These are exciting times for Leeds United. They’re top of the Championship and are playing some of the best football in the land under the watchful eye of continental cult hero Marcelo Bielsa.
The Whites have a long way to go, but so far they’re on course for a Premier League return.
They’re 27/20 to continue their hot form with a win at Millwall, and ahead of the game we grabbed an exclusive word with club captain Liam Cooper…
Ladbrokes News: Hi Liam, thanks for talking to us. It’s been a pretty good start to the season for Leeds, right?
Liam Cooper: Yeah it’s been really good so far. The thing is we’re only six games into a 46-game season, so we aren’t getting carried away with ourselves.
LN: We’ve got to talk about your new manager – the legendary Marcelo Bielsa. How have you and the team adapted to his unique style of management and football?
LC: We’re still learning! We’re learning everyday from him and he’s always implementing something new into training.
But from day one, when we heard he was coming in, and you’ve seen what he’s done, plus where and who he’s managed before, there was automatically a big sense of respect for him from all of us.
So right from the start we perhaps made Marcelo’s job easier because we all bought into it. It was a really tough pre-season and we’re reaping the rewards now – but there’s still a long way to go.
LN: What’s been the biggest single impact Bielsa has brought with him to Elland Road?
LC: Probably the pre-season and his fitness demands. It was a really tough six-weeks, it was long and hard. Since I’ve been at the club we’ve never had that. It was new for the boys, but everyone bought into it.
There was no moaning, no complaining. Everybody came together.
There’s a real togetherness in the team anyway, so everyone was on-board to get working and build on our fitness levels. That’s his biggest impact for me so far, his fitness levels.
LN: What were the targets for Leeds this season?
LC: Ever since Andrea Radrizzani came in, the aim has been to get out of the Championship and into the Premier League. That’s where this club belongs.
But it’s not easy to do that with 23 other teams fighting for the same thing and there are no easy games in the Championship.
But you’ve got to have ambitions in this game, and one of them is to definitely get out of the Championship and into the Premier League.
LN: This has been Leeds’ best start for a while. Could it be this year?
LC: We had a pretty good first half of the campaign last year and tailed off. So we know how things can go.
We can learn from that. It’s pretty much the same squad as last year, so we know and remember things going wrong last year.
It was hard to get over that, but we’ve got that experience to improve upon. We all know the league, we’ve got to take each game as it comes and that’s what we’re trying to do.
We can learn 100% from last season. It was a bad experience, but it’s one I’ll keep going onto the lads about because we can’t allow that to happen again.
LN: Leeds have got six games in three weeks coming up, how are you preparing for the busy schedule?
LC: Ah it’s nothing we’re not used to! It’s the Championship and that’s how it is.
But our bodies are bedded into that now. I think a few of the boys had a bit of a shock last year, but they’re ready now. Six games in three weeks is water off a duck’s back really!
LN: Who do you think are promotion contenders this season?
LC: It’s hard to say at this stage. The Championship is full of surprises. But Stoke should be up there. They’ve got a very strong squad.
And not many teams will take points off Middlesbrough. Teams will struggle to beat them this season. Tony Pulis’ sides don’t lose easily. Come Christmas we’ll know more though, it’s still pretty early days.
LN: How have the Leeds fans been this season?
LC: The Leeds fans speak for themselves. All our home games have sold out and our away allocations have sold out every time.
They travel in their numbers and they’re with us every week. It’s been great so far to give them a good day out this season, and make them go home happy.
LN: Finally, we all know he likes to watch the game sitting on his box on the touchline. But what’s Bielsa like day-to-day?
LC: Haha! No, no, he’s a straight-up guy. We all know where we stand with him and I think that’s the best way you can be.
Obviously, his box has stolen a bit of the limelight but we’re not fussed about that!
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication