After being on the periphery themselves, Luke Murphy and Steve Morison are showing the way forward for Leeds United players operating on the fringes of the first team. Leon Wobschall reports.
IT is fair to say that 2015 has so far been kinder to certain Leeds United players than others.
For Luke Murphy, on the periphery and entitled to be bruised following a burdensome end to the old calendar year, a lifeline of sorts has arrived, with another to be brought back in from the cold being Steve Morison.
The process of redemption remains ongoing and is by no means completed.
But in terms of personal well-being at least, the pair can at least reflect on being in a better place than they were just a few months ago.
For others such as Adryan, Tommaso Bianchi and Souleymane Doukara, wintering in a foreign country has been harsh and it is not necessarily to do with the climate or being far away from home either.
All three are currently attempting to plot a course back into the first team and while Neil Redfearn offered no clues about when they will be afforded their next opportunity at a pre-match press conference yesterday morning, one thing he has found no cause to fault is their attitude.
If hard work and graft means anything, then the likes of Adryan, Bianchi and Doukara are getting up to speed again in training, with the sight of any players feeling sorry for themselves and sulking something that Redfearn simply will not entertain.
Redfearn, who confirmed ahead of tonight’s clash at Reading that he will be taking a ‘big squad’ for the trip south, said: “The players not in have been working really hard in training and are looking a lot better.
“What they have got to do in their make-up now is get to the tempo of the game and give us something when we have not got it, when they play.
“That is what the players who have come in have done. They have worked so hard and that’s the common theme.
“The lads who are out of the side have got to do that. If they don’t do that, they won’t get back in.
“If you want to get in, you have got to play well. People who sulk won’t get in, simple as that. It has got to be that way.”
Having been handed possession of first-team jerseys once again, Murphy and Morison are clearly intent on not being for shifting, with the challenge being for them to keep hold of the shirt and for others to pursue their own cases.
It is the sort of honest competition that all head coaches savour the sight of.
Redfearn added: “At the moment, the lads that are in are fighting to keep their shirts. Throughout the course of the season, you are going to have to make changes for injuries and suspensions, we know that.
“But we have a good feel about us at this moment in time. We are competitive and players are realising they have to compete and play well to get in.
“For me, I am as interested in what we do when we haven’t got the ball as much as when we have it as well. It is alright getting on the ball and playing, but the lads who have got the shirt have got to work their socks off when they not got it. They have got to understand that.
“The togetherness has been apparent in the past few games particularly. They have shown a real togetherness and desire to get results. It is still there. We know we are in a scrap. But we are scrapping.”
Visiting Brentford may have been good value for Saturday’s victory at Elland Road in open play, but Redfearn took solace in the commitment and batting qualities shown by his side.
While Leeds were nothing like at their best at the weekend, they at least showed persistence and with a touch of luck or not might have nicked a leveller after a cameo of pressure late on against the high-flying Bees.
It didn’t pay off this time, but for Redfearn – pragmatic enough to know that variables in games ensure that playing well every week is an impossibility, moreso given the Championship grind – the mindset of his side stayed strong.
In Redfearn’s 19 league games in charge so far this term, whether as permanent or caretaker head coach, seven wins have been accrued, alongside five draws and seven losses.
It is the embodiment of being solid as opposed to spectacular, but given United’s overall statistics this season and the bleak returns under David Hockaday and Darko Milanic, solid will suffice, certainly in any relegation battle.
Redfearn added: “Fifty points is usually the target and guideline (for safety). If you look at my record, it would take us past fifty points, the way we are travelling at the moment.
“The biggest problem I have had is dragging us away from this 10 games that I didn’t have when we picked up six points.
“Every time you mirror the league table and look at it, then it reflects that, every time we have a blip.
“But they are doing all right, the lads are playing well and have a bit of belief.
“We have this toughness about us. On Saturday, when we didn’t play as well, it was still difficult for Brentford. For long spells, there was nothing in it.
“That has been the message – stay in the game. At 0-0 and 1-0 down, you have still got a chance.
“That was proved at Huddersfield. There was nothing in the game and we won 2-1.
“We have got to have that tough mentality.
“Every game has been a big game since I have been in.
“We have got to go to Reading and try and win if we can and if we can’t win, don’t get beat.”