Daniel Farke opens the door to first Leeds United team meeting and what keeps rivals 'a bit scared'
and live on Freeview channel 276
Daniel Farke's Whites have taken an impressive and vital 24 points from 10 games at Elland Road so far this season, the most recent of those coming thanks to a thrilling 3-2 victory over Middlesbrough. But the Whites are not top of the Championship's 'home' table, they sit second behind 27-point Ipswich Town. It's no surprise that Leicester City, the pace setters in the division, are third when it comes to points accrued on home turf. What Leeds have done that neither of their fellow top three outfits have managed is remain without defeat on their own soil. Ipswich have lost once at Portman Road - to Leeds. Leicester have lost twice at the Kingpower Stadium - to Hull and to Leeds. Being the fly in the ointment for the only two teams to have put together better second tier starts this season is but a satisfactory footnote when compared with the pleasure Farke is taking from what Leeds are doing in their own stadium. This is exactly what he set out to do and its importance can be seen how quickly he addressed it in a team meeting.
"I mentioned in my first meeting with the players I wanted Elland Road to be a fortress again after difficult years," he said. "Every team is already a bit scared to come here because I know this place can be second to none in the country in terms of atmosphere and spirit. We’re on the right path to recreate this again."
Although ultimately it mattered little because Leeds lost the war, they won more battles at Elland Road last season than on their travels. Of the seven Premier League victories they enjoyed, five were at home and three of those featured goals in the final quarter of the match, when the very rhythm of games bent to the urgency created in the stands. 49ers Enterprises might want to make the place bigger, shinier and more in tune with the modern world but they don't ever want to tamper with what happens when the ground senses urgency. Pascal Struijk, who has taken the captain’s armband this season when Liam Cooper and Luke Ayling have not been in the starting line-up, has spoken previously of the ‘shove in the back’ you get from the atmosphere at home games.
Last season, when the points Leeds were fighting for represented survival, that urgency was visceral and no one inside the stadium doubted that the noise generated had played a part. This season, in the second tier, the urgency has been dialled back by expectancy. Farke's men are not underdogs and they don't play like them, and because their side have been largely dominant at home supporters have not often had to interject to the same degree as last season. Games that have been under control have not felt or sounded like the ones that desperately needed to be won, the ones that never felt under control, last season. There have even been times when LS11 has fallen a little flat while Leeds pass the ball around and probe for openings.
But supporters have still been needed and they will still be needed, according to Farke, and not just at Elland Road: "Our supporters are outstanding, they help us during difficult periods. [Against Middlesbrough] it was the second time this week we went behind at home. But again, this atmosphere and we will turn the game. This belief is growing each and every game in this ground. It’s a bit like we've won so many points out of losing positions during the season, it's a testament to our fitness, mentality, to the way we play and a second-to-none atmosphere here and also away with our supporters. This bond and unity is what you need to have if you want to be successful, for such an emotional club like Leeds United. We have to value and take care for our supporters in this atmosphere, each and every game day, that’s for sure."
Leeds have, thus far, taken very good care of their supporters. They're scoring at least two goals per home game, conceding no more than one every time they turn out at Elland Road and more often than not, they're winning. And after the upcoming trips to Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland they will be back in their fortress, facing Coventry City and then the only team with a better home record this season - Ipswich. Nothing is guaranteed in the Championship but you can be certain that the pre-Christmas meeting with Kieran McKenna and his newly-promoted side will bring out all of the old stadium's urgency and test just how roadworthy the Tractor Boys are.