Leeds United head coach David Hockaday will give a clear indication of his plans for the first game of the new season by fielding his strongest line-up away at Chesterfield on Saturday.
Hockaday is set to reveal the current pecking order in United’s squad this weekend after vowing to “increase the intensity” of pre-season on the back of a midweek defeat to Mansfield Town.
Leeds were beaten 2-0 at Field Mill on Tuesday night, losing to two second-half goals from Liam Hearn and failing to overcome a League Two side who included four trialists in their squad.
Hockaday defended United’s performance, saying the result was “not significant”, but he will put pressure on his players on Saturday by telling them the starting side he fields at Chesterfield’s Proact Stadium is the team which he presently intends to use away to Millwall on August 9.
Leeds are four games into their pre-season schedule – including a match played amongst United’s players in Italy after a friendly against Romanian side Viitorul Constanta was cancelled – and Hockaday said: “Come Saturday, I now need to put out my strongest XI, use the squad and only change it only slightly because we’ve got three friendlies left. I know what the team will be.
“I want to be getting my best players as I see them three 90-minute games before Millwall. We’ll turn up the intensity.
“At this time the team has to be my strongest. It’s a fight for the jersey. I’ll give 11 people a jersey on Saturday and then it’s up to them to keep it.
“I’ve got to pick what I see as my strongest team and that nucleus is what we’ll build on for Millwall.”
Hockaday lost strikers Noel Hunt and Lewis Walters to injury in the early stages of Tuesday’s match and neither player will be fit to play at Chesterfield.
Midfielder Alex Mowatt, who struggled for fitness in the early stages of the summer, is fully recovered from a problem of his own and looks likely to be given a run-out with United’s Under-21s this weekend.
But Hockaday is expected to give a debut to newly-signed right-back Gaetano Berardi against Chesterfield after opting not to field the Switzerland international in the defeat to Mansfield.
More than 20 players have been used by Leeds’ head coach in pre-season, with goalkeeper Paddy Kenny the only senior professional to be excluded from United’s matches. Leeds want to remove Kenny from their wage bill after signing two other keepers, Marco Silvestri and Stuart Taylor.
“Everybody’s been given a chance,” Hockaday said.
“One thing the players can all say is that everyone who’s been fit has been given a chance in the games so far.”
Hockaday, meanwhile, insisted again that he was not downhearted by United’s defeat to Mansfield, saying critical mistakes had cost Leeds a game they should have won.
“The result’s not significant,” he said. “I’ve been in pro football for 40 years so I don’t like losing games, nobody does, but it’s not significant. We made mistakes for their goals and before that I could never see them scoring.
“Team-wise we looked strong and competitive. The final third is where it needs to happen and where we need to work.”