LIAM Cooper, the Leeds United and Scotland centre half, has revealed how he turned to eating vindaloo curries to help him recover after he contracted Covid-19 ahead of the Euro 2020 finals.

Cooper missed the national team’s opening World Cup qualifiers against Austria, Israel and the Faroe Islands in March after testing positive for coronavirus and being forced to self-isolate.

The defender, who is hoping to start for Steve Clarke’s side in their opening Group D match against the Czech Republic at Hampden on Monday, recalled how being laid low by the virus was “rough”Losing his sense of taste and smell was the worst aspect of the illness for the Elland Road captain and he admitted he had gone to extreme measures in an attempt to get them back. 

“I’m not ashamed to say I picked up Covid,” he said from Scotland’s base just outside Darlington. “It was rough the first few days but after that I was pretty fine.

“I wasn’t too sure about losing the smell and taste, that was weird. It was well and truly gone. I was trying to eat all sorts to get that back.

“It was curries, chillies, everything, you name it, vindaloo. There was nothing there! I can taste a few things now. The food here is lovely. I’m just thankful I can taste it. Now I feel fit and healthy as ever.”

Cooper, who qualifies to play for Scotland through a paternal grandfather and is eager to add to his five caps, made his comeback for his adopted homeland in their pre-Euro 2020 friendly against the Netherlands in Portugal last week.

He asked the members of his family to undergo Covid-19 testing to ensure he didn’t contract the virus when he returned home for a short break ahead of the finals earlier this week.    

“I don’t know if I could get it again, but we still follow the precautions round the place,” he said. “We still wear masks. If you did contract it now you’d be in serious trouble – that’d be your Euros over. 

“We had a few days off there, but I don’t think the lads got up to much, because they knew what was at risk. I had my family tested before I got back from Spain just to be cautious. Speaking to a few of the lads, they’ve done the same. 

“I did (stay in a bubble) myself. I think you’d be stupid to go out there and see people, knowing what’s at risk. You’ve got the chance of a lifetime to go and play for your country in the Euros. 

“The lads are pretty switched on and everyone’s PCR tests have come back negative. We’re sticking to the precautions. Doctor MacLean has been unbelievable with us. Nothing is too much to ask.”

Cooper felt for his team mate John Fleck when the Sheffield United midfielder tested positive for coronavirus during a training break in Spain before the Portugal and Luxembourg matches and had to quarantine along with six squad members who had been in close contact with him.

The 29-year-old knew what Fleck was going through and tried to give him support and he has been pleased to see the former Rangers and Coventry City player back in training at Middlesbrough’s training complex this week. 

 “We had to rally round,” he said. “It was difficult for Flecky because we’d only been there two or three days and he returned a positive test. The first time we’ve seen him was last night so it’s nice to have him back. 

“I’ve been there myself. I spoke to John and luckily he’s not had any symptoms. He looked sharp in training so fair play to him and it’s good to have him back.”