Andy Ritchie - Partnerships pave way to play-offs for Leeds United

LOOKING at Leeds United's two away games over the Christmas period, for me I feel as if they have got to win at least one of them to keep the pressure up in the Championship play-off race '“ although two wins would be fantastic.

Friday, 23rd December 2016, 7:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 2:03 pm
Ronaldo Vieira.

But if they came out of these two games with Preston and Aston Villa with say four points, I think Garry Monk would be quite pleased.

Villa is going to be difficult; you know that, while Preston are on a bit of a surge at the minute as well. You also have the added spice of Simon Grayson wanting to put one over his old club on Boxing Day.

As much as you ask managers and ex-players and they say: ‘it is just another game’, I can tell you that it is not. And Simon will be wanting to beat Leeds United, as much as Leeds want to beat him!

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Garry will know that also and be thinking: ‘Well, I don’t want him to beat me.’ They always gloss these things over and don’t make an issue of it, but underneath, both managers will be really wanting to make sure that they don’t come out with egg on their faces.

Leeds are probably in the best position at the halfway point of a season as they have been since 2010-11 under Simon.

For me, the board have now got to back Garry in January. Say the worst case scenario happens and Leeds lose both games against Preston and Villa. They still have to back Garry as he will know what they need to try and get them over the line.

Maybe not automatic promotion. But they have definitely got the wherewithal to stay in the play-offs. And then, who knows?

I look at Leeds and everyone is buying into what Garry is doing and, as manager, you must have that.

I had that at Barnsley when we won promotion and everyone was on board with what we were trying to do.

Everyone was on board with the style of play and we were all enjoying ourselves and it looks like exactly what they have got at Leeds United.

The young lads have been great. With the two in midfield against Brentford, I know Kalvin Phillips got a bit of hammer on the day, but he was still always probing and trying to pick out that pass, which I thought was admirable for a young lad.

With Ronaldo Vieira, I have seen glimpses in him that show me that he could go quite far.

For Leeds to edge past Brentford so late on last weekend after not being at their best is a mark of a good sign for me.

They won’t do that every single game. But big teams manage to do it more often that not and I think Leeds are getting that way.

They might not be able to grind it out say in the next few games, but on the day, Leeds never stopped and kept plugging away and even when they lost control of the game – which they did a couple of times – they overcame that and finished Brentford off.

I actually thought that it was probably a more important game than maybe the ones coming up and the one against Reading, where they’d had such a strong performance, and needed to back it up.

Leeds were probably more edgy against Brentford than Reading. But having said that, I thought Brentford really played well, even though Leeds edged it.

You could see at the end of the game how disappointed Brentford were. They thought they had seen it out.

But it was a Leeds performance that showed everything about the team. They never finish until the end and that is a successful sign and that is what they did.

And what a great goal from Kyle Bartley at the end of it. He’s a real leader, isn’t he and Leeds have two at the back.

Pontus Jansson is the one with all the ‘show’ and whips everybody up. But Bartley is the quiet one who leads totally by example on the pitch. Jansson is the shop window, but Bartley is the shop owner.

I know Leeds are in training on Christmas Day and, as a manager, I never had my players in. It was just something I stuck to.

That was just my policy. As a player, I was in training almost always every single Christmas and felt that I missed out on opening my presents with the family and stuff, as you go in training and then come back and have two hours and then you could be travelling down to a hotel as you have a game away on Boxing Day. I used to say: ‘What would you do on a Christmas Day before a game which you couldn’t do say on a Friday?

‘Go through free-kicks, corners and a bit of passing play?’ Maybe a little five-a-side.

For me, I’d do that on a Friday – although I am certainly not telling Garry how to suck eggs.

But that was my policy. I’d let them have Christmas Day off as they are professionals.

They are not going to take advantage of it as they know that they have a game on the next day.

If they have a glass of wine with their Christmas meal, so what! Some will have a jog on Christmas Day anyway because, as professionals, they will feel as though they need that.

I just felt that I was missing out with the family and used to give my players a Christmas Day off.

Merry Christmas to all Leeds United fans.