Leeds United: Keeping Austin was massive show of commitment – Ritchie

Leeds United's Rodolph Austin battles with Huddersfield's Conor Coady.
Leeds United's Rodolph Austin battles with Huddersfield's Conor Coady.
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It’s funny how circumstances dictate the value of a certain player.

If Leeds United were half way up the Championship and heading for a mid-table finish, £500,000 for Rodolph Austin would have seemed like pretty good money.

He’s out of contract in the summer and it has to be said that he’s had an up-and-down season; an up-and-down career at Elland Road if we’re being totally honest.

In some ways I’m a little surprised the club didn’t look at the pound signs and cash in on him. Wigan weren’t offering pennies.

But I’m glad he’s staying. To have sold Austin now would have been such a mistake and such a kick in the teeth.

He’s been massively important to the team recently and he’s playing better now than he has for a while.

I’m all for moving on players who aren’t doing it or who need a fresh start but to lose Austin at the point where his form’s come good would have been crackers.

The impact could only have been negative. For starters, he was someone who Neil Redfearn clearly wanted to keep.

Neil saying last week that Austin was “not for sale at all costs” was another way of saying that any deal would be agreed without the blessing of the club’s head coach.

As well, how unhappy would the players have been if they’d read on Monday that Austin had joined Wigan, a team a couple of places below them in the Championship?

You’re fighting relegation, you’ve found a bit of a form and then bang – a key player goes.

It was common sense to keep him in the end and I don’t see the club regretting their decision, even if Austin ends up leaving on a free in the summer.

To be fair to Leeds and the people running the place, keeping him is a meaningful show of commitment.

We all know how much trouble the club have been in financially and we know how hard they’re fighting to get the finances under control.

An injection of £500,000 would have helped no end. But in my opinion, taking the cash was too much of a gamble when relegation was a possibility.

It’s less of a possibility now than it was a few weeks ago.

This run of four league games without defeat, and especially the two wins over Bournemouth and Huddersfield, have made a huge difference.

Okay, the advantage over the bottom three is still pretty small but Leeds are moving slowly towards the crucial 50-point mark.

At the turn of the year I found it hard to imagine them getting near that figure but their form is putting pressure on other teams around them.

Against Bournemouth, the team survived quite a few scares.

At Huddersfield, Billy Sharp popped up with a last-minute winner.

I’ve spoken a few times about how Leeds have been out of luck this season but maybe that’s starting to change.

Things are going their way at the moment.

With a bit of momentum behind them, Neil’s players have got an opportunity to put the season to bed.

But I know full well that the situation can turn on its head quickly. One minute you feel like you’ve nipped relegation in the bud. The next you’re right back in it.

I’d be surprised if anyone at Thorp Arch is feeling too comfortable.

Four games unbeaten is a decent run.

Given the pressure Leeds were under, it’s been an impressive recovery. But for the form to really take effect, that run needs to grow to seven, eight or nine matches.

Extend the improved performances through February – a month in which the club have got some pretty difficult games – and the chances are that the players will have some real breathing space.

They’ve not had that at any stage so far and it would be a massive relief to everyone if the last few weeks of the season counted for nothing. But that seems a long way away at the moment.

Neil won’t be looking beyond tomorrow’s meeting with Brentford.

One game at a time.