Leeds United: Rosler hails “positive day” for Whites

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Uwe Rosler reflected on a “very positive day” and said Leeds United had set their standard for the season after pushing Burnley to the brink of defeat at Elland Road.

Rosler refused to allow a late equaliser from Sam Vokes to dampen his optimism as a young Leeds side began their Championship term with a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

Mirco Antenucci celebrates his goal.

Mirco Antenucci celebrates his goal.

Leeds were minutes away from an opening-day win after substitute Mirco Antenucci broke the deadlock with a sublime 20-yard finish but Vokes snatched a point on 86 minutes when he rose to convert a header inside United’s box.

The game was Rosler’s first competitive fixture since becoming head coach at Elland Road and he said a line-up with an average age of 23 had proven themselves capable of coping in the Championship with a comprehensive performance.

“It’s a very positive day,” Rosler said. “This group of players have set a high standard and that’s now the level I’m looking for. That will make it very interesting in the weeks to come.”

Rosler acknowleged the input of his predecessor Neil Redfearn, who took charge of Leeds as head coach last season having worked previously as academy manager at Thorp Arch.

United’s current boss said the decision to blood academy products in the past 12 months – including midfielder Lewis Cook and left-back Charlie Taylor – had given his side crucial experience in spite of the young age of many of Leeds’ players.

“The good thing is that Neil Redfearn brought them in last year,” Rosler said. “Some of them played a whole season, some of them played half a season.

“Sam Byram is already in his fourth year, Tom Adeyemi came in on the back of almost 150 appearances and Chris Wood has 100 appearances in the Championship. So they are very young but they are already experienced in a way. I hoped – and the players proved me right – that they could handle the occasion.”

Antenucci’s goal lit up a tight but engaging match at Elland Road, converted from long range with a deft strike of the forward’s left foot.

The 30-year-old scored 10 goals last season but saw his campaign overshadowed by the clause in his contract which threatened his place in United’s team and his involvement in the controversy surrounding the withdrawal of six players through injury before a game at Charlton Athletic in April.

His appearances in pre-season were limited under Rosler but the German described Antenucci as “razor sharp” and said: “His goal was outstanding.

“Although he started today on the bench he will have plenty of opportunities to start games this season.”

Rosler, meanwhile, said he was confident that Leeds were building “foundations for years to come” with their recruitment policy.

“We have a clear plan with how we want to go forward,” Rosler said. “I’ve got realistic targets given to me by the chairman (Massimo Cellino) and I’ll be single-minded to follow them and build foundations for years to come.

“With our financial situation improving, each year we can try to bring in two or three players like a Chris Wood, for example. Then we will have a team which will get to the next level and can stay at the next level.”