IT’S BEEN an encouraging start for Thomas Christiansen’s Leeds United side, or very encouraging shall we say.
Leeds are obviously an unknown quantity in terms of the manager and the new players and first impressions count for a lot.
We saw a lot of familiar faces at the Bolton game on Sunday but of the additions I thought Gianni Alioski in particular stood out.
The way he approached the game and with his work rate, you got the sense that Leeds fans could really take to him if he maintains that kind of form.
He was really good going forward and what we also saw on Sunday was Kemar Roofe playing very, very well and Kalvin Phillips playing very, very well.
These are lads that have been around for a while now and know exactly what Leeds United is about.
Obviously you had Chris Wood getting on the scoresheet as well and that’s a big question – can he follow the stellar season of last year with the same 30-odd goals again?
Leeds need that and it’s absolutely imperative, so there is already a big tick in the box there.
Leeds then went into Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup clash against Port Vale having made nine changes and I was listening to the game on the radio on the way back from the Colchester-Aston Villa game.
Samuel Saiz’s first three shots all led to goals and if you have got someone as clinical as that then that’s great.
Obviously you have got to take the opposition into account but Port Vale have got a good spread of players that have played at a different level so you can’t dismiss them in any way, shape or form.
They also had nothing to lose.
So if you look at it now going into tomorrow’s game against Preston, Thomas Christiansen has now seen a lot of his players in competitive games.
He has seen them in friendlies but from a players’ point of view there is no replicating the emotion of knowing that this is now for points or for cup progression.
So coming up to the end of a first real tangible week in the office it’s been really encouraging and I think Thomas has come across really, really well too.
We did a bit of build up to the Bolton game where he was talking about no guarantees and how nobody has got any divine right to be in the team – as we saw with Robert Green not starting.
From that point of view, I think Rob is unfortunate as I think when there is a statement of a goalkeeper being changed then you are expecting something.
It’s obviously a different situation to Claudio Bravo and Joe Hart but if a manager has made a statement of changing a goalkeeper then I want the new man to be pinging balls left, right and centre.
I want him to be dominating the area and I want him to be sweeping up like Manuel Neuer.
Obviously they are quite high standards to try and compare a new player to, but on the evidence of the game you didn’t think ‘wow he’s miles better than Rob Green’. You just thought he’s a goalkeeper with decent attributes.
He could have come for the cross for Gary Madine’s goal but maybe he is still finding his bearings with the defence in front of him.
The other positive thing was Liam Cooper’s performance – who has had to bide his time a little bit with Kyle Bartley and Pontus Jansson playing so well last year and being in and out of the team.
He has stepped in, been skipper, and made himself and Matthew Pennington look like a very assured double act at the back. And there’s a hard edge to Cooper and I mean that in the best possible way.
It’s like he understands that it’s physical and he understands that it’s a man’s game and he is going to be a man about playing it.
Overall, you would think from a Leeds point of view and a fans’ point of view, they will be happy so far.
Considering the volatile nature of Leeds United over the past couple of seasons, to be happy enough two games into a new season is quite a nice position to be in.
EFL on Sky: Tomorrow: Middlesbrough v Sheffield United, 5.15pm, Sky Sports Main Event.