LIAM COOPER insists Leeds United will not buckle under the pressure of being the team setting the pace in the Championship.
The Elland Road club head to Stoke City today sitting four points clear of the chasing pack.
Leeds, embroiled in the furore surrounding ‘Spygate’ for the past week, have been at the summit for a little over a month and are, therefore, the team everyone wants to beat.
Captain Cooper, however, is adamant that head coach Marcelo Bielsa’s team are unfazed by any talk of being under extra pressure as leaders.
“Being at Leeds United is a pressure in itself,” said the 27-year-old, now in his fifth season at Elland Road. “It is a massive club that expects success.
“We have not managed to give the fans and the club anything to shout about over the last few years, but we are certainly heading in the right direction.
“There is, though, a long whole way to go. It is a tough, gruelling season and we are coming into crunch time now. Hopefully we can knuckle down and keep giving performances like we know we are capable of and see where that takes us.
“There is a mini-season going on now. The last 19 games is a hell of a lot of games and there are plenty of points up for grabs.”
Bielsa and Leeds have been in the headlines for the past week after it was revealed the Argentinian had sent a member of his staff to watch Derby train during the build-up to last week’s 2-0 victory over the Rams.
It earned United plenty of criticism in some quarters, while others could not see what the fuss was all about.
Either way, Bielsa will be happy for the focus to return to football today with a game against Stoke City under new manager Nathan Jones. United beat the Potters, then under the management of Gary Rowett, 3-1 on the opening weekend.
Asked if that win was the catalyst for United’s promotion push, Cooper replied: “I think so, yes.
“We went into the game full of confidence, it was a win-win situation for us.
“Stoke, obviously having come down from the Premier League, are a good team. They had been up there for so long so it was good to test ourselves so early in the season.
“To get a positive result like that really set us up and it set us up for now. This game is not going to be easy, we know that. We are preparing properly for that and, hopefully, we can come out with a positive result.”