This article is part of Football League World’s ‘Player View’ series, this content strand is where we put ourselves in the shoes of a given player, and offer an opinion-based outlook on the situation at hand…
With 174 appearances under his belt, Liam Cooper is Leeds United’s current longest-serving player, and returned to the side on Tuesday night in United’s 1-0 victory at Reading.
The centre-back has gone from scapegoat to a leader and a key figure in Marcelo Bielsa’s side in the space of 18-months.
Since arriving at Elland Road from Chesterfield in 2014, Cooper has seen himself as third-choice defender, captain under several managers and now a firm leader in United’s dressing room.
This season the 28-year-old has missed four of United’s league games, having suffered a groin injury during United’s 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion back in October.
After returning to the fold, Cooper was then forced to start on the bench in the 2-1 win over Luton Town at the weekend but returned to the starting XI for the win at Reading on Tuesday night.
It is fair to say Cooper has been solid for the Whites this term and has featured in seven of the side’s nine clean-sheets so far this term.
Although Gaetano Berardi has done a respectable job filling in for Cooper, United fans feel more assured when the 28-year-old is in the line-up, which shows how far he has come.
The 28-year-old would have been forgiven in thinking his recurring groin problem could have hampered his season but the faith Bielsa has shown in him and his encouraging performance would suggest otherwise.
After starting as a substitute against Luton Town on Saturday, it would have been reassuring for Cooper to be given the nod to return to the defence on Tuesday night, proving that he is at the forefront of Bielsa’s plans.
It is fair to say that Reading were unlucky to not get anything against United on Tuesday evening.
The Royals created the better chances, but it was Cooper’s, along with Ben White’s, tight and calm defensive display that fans have become so accustomed to seeing, that helped the side onto three points.
Cooper is a self-proclaimed Leeds fan and he will be determined to be the man who captains the side back to the Premier League.
He has become self-assured and reliant by his manager, plus the Elland Road faithful, and given his solid performances when returning from injury and in the games he has featured, Cooper should play a big-part in the rest of United’s campaign.
Should his fitness stay up-to-scratch and he holds down his regular place in the side, he could well be on to becoming a Leeds United captain with a promotion under his belt.