By Alex Stevens
Garry Monk has won a notable first victory as Leeds manager by persuading Lewis Cook to pull of the England squad for the Under-19s European Championships.
The highly rated midfielder was set to miss the start of next season after being selected for the age-group team at the tournament in Germany, which runs from 11 July and runs until 24 July.
It would not only have ruled Cook out of virtually all of Leeds’ pre-season schedule, in what would be a damaging blow to Monk, but would almost certainly have sidelined him for the opening week of the new campaign if England were to progress to the final stages of the competition.
However, Monk has convinced Cook to pull out of the England squad and concentrate his efforts on being an integral figure in his club team.
“It was a very difficult decision for myself,” Monk told the official Leeds website. “I spoke to Lewis and told him how important he is to this team and for the project going forward.
“I just felt that to miss him for pretty much the whole of pre-season would be detrimental to the player and detrimental to myself and the team.
“I took the decision. Talking to the player, I made him very aware of the reasons why and he fully understood.
“I spoke to Aidy Boothroyd, the manager of England for his age group, and he understood. Of course, they wanted Lewis to be there with them but it’s a decision that I’ve had to take.
“I’ll play the villain in this but it was for the right reasons – England understand that and Lewis understands that. I think it’s what’s best for us going forward.”
With the new season due to start on 6 August, Cook could miss the first two weekends of the season, which would be three matches in total.
Cook, 19, was named the Football League Young Player of the Year last month after beating off competition from fellow nominees Fulham striker Mousa Dembele and Walsall left-back Rico Henry to land the coveted gong.
Cook followed in the footsteps of the 2015 winner Dele Alli, who has gone onto receive international honours and wide acclaim in his first season at Tottenham. Gareth Bale (2007) and Fabian Delph (2009) are also internationally recognised previous winners of the award.
Cook, 19, has been a mainstay of the Leeds team for the last two seasons, starting 41 of their 46 Championship matches in 2015/16 and providing further evidence of the potential that has made him a regular in the international set-up.
However, there is growing doubt about Cook’s Leeds future as he approaches the final year of his contract with the Championship giants.
The latest Leeds news is that ex-Elland Road striker Noel Whelan has urged the club to tie Cook and his youthful team-mate Charlie Taylor down to lucrative deals or risk another Sam Byram situation.