Andy Ritchie: Leeds United must cope with the pressure of expectation

Thoma Christiansen. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Thoma Christiansen. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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I’M a little bit undecided about Leeds United’s prospects for the forthcoming season because of the new players and the new manager coming in. It’s a totally new start.

There are still quite a lot of the players there but the likes of Kyle Bartley and Charlie Taylor have gone along with one or two others.

Chris Wood (centre). PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Chris Wood (centre). PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

But Chris Wood is still there and that’s a massive plus. Leeds have done really well on that score because I’m sure that they would have had suitors in for him.

But Wood has got a weight on his shoulders this season to reproduce what he did last season. That’s very hard – the hardest thing to do is to score goals in games and he has got to do that again this season.

And Leeds also have a weight on their shoulders because of what happened last season. To a certain extent, I think that Thomas Christiansen has made a rod for his own back because I’m not totally sure that Leeds thought they would do what they did last year.

I think they were a little bit ahead of schedule and Garry Monk did a fantastic job. Now Thomas has got to try and emulate that.

Matthew Pennington. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Matthew Pennington. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

He’s got a little bit of pressure on him and the fans have got to realise that as well. He’s a totally new man, he’s a different person to Garry, he’s got his own squad and he likes to play a certain way.

I know he wants to try and take the games to people but it’s a totally different league the Championship to where he has been and he has got to get used to that as well.

He might have to change how he sets up for games.

From what I have seen so far. Thomas seems to be very much clued-in to the role and I think he will do well. But he might just find it a little bit of an eye opener because the standard is very, very high in the Championship.

Chairman Andrea Radrizzani has said that Leeds need to be finishing in the top six and to get that from your chairman puts a little bit of pressure on. But he’s right and Leeds United do have to be aiming for the top six after the campaign that they had last season. Probably the biggest loss from last season has been Kyle Bartley and obviously Matthew Pennington has come in on loan from Everton in the same position.

He played against Manchester United last season and I was quite impressed with him. He looks assured, he looks as though he is older in terms of a footballer than his actual age of 22. He’s a mature player who looks quite quick and I think he is a good footballer.

From that respect, you are looking at a similar sort of player to Bartley because Bartley was a good footballer and a quick player and he is going to be a big miss.

You have got to forge partnerships all over the field and you talk about partnerships up front and that always seems to get the priority. But when you look down over the years at famous centre-back partnerships such as Bould and Adams, Pallister and Bruce, Hansen and Lawrenson, you have to have an excellent relationship between the pair.

That then spreads out to your full-backs because your full backs have got to play off the centre-backs as well and the centre-backs need to have a sixth sense just as much as centre forwards do.

If Pennington is going up for the ball then Jansson has got be second guessing that he might be missing it. He’s got to cover and vice versa. You have got to get on, both on the pitch and off the pitch and have a good relationship there.

Pennington is only 22 and I know they think he has got a good future at Everton. I spoke briefly with Joe Royle who is the go-between between the Academy/under 23s and the first team and he tries to get the young players out on loan. Pennington was one of the names that he mentioned to me quite a while ago saying that he’s got a future. I’m sure he will be a good addition.

Its going to be a real steep learning curve for him he will have to learn quickly but he looks a clever player who will know what he has to do and when he has to do it. He looks like he’s got a football brain.