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Liam Cooper has warned Scotland's Euro campaign is fuelled by “raw emotion”… and Irn-Bru.
Steve Clarke's squad kicked off their first tournament final preparations in 23 years yesterday at Middlesbrough's Rockliffe Hall and were greeted by a gift box from skipper Andy Robertson.
It included shortbread from north of the border, and soft drink Irn-Bru – whose ad slogan used to be Made in Scotland from girders.
Grateful Cooper then gave an insight into the fierce national pride his team will show in Group D.
Having qualified via a penalty shoot-out against Serbia, the Leeds defender said: “It’s been raw emotion and that’s how football can make you feel. The chemistry and team morale is as high as I have ever seen it.
Liam Cooper is hoping to continue his great season for Leeds United with Scotland at the Euros
(Image: Nigel Roddis)
“We all dream of going to these major tournaments as kids and we are going to live that dream.
“It’s an unbelievable achievement and we won't stop there. We have ambitions. We have confidence that we can get out of the group as well.”
Cooper, 29, had a brilliant season under Marcello Bielsa, and despite the COVID crisis, rates it as the best year of his career. He said: “I’ve had an unbelievable year. I’m probably the first person to get promoted from the Championship, play in the Premier League and play in the Euros all in a pandemic!
“It’s mental. The send-off from my old man – he just said ‘go and enjoy yourself, I’m so proud of you’.”
Scotland face the Czech Republic on Monday, then England next Friday, when Cooper will come up against his club colleague and close mate Kalvin Phillips.
Cooper is hoping for a run at Euro 2020 with Scotland
(Image: UEFA via Getty Images)
He added: “Kalvin knows what I think of him. He’s a great lad and I love him to pieces. I’ve seen his career go from being a young kid to an established player in the England team.
“It’s pure business now. All that goes out the window once you’re on the pitch. Kalvin is the same – he wears his heart on his sleeve, same as I do.”
Cooper credits “demanding” club boss Bielsa with getting the best out of him, and says Clarke has methods which get the best out of the Scotland group.
“When you’ve worked with Marcelo you can work with any manager. He has taken my career to places I never thought was possible.
“I have to thank Steve as well for showing a lot of faith in me and bringing me into the squad.
“Steve lets us go and express ourselves, but at the same time he has that level of respect which all managers need.
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“We have a belief in the group that we can get a good result against the Czechs and get out of the group. That is what we believe and are striving towards.”
Scotland will not take the knee before their Euro matches.
Clarke's men have discussed the issue and decided to “taking a stand” against racism instead.
The Scots stopped taking the knee in March saying the power of the gesture had been diluted.
England face Scotland next Friday at Wembley, where Gareth Southgate's England WILL take the knee, which has provoked booing by a section of the Three Lions fans.
The two other sides in Group D, Croatia and Czech Republic are not expected to take the knee.
Robertson has explained Scotland's stance on taking the knee
Skipper Andy Robertson said: “It is important we continue to tackle the issue of racism and raise awareness of the need to change people’s mindsets but also their behaviours.
“Prior to our World Cup qualifiers in March we spoke as a group and felt that taking a stand was the best way for us to show solidarity and also to reinforce the need for meaningful change in society.”
Hibs striker Kevin Nisbet has revealed Robertson left the entire squad a gift box with a note, and produce of Scotland – including Irn Bru to fuel their build up at Middlesbrough's luxury training complex at Rockliffe Hall.
Nisbet said: “There was a shirt, shortbread, Irn Bru. A lot of stuff to do with Scotland.
It was a great touch from him.
“It brings squad even closer together. He is a great guy and a great captain and he is the one to lead us all. Everyone was very appreciative. A skipper who does that you 100pc back him.”