'Obsessed' - Liam Cooper reflects on two years under Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa
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United’s squad could only reach the heights of 13th in the 2017-18 Championship campaign which began under head coach Thomas Christiansen and finished under Paul Heckingbottom when his predecessor was sacked in February 2018.
But Cooper knows that with Bielsa the proof has been in the pudding with Leeds now heading for the Premier League as Championship title winners having spent the majority of the last two seasons in the division’s top two following the head coach’s arrival in June 2018.
April and May 2019 proved the only real exception with United looking destined to seal automatic promotion in Bielsa’s first season in charge only to fall away in the closing stages of the season and finish third.
Defeat in the play-off semi-finals to Derby County followed but even in the most difficult of times, Cooper says the United boss was never one to rant and rave.
Now, 18 months on from the heartache of last season, Leeds are heading to the Premier League in the most impressive style with Cooper full of praise for his head coach.
“He’s brilliant to play under,” said Cooper, speaking to BBC Scotland Sportscene.
“He’s taken so many players in our team to levels they never thought were achievable.
“He’s obsessed, he’s obsessed with coaching, with improving players and he’s definitely done that to our squad and we’ve reaped the rewards from the two years working with him.
“From a team that finished 13th/14th the season before he came in to be in the top two for almost two years is some going in the Championship.
“It’s a tough league and we are looking forward to what the future holds.”
Despite hitting a rocky patch at the turn of the year, Leeds ultimately stormed to the Championship title by finishing ten points clear of second-placed West Brom having won seven of their last eight games and 12 of their last 14.
United’s last nine games were all played behind closed doors, accentuating the focus to the noises on the sidelines and pitch.
But while Bielsa can often be seen barking the orders, Cooper says his head coach is no ranter or raver.
“No not at all,” said United’s skipper.
“He’s calm and he’s collected. He gets his points across in a calm manner through an interpreter.
“I’ve never really seen him lose his head.
“He gets animated on the side of the pitch and I think that’s been highlighted even more in the lockdown behind closed doors and stuff like that.
“He doesn’t really get animated, he likes to get his point across calmly and we take it on board and we know how to deal with him on the side during a game as well.”
Assessing his own relationship with Bielsa - and asked if it was any different with him being captain - Cooper added: “One thing I have learnt with him is that he treats everybody the same in every aspect whether you are young, old or whatever.
“He is calm and I think he’ll be the first to admit he’s learned from his mistakes in the past.
“I think he did used to go that way and maybe get around people a lot more but in the two years I’ve spent with him he’s been very calm in the way he gets his points across to us.”
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Thank you Laura Collins