Cooper fired up by Leeds link in quest for de­but cap

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen) - - SPORT - BY ANDY SKIN­NER

“All over El­land Road. There are a lot of pic­tures of other Scots”

De­fender Liam Cooper can gain plenty of in­spi­ra­tion from his club Leeds United to help him per­form for Scot­land.

Cooper has yet to win his first cap for the Scots but has in­ter­mit­tently been in­volved since earn­ing his first call-up for a 1-0 friendly win at home to Den­mark in March 2016.

The 26-year-old was born in Hull but qual­i­fies to play for Scot­land through his grand­fa­ther.

Cooper does not have to look far for Scot­tish in­flu­ence at Leeds, where na­tional team man­ager Gor­don Strachan en­joys leg­endary sta­tus due to his suc­cess as a player.

An­other Scot­tish in­spi­ra­tion of Cooper’s is Ed­die Gray, who is a club am­bas­sador hav­ing spent his en­tire play­ing ca­reer at El­land Road, and also had spells as man­ager and youth coach of the York­shire out­fit.

Cooper has been se­lected for this week’s dou­ble­header against Slo­vakia and Slove­nia, with two wins needed to se­cure a place in the World Cup qual­i­fy­ing play-offs, and he is ea­ger to re­turn to the English Cham­pi­onship club boast­ing of suc­cess with his coun­try.

He said: “The man­ager alone is all over El­land Road. There are a lot of pic­tures of other Scots. If I can fol­low in their foot­steps that would be amaz­ing but I’m just fo­cus­ing on my­self at the minute and hope­fully push­ing for­ward.

“Ed­die Gray is at a lot of the games. I went to the Sh­effield Wed­nes­day game yes­ter­day, which I was suspended for, and spoke with him.

“He’s al­ways ask­ing about all the lads here. He told me how im­por­tant this game is. We all know that.

“He was on to me right away about how im­por­tant this game is for Scot­land.

“If I can go back there know­ing we’ve got a play­off spot that would be un­be­liev­able.”

Cooper is com­pet­ing with Christophe Berra, Grant Han­ley and Char­lie Mul­grew for a start­ing berth against Slo­vakia at Ham­p­den on Thurs­day, prior to Sun­day’s fi­nal group match against Slove­nia in Ljubl­jana.

Cooper is ea­ger to stake his claim, ad­ding: “They are es­tab­lished at this level. They’ve all played a lot of games at this level and have proven them­selves.

“Ob­vi­ously, I’ve come into the squad and hope­fully I can push those lads to per­form bet­ter.”

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