Liam Cooper banishes nicknames of the past to make history as Leeds United's title-winning captain

Liam Cooper led Leeds United to the Championship title this season.

By Joe Urquhart
Sunday, 26th July 2020, 9:26 am

They say a picture paints a thousand words and Liam Cooper lifting the Championship trophy at Elland Road is certainly one of those.

It has been an up and down story for the Whites captain since he joined his boyhood club from Chesterfield in 2014.

Cooper arrived as a little known figure in West Yorkshire having come through Hull City’s academy ranks, before a move to the Spireites was made permanent following a loan switch.

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It was a pre-season friendly against Chesterfield that alerted Leeds to his abilities six years ago - and the investment of half a million pounds was a gamble for a player jumping up a division.

The now 28-year-old has had to battle hard for his place in history in LS11, having been written off early on in some quarters, but off-field problems and a high turnover in managers plagued his development during the initial stages of his United career.

One constant remained though; Cooper’s willingness and drive to be a Leeds United player - the team he had grown up supporting as a boy.

By his own admission he suffered from inconsistency and despite being given the captain’s armband just two years into his stay he was yet to convince a fair chunk of the fanbase that he was the man to lead the club back to the promised land.

Leeds United captain Liam Cooper lifts the Championship trophy at Elland Road. (PA)

A nickname emerged on social media, but 24 months on from Bielsa’s arrival in Leeds he has banished that saying for good and fulfilled the potential that made Leeds sit up and take note.

Cooper has been a strong figure in the heart of defence under the Argentine head coach - and despite one difficult evening in the play-offs against Derby County over a year ago, has barely put a foot wrong in two years of football.

Another picture of Cooper emerged in the early hours of the morning once the celebrations had dispersed on the Elland Road pitch.

He was heading to bed with a bottle of beer, the Championship trophy by his side and dreams of Anfield, Old Trafford and beyond.

For Leeds, though, it is no longer a dream but now a reality - and for Cooper he is no longer League One, he’s very much Premier League.

“Words can’t describe the feeling of euphoria,” he said of lifting the second division title.

“It’s unbelievable. We’re gutted the fans aren’t here but I’m sure we’ll do enough celebrating for them.

“We feel them every single day and every single minute of every game. These boys deserve it. To win any league by 10 points is hard going.

“We never stopped believing, even after what happened last season (against Derby).

“This group, staff, players and directors - everybody involved deserves it. We’re absolutely delighted and we’ll have a good drink.”

United’s skipper is the longest-serving player in the Leeds squad as he closes in on 200 appearances for the club.

His next game in competitive action will be in the top flight, and standards were already being set for next term even after promotion was confirmed - wins against Derby and Charlton said as much.

“Marcelo has been on us the last few days to respect the competition,” Cooper added. “We performed like champions, like we have done all season.

“We were brave - I know it’s easier to be brave on the ball when there’s not much on it but for us there was a lot on it.

“We had to respect the league because it really can throw up some crazy results and we’ve seen that time and time again. I can’t describe it.”