Thoughts of dream double on hold as Stuart Dallas focuses on Leeds United's task at West Brom
ANOTHER game, another shift in positions for Leeds United’s Mr Versatile Extraordinaire, Stuart Dallas.
Right-back, left-back, either flank or centre-midfield. It’s all the same to the 28-year-old Ulsterman who makes light of his remarkable ability to adapt.
Every Whites player, says the Cookstown-born footballer, is specifically trained to be something of a chameleon by Marcelo Bielsa’s team and prepared to switch into any different position.
And really, he says, all that ultimately matters is Leeds United’s position being a winning one with Dallas dreaming of a club-and-country double next year but determined to take matters one step at a time with Bielsa’s Whites.
Adding international duty to the mix, thriving Dallas has already made 28 appearances this term with the winger-turned-full-back-turned-centre-midfielder having started all 25 of United’s league games.
The latest of those assignments came in Sunday’s sensational 5-4 win at Birmingham City in which United’s Mr Versatile again served a dual purpose, shifting between a right-back and centre-midfielder.
Three more outings for Northern Ireland have also presented themselves this term with the Green and White Army narrowly missing out on automatic qualification for next year’s European Championships but having a second chance in March’s play-offs.
Michael O’Neil’s men will now visit Bosnia on Wednesday, March 26 looking to set up a winner-takes-all final against either Slovakia or the Republic of Ireland.
By then, if United’s current buffer in the Championship’s automatic promotion spots is maintained, Dallas’ club might also be closing in on promotion to the Premier League.
A potential dream double but Dallas is focusing only on the next task in hand for Leeds with the Whites ace braced for a fourth game in 12 days at West Brom tomorrow and in whatever position Bielsa chooses to use him in.
“We work really hard on being able to play different positions,” said Dallas.
“It’s fine. We have a great team here that train us to be ready to be called upon into any position.
“At Birmingham I started at right-back and I have had to come inside and I have started the second half there in the middle.
“But I’m happy to be playing. If the team keep winning, that’s all I want.”
Assessing the possibility of celebrations with both United and Northern Ireland next year, Dallas pondered: “That will take care of itself when the moment comes.
“We have got a lot of club football between now and then and that’s all I’m concentrating on.
“Obviously, we at Northern Ireland have a tough game away at Bosnia.
“Then there is the possibility of a tie against the south of Ireland which would be nice.
“It’s a long, long way away. It could be quite a season but we will concentrate on West Brom.”
Thanks to United’s scarcely believable victory at Birmingham, United are approaching tomorrow’s clash at The Hawthorns sitting top of the division with Leeds now above West Brom on goal difference after the Baggies’ surprise 2-0 reverse at home to Middlesbrough on Sunday.
Both sides have a nine-point cushion in the division's automatic promotion spots though fifth-placed Nottingham Forest would trim that gap to eight points should they win their game in hand.
But two games into the second half of the season, Leeds are now no bigger than 1-12 to make amends for last season’s heartbreak and finally return to the Premier League with a top-two finish. Dallas, though, is taking absolutely nothing for granted.
Informed that Leeds had leapfrogged the Baggies to move top seconds after the final whistle of Sunday’s epic at St Andrew’s Dallas said: “That’s good. But it doesn’t mean anything.
“We’ve got them in a few days’ time and that’s going to be a massive match.
“But we just concentrate on ourselves, keep winning, keep doing what we have to do and the rest will take care of itself.”
Dallas added: “We are in a great position; there is no denying that but we have got to concentrate on ourselves, keep working hard, keep preparing well for games and trying to do what we do in training on matchday.
"To be top at the end of the year is obviously great but nothing is done here.”