Leeds United captain

Noel Whelan has hit back at critics of Liam Cooper and backed the Leeds United skipper to put a “mixed” start to the season behind him and become a Scotland regular.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs, the former Leeds striker and boyhood Whites fan claimed the 29-year-old is still adapting to international football.

Cooper was left on the bench for Scotland’s crucial European Championship play-off victory over Serbia.

 

The Hull born defender then played the full 90 minutes in their 1-0 defeat to Slovakia in the Nations League on Sunday night.

The game was Cooper’s fifth Scotland cap and he attracted social media criticism from a section of the Tartan Army.

Whelan claimed he will improve every time he plays international football.

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He told Football Insider: “Liam Cooper is a player that can adapt. It has taken him a bit of time to hit the heights at Leeds United.

“When he first came in he struggled to cement himself as that leader and centre-half that we could not do without but now we have seen him develop into that player. He is a dominant centre-half.

“He was rightly called up. Steve Clarke has seen that progression and you cannot question his decision. He will improve the more he plays at international level. It is no different to Kalvin Phillips with England.

“He’s had a mixed time with injury this season and he has not hit the heights of last year when he was ever-present. You could see the benefits of that. We have not got the full Liam Cooper.”

Leeds have kept just one clean sheet in the five Premier League games that Cooper has started this season.

He has missed three games this term with injuries picked up on international duty.

In other Leeds United news, a top pundit has claimed the club have a “Jaap Stam situation” on their hands after a shock development.