Brian McDermott welcomed the return of calm to Leeds United after his players claimed an overdue win at Barnsley and recorded back-to-back victories for the first time since his reinstatement as manager in February.
McDermott said United were settling back into the motions of a normal, organised club ahead of discussions with new owner Massimo Cellino about the future of the squad at Elland Road.
The Leeds boss will sit down with Cellino in the coming days to begin compiling a retained list and start the process of rebuilding a team whose disappointing form ruled them out of contention for the Championship play-offs several weeks ago.
United’s 1-0 win over Barnsley on Saturday, following on from a defeat of Blackpool seven days earlier, gave their points tally more respectability but the club lie 16th in the table with three games to play.
They host Nottingham Forest in a televised match at Elland Road this evening.
McDermott is preparing himself for a summer of substantial changes with Cellino in charge – a close-season in which his own job might be threatened – but he said the Italian’s 75 per cent takeover of Leeds had revived a depressed and unhappy club and helped to turn his team’s form for the better. The Italian’s multi-million buy-out of Gulf Finance House came after the collapse of a previous takeover bid and a failed attempt by the Football League to disqualify Cellino from taking charge of United.
The confusion and uncertainty led to a serious financial crisis last month in which a six-figure tax bill went unpaid and McDermott and his players were forced to defer wages.
“You can never say for sure whether it affected the results but I know there’s a different air around the place,” McDermott said.
“You can see that. There’s a different air around the training ground and the players have got a couple of results now. Call it a coincidence if you like but we’ll see.
“I’ve been banging on about the need for stability and we’ve got that now because the ownership is done. It’s sorted out.
“There weren’t any stories coming out of Elland Road this week. The only story was playing the game at Barnsley. We can all look forward now.”
Ross McCormack’s 29th goal of the season ended United’s appalling sequence of results at Oakwell, among them a 5-2 defeat in 2011 and a 4-1 loss in 2012. Saturday’s victory – their first away to Barnsley since 1997 – left Danny Wilson’s squad on the brink of relegation.
Leeds last won two matches in succession at the start of February, beating Huddersfield Town at Elland Road before claiming a 2-1 victory at Yeovil Town seven days later. McDermott missed the first of those matches after Cellino tried to sack him on the final day of the January transfer window.
McDermott reclaimed his job 48 hours later but those events have hung over him ever since, begging the question of whether Cellino – with Leeds finally under his control – will seek to change manager in the summer.
Wins over Blackpool and Barnsley have strengthened McDermott’s position slightly but the Leeds boss said: “I never worry about my own future.
“I always do the best I can and I’ve done the best I can in the last three months – and the year I’ve been at Leeds.
“I might look back at these last three months and say actually, I did pretty well to dig in. I’ve certainly had to do that.”
United’s meeting with Forest tonight looked destined to be a dead rubber a week ago but results over the weekend combined with Forest’s victory against Birmingham City have kept them within touching distance of the play-offs.
McDermott is likely to be forced into at least one change after defender Marius Zaliukas limped out of Saturday’s win at Oakwell with a calf strain.