'Perfect' - Exclusive: Danny Mills suggests barely-seen Leeds player could start v Millwall
Danny Mills has tipped Leeds United full-back Luke Ayling to take the place of Liam Cooper at the heart of the defence after seeing the centre-back injured against West Brom on Tuesday night.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, the former Leeds and England international says that Cooper’s setback could have come at the “perfect” time for the Whites, with Ayling returning to fitness and just one more game until an international break.
Cooper went off in the first half of the 1-0 win over West Brom, with Ayling stepping back onto the pitch in the second half after his own layoff through injury.
While Gaetano Berardi was the player chosen to take Cooper’s spot alongside Ben White versus the Baggies, Mills says that Ayling’s step up could see him line up at the heart of the defence in the clash against Millwall this weekend.
Mills told Football Insider: “I think Luke Ayling is a good footballer, obviously there’s a slight injury to Liam Cooper and Ayling can slip back into centre half. He’s good on the ball, I’ve always liked his calmness on the ball even before Bielsa came in.
“I think he’s got decent ability, I think he’s never let Leeds down, works hard, just signed a new contract, he likes the football club, he likes living in and around Leeds. Now that he’s fit, it adds more competition for places.
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“You don’t want to lose any of your good players but maybe it’s perfect timing, Ayling’s back fit, you’ve got Berardi on the bench and you’ve got an international break coming up. If you can get through that, get a couple of weeks’ rest, there’s every chance he’ll be fit after that.”
Ayling has not started a game for Leeds this season after finding himself sidelined through injury before the campaign kicked off, his substitute appearance on Tuesday his first outing, while Cooper has missed just one game in the Championship.
Natural full-back Berardi took the captain’s place in the side against Stoke City, while Ayling has also featured as a makeshift centre-back during his career.
In other Leeds United news, Noel Whelan says that it could take months for one Elland Road ace to make a return to the starting XI.