Brian McDermott wants Leeds United to detach themselves from talk of promotion as they bid to reach Christmas in a top-six position.
McDermott batted off questions about United’s prospects for the second half of the season – but served a warning to the rest of the Championship by predicting his side would improve as the campaign wore on.
A victory over Barnsley at Elland Road tomorrow – Leeds’ final game before Christmas – would take the club into the festive period no lower than sixth in the table following their most productive spell under McDermott’s management.
Leeds have won six of their last nine games and Harry Redknapp, boss of league leaders QPR, made a point of singling out United’s form after goals from Matt Smith, Ross McCormack and Rodolph Austin sealed a 3-0 win at Doncaster Rovers last Saturday.
McDermott’s Reading teams were renowned for growing in strength at the midway point of each season, a trend which took them to a play-off final in 2011 and the Championship title a year later, but he again refused to talk up United’s chances, saying: “I think in batches of one game. At Reading we kept our philosophy and kept going.
“If we got a bad result we didn’t let it us affect us. If we got a good result we didn’t get carried away.
“We carried on with our philosophy of doing things the right way. We trained the right way, prepared the right way; did everything we could to make sure we were ready.
“We got the players in the best frame of mind and you always try to get camaraderie between the players and the fans. If you get some momentum it can carry you a long way.
“All I expect us to do is go out tomorrow and produce the best performance against Barnsley, get a result and then carry on.
“We’ve got a three games coming up in a short space of time but I’m not an excuse-maker. We’ll be ready for each and every event.”
McDermott’s squad were seen as an outside chance for promotion in the summer on the basis of their relegation fight last season and a transfer window in which Leeds signed only four players.
Asked if his team had exceeded his expectations by climbing to sixth after 20 games, McDermott said: “I think we’ve got so much more to come.
“But I don’t think ‘we’re doing really well with the resources we’ve got.’
“We’re a work in progress and we’re evolving.
“We’ve got more to come, I know it. Week by week the team’s getting better.
“I didn’t have a clue how we’d do this season. I just tried to win the first game against Brighton. And the last game against Doncaster, I tried to win that. In between we’ve come up with 33 points and I can’t be unhappy because 33 points is what we’ve got. We’re sixth in the league.
“You might not be in the top six in January but you can still be top six in May. And you can always look back on lots of games and talk about ifs and buts. We lost late on at Reading and could have won. But we won late on against Brighton so it’s all swings and roundabouts. We are where we are. Let’s try and beat Barnsley.