After the game against Huddersfield, I have been in somewhat of a football hibernation of late. Leeds United have a fantastic ability to take me from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in a quick 45 minutes of football and the second half of the other Saturday was one of these times.
Normally, I curse the International break. A self-confessed part time England fan, I’ve not been in love with International football since the days of Gary Linekar and Gazza. For me, its 100% Leeds United, and all other football pales in comparison to my beloved Whites. I am still severely aggrieved at the way they have treated me of late; however, I have decided to make an exception over the past 5 days. Not to watch England and marvel in the wonder of Jamie Vardy, but instead to watch the boys of Leeds United represent their respective countries and to try and restore my love of football once again.
Normally I wouldn’t have to watch too many games to see all of our lads in action, but this long weekend I ended up watching a grand total of 810 minutes of football, 9 games overall, of which I saw the good, the bad, and the very ugly of Leeds United of display.
Lewis Cook – England Under 19s
Let’s start off with the good: Lewis Cook. Cook played the full 90 minutes of Thursday’s 2-1 victory over Georgia before being introduced as a 67th-minute substitute in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Greece. Rounding off his International weekend with another full 90 minutes in a 2-0 victory over Spain culminating in qualifying for this summer’s European showdown in Germany. Over the course of these 3 games, Lewis Cook played unsurprisingly well and must have cemented his role in the squad for the Final Tournament in July. His composure and presence on the ball is no different to when he’s at his best for Leeds, and if it wasn’t for Steve Evans asking Aidy Boothroyd to go easy on Cook, he would have certainly played all 3 full games. England like to bring players up through the Under 19s, 21s to first team, and I don’t think it will be long (after the tournament in July) that we will see Lewis Cook at under 21 level.
Stuart Dallas – Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland had two friendlies over this International break: a home nations derby against Wales, in which Dallas played 89 minutes, and a home tie against Slovenia where he came on as a 60th minute sub. At the beginning of the year I fell in love with Stuart Dallas: he was the sort of winger I had wanted at Elland Road for a long time; quick, not afraid to take on a man, and can whip crosses in for fun. I still think he’s a terrific player, but he has faded slightly of late for me. Still more than strong enough to make our first team (as well as Northern Ireland's) he contributed well to a game everyone expected them to lose against Wales and helped in a hard fought victory against the Slovenians. Dallas took up the same role for NI as he does for Leeds and put in a similar type of performance, if not better. With him being a bit injury-stricken of late, I think this was maybe the game time he needed and would expect him to come back into the squad against Rotherham with a bit of a spark.
Mustapha Carayol - Gambia
Carayol was on target for Gambia in a 2-1 defeat against Mauritania on Friday and also played in the 0-0 draw against them on Tuesday. I struggled to watch this game, not only because my stream was so bad, but the standard was so poor. Gambia will struggle to qualify following these two results and based on their performances it’s not a surprise. I would want any Leeds player to shine in a game of such low quality, and Carayol did with his goal, but that was all. He just blended in with the rest for the most part, but his goal was exceptional. His lightning pace down the left him with a 3 on 1, skipping past 2 defenders and then put in a low finish into the bottom corner. It was the only bit of class in a poor Gambia performance and if Steve Evans was watching, it wouldn’t haven’t encouraged him to put Carayol in the starting 11 for Saturday.
Liam Bridcutt and Liam Cooper – Scotland
We’ve done the good of Lewis Cook and Stuart Dallas, the bad of Mustapha Carayol and Gambia, now let’s have a look at the ugly…..Exhibit A……
Some will say this is a perfect challenge, good bit of force, arguably got the ball, what’s the big deal? Dirty Leeds, you are. Others will say Liam Bridcutt was lucky to stay on the field. It's pretty obvious from the video what Peter Schmeichel thinks and sadly I have to agree with the over-sized Danish buffoon. I love to see Leeds players putting in solid tackles, but this is just reckless, and if he did it in a white shirt I would be screaming for him to be subbed. Bridcutt only received a yellow for this challenge to the surprise of everyone I was watching the game with. Unfortunately Liam Cooper didn’t play in either of Scotland two games and Bridcutt only got played little over 20 minutes so it’s hard to make any assessment. Based on challenges like the above though I don’t think he made it into Gordon Strachan’s good books (or maybe he did). Depends how Gordon viewed it.
So with 810 minutes of football watched, I declare Lewis Cook the winner of this International break. His 3 performances even put a smile back on my face, and I think I can bear to watch the Rotherham game without getting too angry and having a break down now.
Although, Neil Warnock will be there, so I can’t make any promises.