Leeds United: Cooper hoping to lead Whites to success

Liam Cooper
Liam Cooper
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IT IS undeniable that for most of a Leeds United persuasion, it has been another difficult and thoroughly testing year, on and off the pitch.

Those involved on the pitch and on the sidelines head into the close season to recharge minds as well as bodies, but for some, there is a smidgeon of pride and something to take from a 2014-15 campaign.

Among that number is Liam Cooper. Captain of one of the true sleeping giants in English football when last season, he was plying his trade in football’s basement with Chesterfield.

Cooper has already seen plenty in his time at Elland Road. Some of it good, some of it not so good.

But his deep sense of honour at wearing the United armband for much of the campaign is something that will stay with him forever and a day, and it is a task he would love to continue with.

On what captaining Leeds United means, East Yorkshire-born Cooper said: “It’s unbelievable; the biggest achievement of my life. It’s been brilliant.

“I have come a long way and had to go back down the leagues and managed to get a move early on in the season.

“I didn’t think it would escalate so quickly, but it did and I was absolutely buzzing about that.

“Redders (Neil Redfearn) made me captain of this great club and I am honoured and it is a massive achievement for myself, family and friends.

“I am hoping to keep that and will do everything I can to keep that and lead the team onto being successful.”

Offering his take on the campaign that was, which saw Leeds marooned in mid-table in 15th – albeit after looking relegation candidates at Christmas – the big defender added: “We have not had a great season, team wise, but we are going to be playing Championship football next season.

“But we have played and given it to the best and beaten Bournemouth and Middlesbrough twice.

“We are definitely a force to be reckoned with, but everything has got to click and I am sure it will do next year when we want to be successful.

“It is never good enough to keep surviving.

“But Redders has said that our enthusiasm to stay in the league will get you promoted.

“We have got to do that and get that drilled into us and come back in pre-season in confident mood.

“Hopefully, we can do that because this club deserves to be in the Premier League, everybody will tell you that.”

Who Leeds ‘click’ with on the pitch remains a moot point, with Neil Redfearn likely to hold crunch talks with owner Massimo Cellino regarding his future this week. Fans made their feelings known in that regard in Saturday’s final-day derby draw with Rotherham United.

And they left Cellino under no illusions that they want Redfearn to carry on the respected work – with all the tools – that he has been doing under at times difficult circumstances at Elland Road.

It remains to be seen if the voice of the majority of the Whites’ faithful is taken into account and of those in the dressing room, who remain keen on Redfearn to stay.

Cooper said: “Redders has been great for me.

“He welcomed me into the team like his own and the lads really respect him.

“He’s a great guy. He’s honest and wears his heart on his sleeve and that’s all you can ask for from a manager.

“I have been lucky in my career to have had good managers and he is definitely up there with the best. “He riles us up before games and only expects the best from us.

“He is a great credit to himself and the lads and he definitely rubs off on us.

“He’s honest and from a manager and a person, that’s what you want. He has that in abundance.

“Thommo (Steve Thompson) was good as well and a great coach. Obviously, Redders thinks the world of him and the lads do.

“But with what goes on, (behind the scenes) we are oblivious to that and we have just got to be professional and do the talking on the pitch and let everything else develop around us.”

A massive crowd of almost 32,000 was in attendance at Elland Road on Saturday.

But Leeds failed to follow up their derby success over Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough seven days earlier with another South Yorkshire scalp in the shape of Rotherham United.

In truth, it proved a tame end-of-season affair between two sides with little to play for but pride.

The main colour was provided ahead of the game when Millers manager Steve Evans fulfilled his promise of wearing a sombrero and beach wear.

The result ensured that Leeds ended the campaign with a flat run of five home games without a victory, with their last three points coming in an impressive 2-1 triumph over Ipswich Town on March 4.

Cooper admitted that not finishing off the season with a home win – and a spot of revenge after going down 2-1 at the New York Stadium in front of the TV cameras on October 17 – represented a bit of a disappointment.

But he feels that the commitment from those in white could not have been questioned despite little riding on the game.

Leeds attempted to make things happen, but in the final analysis a lack of quality cost them.

Cooper added: “I think we had the chances to win the game.

“I know they had a couple of chances early on, but I thought, in the second half, we came out and were much the better team.

“The lads dug in and there were a few tired legs out there late on.

But the lads ground out a performance for each other and they drag in out of yourself as well.

“It was great to be on the pitch with them.”