GOING INTO the new year, Leeds United look to be in the best shape that they have been in for a while – on the pitch at least – given the disruption that they have had.
Things seem to be going okay, touch wood.
For once – and no disrespect to what has gone on before in previous times – they all really look together as a group and the team spirit looks there and they do look at one with the manager, which can only be a good thing.
Looking at Leeds United’s recent run, there’s plenty of encouragement and they were certainly the better side at Nottingham Forest and did well enough against Derby, who were flying high competing for automatic promotion at the top of the table.
Obviously at home, you’d want to beat them ideally, but a draw was still a great result, I thought.
Looking at Leeds’ season, it’s still in the balance and I am not going to say that they are going to get into the play-offs and what have you.
But this little unbeaten run is giving them a base to push on a bit and I think that top 10 is not out of their remit at the end of the season.
They are still nine points behind the play-offs which is three wins and a lot of ground to make up and you have to also rely on the teams above you slipping up, which is not guaranteed.
It’s a big ask. But I think Steve will be thinking that the team are getting more consistency now and are on the move a little bit.
He needs to keep that team spirit that looks to clearly be there now.
It looks superb from what I have seen of late and trust me, that can carry you a long way.
I always tell people that when we had success when I was playing for Oldham, while we had some good players, team spirit was such a major, major part of our make-up.
Obviously, there’s the transfer window which is opening for business and fans are wondering what Leeds are going to do.
For me, they definitely need another striker, there’s no doubt about that.
That’s a big priority, but as we know money is the option when it comes to getting strikers in.
A lot has been made about Massimo Cellino’s threat to ban the Sky cameras ahead of the Derby game in protest at the excessive amount of disruption to Leeds’ fixtures.
Maybe some people got caught up in things saying ‘the president has said something else again’, but looking at things in the bigger picture, many would say he had some valid concerns – especially from a footballing point of view.
From the wider point of view in terms of fans getting to games and their Christmas being disrupted and having to go backwards and forwards at unusual times for games, the disruption was also a bit unfair, definitely.
He was valid in saying ‘why are Leeds on so many times’ and Steve hit the nail on the head by saying it was because Leeds are a big team.
In another year, maybe Leeds might not have been on the TV so many times.
But looking at the fixtures they have recently had against the likes of Wolves, Forest and Derby – all big teams in the league – that must have been a factor in the decisions to televise.
Those teams Leeds were playing were also ‘of interest’ and Leeds also get the viewing figures. Plenty of managers like Steve have also spoken about the unfairness of some teams having more rest time than others and that’s affecting certain clubs in particular during the festive season. It can be a problem.
In my day, we just played two games in two days and didn’t really think about it and it wasn’t as much of an issue as these days, and things are different now.
Now, with all the advances in sports science fields, we know all about the impact of tiredness and the importance of rest to protect against injuries.
These days, everyone is aware how busy schedules can cause strains upon your body and that it can bring problems to the fore. Everyone is more aware of the impact of rest in sport and conditioning and nowadays the lay person knows more about the issue.
You can go to a game and fans can say ‘oh, he looks tired’ and they think about those aspects and everyone is more aware about the issue of fitness than they used to be, certainly.
When I was managing, I was always ruled by the fitness coaches and medical staff, regardless of who we were playing and ‘fixture pile-ups’.
I trusted the fitness guys as I know sometimes I played when I shouldn’t have played and maybe made things worse, putting you at risk of being out for a longer time than you should have been.
In my era, maybe you didn’t think about your rest and fitness as such as you just played maybe because you were a bit scared of losing your place in the side.
But as a manager these days, you only want players who are fully fit who can give you 90 minutes.
Although I think nowadays, some players don’t play when they could – more than when I was playing.
It’s all about finding a happy medium and speaking to the players and being guided by the medical staff.