Brian McDermott hopes his decision to replace Rodolph Austin as Leeds United captain will revive the midfielder’s form after revealing that Austin asked to be relieved of the armband.
Ross McCormack will lead United out against Leicester City tomorrow following talks between McDermott and Austin and an admission from the Jamaican that a change of captain was in “the best interests of the team.”
Austin was handed the captaincy by McDermott in August, relieving Lee Peltier of the position a week into the season, but the former SK Brann player offered to step aside in the wake of United’s 6-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday last weekend.
His performances have faltered since Christmas, bringing Austin’s leadership into question, and McCormack took it upon himself to speak out on behalf of United’s squad on Wednesday as the club faced up to their heaviest league loss for 55 years.
McDermott announced yesterday (Jan 16) that McCormack had been named permanent club captain but said the change was “no slight” on Austin and a way of lifting the pressure from the 28-year-old’s shoulders.
“I had a good conversation with Rudy,” said the United manager. “He’s a great guy and he’s been a great captain in my opinion.
“He’s spoken to me and he feels it’s in the best interest of the team – he always talks about the team – that someone else is captain. I’ve taken that on board.
“This isn’t about Rudy and this isn’t a slight on Rudy at all. I just want Rudy to play free and to play his game. He feels that his personality possibly isn’t conducive to the role of captain but his leadership qualities are there for all to see – the way he runs, the way he tackles.
“The fans love him for that and I want him to get back to loving life. It all means so much to him here and I want to take that pressure away from him. That’s the reason, no other reason.”
McDermott planned to install Gordon Greer as his captain for this season and bid for the defender during the summer transfer window but Greer opted to sign a new contract at Brighton, leading United’s manager to turn to Austin. Austin spoke of his surprise at McDermott’s offer at the time, saying: “I was shocked to be honest because I didn’t know the gaffer had so much respect for me and saw me as a leader.
“He called me to his office and I was blown away.
“I said I wanted some time to think about it but he insisted I take it because he thought I’d do a good job.
“It’s very pleasing to be asked to do the job and an honour to be the captain of such a big club.”
The change of skipper came on the back of an hour-long meeting between McDermott and his squad the day after Saturday’s rout at Hillsborough.
United’s players were called into Thorp Arch on Sunday morning to dissect their run of four straight losses and begin preparing for tomorrow’s game against Championship leaders Leicester City.
McDermott said: “It was really important to discuss what’s gone on in the last two games. You could argue that last four games or six games, whichever.
“It was a good meeting and I put my point forward.
“The staff gave their views and the players discussed how they felt.
“We were here for an hour or so and we trained really well on Monday. Then we put the team together on Tuesday.”