SOULEYMANE Doukara is aiming to make it third-time lucky at Leeds United – and reward fans that would “support us in China” with a place in the Premier League.
Doukara joined United in July 2014, initially on loan from Italian club Catania, but after signing permanent terms on an initial three-year-deal in September, the Frenchman had to settle for a 15th-placed finish at Leeds in his first Championship campaign.
United’s fortunes improved slightly the following season – as did Doukara’s as the attacker signed an extension to his Leeds contract in September, retaining him at the club until June 2018.
Yet the forward was then handed an eight-match ban for biting Fulham’s Fernando Amorebieta during the league clash at Elland Road in March 2016.
Plenty thought Doukara had played his final game for Leeds but the Frenchman returned for the final day clash at Preston North End and has already made 32 appearances this season under Whites head coach Garry Monk, already surpassing the previous two seasons’ tally of 27.
Doukara, who has netted five times this season, now has at least eight more games in the regular Championship season to better his 2014-15 tally of seven goals.
Yet there is no denying that the present campaign is considerably Doukara’s best yet, with the forward relishing the opportunity to now reward the club’s fans with a place in the Premier League.
Reflecting on his first two seasons at Leeds, Doukara pondered: “They have been very difficult for everybody, not just for me. When you change country, you need to adapt and know everybody. Once you have that, it is more easy.
“Last year, I was suspended and it is something special to especially play at the end of the season when everybody is looking at us and I needed to play well to help the team.
“Last year, I was with some friends such as (Jordan) Botaka, (Sol) Bamba and (Toumani) Diagouraga as well. We are still in touch, but I have grown up a lot and I am more stronger and motivated.”
Doukara has been used as both a winger and a striker by Monk this season, and the 25-year-old is happy to play in either position.
Asked what he saw as his preferred role, Doukara admitted: “Maybe more as a striker. But the most important thing is to be on the pitch to play and help the team, that’s it.
“I can score more goals, I think. But with the way we play, we play for the team and it doesn’t matter who scores. The most important thing is the three points for the team. The spirit is good and we have a great dressing room.
“You can see that by the results. It is very good.”
The feel-good factor has also extended to the terraces this term, and Doukara has been hugely impressed by United’s loyal following.
He added: “I think it is one of the best fanbases in England. They support us and even if we played in China, they would come with us.
“It is very good because we can see when we go into town that people are excited about the team.
“They are enjoying coming to the stadium and we need to keep it this way to keep them on our side.
“They have always been behind us since the beginning of the season and all the fans have been fantastic and we will try to give them our best.
“We know that the fans want to get back to the Premier League and we will try to do that to the end of the season.”