Paul Heckingbottom warned his squad not to ease off and admitted he was almost ready to pass judgement on which players to keep next season ahead of Saturday’s meeting with his old club Barnsley.
The Leeds United head coach aimed veiled criticism at the effort of some members of his side after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on Friday and said he expected to see fight in their performance against a Barnsley side who are on the brink of relegation.
Saturday’s clash at Elland Road will reunite Heckingbottom with the club he left to take charge of Leeds in February and will also showcase two players who are on United’s radar ahead of the summer transfer window.
Leeds are weighing up a move for Barnsley left-back Andy Yiadom, who is out of contract in June, and also hold an interest in Oli McBurnie, the Scotland striker who Heckingbottom took on loan to Oakwell from Swansea City in January.
Heckingbottom admitted that this weekend’s Yorkshire derby was “probably bigger for them (Barnsley)” but insisted he would not tolerate a poor showing from Leeds despite the fact that his squad are trapped in mid-table.
“It’s probably bigger for them than us but we want the points for our own reasons and I’m making decisions for next season all the time,” Heckingbottom said,
“They’re another team like Villa - Villa wanted the points for the right reasons, to go up, and Barnsley want the points to stay up. It makes all these games good and tough for us and it gives me a fair reflection in assessing the players because there’s something riding on the game.
“Everyone’s had an opportunity and I’ve been fair with everyone, The type of team that ends up on the pitch next season has to reflect me. I want to see people fighting, trying to overachieve. They’ll go on and do good things if they do that.”
Heckingbottom has taken charge of 13 games at Leeds since quitting Oakwell on February 6, a switch which cost United £500,000 in compensation.
The 40-year-old’s position at Elland Road was reported to be under threat last week due to a poor run of form which has seen Leeds gain just 10 points under him.
Barnsley, meanwhile, were 21st in the table when Heckingbottom left and have dropped into the bottom three under new boss Jose Morais. The South Yorkshire club lie two points from safety with four games remaining.