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Can Leeds United's Lewis Cook become the new David Batty?

18-year-old Cook has been likened to the homegrown anchor of Leeds' title-winning midfield in 1992, but how do the two compare?

Leeds fans have always loved a tough, competitive midfielder and every successful Elland Road team has contained one, be it Bobby Collins, Billy Bremner or David Batty. Recent seasons have seen a particular dearth of solid midfielders at the club, and Leeds have routinely failed to control the vital central areas.

Over a decade after Batty retired from the game, he is still seen as the benchmark for a Leeds United midfielder in the modern game. Lewis Cook is the latest incumbent of the holding role in Leeds United's engine room which inevitably draws comparisons with the famous hard man of the Sgt Wilko era, and while there is so much more to Cook's game - as indeed there was to Batty's - it is an intriguing parallel to assess.


Batty's reputation for tackling was fearsome and he could rouse the crowd with a flying challenge just as Gary McAllister could do the same with a 30-yard free-kick. While Batty was aggressive to the point of making you wince - and often deliberately so in an era when you could get away with it more - Cook is certainly more measured in his tackling, and while he is not afraid to put the foot in, it is unlikely he will forge the notoriety that Batty did.


A notable feature of Cook's game in this season's Sky Bet Championship has been his range of passing, often spreading play or splitting the opposition defence with an incisive through-ball. In this respect, Cook is arguably a more adventurous passer than Batty was. Batty was famed for his sideways passing as more of a 'continuity' player, i.e. giving the ball to those who could do more with it. That said, Batty was a fine passer of the ball when the situation merited it and rarely gave away possession. Cook is still raw and his passing accuracy lets him down on occasions but he has time on his side to improve that. In 2682 minutes played this season Cook has completed 1194 passes with 908 of them being accurate (76%). It is likely these figures aren't too different to those of the rough and ready specimen that Batty was in his debut season of 1987/88.


Undoubtedly this was Batty's main asset. His unruffled and nonchalant dismissal of reputation gave him a visible air of authority on the park, even in his teenage years. Batty could take whatever he dished out and he would regularly dominate midfield through his sheer presence. Cook shows signs of being able to stand up to the heat of the battle, but again, the strong arm tactics Batty would often employ to gain a foothold simply can't be practised today. Still, Cook has the steady, nerveless temperament that saw Batty handle the pressure of the big games, and this will only get better.

Reading the game

Batty was a master of sniffing out danger and stopping it at cause; mopping up in midfield and protecting the back four, but also following runners and creating space as a willing outlet. Often known as 'doing the dirty work' it is an essential and thankless shift required of someone in every successful team. Cook is adept at stepping in and winning a loose ball and is not averse to running the hard yards tracking back when the situation demands it. His reading of the game for a player so young is exceptional, and his skill in playing himself out of tight situations shows a maturity beyond his years.


This is one area where there is undoubtedly a common thread between the two players. Batty was famously shot-shy and would create comic mirth in the crowd whenever he had the ball within 40 yards of goal. He scored just four goals in over 350 appearances for Leeds, and rarely troubled the goalkeeper from any distance. In his 34 appearances for Leeds so far, Cook has managed just 15 attempts on goal, with five on target and no goals scored. Compare this with fellow Academy graduate Alex Mowatt, who in 28 appearances in 2014/15 has managed 34 attempts on goal, 14 on target and eight goals. In Batty's first spell at the club between 1987 and 1993 he would drive forward in attack regularly, but this was often dispelled from his game through the team formation. Cook has the same asset and also has the pace to take the ball on the counter-attack, side-stepping challenges with quick feet in a manner that Batty rarely did.

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