Uwe Rosler defended himself today amid accusations that he had written off Leeds United’s chances of promotion, saying his targets were “absolutely clear” and insisting he was only ruling out a top-two finish.
Rosler denied that he had effectively drawn a line under this season during a radio interview on Thursday night in which he said that “from day one promotion is not on our agenda.”
The German, who took charge as head coach in May, set a top-10 finish as his aim for his first year in charge and went into this season under no apparent pressure from owner Massimo Cellino to find an immediate route into the Premier League.
Leeds were on the verge of the top six after the first month of the Championship campaign but the club lost their way in September and slipped seven points back following their 2-0 defeat at home to Birmingham City on October 3.
Speaking to the BBC on Thursday, Rosler said: “I can understand our supporters when they think they want to win promotion this year. But I am a football coach and judge what I have available and the teams we are competing with.
“Automatic promotion or indirect promotion this year isn’t possible.”
Asked to clarify the remarks, Rosler said a young squad had been put together during the summer with the intention of improving on successive 15th-placed finishes in 2014 and 2015.
The 46-year-old stated again that automatic promotion was out of the question for his players but said he would “not hold them back” if a play-off position became attainable.
Rosler appeared at a loss to understand any annoyance among the club’s support owing to his remarks, saying: “I don’t understand why they are upset.
“I was absolutely clear since I came through the door than we are not in a position to win automatic promotion. That is what I said.
“Many times I have repeated that. The problem is you guys (the media) are not listening. Two times this club was 15th. With our financial restrictions we can’t compete. The team is not ready.
“My task from the owner is to improve the team, the players and the position from last season. Mr Cellino made that absolutely clear. I always played with open cards from day one.
“My aims and target don’t change when we are number eight in the league and they don’t change when we are number 17 in the league. I answered a sensible question in the context of an hour-long interview.”
Leeds have existed below the Premier League since their relegation in 2004 and the club have gone through no fewer than nine managers and head coaches during numerous unsuccessful attempts to return to the top flight.
“In our club we have a very knowledgable crowd who understand that this team is not ready to challenge for automatic promotion,” Rosler said. “The team wasn’t ready last year or the year before and not this year.
“We want to build. That was always the aim. We were absolutely clear on this. If I upset people then I apologise. That was not my aim. I just repeated what I said on day one.
“I don’t think we are ready to win automatic promotion this season. That means number one or number two.”
Asked if he thought United’s squad had the potential to mount a play-off bid, Rosler said: “I will not hold them back.”
The former Wigan and Brentford boss, who is aiming to guide Leeds to a first home win in more than seven months against Brighton tomorrow, denied that he was facing a crisis after seeing his squad drop to 17th in the table ahead of the international break.
“I try to make people happy here by achieving my goals but from my point I don’t see a crisis,” he said.
“When you want to be better than last year and when I say my personal aim is to finish in the top 10 that means you can’t all year be staying around 8th or 9th because that means you are a top team already. We are not a top team. We are driving to be a top team.
“There will be periods where you’re winning and you’re eighth in the league. Then there will be times when you’re 17th in the league. You just need to make sure you stop that negative run early enough and put a good run on. That’s what we need to do.”