of the players but of the club, financially he wants backing, but he gets it right, gets them playing and gets them winning.
Tottenham have got a manager who expects things of the highest order from everyone at the club.
For a game that was never going to be easy, I’m fascinated to see what Marcelo Bielsa does with his team.
They might have played well last time out in the draw against Leicester City but I think you always pick a team to win the game ahead, rather than the same players who just performed well.
What we do know is that Bielsa is very patient and backs players who have done well in previous games.
To change things is difficult but someone like Patrick Bamford is important to the side and if he’s fit and available there’s a big decision to be made.
It’ll be interesting to see what he does, I wouldn’t like to try and second guess someone like Bielsa.
Some of his players will be coming back to Thorp Arch from the international break with a real spring in their step and Liam Cooper is among that group.
If you think where Cooper came from, coming to Leeds and struggling a little bit before establishing himself, becoming captain and leading the club to promotion, it is remarkable.
He has been written off at times and yet comes back with some great performances and seems to get better and better.
He’s now playing on the biggest of stages internationally as well.
The header at the back post across goal set up the first for Scotland against Denmark and it was brilliant to see, for him.
Maybe in an international week Cooper wouldn’t be the top of the list when it came to wondering how Leeds players were getting on but that was a great performance, especially against such a good side.
He’s such a key personality at Leeds. He comes across great, looks after his fellow players and he takes great pride in leading the side.
Cooper is one of that core group who have set the culture at Leeds and has been so important on the pitch for Bielsa.
The churn of players, big personalities and characters moving on is natural in football because, although you want to get better, you want to drag as many along with you as you can and keep them, it’s not always possible.
Getting the balance of characters is key, you don’t want to lose too many of that type.
That group, namely Cooper, Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas, has been the backbone, they’ve understood what the club is all about and helped the new lads to understand it.
When you talk about characters, Gjanni Alioski was one of those and he meant a lot to the fans and the team.
Certain players aren’t quite as appreciated as they should be until they’ve gone.
Is Alioski the best left-back in the world? He’s nowhere near that but he performed to a high level and brought so many things to the team, with his energy and giving absolutely everything to the cause.
Sometimes it was just a tackle or something crazy he might have done.
At times this season when you’ve been looking for something in a game, he hasn’t been there to provide it, so that sort of thing we have missed.
We’ll need all our characters and personalities to give everything on Sunday and bring quality, too.
The Leicester City game has to be the benchmark now. We’re going to have to play to that level against the teams we’ve got coming up.
We need consistency, we need our players back playing and we need to do what we showed we were capable of last season.
It’s not such a leap to believe we can go to tough places and get performances and results. It’s not going to be easy.
Sometimes you look at fixture lists and blocks of games like this and wonder where points are going to come from, but thankfully football doesn’t work like that.
We can produce some good performances when least expected. Big games are coming up but I’m sure the boys will rise to it.
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Thank you Laura Collins