Leeds United’s current form – three wins in a row and bidding for a fourth on Saturday – has taken me by surprise. I’m at a loss to properly explain it.
There’s been no hint of it coming and I’ve gone from a situation where I was extremely worried about relegation after the hammering at Brighton to a situation where I’ve got no fear of the drop at all. I’m almost expecting us to finish top half now.
This might be the old pro in me talking but I wonder if certain players realised that their futures were on the line after that shocking performance on the south coast. I don’t just mean their futures at Leeds but their futures in general.
Football’s an unforgiving sport, an unforgiving business, and defeats like that one at Brighton do your reputation nothing but harm. We’re getting close to the summer and there are going to be changes at Elland Road. That’s a given. I’ve got a suspicion that a few lads might have seen the need to buck up their ideas and buck up their performances.
I wouldn’t say we’ve necessarily deserved to win all of the last three games but we have won them and by no stretch have any of them been a fluke.
Fair enough, Cardiff had a lot of chances and we rode our luck a bit but the tactics were spot on that night and the commitment of the players was superb. The same was true against Bolton and away at Blackburn last weekend we were comfortably the better team.
It’s been noticeable in these matches that the relationship between the team and the fans has improved dramatically. I’d like to think that in the aftermath of Brighton, it occurred to some of the players that they were short-changing the people who pay hundreds of pounds to travel all over the country to follow them.
It wasn’t just that one game. We were on a run of one win from 11 matches and that’s poor form in any league.
The season needed a shot in the arm, it needed a big turnaround, and credit to everyone for making it happen. It gives the squad a chance to relax a bit, play with some freedom and finish the campaign with a flourish.
There are, in my view, a number of players with things to prove before the summer. I always say that one drop of rain doesn’t mean there’s a thunderstorm coming and these three wins don’t change the fact that a lot of this season has been disappointing.
A lot is being said about Mirco Antenucci at the moment and understandably so. He’s right in form with four goals in three games but he’s out of contract in the summer and there’s obviously a decision to be made about his future.
Personally, I’d be doing nothing with him at this precise moment. We’ve got 10 games to go and I’d be sitting tight to see how he performs during the run-in.
Three or four big performances isn’t enough to merit a new deal and with his contract running out Leeds should be saying to him ‘prove to us before the end of this season that you can do it over a longer period of time’.
In the mood he’s in now, the club would have to think seriously about keeping him on next season. There’s no doubt at all that the lad can finish and he’s been one of the big factors in this run of victories.
But a little flurry of goals every once in a while is no good for a side who are trying to move forward in the Championship.
There have been long periods when Antenucci’s looked out of sorts or down in the dumps. There have been times when he hasn’t impressed me but if he carries on the way he’s been going for the past fortnight it’ll be tough for the club to let him go.
I think consistency is what it’s all about. I’d give real credit to Steve Evans and his players for getting a grip of a bad situation but at the same time I’d point out that even with those three victories, we’ve only won 11 league games this season. I’m not getting carried away.