The Leeds United defender struggled on international duty.
Leeds United’s Liam Cooper had an international break to forget.
The 28-year-old earned his first and second caps for Scotland over the past five days but both resulted in defeat, losing 2-1 to Russia last week and 4-0 to Belgium at Hampden Park on Monday night.
Cooper struggled on his bow against the Russians and the Leeds centre-back was beaten to the ball by Thomas Vermaelen for Belgium’s second goal of the evening.
The Hull-born defender, who has never played a Premier League game, was given a baptism of fire for the most part, but Scottish football legend Gordon Dalziel has moved to add some perspective over the gulf in pedigree between Cooper and the players he was facing.
The former Rangers striker told Clyde 1 Superscoreboard: “Second goal, Thomas Vermaelen nips in ahead of Liam Cooper. He’s never played a top-flight game in his career. Vermaelen’s just let Barcelona….
“He’s a better player. Sometimes better players beat you and there’s absolutely no shame in that.”
The reality is that Cooper, despite being one of Leeds’ most consistent performers, has simply come up against superior players in recent days and hopefully for his and the Whites’ sake he doesn’t return to Thorp Arch with an international hangover.
Considering that United failed to sign a centre-back and lost several during the summer, Cooper is a massive player for Marcelo Bielsa and a dip in form could be detrimental.
But the negative reaction from fans and media will undeniably take its toll on Steve Clarke’s side and time will tell how much Cooper is affected. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that he’s an outstanding professional and Marcelo Bielsa is one of the best man-managers around, meaning that if Cooper returns to England a bit lower on confidence prior to the international break then the Argentine will know how to proceed.
If the Hull-born star’s spirit or belief is fractured in any way as a result of what happened over the past four days, Bielsa will have just the right tonic to make him better.