Leeds United man handed major pre-Wembley boost despite 'difficult' gametime struggle

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Leeds United captain Liam Cooper has been named in Scotland's provisional Euro 2024 squad.

The defender has started just eight of the Whites' Championship fixtures this season after suffering a foot injury on the opening day against Cardiff City and subsequently losing his place in the side to Pascal Struijk and then Ethan Ampadu. Both Struijk and Ampadu have worn the captain's armband, with Cooper on the bench, though boss Daniel Farke has consistently paid tribute to the leadership role his skipper continues to play.

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Cooper's game time has not cost him a chance to feature at back-to-back European Championships, however, with Steve Clarke content to keep the centre-back as part of his initial plans for the tournament. Scotland's latest international, a 1-0 home defeat by Northern Ireland, saw the Leeds man play 90 minutes at the heart of the defence after three consecutive unused substitute outings. Cooper has made 17 appearances for the Tartan Army since he was handed a 2019 debut by Clarke.

His competition for a place in the final squad comes from the likes of Rangers' John Souttar, Watford man Ryan Porteous, Grant Hanley of Norwich City and Nottingham Forest's Scott McKenna, currently on loan at Danish Superliga club Copenhagen.

Scotland are set to take on Euro 2024 hosts Germany at the Allianz Arena on June 14 in the opening match of the tournament. Before that, they face Gibraltar in Faro on June 3 before hosting Glen Kamara's Finland at Hampden Park on June 7.

Cooper's focus this week, however, is on Sunday's Championship play-off final at Wembley against Southampton where he and the Whites will attempt to secure a second promotion to the Premier League in four years. Speaking to the YEP this week he admitted his role as a largely non-playing leader has not been the easiest to accept, but it’s one he has done to the best of his ability. “Yeah, it's been difficult," he said. "Obviously at the end of the day, I want to be playing as many minutes and as many games as possible. But you've got to get your head around that. Obviously I got injured at a difficult time in the season, first game of the season, after having a strong pre-season. It was always difficult to get injured like that. And obviously then the lads come in and do well and then you sort of try to force your way back into the team. So it's been difficult, but you have to take on a different role, I think. Obviously, keep the lads motivated, try to lead by example, keep the standards in training and off the pitch and I think I've done that quite well. We're lucky now, we've got plenty of leaders, so it's obviously not just left to me. Ethan has been brilliant, Stuey [Dallas] has been about the place. Obviously Luke [Ayling] was there at the start of the season and even young Archie [Gray] leads in his own way. So it's been difficult, but one I've enjoyed. Obviously, we've done very well this season. And then we're into the final push now."

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