Chalk and cheese says Liam Cooper who salutes Andrea Radrizzani influence with Leeds United eyeing Premier League

LOVING IT: Leeds United captain Liam Cooper celebrates Jack Harrison's strike in last month's 3-1 win at Bristol City.
LOVING IT: Leeds United captain Liam Cooper celebrates Jack Harrison's strike in last month's 3-1 win at Bristol City.
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MASSIMO CELLINO, David Hockaday and kits that weren’t getting washed as he recalls.

Skipper Liam Cooper admits the picture at Leeds United has changed dramatically since his arrival from Chesterfield in August 2014.

Five years on, another five years are now in the offing with Cooper hailing the influence of owner and chairman Andrea Radrizzani and a belief that the club and its Italian owner are heading in the right direction for the Premier League.

Cooper and Whites team-mate and best friend, Stuart Dallas, both signed new long-term contracts on Wednesday evening with Cooper penning a five-year term until the summer of 2024.

By then, the Scotland international will be about to turn 33 with Cooper hoping his latter years with the Whites take in Premier League football after last season’s near miss.

The defender joined Leeds from Chesterfield for £600,000 in the summer of 2014 as one of the first signings under former chairman Cellino who then went through three managers in five months in Brian McDermott, Hockaday and Darko Milanic.

Far-too frequent changes but Cooper is in no doubt that the most significant change of all came with Radrizzani’s arrival in January 2017 when the Italian took a 50 per cent share before assuming full control of Leeds four months later.

Two years on, Cooper sees Leeds United Football Club as a different animal to the one he joined in August 2014 and one he says is now perfectly poised to achieve Radrizzani’s goal of Premier League football.

Comparing life at Leeds following his arrival to the picture in 2019 under Marcelo Bielsa, Cooper said: “It’s chalk and cheese. It’s unbelievable.

“Obviously it was up in the air, the kit wasn’t getting washed at the time and then Izzy wasn’t here making our food. It’s crazy when you think back to all those times and we have come a long, long way.

“Andrea came in with a lot of ambition, he had a vision where he wanted to take the club and the club’s going there.

"The club is in great hands, from the people at the top to the chefs and the people who work in the background. They all have the same aim and that is promotion and if we can do that it will be unbelievable for this city.”

Cooper made his debut in United’s second game of the 2014-15 campaign under Hockaday with Leeds recording a 1-0 victory at home to Middlesbrough.

Five months later, the defender was handed the Leeds armband for the first time in a 1-0 loss at Sunderland in a January FA Cup-tie.

But, even after becoming club captain, Cooper then had spells in and out of the side, particularly when behind Kyle Bartley and Pontus Jansson under former boss Garry Monk.

Asked if there were times when he thought his future might lie elsewhere, Cooper reasoned: “I think if it wasn’t for the manager at the time. Garry was really good with me, he kept me in the loop, he treated me as a player but it comes from within then and it’s your own pride.

“I have never got it in me to be a bad egg, I knew I had to train hard every day and keep myself fit because there’s always a chance where you are going to get called upon and I was called upon

“Even then, I didn’t really get the chance to play a run of games which I think you need as a centre-half; you can’t come in and rip trees up.

“But I always stayed professional; I knew that one day I would cement my place in the team and, over the last two years with the guidance of Marcelo and obviously Andrea and their vision and their ambition, it’s been unbelievable for me.

“I am just enjoying my football now more than I ever have and I’d like to think I am coming into my prime now. I am 28 years old, I’ve got a lot of experience and a lot to offer.

“Leeds have stuck by me through thick and thin and so have the fans and I’m absolutely delighted that I can extend my stay. I don’t know if the testimonial has been thrown out there yet but you never know, we’ll see!”

Pushed for a highlight during his five years so far at Leeds, Cooper said: “I think last year under Marcelo and his staff. Obviously Andrea, Victor and Angus going out to Argentina to speak to Marcelo and obviously their ambition has met his.

"Then the last year from him coming in to having a real wake-up call as a squad to watching us flourish and the way we came on as a team and a squad. We hit the ground running.

"Obviously the result wasn’t what we wanted but as a team to go from a mediocre mid table team to fighting for promotion in the space of three months was unbelievable.

"We loved every minute of it and it’s given that burning inside of us a bit more

"We are determined to get that right this year.”