A rejuvenated Souleymane Doukara insisted he had never considered giving up on his career at Leeds United and said he was always confident that “my time would come” amid a summer of change at Elland Road.
Doukara is one of the few surviving members of the group of 15 signings made by Leeds in the first transfer window after Massimo Cellino’s takeover in 2014 and he remained with United this season despite the club negotiating summer deals to remove Tommaso Bianchi, Casper Sloth and Giuseppe Bellusci from their wage bill.
The 25-year-old made his 50th league appearance for United on Saturday, coming off the bench to win a penalty and score in a 2-0 victory over Burton Albion, but he has struggled to hold down a regular role since joining the club from Catania more than two years ago.
Doukara ended last season with an eight-game ban for biting and his opportunities under head coach Garry Monk have been limited this term but Monk re-integrated him to impressive effect in both last week’s League Cup win over Norwich City and Saturday’s victory against Burton.
Asked if he had considered looking for a move elsewhere, Doukara, who last started a league game in March and whose contract ends next June, said: “No, never. I knew my time would come when I’d have my opportunity and that I’d get my chance. You need to stay focused, work hard and come back strong. I know I can do something and everyone in the squad is pushing me to the best level.”
Monk threw on Doukara with little over a quarter-of-an-hour remaining on Saturday and with an even match seemingly headed for a goalless draw.
Doukara’s cameo helped to break Burton and the striker said: “It was a good victory in a hard, difficult game against a good team. Burton played very well but we won the three points which was most important. (Monk) said that I needed to bring something – some pace and give 100 per cent.
“We needed to change the game and win at home. But I can give more.”
Doukara scored Leeds’ second goal in the sixth minute of injury-time when a counter-attack ended with Burton goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin allowing the ball to slip through his hands, handing Doukara a tap-in.
Edinburgh-born McLaughlin began supporting United after moving to Harrogate at the age of the 11 and he was happy to be back in the surroundings of Elland Road, despite Burton’s defeat.
“All my friends at school were massive Leeds fans and I started to come in the days of Nigel Martyn,” he said.
“This was one of the fixtures I was really looking forward to. You’re going to know half the faces in the Leeds United end, not just the Burton end.
“Unfortunately for us it wasn’t the result we wanted but it’s an amazing feeling when you get to play at places you came to as a boy.”
Leeds have been battling for more than 12 years to rejoin the Premier League and McLaughlin reflected on the gulf between his boyhood club and a team in Burton who were promoted from non-league for the first time in 2009.
“For so many clubs there’s that difficulty of trying to get back to the glory days,” he said. “It’s not easy because there are so many clubs now who have money to throw at it, even in this division.
“It’s only getting tougher but clubs like (Leeds) have got everything at their disposal. It’s all there ready for them when they do finally make the step back up. There’s a massive gulf between us – and that’s why we’re very proud of what we’re doing (at Burton). When they come to our place it’s a very different surrounding and you can see how well we’ve done to take a small club forward so quickly.”