Leeds United’s Eunan O’Kane happy to do ‘the dirty work’ while new stars shine

Eunan O'Kane in action against Forest. PIC: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Eunan O'Kane in action against Forest. PIC: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
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THREE WINS and nine goals.

Life for Leeds United without Chris Wood has not been so bad.

But midfielder Eunan O’Kane fully expects and hopes that Leeds will land another striker before the closure of the summer transfer window.

Another striker added to some “frightening players” that are already with the Whites.

Republic of Ireland international O’Kane is five games into the new season with Leeds with the 27-year-old having played every minute of every league game so far this term.

The Irishman has formed a fine new partnership in midfield with Kalvin Phillips with United’s Achilles heel of midfield instability from last season seemingly solved.

New signing Jay-Roy Grot made his United debut against Forest. PIC: Simon Hulme

New signing Jay-Roy Grot made his United debut against Forest. PIC: Simon Hulme

After keeping four Championship clean sheets in succession, United’s defence is also in its best shape for some time.

And a side who have sold last season’s Championship top goalscorer Chris Wood to Burnley have still netted nine goals in their last three games with 2-0 league triumphs at Sunderland and Nottingham Forest sandwiched by a 5-1 hammering of League Two visitors Newport County in the Carabao Cup.

The £15m departure of Wood to Burnley has seen United effectively land a new forward from within with Kemar Roofe flourishing under a new striker role.

New Dutch recruit Jay-Roy Grot also made his Whites debut as a second-half substitute in Saturday’s success at Forest.

Kalvin and me complement each other very well. He’s prepared to listen and learn. Sometimes I have to pull him around but his appetite to learn is first class.

Leeds United’s Eunan O’Kane

But O’Kane knows that thereafter United’s options are thin on the ground with Caleb Ekuban out injured, and the Irishman feels signing at least one more new striker is a must, even in light of United’s recent goals glut.

“At the minute we only have two recognised strikers and one of them is injured,” said O’Kane. “So I would expect the club to be looking at one more at least.

“I have no idea if that’s the case or not but from my own point of view I’d probably expect that to happen.”

O’Kane is now in his second season at Leeds following his arrival from Bournemouth last August on transfer deadline day and the Irishman has seen United sign 12 new faces this summer.

Former Leeds United hot shot Chris Wood has opened his account with Premer League Burnley.

Former Leeds United hot shot Chris Wood has opened his account with Premer League Burnley.

O’Kane has been highly pleased with the club’s recruitment with the midfielder particularly impressed by the impact of new Spanish no10 Samuel Saiz.

“Some of the players we’ve signed may have been unknowns in this country,” said the midfielder.

“But credit to the club and the recruitment. The carnage that Samuel has caused to teams in recent weeks is tremendous.

“These are frightening players, but it’s up to the rest of us to put in the dirty work to let them do what they do best. We have very, very good attacking players here.

“You can see the quality we have. We’ve signed ace players and it’s tremendous to have players like that in front of you. For me and Kalvin’s point of view, we can do the dirty side and those guys can go and win us matches so it makes it a hell of a lot easier.

“Kalvin and me complement each other very well. He’s prepared to listen and learn. Sometimes I have to pull him around but his appetite to learn is first class.”

Phillips and O’Kane dominated the midfield in Saturday’s clash at the City Ground with Phillips producing a crunching tackle which led to Gianni Alioski’s stunning late goal.

O’Kane was highly encouraged by manner of United’s victory.

“It’s a big statement winning that,” said O’Kane.

“Correct me if I’m wrong but I can’t remember them really having a shot. I think we made it really difficult for them and cut a lot off for them.

“When they did go forward, our full-backs were tremendous in one-on-one situations. The back four dealt with anything that came into our box.

“We have a lot of intelligent players here. When people are out of position, people fill in and get back.

“If you watched that today, you can’t question how hard we worked for one another. There was so much effort put in to being defensively secure.

“We work on where the threats are coming from but also sniff out danger before it becomes a problem.”

United will have even sounder prospects of jumping into the Championship’s automatic promotion places should they beat Burton Albion at Elland Road a week on Saturday on the club’s return from the international break. O’Kane, though, is intent on keeping his side’s feet firmly on the ground.

The midfielder reasoned: “We’ve had a really tough run of games and to be unbeaten at this stage, we’d have taken that.

“We’ve worked hard in training, playing the way the manager expects us to play. It’s working at the minute but there’s a long way to go before anyone can get excited.

“I don’t think anyone should get carried away. But if we can continue and keep defending like we are, then our attacking players are always going to score goals.

“We’re over the moon with the results we’ve got so far. It’s been a tough start for us and managed to keep four clean sheets, which at any level is tremendous. Hopefully these results keep coming.”

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