Two Leeds United captains come together.
Current Leeds United captain Liam Cooper and legendary skipper Lucas Radebe continued their talk with LUTV’s Bryn Law.
With Sky Bet Championship football looking set to return on June 20, both Radebe and Cooper are dreaming of the club returning to the Premier League, with the duo discussing the upcoming task.
Bryn: “Lucas had all sorts of challenges throughout his career, Liam your challenge now is two-fold. Not only are you trying to get into the top flight, but now on top of that you have this new challenge where the season was going well and everything stopped. How have you dealt with this challenge?”
Liam: “It’s been tough. You have a lot of time to reflect. Coming into the lockdown we’d won five games on the bounce and we were flying, so it came at a horrible time for us. We’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what we’ve done and what we can do to be better and finish the job. We’ve had that time, trained hard and in these times, it is all you can do. Your professional side comes out, we are athletes and there was always going to be a time where we had to be ready to resume. All of the lads have stuck to it, the lads are in such good shape and the lads are flying. I’ve been surprised at the sharpness of the sessions and fitness levels of the lads and that proves to me that everybody has listened. Everybody is thinking like me and has the same dreams as me. We want to get this club to the Premier League.”
Bryn: "Lucas, can you imagine the challenge Liam and the rest of the players face, when they’ve been that close and things have had to stop?"
Lucas: It is a great challenge. I can appreciate what they’ve gone through in the last two months, especially when the team is on a roll and playing so well, with the fitness so high and that level, stopping abruptly like that. Of course, you have one eye on the league and then playing well and winning games week in week out, the situation must be really, really difficult. It is a test of character and a test of professionalism in terms of what the players can bring to the club. I appreciate how hard they work and how they take it upon themselves to reach the levels they are at and that is commitment. These players have the same vision and I believe that having watched them, the Premier League is where they belong. I haven’t seen such great football in such a long time, it’s amazing watching on TV and it gives me goose bumps.”
Bryn: "Lucas you came through so many challenges in your own life. You got shot in the back before you arrived at Leeds and you came through that. This challenge in front of Liam which is unique, would you look on it as a positive thing where you have to be mentally strong?"
Lucas: “Absolutely. It gives them an opportunity to earn even more respect as individuals. Again, for me, I’d be looking forward to getting back out on the field and playing as well as I can. At the moment of that injury, I never thought I’d play football again, but from that point I never looked back. I realise in life you can be lucky and having a second chance in life is absolutely brilliant. I started being positive in everything I did. When I got to football I never looked back, I worked even harder after my injury, to appreciate life and appreciate the second chance to play football again, you might as well play to the best of your ability.”
Bryn: "It intrigues me as to how you manage the situation as a manager as well. What has been Marcelo Bielsa’s strategy, now he has gradually got you working back together on the grass?"
Liam: “There was not much contact, the only contact we had was with the fitness coaches for our running programmes. We know this is something no team has had to deal with before and hopefully won’t have to deal with again. It’s unique, a nine-game mini season, it is a sprint. We have to go full tilt for nine games and I believe we can do that. I believe we’re the fittest team in the league and the strongest team in the league. There’s not one lad that doesn’t believe we can’t go and win the Championship. That is the mentality we have to have, we have to be strong. We want to finish it off and take this club to the glory days again.”
Bryn: "Lucas do you think Leeds will do it, are you confident having watched them?"
Lucas: “For me the Premier League is not the same with Leeds United not being in it. I am confident with the manager. To bring such a squad and get them to compete week in, week out at that level with the same commitment is amazing. For me that shows, it is a club that wants to be in the Premier League. Everybody has the same goal and there is a real unity. For me I am confident Liam and the team will do it.”