Leeds United captain Liam Cooper believes that his side “weren’t good enough” last season, and that he felt “killed” by seeing his beloved club relegated from the Premier League as a result.
A feeble 4-1 home thrashing at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur seemed a fitting way to conclude a season for a floundering Whites side who had – as is the general consensus amongst the Elland Road faithful – been woefully mismanaged by those at boardroom level.
Then-club chairman Andrea Radrizzani and director of football Victor Orta, in particular, were two figures who drew most criticism. Despite legendary head coach Marcelo Bielsa being appointed during their tenure – with the Argentine restoring Leeds’ long-yearned for top-flight status during the 2019-20 season – they were also responsible for his sacking, and the subsequent hiring of Jesse Marsch.
The American’s arrival signalled a tumultuous time in West Yorkshire, with Bielsa’s distinct, possession-based footballing style being replaced by a seeming lack of any coherent structure or philosophy on the pitch.
As results began to turn, and Marsch found himself sacked and replaced by Michael Skubala, Javi Gracia and finally Sam Allardyce in a period of a few months – Leeds seemed a club out of control both on and off the field.
And, when the Whites’ poor form eventually saw them confirmed as relegated at Elland Road on the final day of last year’s Premier League season, a general sense of anger existed amongst a dedicated fanbase who felt they had been let down on all fronts.
Leeds skipper Cooper opens up on Premier League relegation
This was a sentiment shared by Cooper, whose now famous dressing room tirade post-Tottenham – in which he essentially told those who weren’t prepared to fight for the club to leave – was triggered by feelings of anger and disappointment at several of his squad-mates who he felt weren’t pulling their weight.
A Leeds fan himself, this was personal as well as professional for the Scottish international, as he revealed in a recent interview with Sky Sports.
“I was angry or whatever you want to call it. I just had a feeling that people weren’t pulling their weight as good as you should have been and you’ve seen the quotes.
“That killed me. It killed me. It really hurt me. We’d put a lot of hard work in to get where we were and felt a little bit let down in a way.
“I don’t like to make excuses. We weren’t good enough, individually or as a team. There just wasn’t that bond there. It wasn’t there and I felt like it needed to be said.”
As the sun sets on his Leeds United career there is no doubt that an immediate return to the top-flight would be the perfect end to Cooper’s time at the West Yorkshire club.
And, with a tactically-savvy boss in Daniel Farke as well as quality all over the field, there very much exists the scope for Cooper’s final dream to become a reality.