Steve Evans has told Lewis Cook to take his frustrating experience against Nottingham Forest on Saturday as a compliment, saying Forest’s decision to man-mark him “speaks volumes about how good he is”.
Leeds United’s head coach said the 19-year-old midfielder would learn a valuable lesson from last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at Elland Road after the close attention of Forest’s David Vaughan prevented him from getting into the game.
Forest manager Dougie Freedman flooded his midfield on Saturday – using tactics which Evans described as like “watching paint dry” – and his approach paid off as Leeds struggled to create chances and fell to their 10th loss of the Championship season.
Cook, who was the subject of intense interest from Bournemouth during the January transfer window, has been moved to number 10 in the past fortnight by Evans with the United boss attempting to rectify a run of one win from eight league matches.
Evans said: “He’s a kid isn’t he? He’s a young teenager but it shows when they stick Vaughan on him, such a good and experienced player as that. If Cook had gone for a shower at half-time he’d have passed him the shower gel. That’s how tight he is to him all afternoon.
“He’ll learn from that. We spoke to him afterwards about how to lose people in those situations.
“But that’s what happens when you’re a top player and as an 18-year-old, to be getting man marked in the Championship speaks volumes about how good he is.
“He has to learn and he has to continue to get better. Sam Byram’s just gone to the Premier League and he’s 22. Cook’s got four years until he gets to that sort of age.
“But this is why clubs were bidding for him (last month). They’ve got 18-year-olds playing in academy games when it doesn’t matter.
“We’ve got an 18-year-old going out there and being our big performer in a lot of Championship matches. He’ll learn from this.”