ROSS McCORMACK insists Leeds United must be challenging at the business end of the Championship in 2014-15 – with the time for excuses over.
United head into the summer on the back of a disappointing 15th place finish, the lowest since the club returned to the second tier ahead of the 2010-11 season.
A number of mitigating factors, particularly off the field, hamstrung United’s campaign, with ‘must do better’ the final verdict of talisman forward and captain McCormack as thoughts turn to next season, which kicks off on August 9.
McCormack said: “It can’t be the season after. It’s got to be next season. You can’t have a club like this again.
“Four years I’ve been here now and, apart from the first year when we finished seventh, we haven’t been challenging.
“You’ve got to be in the mix. You can’t say ‘oh, we’ll wait for another season’ because what happens at the end of next season?
“Leeds United deserve to be in the Premier League and the only people who can affect that are the players and the owner (Massimo Cellino).
“He has to do everything in his power to get us challenging.
“I can’t really afford to wait. I’m 28. I’ll be 29 by the time we get there if we do it next season. By that time, your best years are probably behind you in a sense. I’m hoping to be challenging with this club next year. If not promoted, then right in the mix with a good chance.”
Despite signing a long-term deal last year, the name of McCormack is expected to be on the shopping list of Premier League clubs after his fine haul of 29 goals in a decidedly average side.
For his part, the Scot, subject of strong interest from West Ham and old club Cardiff in 2013-14, expects to be reporting for pre-season training at Leeds at the start of July – unless the club decide otherwise and elect to cash in on him.
McCormack added: “I’m not standing here saying ‘if he doesn’t spend money, I’m going to leave’ because it’s not up to me.
“I’ll be back pre-season. I’ll keep doing my job until I get a phone call telling me they’ve accepted an offer or they want me to leave.
“I’m never going to say I want to leave this club because the club deserves better than that.
“The club is bigger than me, so I’m not going to do that.”
One player fully expected to leave United this summer is Paul Green, whose deal ends next month with the midfielder one of a number of players likely to exit the club.
The former Doncaster Rovers and Derby player has just completed a successful loan spell at Ipswich Town, which he admits has galvanised him after a difficult second year at Leeds.
Green, who scored in the Tractor Boys’ 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend, said: “I enjoyed my first year at Leeds, but the second didn’t work out.
“For some strange reason I wasn’t getting in the squad there, so coming here to trying and help Ipswich get into the play-offs has been enjoyable.
“The gaffer (Mick McCarthy) has given me a chance and hopefully I have repaid his faith.”