Liam Cooper, Jamie Shackleton and Jack Clarke have put themselves in contention for Leeds United’s weekend game against Queens Park Rangers after coming through 45-minute run-outs for the Under-23s.
The trio were substituted at half-time in Monday’s 1-1 Premier League Two draw at home to Burnley, and provided there is no reaction should be options if Marcelo Bielsa wants to change his line-up for the first time in four matches.
Captain Cooper had been missing with a groin problem since the October 1 win over West Bromwich Albion. He returned as a substitute to help see out a 0-0 draw at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.
Even with full-back Gaetano Berardi playing out of position, the Whites can hardly be said to have suffered defensively without Cooper, having conceded only two goals in the four games since his injury.
Even so, central defensive colleague Ben White noticed the difference when the Scotland international returned.
“He’s a great role model to play alongside,” said the 22-year-old on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion.
He’s a great role model to play alongside. I was just picking up little bits of communication because he’s a leader, loads of little details that he does naturally.”Ben White on Liam Cooper
“I was just picking up little bits of communication because he’s a leader, loads of little details that he does naturally.”
Cooper was limping early in Monday’s game, but appeared to complete the first half without too much difficulty.
Shackleton also failed to see out the victory over West Brom after he picked up a hamstring strain.
With Adam Forshaw sidelined too, Stuart Dallas has been asked to play out of position as a central midfielder – although he started as a right wing-back at Hillsborough – but Bielsa has been impressed at how he has adapted to the role.
Helder Costa has yet to really find his feet on the field since joining on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, and with Jack Harrison out of form, despite laying on an excellent chance for Patrick Bamford against the Owls, Mateusz Klich also off-colour lately and Pablo Hernandez injured, creativity has been an issue at times recently, and Clarke could offer an alternative.
Since being bought by Tottenham Hotspur and loaned back, the 18-year-old’s only first-team appearances have come in the League Cup, and he has been an unused substitute in the last six matches.
His half-time withdrawal on Monday suggests the left-winger could also be in Bielsa’s thoughts for Saturday’s Elland Road match.