Leeds United: Midfielder Forshaw vows to lead by example

ADAM FORSHAW has shown for sure in just three games that he could prove a key acquisition for Leeds United.

Monday, 12th February 2018, 5:43 pm
Updated Monday, 12th February 2018, 5:45 pm
Gjanni Alioski and Adam Forshaw of Leeds United tackle Mark Duffy of Sheffield United.

There are, though, clearly far more obvious candidates when it comes to goalscoring prowess.

In 225 appearances, the midfielder has scored 14 times and nearly two years have passed since Forshaw last hit the back of the net through an injury-time winner for Middlesbrough, which ultimately helped the Riversiders to the Premier League.

Eyeing the same conclusion at Leeds United, Forshaw says he and his fellow centre midfielders must now utilise a “licence to get forward” to support striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga as part of a 4-1-4-1 system under Leeds United’s new head coach Paul Heckingbottom.

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Pierre-Michel Lasogga celebrates his goal at Sheffield United.

Forshaw is entering only his third week for new club Leeds having joined the Whites on a four-and-a-half year deal from Middlesbrough in a move that could be worth up to £4.5m including add-ons.

Leeds paid an initial £3m to land the former Everton youngster’s services but the prospect of the deal being worth an extra £1.5m means Forshaw could technically be labelled the club’s most expensive signing since the Whites landed striker Robbie Fowler for £11m from Liverpool in November 2001.

There are similarities between Forshaw and Fowler who were both born in Liverpool and both grew up at Merseyside giants – one red, one blue, but the duo’s goalscoring records are rather different, understandably comparing one of football’s most gifted former strikers to a centre midfielder.

Forshaw, though, knows United are crying out for further creative influences and has vowed to take on extra responsibilty and lead by example in a bid to boost United’s goalscoring prowess. The Liverpudlian made his third start for Leeds in Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Sheffield United in a new 4-1-4-1 system – forming a new three-man centre midfield alongside Eunan O’Kane and Kalvin Phillips – and the 26-year-old told the YEP: “With the three of us in there, there is licence for definitely one, if not two at times, to get in and around Pierre and make runs past him and link up with him. I think it’s something we are going to work on.

Pierre-Michel Lasogga celebrates his goal at Sheffield United.

“I am not an old head, I have had some experience in football and I like to get on the ball, I like to show for it and try and keep the team ticking and I will try and get forward a little bit more from now on and try and help the team to win games and create goals.”

Forshaw put in another solid shift in Saturday’s clash at Bramall Lane yet Leeds fell to their fifth loss from their last seven league games. Two points from a last possible 21 has left United 11th and eight points off the Championship’s play-offs with just 15 games left. Having begun his career at Everton and having made 34 appearances in the country’s top flight for Middlesbrough, Forshaw immediately spoke of his clear intention to make a quick return to the Premier League with Leeds when joining the club on January 28.

Time is clearly ticking on this season’s bid but the midfielder still believes he can enjoy promotion at Leeds at the first time of asking and the January recruit has been highly impressed with new head coach Heckingbottom, brought in to replace sacked former head coach Thomas Christiansen last Tuesday morning.

“It’s not over until it’s over,” said Forshaw. “We have got 15 games to go and still have the teams above us to play. Saturday was disappointing, it was a blow for us but there were a lot of positives and it’s definitely not over.”

Reflecting on the initial impact made by Heckingbottom, Forshaw said: “He’s been great. He seems really good and a really nice guy, he wants to coach and I think he wants to improve you as a player first and foremost. The lads need to work hard and really put some effort and performances in for him because he seems like he really wants to improve us as players. He’s been really hands on.

“He’s shown us what he wants in terms of pressing and setting up, with and without the ball, and what he wants us to do with it. Obviously he hasn’t loads of time in terms of days yet so we as players are looking forward to the week ahead.”

As weeks go, the build-up to this coming Sunday’s assignment is now undeniably one of the most important of the season so far. Leeds now have another five days to put in the hard yards ahead of their next test against the team currently occupying the division’s final play-off spot, Bristol City.

An eight-point gap to the top six could quickly become five or 11 with Forshaw yet to taste a victory since signing for Leeds. Yet there is no denying the immediate impact made by the midfielder with the Liverpudlian admitting he has felt settled quickly at LS11.

“The lads have been brilliant and the new staff that have come in are great as well,” said Forshaw. “It’s been easy for me really. We went away (on a training camp) to Murcia and it was a great chance for me to bed in. I just wanted to get on the pitch and start playing.

“I have played three 90 minutes now and I feel like I am getting back to some sort of full fitness for myself after my calf injury. I’m enjoying it.

“Unfortunately we haven’t picked up a lot of points in the time I have been here.

“But I can see the progress. I can see where we are trying to go with it.”