Leeds United managing director Angus Kinnear has given Thomas Christiansen the club’s firmest backing yet by insisting Christiansen has “absolutely the potential to deliver in this league”.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Kinnear voiced support for Christiansen in the wake of the run of results which dropped Leeds from first to 10th in the Championship and left the former APOEL boss fighting to quell a flurry of seven defeats in nine games.
United were beaten 3-1 by Brentford ahead of the international break, their third loss in a row, and the club are heading into a key passage of fixtures with Garry Monk’s Middlesbrough due at Elland Road this weekend and away games at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Barnsley to follow in the space of seven days.
Christiansen is just 20 competitive matches into his tenure, five months on from United owner Andrea Radrizzani naming him as a surprise replacement for Monk, and Radrizzani has stood by the 44-year-old during a prolonged slump.
Kinnear, however, said doubts about Christiansen’s ability were unfair with Leeds three points below the play-offs, two months after the impressive start to the season which took the club to the top of the table.
“I don’t think it’s fair to question him,” Kinnear said. “Most fair-minded supporters would look at a manager coming into a completely new league, a very challenging league, and working with a new squad with new players and say that to be three points off the play-offs now is not far off what you’d expect a new manager to do.
“In what we’ve seen at Thorp Arch and in a number of performances there’s plenty to suggest that Thomas has absolutely the potential to deliver in this league. The position we’re in is not way off track from where we want to be, three points off the play-offs. Our target is to get into the play-offs.
“I think we’ve demonstrated we can beat any team in the division when the team play as they can. However, Andrea and the rest of the board have really high standards and these results - and in some of the games, the underlying performances - don’t meet with those standards.
“Naturally there’s concern because we need to stay in touch with the play-off places but we’re confident the ingredients are there to regain the form and get back on track.”
Radrizzani set a maximum timeframe of five years to win promotion following his buy-out of former Leeds owner Massimo Cellino in May but both he and Christiansen set a top-six finish as their target for this season.
Kinnear, who previously worked for Arsenal and West Ham United before joining the board at Leeds earlier this year, admitted failure to qualify for the play-offs would equate to “missing our objective” but said the club would continue to look at the “broader picture” of a long-term plan which has seen Radrizzani repurchase United’s Elland Road stadium and pursue the construction of a new training ground in the city centre.
“Ultimately we want to be on the right path,” Kinnear said. “If we’d come in and told everyone we’d get promoted this season, firstly we’d have sounded like previous owners and secondly we wouldn’t have had any credibility at all.
“We’re confident that by putting foundations in place and giving it stability, this club should be getting promoted. We’re all clear that if we haven’t done that after five years then we’ll have failed in what we set out to do.
“There are no positional metrics along the way. We just need to feel it (progress) through a whole number of factors but a sensible position to show we’re progressing, and what Andrea wants, is sixth. We finished seventh last season so we need to finish sixth.
“The difference is significant and it’s what everyone’s set on. Nobody will be satisfied if we’re not in the top six and on a seasonal basis we’d have missed our objective. But at the same time, there’s a broader picture about whether we’re moving towards the ultimate goal.”