Leeds United: Off-field matters no excuse for players’ on-field shambles

Massimo Cellino
Massimo Cellino
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It’s a bad state of affairs when your season is over with the best part of 10 games to still to play.

A month back I was talking about a run of five home fixtures from seven matches and hoping Leeds United would use it to close in on the play-offs.

Instead, their form’s been dreadful and that patch of appearances at Elland Road has been badly wasted. There’s nothing much to play for now, except for pride.

Pride is important. So is passion.

They’re no real substitutes for talent or ability but when you’re out of form or under pressure, as Leeds most definitely are, you can do yourself a favour by showing the right attitude and doing the shirt justice.

Brian McDermott said last week that he and his players are fighting for their lives and there’s no arguing with that.

Things could change massively at this club in the next few months and people need to starting earning places here.

This season’s been nowhere near good enough and big decisions are going to be made when the ownership situation sorts itself out.

Everyone knows how much confusion and uncertainty there is in the background at Elland Road but I still don’t accept that Massimo Cellino’s takeover is a valid excuse for the way the team are playing, or the results they’re getting.

Where the manager’s concerned, yes I understand why the off-field stuff might be getting to him and distracting him, even if he’s trying his best to ignore it.

But players are different. They’ve got one thing to worry about – turning out on a Saturday or a Tuesday and performing to the standard expected of them.

I was a player at a high level for many years and I’d never have blamed poor performances on events behind the scenes.

From my point of view, if you’re concerned about your place in the team or your place at the club long-term, you get out there and you show people you care; show that you’re working your backside off to do your best and make an impression with every chance you get.

The same goes for contracts. My contracts were my responsibility, no-one else’s. If I earned them I got them. If I didn’t – well, thank you and goodbye.

That’s football and quite frankly, it’s how it should be. Maybe some of the lads at Leeds are thinking ‘I’m out of contract in the summer, I’m probably going so why should I kill myself?’

I could as equally ask whether many of our players think they’ve performed well enough to deserve another season.

Because to me, only a handful have.

Explain to me, for instance, how it is that we’ve failed to put a play-off run together but Bournemouth are right in with a chance.

I accept that they don’t have anything like the problems we’ve got up here but still, they’ve turned on a bit of form at the right time and they’re in the running for the top six.

They might fall short but at least there’ll be a bit of excitement down south over the next few weeks.

Do Bournemouth have superstars throughout their team?

Do they have numerous better players than us? I don’t think so.

They’ve just maintained their performances to a pretty high level and kept themselves in the hunt.

We, on the other hand, have dropped away badly and that’s going to count against people when the summer comes.

It sounds harsh but you start to realise that some of the players at Leeds aren’t the type of players or characters this club needs. They don’t look like they’re up to coping with the huge pressure which comes with playing for Leeds.

As usual, it’s the fans I feel sorry for because they’ve been seriously fantastic.

The likes of myself, Eddie Gray and the other ex-players – we try to keep the supporters upbeat and we try to look on the bright side.

But when it comes down to it, you can’t pull the wool over the their eyes and everyone at the club has to accept that.

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