Leeds United captain Liam Cooper has paid tribute to manager Marcelo Bielsa for resurrecting his career at the club, following a difficult start to his time at Elland Road.
The centre-back has just signed a new five-year contract with Leeds, which is set to keep him at Elland Road until at least the summer of 2024, but the newly capped Scotland international has suggested that things could have been all so different had the enigmatic Argentine not arrived in Yorkshire.
Cooper joined Leeds from in the summer of 2014 from Chesterfield, and the defender has now revealed how much he struggled during the early stages of his time at Elland Road.
Speaking to Leeds Live about his time at the club so far, Cooper revealed: “The first three-and-a-half years I really struggled under different managerial staff and it was hard.
“You do start to question yourself and whether you are good enough and whether you can do it at this level.”
Discussing the impact those struggles had on him, Cooper admitted that it was something that affected more than just him personally, as he added: “It’s hard at times. We’re there to be shot at as players and as individuals and it doesn’t just affect us, it affects families.”
Now, however, Cooper is looking forward to building on an impressive campaign last year – which saw him named in the EFL Team of the Season – and discussing the part Bielsa has played in that upturn in his fortunes, the Scot explained: “I’ve come out the other side. Marcelo coming to the club has been a massive plus for me. I see the game from a whole different perspective now.
“The way you should apply yourself and the way you go into games. It is all or nothing and that’s the way it’s got to be.”
In total, Cooper has made 165 appearances in all competitions for Leeds, scoring six times, with his side next in action when they make the short trip to Oakwell to face local rivals Barnsley on Sunday afternoon.
This will surely only endear Leeds fans to Marcelo Bielsa even more.
It is no secret that Bielsa has worked wonders for the club since his arrival at Elland Road, and this only highlights the impact he has had on Leeds, and their squad, which may even make this a more appealing club for other potential signings to move to in the future.
You feel there also has to be a decent amount of credit that goes to Cooper here, since he has stuck at it through the difficult times at Elland Road, when other players may well have looked for a move elsewhere.
Given the way Cooper is playing now, I expect there will be plenty of Leeds fans who are delighted that he made that decision to stay at the club.