By Coral Barry

Noel Whelan has slammed Steve Evans for suggesting youngster Lewis Cook is exhausted after a long season in the Championship.

Cook was rested for Leeds’ humiliating 4-1 defeat to local rivals Huddersfield on Saturday and Whelan feels the 19-year-old should have started in such an important game.

Whelan, who spent two years at Elland Road as a striker, was baffled as to why Evans would demote Cook to the bench and rubbished the Leeds boss’ claims that the midfielder was “on his knees” after the Blackburn victory the previous week.

“Why Cook was sitting on the bench, I don’t know. He’d had a week’s rest,” said Whelan speaking to BBC Radio Leeds.

“I don’t care if he is 18 or 19 years of age, he would have wanted to play in that match. It’s simple.

“I remember making my debut when I was 17 and played in lots of Premier League games and not Championship ones from 18 onwards.”

Cook was eventually introduced with 25 minutes left, but could do nothing to stop Huddersfield claiming three goals in less than ten minutes.

The youngster has played 37 times already this season and Evans explained after the game that Cook was drained after such a heavy schedule.

Fighting fit: Evans revealed Woody is on the comeback trail

Heading for burn-out: Evans concerned Cook is being played into the ground

The Leeds boss has even pleaded with the England Under-19s not to overplay Cook in the upcoming European qualifiers.

But Whelan feels that since Leeds were chasing their fourth consecutive league win for the first time since November 2009 on Saturday, Cook’s absence was a huge mistake by Evans.

The former Coventry striker said: “Let’s not talk about we need to rest him. I want to see him playing every single match.

“I really wouldn’t have changed it from the Blackburn game and felt we needed more midfielders in there. We never got near them.”

In other Leeds news, speculation is rife that Evans is about to be dismissed by owner Massimo Cellino after a bust-up with the players.