Leeds United: Dallas' sole focus is United this Christmas

PROMOTION is not won in December but Leeds United have plenty to celebrate this Christmas.

Thursday, 22nd December 2016, 5:00 am
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 2:11 pm
Stuart Dallas with Leeds United head coach Garry Monk. PIC: Simon Hulme

Thirty-four points from a possible 48 has Garry Monk’s men sitting fifth in the Championship table and only three points off third spot ahead of Boxing Day’s trip to Preston North End.

Definitely reason to crack open an extra bottle of bubbly this Yuletide. An extra mince pie perhaps.

Yet winger Stuart Dallas has urged United’s players to “look after themselves” over the festive period, with the winger prepared to miss out on Christmas altogether with a view to achieving the ultimate celebration instead in May.

Sign up to our Leeds United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Dallas helped Leeds to their seventh win from their last nine league games on Saturday when supplying an inviting cross for Kyle Bartley to head home an 89th-minute winner.

After working his way back into the side following his exploits with Northern Ireland at the European Championships last summer, Dallas admits that he is still gaining fitness and form each week and joked that he was ready to be substituted before his crucial assist.

The thriving 25-year-old winger will now be aiming to unlock another Championship team’s defence in four days’ time when Leeds travel to Simon Grayson’s Preston North End.

United’s players will be training the day before with Monk’s men set for a session on Christmas Day evening in readiness for Boxing Day’s clash at Deepdale.

That, though, is a sacrifice Dallas is only too willing to make – with the winger insisting United’s squad should be prepared to forego Christmas in a bid to then enjoy the ultimate party next May.

Sizing up preparations for Boxing Day’s trip to Preston, Dallas insisted: “We will prepare the way we prepare for any game and at Christmas time you have got to make sacrifices.

“That’s what the best do, that’s what winning teams do and we have got a winning mentality here and everybody is pulling in the one direction.

“We want success and if that means giving up Christmas then so be it.

“The gaffer has touched on it with us and we have got to look after ourselves.

“And it comes down to how much you want it and as an individual how much you want it and how you prepare.

“The boys at the club can only do so much for you and outside of that you have got to look after yourself.

“We have shown that when we are winning games it breeds confidence and if all the boys look after themselves over the Christmas period and come back on Boxing Day we will give it a good go.”

Monday’s clash will pit Leeds against their former manager in Grayson, who has admitted there will be no room for sentiment against his former side.

While not quite in the same brilliant form as Leeds, 11th-placed Preston themselves are in decent fettle having suffered just one defeat over the last six league games.

United could face another serious battle at Deepdale but Dallas says Leeds have already shown their fighting character this season and will continue to do so throughout the campaign.

The winger also says United’s squad are having no trouble being increasingly ‘under the microscope’ given their prominence in an intense race to finish in the top six.

“I think you are under the microscope playing for a club like this anyway,” said Dallas.

“It comes with the name and the expectation that’s here and players thrive under it.

“We have shown this year that we are ready for a battle if needs be and I don’t think we have had an easy game this season which we have won comfortably and if that’s the way it has to be for the rest of the season then so be it.”

Reflecting on his own form and satisfaction with life at Leeds, Dallas declared: “I feel good.

“Saturday wasn’t my best game and I think maybe I was ready for being taken off just before the corner!

“But I feel good and I have always said that I am only going to get better and fitter obviously with the more minutes that I get.

“I’ve just got to work hard and keep my head down because we have got real competition in this squad and that brings out the best players.”

For the seventh time in their last nine league games, United’s players were again celebrating that winning feeling at Elland Road on Saturday – and Dallas says United’s squad are determined to finally give United’s loyal fans something to shout about. Head coach Monk recently admitted that his squad feel “a connection” with the club’s fans at present for a relationship that “continues to grow”.

Dallas agrees and the Northern Ireland international is thriving on the opportunity to send the club’s loyal following home happy.

Dallas beamed: “It’s brilliant and you have seen with the scenes at the end of the game there on Saturday that we know what it means to the fans.

“We know that in recent years they haven’t had enough to shout about and to cheer and we are doing our best this season to change that.

“There’s a good buzz and the players can feel that.

“The players are giving everything and we are full of confidence about being in the play-offs.”