Leeds United: Reasons to believe only way is up

ON THE UP: Leeds United's Mirco Antenucci celebrates his goal against Huddersfield Town, including with the improving Giuseppe Bellusci, left. Picture by Simon Hulme.
ON THE UP: Leeds United's Mirco Antenucci celebrates his goal against Huddersfield Town, including with the improving Giuseppe Bellusci, left. Picture by Simon Hulme.
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FRESH from Saturday’s 3-0 win at Huddersfield Town, the YEP’s Lee Sobot looks at five issues highlighted by the performance and head coach Steve Evans’ comments afterwards.

Leeds should be looking up, not down

Things had become so desperate at Elland Road that anyone mentioning the play-offs in recent weeks almost got laughed at. After the Blackburn Rovers shambles, rightly so.

But rejuvenated by the Cardiff win, even suggestions that Leeds would move six points off the play-offs with victory at Huddersfield yesterday, albeit temporarily, were met with quizzical looks.

But why shouldn’t Leeds aim for the top six?

It would be foolish to get carried away with two wins against a very uninspiring Cardiff team and a Huddersfield outfit who have their problems but there’s every chance of Leeds beating Rotherham United after the international break which would make the Championship table look rosier still.

United remain nine points off the play-offs after Birmingham City’s victory and the top six remains a distinct long shot - a 22-1 chance with 10Bet.

But Leeds were clinical and undeniably impressive in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Huddersfield and there’s nothing wrong with ambition, especially with improvement and hopefully more signings to come.

As ever, off the field antics could be the biggest problem but, at the very least, United should be looking up - at the top half minimum with Leeds now only one point behind 12th-placed Fulham.

Most importantly, at least talk of relegation is now seemingly out of the window.

United are still ‘only’ six points above the dropzone but are now as big as 12-1 to go down having been as short as 5-2 after last Thursday’s defeat to Blackburn.

Giuseppe Bellusci is defying his critics

There were plenty hoping that Italian defender Giuseppe Bellusci had played his last game for Leeds United after his awful display in Septembers’s 3-0 loss at Middlesbrough which included a 32nd-minute own goal.

But the arrival of Steve Evans seems to have given the 26-year-old a new lease of life and the defender is now one of two first choice centre backs based on yesterday’s team selection in which captain Sol Bamba was named on the bench.

Bellusci was handed a chance due to Bamba’s suspension for Tuesday night’s clash with Cardiff and most fans feared the worst but Bellusci put in an assured display and again at Huddersfield, first alongside Liam Cooper and then with Bamba after Cooper’s injury.

The defender who was nicknamed the Warrior at former club Catania clearly still has flaws to his game with Evans not happy with his attempts at shooting from 45 yards but the overriding impression was Evans’ description of Bellusci as being like a “lion in defence.”

Two out of three from Cooper, Bamba and Bellusci is suddenly a difficult call.

Credit also to ‘keeper Marco Silvestri, who has received similar criticism but pulled off two outstanding saves.

Hope for Sam Byram

Sam Byram remains out of contract at the end of the season and with a new contract offer turned down, all indications were that the right back would leave next summer, if not in January.

Byram did not even make the United 18 on Saturday, further fuelling those suspicions but Evans has vowed to sit down with the 22-year-old and have fresh talks to see if the former Academy star wants to be part of the club’s long term plans.

The decision as to what sort of contract Byram is offered - if any - will ultimately be above the head of Evans and no movement is likely while Massimo Cellino is still here but Whites fans will hope that the Italian is on his way out and that Byram is subsequently on his way back in.

Liam Bridcutt deal may still be imminent

Bridcutt’s proposed loan move from Sunderland is turning into a bit of a fiasco with Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce saying the deal was “confused, a bit like Leeds.”

But Evans gave fresh hope that the defensive midfielder may still sign by revealing that he had spoken to the 26-year-old on Friday night and that talks had gone “extremely well.”

Evans said on Thursday that Leeds would know one way or the other which way the deal was going on Sunday so watch this space.

More youngsters are incoming

Leeds have benefitted incredibly from their thriving Academy system with Lewis Cook, Alex Mowatt, Charlie Taylor and Sam Byram seen as the ‘big four.’

And Evans revealed after Saturday’s success that further Whites youngsters could soon be part of his plans.

Evans said: “There’s other young lads in the 21s that are looking very, very talented. I want to sit down with Paul Hart and then we will make our recommendations.”

Music to the ears for Whites fans who will hope another ‘big four’ are just around the corner.