Leeds blow as key player could miss opening three matches of next season

By Alex Stevens

Lewis Cook could miss the start of next season after being named in the England Under-19s squad for their forthcoming friendly double-header in Mexico.

Cook, an established figure in the age group for the national team after making his debut in March of last year, is a virtual shoo-in for the Under-19s European Championships in July.

However, the tournament in Germany does not start until 11 July and runs until 24 July.

This not only rules Cook out of virtually all of Leeds’ pre-season schedule, in what would be a damaging blow to the manager, but would almost certainly sideline him for the opening week of the new campaign if England progress to the final stages of the competition.

The 19-year-old is likely to be given a three-week holiday by his club at the end of an 11-month competitive season.

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If England reach the Under-19s final, he is unlikely to be available for Leeds until at least the third week of August.

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.

Nevertheless, Cook’s call-up is further recognition of the progress made by the 19-year-old since he broke into the Leeds team last season.

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.

The Leeds playmaker is an integral member of Aidy Bothroyd’s England Under-19s side which recently secured a place at this summer’s showpiece tournament in Germany.

Cook, 19, has been a mainstay of the Leeds team for a second consecutive season, 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 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.