Leeds United: Diagouraga eyeing top six – next year

Toumani Diagouraga. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
Toumani Diagouraga. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
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UPON leaving Brentford to sign for Leeds United, Toumani Diagouraga had not scored for 34 months.

The midfielder, who arrived with the nickname ‘Dave’, then encountered immediate problems in moving house.

Three months later, the Frenchman has notched two goals in two games as he prepares to finally settle into his new abode where the Parisian hopes he can celebrate promotion next year.

“Good times” says the 28-year-old, who now just wants to ditch the dodgy nickname Dave.

Diagouraga appeared an unobvious signing when joining Leeds from Brentford for a fee in the region of £600,000 on January 25.

At a time when United were continually linked with strikers – in particular Norwich City targetman Kyle Lafferty – Whites head coach Steve Evans recruited another centre midfielder who was also wanted north of the border by former Bees boss Mark Warburton at Glasgow Rangers.

Three months on, Diagouraga is showing what all the fuss was for by putting in a string of solid displays in an improving midfield whilst also notching two goals in his last two games and three since signing for Leeds.

Diagourga bagged his first goal of any sort for just under three years when netting what proved the winner in January’s 2-1 success at Bolton in the FA Cup fourth round.

For Leeds, five games without victory followed and Diagouraga then experienced complications off the pitch when being told he was unable to view a property because the landlord “doesn’t want footballers in there.”

But both United and Diagouraga are in a rather better place three months later, even if the rather unusual ‘Dave’ moniker first given to the midfielder at Hereford United is still a bit annoying.

Asked to explain his unusual nickname in the aftermath of Tuesday night’s victory at Elland Road, Diagouraga laughed: “I wouldn’t be able to tell you! It started when I was at Hereford in 2008 I think and it has just followed me ever since. I wouldn’t mind losing it, put it that way!

“I’m enjoying it here.

“Since I have come, everyone has made me feel welcome and I’m happy. I love it here.

“To play for like 20,000 people every week and in a stadium like this and for a club like this, I can’t complain. It’s happy days.

“With the goal-scoring, I don’t know what’s going on!

“It’s good to get in the box and try and get opportunities but we’ve got the win against Wolves and that’s what we wanted.

“I’ve got the licence to get in the box a bit more and I feel like I can get more goals and more opportunities.

“That’s two in two so I’m happy but as long as we win then that’s all that I want.

“It’s two in two but we have won three games in a row now so happy days. I’m also moving in, in a couple of weeks. It’s all good.”

Three wins in succession – and six victories from their last 10 games – offer tentative hope that good times could also be just around the corner for long-suffering Leeds.

Diagouraga was particularly impressed with his side’s second-half display on Tuesday evening against Wolves in which he bagged United’s second following a clinical pass from Lewis Cook – the recently crowned Football League young player of the year.

“He didn’t win young player of the year for no reason,” said Diagouraga.

“We have seen how good he is and he’s a very bright talent.

“I think in the second half we played really well but in the first half we gave them a bit too much respect.

“Wolves were a test in the first half because they caused us a lot of problems.

“We had to get into shape in the second half and try and press them higher and try and get the win.

“In the second half we got into them and we did really well.

“I think in the first half we didn’t play as well as we could have done but in the second half we went out there and went after them and we were pleased to get the win.

“We were told at half-time to go and press them higher and to make something out of the game because in the first half we weren’t really at it. We got into them and got the win.

“We knew something like that was coming but we were disappointed with the first half and we knew we had to be better in the second half if we wanted to get to win.”

United’s new goalscoring midfielder also says the squad are determined to consistently put in a “good shift” for United head coach Steve Evans whose future remains uncertain due to speculation that chairman Massimno Cellino will replace him in the summer.

“You can’t help speculation,” said Diagouraga.

“All we can do is go out to work and put in a good shift for him and try and win as many as we can.

“Everyone is happy and everyone can’t wait to play another game, everyone is looking forward to another game. Since I have been here it has always been unified here but sometimes you get the rub of the green and sometimes you don’t.

“But at the moment we are doing all right and we are getting the wins. Hopefully we can keep going.”

Looking ahead to the possibility of what United might be able to achieve next season, Diagouraga pondered: “It’s 46 games and it’s a hard league.

“But if we can finish on a high and next year start strongly then you never know.

“We’ve got a lot of quality, you can see it in flashes and hopefully together we can be more consistent.

“This team can be very good but what we have to do is finish on a high and next year hopefully have a good start. Then you never know in the Championship.

“We were very good on Tuesday and if we can play like that we will be more than a match for anyone in this league. But you have to be consistent over the 46 games.

“Hopefully if we can do that next year then I don’t see why we can’t do it.

“It’s just about confidence I think. When you win one you get confident and then you get on a roll.

“We have done that earlier a few weeks back but now that we have got three in a row we have got to try and go on and get another win.

“It’s just belief, when you win games you get a lot more confident. The lads are expressing themselves and we are doing well at the moment.

“We probably need a few new signings and more wins and to get everyone together – the whole club, the fans, the players and giving it a good go.

“When you start the season every team starts on zero points but we will be in the race like everyone else. If we can have a good start then you never know.”