Versatile Stuart Dallas reflects on best start yet and selfless Christmas pledge for Leeds United gains

STUART DALLAS admits the first half of the current season has been his best yet.

By Lee Sobot
Wednesday, 25th December 2019, 6:00 am

The Northern Ireland international has started every single league game with versatile Dallas threatening to play every single position.

Okay, not quite - though even his best friend and club captain Liam Cooper admitted earlier on this season that there was probably no barrier to the 28-year-old’s ability to adapt.

“I don’t think there’s a position he can’t play,” aid Cooper as the duo both signed new long term deals in September.

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VERSATILE: Leeds United's Northern Ireland international Stuart Dallas, left, filled different roles during Saturday's Championship clash at Fulham. Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images.

“I reckon he’d be decent in goal.”

Four and half years at Leeds have seen the ‘winger’ play on both flanks, in both full back positions and more recently even in centre midfield.

But Dallas is happy to rise to the challenge of being Leeds United’s star utility man, especially having excelled upon the recent shift from winger to left back.

Reflecting on his own progress 23 games into the 2019-20 Championship campaign and asked if he felt he had raised the bar personally, Dallas said: “Definitely. I think just having found a position probably that suits me.

"I have mentioned before that I was obviously a winger when it came to my club and the game is changing now.

“I have found a position that suits me, I am injury free so far, I had a good pre-season and these things help.

“I am settled here, I have signed a new deal and it’s given me a foundation to really kick on push on. I just love being here.

"It has been a good start but I’ve always been confident in myself that I would be able to play at this level and this standard. I am enjoying it.”

Saturday’s latest assignment at Fulham almost typified the Northern Ireland international’s season as a whole so far in 90 minutes.

The Cookstown-born footballer began his shift at Craven Cottage in the left wing back role but Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa was forced into a change in just the third minute as United lost attacking midfielder Pablo Hernandez to a hamstring injury.

That meant Dallas moving into centre midfield as Gjanni Alioski was introduced and two more changes to United’s XI and system then followed with striker Eddie Nketiah coming on for right winger Helder Costa at half time and winger Jordan Stevens replacing Luke Ayling with 12 minutes left.

That meant more of a reliance on Dallas’ defensive duties once more with Mr Versatile fulfilling various roles in just one game.

“It’s difficult because you are coming up against different players,” said Dallas.

“We have a good background team here and analysis team that do a lot of hard work and make us aware of individual players that we are playing against.

“You look into this before the game and we are showing this and it is challenging when one minute you are facing a tricky winger and the next minute you are facing a guy who is not tricky but has different sides to his game so it’s challenging.

“But it’s a challenge with the help of the team that we have here that everybody and not just myself is capable of adapting to.”

With United’s Spanish wizard Hernandez now facing a month out with his hamstring injury, adapting will need be the operative word but Dallas says Leeds have the strength in depth to cope, albeit fully appreciating the blow dealt by Hernandez’s absence.

“When you lose a player as good as Pablo it’s disappointing but we have players that are more than capable of coming in,” said Dallas.

“Alioski has come in and people are ready when they are called upon.

"I don’t think it disrupted it too much because it happened after a minute or two but you don’t like to lose a player like Pablo who in a game like Saturday’s could have been crucial.”

Despite the valiant efforts of Dallas, Saturday at Craven Cottage proved a day to forget all round as the second-placed Whites saw their 11-game unbeaten run ended in a 2-1 defeat.

Not quite the Christmas wish that United had in mind but that will have to wait until Boxing Day’s Elland Road clash against Preston North End.

In any case, Dallas’ immediate thoughts following the Cottagers defeat were not obsessing with how to celebrate December 25

“I am sure we will train like normal and we are here to do a job,” said Dallas.

“We are here to be successful and if that means giving up Christmas then we will do that.”