When Pablo Hernandez ticks, Leeds United tick - the Spaniard enjoying life as Elland Road's elder statesman

Leeds United playmaker Pablo Hernandez.Leeds United playmaker Pablo Hernandez.
Leeds United playmaker Pablo Hernandez.
“Sometimes you have good days, sometimes you have bad days,” Pablo Hernandez pronounced following the club’s 4-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion in mid-November.

A day where, as he has done for Leeds United over the course of the season, he provided one moment of quality with his late consolation at the Hawthorns. The statement, though, was one of consideration and reflection from a player who has seen it all.

Never get too high, never get too low. Some days you have it, some days you don't. An all too familiar feeling for the Elland Road club.

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The good days have far outweighed the bad this season but not many of the former have come without the involvement of United's 33-year-old veteran.

Marcelo Bielsa declared in August that he was a player who would “make me a better head coach" and if questioned Hernandez would say the reverse for a manager who has Leeds on the cusp of turning a dream into reality.

One thing that has been abundantly clear, though, is that when Hernandez ticks, so does the Argentine’s side.

“I know that if my numbers are better the team numbers are better,” Hernandez said.

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His current tally of seven goals and eleven assists across 27 Championship appearances are unrivalled in the United squad having created nearly 90 chances for his team-mates – a league high – this season.

“I’ve played in a different role. I’ve been more on the wing again but in the last two years I have been more as a playmaker.

“I am happy with my performance. I think I can always improve and give more. In the last games I haven’t scored, I know this.”

United are preparing for a showdown with the Baggies this evening at Elland Road and one in which could shape their season going forward into the last stretch of the campaign.

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Leeds hold the advantage in third place with a four-point gap down to Darren Moore’s men in fourth but Hernandez, along with everyone else who witnessed the demolition in the Midlands, know the danger the visitors possess.

“It was one of the worst games in the league against them,” Hernandez admitted.

“We analysed the game after we lost 4-1 and if you see the game it’s not a lot of difference with all the other games. We had the ball, control and chances but mistakes cost us the goals and against teams like West Brom you can’t give them these chances.

“We can’t make those mistakes because they have quality players who don’t need too many chances to score.”

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With 12 games to go United have never had a better opportunity to end their 15-year exile from English football’s elite which, incidentally, coincides with Hernandez taking his first steps into Valencia’s professional ranks.

Results under Bielsa have wavered in recent months which has seen the Whites fall out of the automatic promotion spots with Norwich City and Sheffield United capitalising on a downturn in form.

The pressure is reaching new heights in West Yorkshire with games selling out in record time and on Friday the clash under the lights will be the hottest ticket in town.

“We expect a great atmosphere. We know that the Leeds fans will support us.

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“Every game this season and the next game for us is the same. We need them. When we feel them we have extra power and we have a twelfth man on the pitch.”

But with the spotlight growing so does expectation, which is something United’s players must use to their advantage.

“You have a pressure to get results and I think it is good for us and we need to use this pressure in the right way,” he said.

“Sometimes when you have pressure you don’t want the ball, you don’t want mistakes.

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“I think that we need to take this pressure but in the opposite way. All the players need to show on the pitch what they can do. I am sure we can win games.

“I think we have shown we can beat any team in this league and we have a good chance to show this.”

Leeds can climb back to the summit with victory over the Baggies but after a disappointing result in midweek against Queens Park Rangers nothing is taken for granted in a division as tight as this.

United are shaping up for their third game in just six days but, as the Spaniard says, there’s no time for reflection.

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“I think it is a good thing for us playing again in two days,” he added, “because sometimes in football when you lose you have a bad feeling. Maybe you have one week or six or seven days until the next game and you don’t have the chance to change this feeling.

“I think the feeling we have is that we want to play again to win and recover the confidence.”

As the elder statesman of Bielsa’s squad Hernandez feels an added pressure but it is one he welcomes. Experience, no matter in what form, can be key when seasons like the one United are enjoying can result in great success.

The 33-year-old has a wealth at the highest level from the Champions League to the Premier League and says he must ensure that he uses it to his and Leeds’ benefit.

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“I try to help some team-mates and young players on the pitch,” he said.

“I think in the difficult moments of the games the players need to take responsibility. I think in some moments I need to take this responsibility because I have experience. I try to show my team-mates even in the bad moments that we need everybody.”

The achievement of promotion to the Premier League isn’t lost on a player who has already seen United flirt with promotion under Garry Monk.

Hernandez, though, knows better than to get too far ahead of himself despite conceding the emotions that it may bring: “I hope I can live that feeling in two or three months and tell you that it is the best feeling in my career.

“I won’t think about this now. I just want to think about what I can do in the next game to help my team.”