They’ve never been to Perth and don’t know what a quokka is, but Leeds United stars Liam Cooper and Pablo Hernandez are happy to be in Australia as part of the club’s preseason.
The English Championship side touched down in Perth yesterday evening ahead of Wednesday’s game against Manchester United at Optus Stadium.
It took 22 hours for the travelling party to get to Western Australia and there were some bleary eyes at the team hotel this morning.
“We’re happy to be here and we can’t wait to see what Perth is like as a city and obviously looking forward to a very good game on Wednesday,” Cooper said.
Manager Marcelo Bielsa has opted to take just 16 players with him for the trip which will also see Leeds take on Western Sydney Wanderers at the new Bankwest Stadium on Saturday.
Some of the first team squad were left in the UK to do fitness work, while those who have made it to Australia are being kept on their toes – they had to complete a weigh before having breakfast on Monday.
“The fitness side of the game is very important for us, we all know the manager here wants us to work and there’s ideas from last year which we took into preseason,” Cooper added.
“It’s really important, that side of it, and we want to go into the season with a winning mentality.”
There may not be as many household names in the Leeds squad compared to that of Manchester United but the likes of Hernandez Kemar Roofe, Patrick Bamford and Jack Harrison are quality players in their own right.
“It’s a big game for both clubs,” Hernandez said. “Obviously the last few years we haven’t seen this game in England, but I think the rivalry is still there.”
Cooper echoed those sentiments and is keen to spearhead a return to the top flight of English football for the first time since 2004.
“We want to play this game in the Premier League, we don’t want it to be a preseason friendly,” he said.
He expects there to be a bit of excitement among two sets of supporters who haven’t had many opportunities to see their teams go head-to-head in recent years.
“Being a boy growing up in England you always knew of the Man United and Leeds United hate…call it a hatred back home,” Cooper said.
“The fans didn’t get along and the games were always good games, I think we’ve been brought up around that.”
Cooper also admitted that there could be a bit of spice to the game on the field depending how the contest is playing out.
“With it being a preseason friendly the teams might differ from their side to our side, so I think that takes a little bit away from it,” he said.
“It’s Leeds United against Manchester United, it’s one of the biggest games out there so I’m sure it will be a great spectacle for the fans and the boys will enjoy playing in it.”
While an understrength Perth Glory were very defensive in their approach to facing Manchester United at the weekend, Leeds will look to take the game to the Red Devils.
“We take chances, we attack with a lot of men, and we defend as a team,” Cooper said.
“That’s the way the manager wants us to play and that’s the way we’re used to playing.”
One man who no longer at the club is Pontus Jansson; the cult figure and central defender was recently sold to Brentford, something that Hernandez isn’t too pleased about.
“I am not happy because we lost him, but this is football,” said the Spaniard who has four international caps to his name.
“I don’t think too much about this now because what’s more important now is the players who stay here and who play in the next season for Leeds United.”
The Leeds connection to Australia isn’t as strong on the park as it once was but the contributions made by Socceroos Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell are fondly remembered.
“You just have to walk around the stadium at Elland Road, there’s pictures of those guys all around the place,” Cooper said.
“They’re certainly not forgotten about back home and they were unbelievable players, players that have obviously inspired the people of Australia.”
There are still tickets available for both games of the Leeds United Tour Down Under, and fan events will take place across the week.