Liam Cooper has been ruled out of all but one of Leeds United’s remaining Championship fixtures after being hit with a SIX-game ban by the Football Association.
The centre-back will be suspended until the final day of the season after the FA took a hard line over his stamp on Reece Oxford in Saturday’s defeat to Reading.
Cooper, who began his suspension during last night’s 2-0 loss to Brentford, pleaded guilty to a charge of violent conduct in the hope of limiting the length of his absence.
The FA, however, has punished him with a heavy sanction which will force Cooper to watch most of the run-in from the sidelines.
His six-match ban includes the standard addition of one game for what the FA counts as Cooper’s second dismissal of the season.
The 25-year-old was previously shown a red card in Leeds’ FA Cup defeat to Sutton United in January.
The news is a major blow to head coach Garry Monk, depriving him of cover in an area where he has been short of numbers all season.
Cooper will return for Leeds’ last match at Wigan Athletic on May 7, making him available for the play-offs.
In a statement, United chief executive Ben Mansford said the club were “disappointed” with the length of the ban.
“After careful consideration and consultation with the club, Liam pleaded guilty to the charges brought against him as he acknowledges that the coming together with Reece Oxford was reckless,” Mansford said.
“However, in my experience Liam is an honest and genuine person who would never intend to hurt another player.
“Liam is a leader and his influence in the dressing room will still play a major role in the remaining fixtures this season.”
Speaking last night before the length of Cooper’s punishment was known, Monk voiced sympathy for him but admitted the defender was right to plead guilty.
Cooper caught Oxford in the face with his boot during the second half at the Madejski Stadium and was cited by the FA ahead of yesterday’s trip to Griffin Park.
Monk insisted that Cooper had not shown “intent” but United’s head coach conceded that the clash had been “reckless”.
“We spoke to Liam and as a club we supported him,” Monk said. “We pleaded guilty to a reckless charge but 100 per cent we didn’t plead guilty to an intent charge.
“We know Liam very well and as a person he’s not like that. One hundred per cent he didn’t intend to stamp on the player but because of the recklessness of it, we decided to plead guilty.”
Cooper has spent much of this season on the bench but he was making his second successive start at Reading having unexpectedly replaced Pontus Jansson in Monk’s starting line-up.
Jansson was back in Monk’s team at Brentford yesterday and is likely to retain his place during the run-in with only six games remaining and Cooper facing an extended absence.
Monk said: “It’s been a little bit like that for Coops this season. He’s got himself back into the team or played games and then either through injury or suspension, and now this, it’s been frustrating for him.
“We feel for him because he’s a fantastic lad and it’s unfortunate. We have to take it on the chin and deal with it.”
Bournemouth’s Tyrone Mings was banned for five games last month after being found guilty of a similar stamping offence in a Premier League game against Manchester United.