Paul Heckingbottom has vowed to create a Leeds United side that can “out-fight” and “out-battle” Championship opponents with the Whites head coach admitting his side had no “God-given right” to be back in the Premier League.
Seeking a return to the country’s top flight after a 14-year absence, a run of just one win from their last 13 league games has left United 13th and 11 points off the play-offs with nine games left – starting with today’s Yorkshire derby with Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road.
Unhappy with recent performances, Whites owner Andrea Radrizzani this week accused the current squad of lacking “commitment, passion and spirit” in the second half of this season with the Italian insisting “I don’t want players in my team and representing Leeds United with this behaviour.”
Radrizzani said it was now “impossible to think about promotion” in the current campaign and Heckingbottom has already laid down the gauntlet to his players in admitting they are playing for their Elland Road futures.
The Whites head coach also admits that United will now continually face the prospect of battling for promotion with sides blessed with parachute payments following relegation from the Premier League.
But Heckingbottom will challenge his players to compensate for a comparative lack of “financial might” in other ways with the 40-year-old admitting the Whites will quite literally have to battle their way into contention for a place in the Premier League.
Heckingbottom said: “In terms of history, fanbase and stature and how Leeds is regarded across the country, everybody understands what a big club we’re at.
“But times have changed and things have moved on and teams have been in higher and better positions than us and have more power, more financial power than us.
“I think there’s a realisation really in my experience with the fans of where we are.
“Yes, everybody wants to be back in that top league, 100 per cent.
“But it’s going to take a lot of hard work from everyone because you’ve got no God-given right to be there.”
Ahead of what will be his eighth game in charge of Leeds, Heckingbottom, added: “Looking ahead, if you’ve got to overhaul clubs which have a lot more financial clout with the position they’ve been in, coming down from the Premier League with parachute payments, you’ve got to do a hell of a lot of things better than them.
“You’ve got no God-given right to be in the Premier League or at the top of the league because you have been in the past or your standing as a football club or the support you’ve got.
“You’ve got to earn that right and getting out, competing financially, we’ve got to do a lot of other things better.
“If we have got to over-achieve and compete with people with more financial might than us then one of the things we’ve got to have is a real winning mentality if we want to improve and start competing against these teams."