Bright future: Defender Jason Pearce tells Leon Wobschall the players are right behind Brian McDermott and are determined to end the season on a high.
Leeds United step out at Elland Road for the first time in five weeks this coming Saturday and while nothing is ever quite certain in football – especially where the Whites are concerned – one prediction can safely be made.
March 8 will not be as wacky as the insane events of the last occasion that United had an first-team appointment there on February 1. Nowhere near.
That manic and often bewildering Saturday may have ended in a 5-1 derby victory for Leeds against Huddersfield Town, but that didn’t quite tell the entire story.
Brian McDermott, lest we forget, wasn’t even there, with the United chief leading out the club on home soil for the first time since January 28 this weekend.
The forthcoming clash with Dougie Freedman’s Bolton Wanderers might have a semblance of Roses pride at stake, but otherwise, it’s basically it’s a run-of-the-mill Championship affair cut from the same cloth as the bulk of fixtures in this division for Leeds.
It’s a strictly business engagement for a calm, considered individual like McDermott, just how he likes it. The sort he has negotiated too many times to mention.
The flash photography will most likely be destined for prospective Whites owner Massimo Cellino, who after taking in United’s televised away matches at Middlesbrough and QPR, is likely to make his first appearance at Elland Road for the visit of the Trotters.
All being well, McDermott will slip under the radar and just get about his day job in routine fashion, something that the slings and arrows of outrageous footballing fortunes precluded him from doing on February 1.
The previous day, arguably the most infamous in the club’s history saw McDermott ‘sacked’, only for United to announce that he was, in fact, still their first-team manager some 22 hours later.
The 52-year-old didn’t attend the Town game after enlisting the advice of the League Managers’ Association – with it left to Nigel Gibbs and Neil Redfearn to take on dug-out duties.
It was on the Monday that McDermott finally went back to work and while the off-the-field picture at United is still somewhat clouded, a period of relative calm – if slightly of the uneasy variety – has ensued.
In that respect, McDermott is thankful for small mercies after enduring the sort of shameful experiences no manager should suffer at the end of January, when he had the considerable sympathy of the footballing public and not just Leeds fans.
Reflecting on the past month, McDermott said: “It’s a calmer place, there’s no doubt about that and it needs to be.
“There was a period of time, obviously, at the end of January when there was a lot of stuff going on that I had to deal with.
“I’m very calm now and focusing completely on what we have to do on the pitch. GFH are still running the football club. We’re waiting to see what happens with the takeover.
“On the pitch, we’re improving week by week. We’ve had four games away from home, we’ve won one, lost one and drawn two so we’re looking forward to going back to Elland Road now. It’s been a long time.”
United fans belted out McDermott’s name with gusto against Huddersfield and expect the Kop to hail him in song again this Saturday.
His players are also mighty glad he is still around at Leeds and are hoping he will stick around for a good while yet, with his job very much partly done and everyone very much behind the ‘gaffer’ according to centre-back Jason Pearce.
He said: “The gaffer is massively important to the club
“He’s come in and tried to get that family feel to the club. Everyone is involved from the bottom to the top.
“We are all hoping he will stay, and I’m sure he will do. I think it’s showing that the team is with him, we want him to do well and we want to do well.”
The influence of McDermott is helping to bring out the best in the ex-Portsmouth defender, whose second season at the club has far more enriching than his maiden campaign under the man who brought him to Leeds in Neil Warnock.
The defender, a real unsung hero for United this term, again proved a dependable presence in Saturday’s draw at QPR, although that did not stop him cutting a disappointed figure at the final whistle.
The concession of a goal shortly before half-time, scored by Jermaine Jenas, ensured United had to settle for a point against the R’s and while most Championship clubs would have gladly taken a draw at Loftus Road before kick-off – where the West Londoners have seen their colours lowered just twice in 2013-14 – that’s not the way the visitors viewed it.
United are mindful they have a spate of work to do to gatecrash the play-off party and it’s wins, not draws, that are very much their preferred currency, with the season approaching its business end.
From a purely defensive aspect, Pearce felt Jenas’ goal was a soft concession for a side who possess genuine top-six aspirations, with the recent signings of Jack Butland and Connor Wickham providing ample evidence that Leeds are fully intent on extending their season beyond early May.Ambition remains high.
Pearce said: “We were disappointed with the goal as a team. It was a poor goal and we know that we could have done better.
“We will reflect on it. It’s important to go back and see what we could have done better.
“It was disappointing just before half-time because we were winning 1-0, we would have tried to hold onto the win.
“We have shown our ambition with the two signings. Jack’s come in and is going to be a brilliant keeper.
“With Connor also coming in, we needed numbers up front so it’s great as well. It makes the team stronger, but it’s healthy competition.”