Leeds United defender's promise as Whites face unavoidable midweek distraction before finale

Pascal Struijk and Leeds United are keeping the faith, just like the fans, ahead of ‘one more big final’.

By Graham Smyth
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 4:40 am

The Premier League season will come to an end on Sunday at Brentford and by 6pm Leeds will be facing a third top-flight season or a return to the Championship.

The teams directly above and below them, Everton and Burnley, have games on Thursday night, the results of which could leave the Whites needing both a victory and things going their way elsewhere on the final day.

But they cannot be relegated in midweek, not since Struijk appeared at the back post to head Joe Gelhardt’s cross into the Brighton net, securing a vital point and sparking mayhem in the Elland Road stands.

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Head coach Jesse Marsch admitted after the draw with the Seagulls that Leeds would watch Burnley’s game against Aston Villa and they’ll likely have an eye on Everton’s Crystal Palace clash too. Whatever happens, Leeds will still have a job to do this weekend when they visit former White Pontus Jansson and Brentford.

While Struijk admits there’s no ignoring Thursday night’s events, he doesn’t want to give too much energy to that which Leeds cannot control.

Instead all efforts must be made to produce the goods in what has become a final of epic significance.

“I don’t think we should be too focused on the other games, I know it is still in the back of the mind,” said the 22-year-old, who made his 55th Premier League appearance against Brighton, as a late substitute.

FULL FOCUS - Pascal Struijk and Leeds United must give all their energy to that which they can control in the Premier League's final week. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“We should really focus on our game, because there is one more big final, we want to make sure we win that one.”

Struijk’s immediate response to scoring was to run to fans at the corner of Elland Road’s North and West stands for a mass celebration, where he was joined quickly by his team-mates.

It wasn’t the first time this season that the Whites have left it late to pick up a result, prompting wild celebrations for players and fans alike.

The defender’s goal helped unify the club at a time when anger and frustration at how the season has been allowed to get away from them was beginning to pour out of the fanbase.

Come kick-off on Sunday Struijk knows the fans will be right behind the team, as they have been in both noise and numbers at home and away throughout the campaign, showing remarkable patience and belief. Neither they, nor the players, can give up until the bitter end.

“We never stop believing,” said Struijk.

“I certainly think the fans also don’t, so we’ll play the last game and try to make sure we get the points, to see how the table plays out.”