'Leeds are falling apart again,' drove Stuart Dallas and Leeds United on to become champions
Stuart Dallas has never been one to get carried away about Leeds United’s fortunes.
With United and West Brom nine points clear of third on New Year’s Day, Dallas readily dismissed suggestions that the Whites are Baggies already had unassailable leads.
Wise words, as just seven games later, United’s cushion in the automatic promotion spots was down to mere goal difference.
But through the rough and the smooth Dallas says his side have remained focused on achieving the end goal of promotion to the Premier League which is now finally in the bag in the ultimate style of Championship champions.
Three months after the heartache of defeat to Derby County in the play-offs semi-finals, Dallas says this season’s opening weekend 3-1 win at Bristol City set the tone and that his side never doubted they would eventually achieve their objective.
Dallas has been one of United’s stand out performers in head coach Marcelo Bielsa’s two seasons in charge with the Northern Ireland international enjoying a particularly fine 2019-20 campaign in which he started all but one of United’s league games.
The previous season also featured 28 outings for the Whites but a campaign that looked destined to end in automatic promotion instead finished in heartbreak with defeat to Derby in the Championship play-offs semi-finals.
Even Dallas’ brace in the second leg at Elland Road failed to save Leeds as United were left staring at a 15th consecutive season outside of the country’s top flight.
“Last season it didn’t finish the way we wanted,” said Dallas, speaking to the BBC.
“There were a lot of things written about us and a lot of negative press towards us at the end of the season.
“There were a lot of questions asked about whether we were good enough to bounce back. I think it showed the mentality of the group and the strong mindset – not just us as players but as a whole club in general.
“We went to Bristol City in the first game of the season and blew them away. We sort of just continued on from then.
“We did go through a sticky patch around January time but that is part and parcel of football.
“Again, we showed the mentality that we had when questions were asked after we blew a 14 or 15-point lead.
“It was effectively out of our hands after the draw at Brentford but then we went on five straight wins.
“Obviously that was before the lockdown but even then there were still questions asked of us.
“Other teams were starting to put runs together and everybody was expecting us to fall apart. You know the song ‘Leeds are falling apart again’ but that drove us on.
“When you look back over our last 13 games I think we’ve won 11 out of them and that is incredible in the Championship. We’re so proud. We’re delighted.”
United ended their season with an amazing 12 wins from their final 14 games, experiencing just the one loss in the 2-0 reverse at Cardiff City in the first game back after the three- and-a-half-month pause to the season due to the country’s battle against coronavirus.
Luton Town also held Leeds to a 1-1 draw at Elland Road two games later yet the Whites responded by recording six-straight wins which eventually saw United romp to the Championship title and finish ten points clear of second-placed West Brom.
Hardly, and Dallas admits United’s extremely nervy 1-0 win at home to Barnsley in their third-last game proved absolutely key.
“I’m not going to lie, of course there was a lot of pressure,” said 29-year-old Dallas.
“But to be successful at this football club we’ve got to demand that we put our own pressure on ourselves.
“We’ve got to demand a win week in and week out. That in itself should bring pressure.
“In the game against Barnsley, we knew that if we won it we were within touching distance and effectively only goal difference could stop us from going up. There was a lot of pressure that night and I think it showed in our performance. We were just delighted to get over the line
“I think there was one thing the manager spoke about a lot and it was just to take one game at a time.
“As a manager he wouldn’t let us think ahead and as a group of players, we knew that as well. We’re delighted we’ve got it done.”
And now it is indeed job done, and while United’s new task will soon await in the Premier League, Dallas has been loving life in the meantime celebrating promotion as Championship champions.
Dallas added: “Even just being out walking my dog, you see people who stop and talk to you - even the older people say how much it means to them.
“We’ve put a lot of hard work in over these last couple of years. It’s been very demanding and people don’t see it all.
“I’m just so happy that the hard work has paid off. I’m proud to be part of it. I’m proud of the club and my team-mates.”