A member of Leeds United’s 1970s ‘Scottish Mafia’ says Liam Cooper’s status as a Championship player makes his Scotland call up all the more of a compliment.
Cooper’s international career could begin in earnest 34 years to the week that the late Billy Bremner, Leeds United’s greatest-ever Scot, won his final cap for his country.
The current United captain is in Steve Clarke’s squad for a pair of crucial Euro 2020 qualifiers; Friday’s game against Russia and the clash with Belgium on Monday.
Cooper, who turned 28 last week, has had to be patient when it comes to international recognition.
It is a full decade since the central defender represented the Tartan Army, in an Under-19s international game against Iceland.
Ex-White Joe Jordan, who was part of a group of Scottish internationals at Elland Road during the Don Revie glory years, says it can be hard for players outside the top flight to catch the eye of a national-team boss.
“It’s very difficult, as well as you are playing, to get recognised when you’re playing in the Championship,” said the man who won the first of his Scotland caps as a 21-year-old Leeds striker.
“If he had have achieved his goal and got promotion a couple of years ago I’m sure it would have happened a lot quicker.
“That is the difficulty for an international manager, to pick a player who isn’t [in the Premier League].”
Cooper insists he harbours no bitterness towards national-team managers who have left him out of squads and, according to Jordan, it is more likely down to Scottish players plying their trade at a higher level than it is a slight on Cooper. Being called up despite not enjoying Premier League football should be seen as a particularly impressive feather in his cap.
“I don’t think it’s a personal thing,” said Jordan. “You look round for your players and you observe them but I’m a great believer that if players achieve success and play in the top division, I’m not saying those things come easier, but your judgement [as national team manager] can be swayed by that.
“It’s not an individual player thing, you just want your players playing against the top teams in the country.
“If you’re playing for your club against teams from other countries, you’re certainly going to improve.
“It’s a compliment [for Cooper], I think.”
While Hull-born Cooper grew up a Leeds fan and qualifies for Scotland through his grandfather, Jordan was born in Carluke, Lanarkshire and had to make a daunting move across the border to Elland Road as a teenager.
The presence of fellow Scots David Harvey, Gordon McQueen, Bremner, Eddie Gray and Peter Lorimer might have helped ease young Jordan into life at Leeds.
But he credits Leeds United’s dressing room as a whole for setting him on the right path to a career that brought 52 international appearances.
“Maybe so [my compatriots heped], but you just take it as it comes.
“It was a big move for me, I had come there more or less out of the blue really.
“I was part-time for two years and then had a three-month spell as full-time at my previous club, then made the transition, the move to England.
“It was a big jump but it was a very progressional club, playing at the highest level.
“I think the staff, Don Revie downwards, but the players in the dressing room more so, were there to teach you the game, if you’d open your eyes and ears to take it on board.”
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