HEAD coach Steve Evans says Leeds United will approach Saturday’s clash at Championship leaders Burnley with “a great integrity” in respect of his club’s history, its fans and the rest of the division.
United’s season is dwindling to an unspectacular close with little to play for in terms of promotion or relegation.
Fifteenth-placed Leeds are 19 points off the play-offs with seven games remaining and 11 points clear of fourth-bottom MK Dons, who have only six games left to play.
But Evans says there is zero chance of United taking their foot off the pedal against a Clarets side locked in a tense battle with the likes of Middlesbrough and Brighton to seal an automatic promotion place.
The head coach says United owe it to their fans, their history and the division as a whole to treat Saturday’s televised game at Turf Moor with the same commitment as their hosts – and believes United could consequently be a big price with the bookies at just shy of 6-1.
Evans reasoned: “I think the one thing about Leeds United as a football club, from outside of it having been outside of it for most of my life, and being inside it recently, is the great integrity about it in terms of the team over the years.
“And we have to make sure that we offer that integrity to Middlesbrough football club, to Hull, to Brighton, to Derby, to anyone who is fighting for those top two positions to make sure we go and produce a performance.
“Last time we had an opportunity to play against a team in the top six on the television we were alarmingly poor.
“We have to make sure we go there and, to a man, we have some real integrity about how hard we work.”
Leeds have picked up just one point from their last three games but Burnley are unbeaten in their last 17 league games – the club’s best run for 34 years.
The Clarets have won seven of their last 10 games at Turf Moor, with the other three being draws, and their last defeat of any sort came in January’s 2-1 loss at Arsenal in the FA Cup. Prior to that, the club’s most recent league loss was on Boxing Day at Hull.
Their last home defeat came 11 outings ago, to Preston on December 5, and United are nearly 6-1 to win this weekend as a consequence.
Evans, though, is not without hope, and reasoned: “It’s a big price is 6-1.
“What I would say is there is two things here and first and foremost if you were saying to me with the benefit of hindsight Leeds United are playing as well as they can play then it’s game on. That’s what I know.
“If we play individually and collectively as well as we can play then it’s game on at Burnley.
“Secondly, from that I think these are the champions in waiting and I think Sean (Dyche) has had the same starting XI out for week after week after week all bar the odd change. He’s got people out there like the boy (Tom) Heaton who is an exceptional player, the front two are exceptional and Joey Barton should get player of the year in the Championship, for me. I think he has just been simply stunning.
“And he’s got my boy’s best friend Ben Mee playing at centre-back so I hope my boy can give him some tips on how not to defend because he has been defending very well.
“It’s a game we look forward to, it’s a game that around the country no-one will give us a chance.
“So we have to go there and 100 per cent – for all our integrity reasons, from the coaching staff and the players and for the supporters – we have to give them another day like we gave them at Cardiff and Blackburn.”
United midfielder Liam Bridcutt is a slight doubt for the match with a thigh strain.