Leeds United: Jockeying for position works for wing Dallas

LIFE at Elland Road could have become more difficult for Stuart Dallas following Leeds United's transfer deadline day deals.

Tuesday, 21st February 2017, 5:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st March 2017, 8:07 am
Stuart Dallas scores at Ipswich Town.

The arrival of first Alfonso Pedraza and then Mo Barrow left the winger with five potential rivals for a starting place out wide.

Head coach Garry Monk’s options in that department are plentiful with Hadi Sacko, Kemar Roofe and Souleymane Doukara also in tow.

Selfishness, though, is not a trait carried by Dallas who says the arrival of two more wide men will benefit both United’s fellow wingers on a personal basis and the Leeds United squad as a whole.

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Souleymane Doukara.

Signed from Brentford in August 2015, Dallas enjoyed a stellar first season at Leeds under first Uwe Rosler and then Steve Evans, making 49 appearances in league and cup and netting five goals along the way.

The winger’s year was also lit up by his exploits with Northern Ireland en route to the 2016 European Championships in which Dallas and company performed heroics to reach the last 16 before exiting through a 1-0 defeat to Wales.

After being appointed as Evans’ successor in the summer, new Whites head coach Garry Monk always insisted that he would give the Northern Ireland star time to recover from his international exertions as part of a mega year that also the Crookstown-born footballer get married to fiancee Juneve.

The winger nevertheless still started United’s first game of the new season at QPR – which ended in a hugely disappointing 3-0 defeat.

Kemar Roofe.

Dallas then dropped to the bench for the following home clash with Birmingham City but returned to the starting line-up for the subsequent Elland-Road fixture with Fulham. And those first three games have provided a pattern of Dallas’ season since – involved but never a guaranteed starter.

The winger then finally bagged his first goal of the season in the 2-1 victory at Cambridge United in the FA Cup third-round clash on January 8 but competition out wide then became even more fierce following the arrival of first Pedraza and then Barrow on January 31.

Pedraza is a Spanish under-21 who could cost Leeds 10 million euros this summer while Barrow was even featuring regularly in the Premier League this term for Swansea until arriving on loan.

Neither arrival signed in time to feature in the Championship clash at Blackburn Rovers on February 1 and Dallas made the most of what was his second league start in succession by bagging the opening goal in a 2-1 victory.

Souleymane Doukara.

After failing to shine in the subsequent 2-1 loss at Huddersfield Town and 2-0 defeat at home to Cardiff City, Dallas was an unused substitute in the 2-1 triumph at home to Bristol City on Valentine’s Day.

But then he returned to the starting line-up for United’s next fixture at Ipswich Town last weekend.

Were it not for Dallas, who bagged a 43rd-minute equaliser and third goal of the season, United would have left with defeat and not a 1-1 draw.

The Northern Ireland international was probably United’s best player at Portman Road and will now be looking to keep his starting berth come Saturday’s lunchtime showdown with Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road.

Kemar Roofe.

Pedraza and Barrow, though, both give Monk something else to think about.

Out wide, competition is rife, but selfless Dallas says the arrival of two more wingers is a positive both for himself and Leeds United as a whole.

“I think it brings out the best in players,” said Dallas, asked for what his reaction was the day when Pedraza and Barrow were both brought in.

“Different games suit different styles of players and all the wingers have different attributes.

“Maybe next week it will be different wingers who start, who knows?

“But I have just got to keep taking my chance when it comes.

“I have got a goal against Ipswich and if I am called up again next weekend then hopefully I can get another one.”

It’s now three and counting for Dallas who bagged five last season but nine for Brentford when the Bees reached the Championship play-offs in 2014-15.

“I wouldn’t say I am racking them up but I am glad to get another goal,” said Dallas, speaking about his crucial leveller at Portman Road.

“Obviously it would have been better had we have won but we didn’t.

“It’s not about who scores, it’s just about racking the points up more than racking the goals up but it was another good point and it keeps us unbeaten and on a run of two games. It gives us something to build on.

“I’m really pleased when I score and I am always confident that if I get chances I will score.

“I haven’t scored as many as I would have liked this season but I got another one against Ipswich and I just want to keep pushing on and doing as well I can.

“But it’s really not about who scores who racks up the goals and all that, it’s just about getting the points on the board at this stage of the season and it’s another one for us at Ipswich.

“We could look back at this at the end of the season as a good point.”

United now have 13 games to seal their play-off spot, and among them will be a trip to Dallas’ former stomping ground at Brentford on Tuesday, April 4.

And last Saturday’s clash at Ipswich presented a trip to what was once a possible future employer with the Tractor Boys rumoured to be among the teams interested in Dallas before he switched from the Bees to Leeds. Former interest from Ipswich though is news to Dallas, and immaterial in any case.

“Were they?” said Dallas, told that the Suffolk side were once interested.

“There was a few teams in but obviously I chose Leeds.

“You are never going to turn a club like Leeds down and I’m happy that I’ve done that.”