Leeds United: Redfearn - England must “look after” Mowatt and Cook

England Under-21 coach Gareth Southgate
England Under-21 coach Gareth Southgate
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Leeds United head coach Neil Redfearn has asked England to “look after” Lewis Cook and Alex Mowatt and show a “duty of care” when the midfielders report for international duty next week.

Redfearn revealed that he had contacted Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate to discuss England’s plans for Cook and Mowatt after both players were called up for youth-team fixtures.

Mowatt is part of the England Under-20 squad named for friendlies against Mexico and the USA and Cook will travel with the Under-19s for three European qualifiers against France, Denmark and Azerbaijan.

Redfearn said he expected Cook “not to play in all of the games” with the 18-year-old in the closing stages of his first season as a professional at Elland Road.

Cook has played 37 times for Leeds since the Championship term began in August and he will link up with England on the back of three league outings in eight days. He is expected to start for United away at Blackpool tomorrow.

Twenty-year-old Mowatt has also been a regular in Redfearn’s team, making 29 starts. Leeds asked England to withdraw both players from a previous round of international games before Christmas - a request which was granted - but the club were happy to allow them to travel next week.

“I spoke to Gareth Southgate about Lewis and Alex,” Redfearn said. “From my point of view and the club’s point of view, I just asked that they just look after them. I’m sure they will.

“They’ve played a lot, particularly Lewis. In his age group there won’t be many players who’ll have played Championship football week in, week out like he has. He’s been a main player for us.

“Ideally, Lewis will play in some of the (England) games or play a part in some. I’d expect him not to play in all of them. If there’s that duty of care and respect for what we’ve asked then they’ll respect that - and they have done in the past.”

Redfearn, however, said he was not looking to obstruct the international careers of the young players in his squad.

“First and foremost they’re Leeds United players. You want them fit and you want to pick your best side,” Redfearn said.

“But that doesn’t stop them playing for their country. I’m English, I’m English through and through and it’s a great honour for them. I respect that. Again, it’s a business and these players are our players. We’ve got a duty of care. I’m just protecting our interests.”

None of the four academy products in United’s current line-up - Mowatt, Cook, Sam Byram or Charlie Cook - were included in the England Under-21 squad chosen by Southgate yesterday for forthcoming games against the Czech Republic and Germany.

Asked if he was surprised by that, Redfearn said: “A little. I follow the national scene and I know the standard. I can’t think of too many better midfield players in the country at that age than Alex and Lewis.

“You could throw Sam Byram and Charlie Taylor into that too. But England pick the side and I respect that.”