SOL BAMBA admits he is relishing the responsibility of being a dressing-room leader at Leeds United in 2015-16.
The towering centre-half has quickly been earmarked by head coach Uwe Rosler as a unifying figure and defensive lieutenant for Leeds in the forthcoming campaign and he is now ready to step up on both counts.
The final throes of 2014-15 infamously saw a number of United’s foreign brigade end the season on the periphery following events ahead of the clash with Charlton Athletic on April 18 – when several unexpectedly declared themselves unfit, much to the fury of United supporters.
It led some to question the team spirit at Elland Road, with Rosler having made great play of the importance of unity in this coming season, comments echoed by Bamba.
Bamba, whose stature in the squad and command of several languages will see him be a key figure on and off the pitch for Leeds in the new season, said: “I think we know we must learn from last season and everything must be different.
“All the lads understand that now, so there’s been a lot of togetherness from the start and I am pleased to see that.
“Obviously, hopefully it can continue.
“That is the key for success and he (Rosler) understands that. He said I have got a big role to play in this and I am happy to do that.
“I think it is up to all the lads to make sure everyone is together and stay involved and try not to do anything like that (last season).
“Because last season was tough for everyone and we nearly went down to be honest.
“We know we don’t want another season like that and we know what we need to do.”
On stepping up as a leader at Leeds, the vastly-experienced defender, 30 - who captained the side on occasions last season in the absence of regular skipper Liam Cooper - added: “I have no problem to do that.
“I am at an age where I am one of the oldest in the group and have to take responsibility and I am happy to do that and happy that the gaffer thinks I can do that.
“It’s a big job, but I am ready to do that.”
Bamba may have only played 19 times for Leeds, but his impact has already been considerable, with the big stopper playing an integral role in the club’s New Year upturn following his arrival on loan in January.
And the ex-Leicester City man admits that the club has already stirred his soul and he is now keen to give something substantive and lasting back to the supporters who have quickly taken to his since his arrival in West Yorkshire.
He added: “It is funny because I spoke with my wife and she will tell you that I love the place and the fans. Everyone involved with the club has been brilliant with me and I just want to give back everything.
“I am very, very pleased that my signing is done and hopefully I can stay here for many years.
“At my age, that’s what you want and it was a big thing from the club to give me that (a two-year contract with the option of a third year) and now I want to respond on the pitch.
“I want to stay many years here as I feel very fit.”