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Three candidates to be the next Leeds United captain

After ten long years, the prospect of the sun setting on Liam Cooper’s Leeds United career looks increasingly likely.

In the decade passed, Cooper has long outgrown that cruel, unjust moniker of ‘League One Liam’ into a resilient captain who leads by example on the field and is a worthy ambassador off it.

History will rightly remember Cooper fondly; he and the captain’s armband were quite simply a good match.

The role of captain has evolved significantly since Cooper first breezed through the doors at Elland Road. No more are club captains’ immovable objects where the starting XI is concerned – Cooper’s predicament this season serves as a case in point.

No matter how things change though, the central tenets of the armband bearer remain the same – leadership and example.

With that in mind, in a bid to uncover potential captains within the current squad, we examined three candidates under the microscope.

Ethan Ampadu

Ethan Ampadu. Credit: Imago Images

The ink was barely dry on Ethan Ampadu’s contract by the time he was demonstrably displaying his leadership qualities in the white of Leeds United.

From the word go, the former Chelsea man snapped into tackles, broke up moves foreseen by his innate football intelligence, and since Pascal Struijk succumbed to injury, has looked at home with the armband strapped securely around his bicep.

It’s not difficult to draw in your mind images of Ampadu ordering teammates into position, frantically gesticulating to the crowd to crank up the noise a notch, or visibly delegating in the way an on-field leader should.

Ampadu isn’t quite the ’10 stones of barbed wire’ Billy Bremner was, who in the modern game is? But he does have that measured aggression in his locker and the tenacity the Elland Road faithful respond to. A bona fide leader of the sleeves-up variety, he and the armband seem drawn to one another.

Pascal Strujik

Pascal Struijk. Credit: Imago Images

Leaders come in different shapes and sizes, and their qualities are often diverse and bespoke. The current deputy, Struijk, falls under the banner of those who lead by example. By his own admission, he’s not the chest-thumping, vociferous kind.

Speaking to LUTV in December, he said, “I would say in the beginning I was a little bit nervous. I remember getting it the first time (the captaincy) and I was a little bit nervous about I had to speak more, I need to really show that I am out there.

“But that’s not really the guy I am, especially in the changing room, so I do it on the pitch and I do all my speaking and stuff on the pitch.”

Struijk’s taciturnity and modesty shouldn’t be misconstrued for meekness, his actions speak louder than words. Be it playing it of position without complaint or stepping wildly outside his comfort zone by taking penalties, Struijk embodies ‘Side before self’ and is a worthy claimant to the armband permanently.

Archie Gray

Archie Gray. Credit: Imago Images

Looking beyond the aforementioned duo was slightly more challenging, so for this final nominee we’ve had to call in the tea leaves and the tarot cards.

In this instance, destiny proclaims that young Gray proves an anomaly in the current climate, spurning the riches on offer from state-owned clubs and overseas aristocrats, opting to remain in situ at Elland Road where he will be loved and cherished by his own kind.

Gray finds himself in the unique position of embodying the childhood dreams of an entire region – a heavy, taxing, burden, but not that you’d know it such is his ability to handle pressure.

Economic realities dictate that if he continues in this vein, his peak years will be carried out in the shirt of another, but if football’s not for dreaming, what is it for? The heir apparent to the Gray crown leading Leeds United, his boyhood club into a bold new era in the top flight, it has nice a ring to it.

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1 month ago

Pascal Struijk … how this guy has been missed in his injury absence. That’s not saying anything wrong about Ethan Ampadu … just a massive fan of both guys and a personal opinion.

Jim Anderson
Jim Anderson
1 month ago

I think this is one of the reasons Leeds are thinking about resigning Phillips if they get promotion

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