By Harry Sykes
Liam Cooper insisted that the Chris Wood transfer issue did not cloud Leeds United’s preparations for their impressive 2-0 win at Sunderland on Saturday evening.
Manager Thomas Christiansen reacted to the absence of the Championship’s top scorer in 2016-17 by handing a full league debut to Caleb Ekuban, who joined from Italian club Chievo earlier in the window.
The 23-year-old did not get on the scoresheet but showed some promising signs before pulling up with what appeared to be a hamstring injury after 62 minutes.
This meant that Leeds played without an orthodox front man for the final third of the fixture but were still able to secure what was a notable win through goals from Samu Saiz and Stuart Dallas.
Asked if Leeds can cope without Wood, the response from their central defender was emphatic.
“Yes, definitely,” Cooper told Sky Sports’ live coverage of the match while being interviewed on the pitch immediately afterwards. “I think Caleb has come in and done a good job, he has got good pace and is good on the ball.
“I think the lads dug in today, gave it everything and, as you can tell, there is a great response and hopefully we can keep it going.”
The stand-in captain denied that Wood’s imminent departure had overshadowed the team’s plans for the north-east clash after the striker had travelled with the squad to the north-east on Friday.
“Not all, we’re all professionals at the end of the day, people are going to come in and people are going to go out, that’s the business we’re in,” Cooper added to Sky Sports.
“We wish Woody all the best, he’s been unbelievable for us, but we’ve got a season to worry about now.”
In the latest Leeds United news, another senior player is set to follow Chris Wood out of the exit door next week.