DEFENDER Liam Cooper still has an “important role” to play in Leeds United’s push for the Premier League despite being banned for six games, according to head coach Garry Monk.
The 25-year-old was hit with what Monk regards as an “incredibly harsh” punishment after being found guilty of stamping on Reece Oxford during last weekend’s defeat at Reading.
Cooper will have to sit out all but the final-day trip to Wigan Athletic during the run-in, but Monk insists that does not preclude the defender from playing his part for a side strongly fancied to reach the play-offs.
“I think it (the ban) is incredibly harsh,” said Monk.
“But there is nothing we can do about it, we have to accept it and get on with it. I am disappointed for Liam, but he is an important player and he will have an important role to play, even with this suspension.
“Liam is a leader among the group and he is still going to play that role.”
Leeds host Preston North End tomorrow having suffered back-to-back defeats to Reading and Brentford on the road. With Simon Grayson’s North End fresh from a 5-0 thrashing of Bristol City in midweek and clearly having United in their sights as a play-off rival, Monk is looking for a response from his players.
“We are disappointed with those two results, but there are ups and downs in the Championship,” he added. “Every team in this league has faced ups and downs.
“It is impossible to doubt these players. They have achieved something already, which is harder than achieving the opportunity they have got right now in terms of fighting for a play-off place.
“They have put Leeds back on the map. They have made everyone talk about Leeds for the right reasons. They’ve given the club something back – a team they can be proud of.”