Leeds United: Botaka on board and won’t be rocking the boat

Jordan Botaka
Jordan Botaka
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Jordan Botaka’s time at Leeds United has proved to be a test of his patience but the winger is not inclined to start shouting the odds or rocking the boat.

His first season in England has almost reached its halfway point and Botaka might feel that he is still to scratch the surface. His goal in a development-squad game at Hull City on Monday was his first for Leeds, three months on from his arrival from Holland. “Now I want to do it at Elland Road,” he said.

More specifically, he wants the opportunity to do it for United’s first team. Botaka had the reputation of a goalscoring forward in the Dutch Eredivisie but his success at Leeds was never going to be judged on his finishing. The challenge for him when he joined in September was to prove that he could sit comfortably in a Championship side.

To date, and since his move from Excelsior, the 22-year-old has had relatively few chances to shine: two starts in defeats to Middlesbrough and Brighton – the tail-end of Uwe Rosler’s reign as head coach – and five substitute appearances under Steve Evans. Saturday’s league win over Hull is likely to restrict him to the bench again at Charlton Athletic this weekend.

Evans concedes that Botaka must be feeling “frustrated” but United’s boss is adamant that the Congo international’s “end-product” needs to improve before he can feature as regularly as a winger like Stuart Dallas has this season.

“I think if you’re Jordan you’re perhaps frustrated,” Evans said. “But if you’re us (the coaching staff) and the other players, you can be frustrated (about Botaka) too.

“It’s about final product when you play in a wide area. You can do 14 stepovers like Ronaldo does but the thing about Ronaldo is that he picks out the boy at the far stick and the boy sticks the ball in the net.

“So we’ve been working on that and Jordan’s a good kid. We don’t have one bad apple in our dressing room. They all want to be on the training ground and they all want to be learning.”

Evans has tried to use Botaka as an impact substitute, particularly in matches where Leeds have been chasing the game. The winger made a concerted difference against Fulham during Evan’s first fixture as head coach and was denied a late goal by goalkeeper Joe Murphy in a 3-0 win at Huddersfield Town last month.

On other occasions, away at Queens Park Rangers and at home to Rotherham United, Botaka’s involvement has been less telling but he completed 90 minutes of Monday’s Under-21s game at Hull and earned the development squad a 1-1 draw with a clinical header from Casper Sloth’s cross.

Botaka said he would benefit from a 90-minute outing and insisted he was happy to drop down while he waited for a more concerted opportunity in the Championship.

“It was good for me,” Botaka said. “I get more minutes in my legs. We’re one big club, one big family, and when I’m needed (in the Under-21s) I can’t refuse because with the first team I haven’t played so much. For me this is good.

“In the last few weeks I’ve been most of the time on the bench. If I want to be ready for the next (league) game then being on the bench is not going to help me. If I can get my minutes and be ready for the next game, that’s good.

“It’s my first goal in a Leeds shirt and I’m happy with that. Now I want to do it at Elland Road. It was a perfect cross, there was quality on it.”

Dallas, a Northern Ireland international who joined Leeds from Brentford in a £1.3m deal in August, has been a fixture in United’s line-up. His assist for Chris Wood’s goal in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Hull was his fourth of the season.

Elsewhere, Leeds have struggled to establish a second winger. Alex Mowatt is occupying the left flank currently but Lewis Cook tried his hand there under Evans initially and Botaka has been given the occasional run. An early experiment with Sam Byram as a right winger – carried out by Rosler – was abandoned inside a month.

Botaka said: “I’m a player who wants to play. Every player wants to play for the first team in front of so many fans.

“I want to play but the gaffer makes the decision. I’ll do my best to prove that I’m supposed to be there in the starting 11. It’s all part of the game. I have to be professional and deal with it. I have to give the best account of myself every time.”