Leeds and Scotland defender Liam Cooper reveals Euro 2020 team-mate warning and compares Marcelo Bielsa with Steve Clarke

Developing a club mentality on the international scene has been a key ingredient to Scotland’s qualification success for this summer’s European Championships. But for Liam Cooper the Scotland squad is the only ‘club’ that matters this summer.

That includes all Leeds United allegiances being put to one side – particularly on June 18.

When Scotland face England Cooper will be on the opposing side from domestic team-mate Kalvin Phillips, a player he has seen grow into a star of the Premier League, and the Elland Road midfielder has been warned there will be no quarter given in the Auld Enemy clash if they meet on the Wembley pitch.

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"Kalvin knows what I think of him. I remember him as a lad and have seen his development over his full career, he was a young boy when I got to Leeds. To see him improve as a player to the point where he is now, is all credit to himself, but that goes out the window when we play England.”

Liam Cooper in action for Scotland during the Euro 2020 qualifier between Scotland and Russia at Hampden. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

He added: “I told him, first chance I get in a game I going to come straight up the back of him! Some will call it banter but if he gets the chance I am sure he would do the same to me,” laughed Cooper before insisting, “I am here representing Scotland, I want to win, I want to make my family in Scotland proud and the nation proud.

“I am professional and honest and I want to cause an upset, you could say, we want to do a number on them. We are quietly confident, we have had enough positive results over a period of time and we want to take that into the Euros.”

Cultivating the atmosphere and friendship within a group which meets only once every two or three months with the aim of replicating the feeling of a club squad who train and play together on a daily basis for consecutive weeks is not easy. However Andy Robertson believes that the qualification success in Serbia last November aided the atmosphere and Cooper can see it shining through the Spanish sun at the squad’s base in Alicante before facing the Netherlands and Luxembourg in preparation for the Euro 2020 kick-off against Czech Republic on June 14.

“We have been trying to get that sort of club mentality for a long time now and it definitely feels that way. The mood is the best it has felt since I have been in the set-up and that is credit to all the boys integrating people in.

Liam Cooper of Leeds United acknowledges the fans following the Premier League match between Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion at Elland Road on May 23, 2021 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Jon Super - Pool/Getty Images)

“We’d only been here a day but all the boys were getting on and enjoying themselves. We had a good training session, the boys looking sharp and I am sure it will get a lot more real over the coming weeks.

“It's brilliant to work together on the tactical side and it's going to be pivotal to how we do. We have to work to our best every single day, that's all the gaffer expects of us that we we bring it to the training pitch and are at full tilt.”

That’s another domestic throwback for Cooper in the squad – an intense manager who demands the best each session. At home it’s Marcelo Bielsa, with Scotland, it’s Steve Clarke.

“There's a lot of similarities to be honest,” admitted Cooper. “He's been brilliant for us. He wants the session at the highest intensity and he gets that. The boys buy into everything he says and everything he wants and he's only going to improve us, we know that.”

While one domestic colleague could be in opposition, a regular thorn in Cooper’s side on Leeds duty will be on his own side for the next month after being called up by Steve Clarke in March. Che Adams has caused Cooper problems in his spells as both a Birmingham City player and then again in the Premier League with Southampton.

“I have known about Che for a long time – he has managed to score plenty of goals against us at Leeds – he’s a very good player and if he gets a chance 90% of the time he puts it away.

“It is great to have him on board. He is a lovely lad and works hard. He is everything you need to be in this squad.

“Every player here will be looking to make an impact. It’s the biggest stage in football, it’s the opportunity we dreamed of as kids and we are all so lucky to be here.

“The lads who have missed out through injuries, we will be out to do them proud and the nation proud. We are looking to set our stamp on the Euros.”

To do that his Scotland colleagues are seeking to do something their predecessors have never done – progress past the group stage. Cooper believes ‘club Scotland’ can break new ground: "Why not believe? We see how we work every day. It's going to be tough but we know that. We know how hard we work, we know the system we play, we've been playing it for a long time now and we are confident.

"The first game is massive but we are confident we can get results elsewhere.

"It's massive to get off to a good start and that start is happening already, from the first day of training.

"We are not getting too many butterflies at the moment but we know we are building to something and we have to be in the right frame of mind, the right mentality and we've got to take that with us.

"There's a hunger and desire to do the nation proud and we carry that on our shoulders. We've a willingness to work for each other and a system that works for us.

"We've got two good warm-up games [against the Netherlands then Luxembourg], different games against different teams, and come the Euros we'll be ready.”

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