Leeds United man delivers £7m replacement verdict and issues simple Wembley play-off final message

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Ethan Ampadu's willingness to dig people out in the Leeds United dressing room has found favour with club captain Liam Cooper.

It is to Ampadu that Cooper has lost his place in the team. The £7m summer signing from Chelsea has formed a solid partnership with his Wales team-mate Joe Rodon at the heart of Daniel Farke's defence, slotting into the left-sided centre-back role that Cooper once called his own. And the captain's armband almost seems to come with that position. It was left-sided centre-back Pascal Struijk who took it from October to January and when he went down with injury, Ampadu took over. At 23 he's among the very youngest skippers in the Championship, or in any division for that matter. But he is expected to lead the Whites into their biggest game of the season at Wembley on Sunday and Cooper has given his positional rival his full backing ahead of the Championship play-off final.

"Oh, he's been brilliant," Cooper told the YEP. "He's a natural leader. He came into the club, I don't really think anybody saw it coming. It was a quick one early on in the season and since the first day I met him has been an unbelievable lad. He always wants to learn, he wants to drive people, he's not afraid to dig people out and he's an exceptional player as well."

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Cooper is full of praise for the rest of the squad, too, who go to Wembley to face Southampton well aware of the club's historic difficulty when it comes to play-offs. "We have to be the team who goes and changes that," he said. "Games like this are decided on little moments, and who keeps the nerve and that'll be the message all week. Who turns up on the big stage at the right time. And we've done that on many occasions this season. And we've just got to do it one more time. Be the better team. They've all been unbelievable and it's one final push now and hopefully we we get what we dream of."

Bengal Brasserie

They go to London with enormous backing, too. Leeds' entire Wembley allocation of 36,462 was sold out by Wednesday afternoon. Thousands more will be in the capital hoping to take part in any celebrations that might take place outside the stadium. And Leeds itself will reverberate for days with partying to put 2020's efforts to shame, should things go to plan. Cooper's message to the fans ahead of the weekend, and what is likely his last ever game as a Leeds United player, is a simple one.

"Just turn up like they always do," he said. "They've been special all season. So just thank you for everything. We can't repay them enough for their support throughout the season. They've been second to none. Even at times when we've had sticky patches, they've stuck with us and we've got to go give them one final push now, one last performance. And then we can go and obviously be remembered at this club forever. And there's nothing more you can do than get this reward and give everything you've got. If that was my last game at Elland Road on Thursday night and if this is going to be my last game on Sunday, you're only remembered when you successful. Second place just isn't enough. So I think when you come into this club, the expectations are there straightaway and we've got to go on and deliver on the day and the whole week. The whole focus will be on on doing on Sunday."

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