Danny Mills has heaped praise on Leeds United captain Liam Cooper after he returned to Premier League action against Brighton & Hove Albion.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the former Whites and England defender claimed the 29-year-old playing the full 90 minutes at Elland Road compared to just the first-half against Crawley shows where Marcelo Bielsa’s priorities lie.
Cooper’s 45-minute cameo in east Sussex was his first appearance in a white shirt since their 6-2 defeat to Manchester United on December 20.
He retained his place against the Seagulls on Saturday when he partnered Luke Ayling with Pascal Struijk pushing into midfield.
The Scotland international won all of his aerial duels, made six clearances and recorded an 89 per cent pass completion rate against Graham Potter’s side, according to sofascore.
Despite his best efforts, Leeds United lost 1-0 to Brighton after Neal Maupay finished into an empty net after a smart move which saw them get in behind the back four.
“He’s a defensive stalwart, isn’t he?” Mills told Football Insider.
“That 45 minutes against Crawley Town was always the plan, get him some game time and into the fold and make sure he came through unscathed. That’s exactly what they did.
“In hindsight, they may have left him on for the second-half against Crawley, but that’s easy to say now.
“It just goes to show Bielsa’s thoughts are more with the Premier League than the FA Cup.”
Cooper has played over 200 times for the Yorkshire giants since his move from Chesterfield in the summer of 2014.
The Hull-born defender was given the captaincy of the club he supported growing up in January 2015.