Leeds United: Mac at a loss to explain decline

Brian McDermott

Brian McDermott

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Brian McDermott has spoken of his bewilderment at Leeds United’s “alarming dip” this season, admitting he believed the club were headed for a top-six finish at Christmas.

As he prepared for United’s final away game at Birmingham City tomorrow, McDermott lamented his side’s chronic loss of form and said he had “never seen anything like” their limp descent from fifth place in the Championship.

Leeds were well placed to reach the play-offs at the turn of the year and sat eight points short of the Championship’s second automatic promotion spot on Christmas Day after two defeats from 10 games.

But McDermott’s team will finish the season more than 40 points back from title-winners Leicester City and far adrift of the top six after a four-month spell in which the club suffered from a protracted change of ownership, a severe downturn in results and their worst league defeat for 55 years – a 6-0 loss at Sheffield Wednesday.

The dramatic collapse has threatened McDermott’s position as manager and his future could become clearer in the next seven days with the 53-year-old and club owner Massimo Cellino expected speak face-to-face before their season ends at Derby County next Saturday.

Leeds play Birmingham City first, travelling to St Andrews tomorrow to meet a team on the brink of relegation, and McDermott cut a frustrated figure as he reflected on the events of a term which showed initial promise but leaves him fighting for his job.

“It’s been an incredible season if you think about everything that’s gone on,” he said.

“Look at where we were up to the Blackpool game away (on Boxing Day).

“We drew 1-1 there and I thought ‘yeah, we’ll definitely get into the top six with this group.’

“But then we went to Nottingham Forest, got beat late on and went on a bad run of games.

“For whatever reason, our form dipped alarmingly to the point where you’re starting to look the other way.

“I can only say that now because we’ve got enough points to be safe.

“It was an alarming dip.

“To be absolutely honest, I’ve never seen anything like it – from where we were to where we are now.

“But you have to learn from that and you have to take positives from the season.”

McDermott pointed to striker Ross McCormack’s 29-goal haul and Matt Smith’s return of 11 in his first season in the Championship as encouraging aspects of a disappointing term at Elland Road.

Asked why United’s form had suffered such a severe downturn – characterised by a run of eight defeats from nine games in March and April – McDermott said: “You can talk about the uncertainty of the ownership as much as you like and people will just say that’s just an excuse.

“Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t but it didn’t help at certain points.

“We also lost confidence at times but the only important thing now is to talk about the future and stability and get a squad together who you can compete.”