The Leeds United captain was deployed in the left berth of the back three that struggled to deal with the Ukrainians in the 3-1 play-off defeat at Hampden. Essentially Cooper was deputising for the injured Kieran Tierney, who works in tandem with Andy Robertson on that flank to allow the pair to swap around at driving forward in overlapping and underlapping fashion. That is not Cooper’s game. But then no other defender at Steve Clarke’s disposal is capable of performing Tierney’s dual functioning. That fact has led some to maintain that Scotland should switch to a flat-back four if the Arsenal man is unavailable - the tactical change made as they sought to find a way to recover from 2-0 down against Ukraine. Cooper can’t see this line of thinking as anything other than a knee-jerk reaction.
“We’ve been successful with that shape so why would we change it?” said the 30-year-old, the play-off loss the first defeat for Clarke’s men in nine games. “We’re comfortable in it and have worked on it a lot. Going into a big game and changing it wouldn’t have worked in our favour. When we did change, we created chances but were vulnerable on the counter attack. It’s hard to put your finger on what went wrong. We were always in the game. We always believe we can score goals so we stuck at it. Not for a second did the boys roll over. We were in the ascendancy when we scored and pushed for the equaliser. But nothing would drop for us. On another night, we nick one and take it to extra-time.”
Cooper also doesn’t fall into line with the notion that it will now be mighty difficult for the Scotland squad to pick themselves up for their Nations League opener at home to Armenia next Wednesday. “We need to focus on the Nations League because it can get you to the Euros,” he said. “We know how important it was last time when we got success [to take us to Euro 2020]. We’ll prepare ourselves properly and go again. It’s a big game next week.”