Simon Rix: A top-six finish should be realistic target for Leeds United

Simon Rix.
Simon Rix.
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In your opinion, what chance do Leeds United have of winning promotion?

Pre-season is the best time of every season. It’s exciting because of transfers in and out but also because there’s hope and belief that anything is possible. But ask me five minutes after kick-off at Millwall and the answer could be very different. For now, I’m very optimistic. There are a lot of contenders in the Championship but with the right players and a bit of luck there’s no reason “a club as big as Leeds” shouldn’t be in the mix.

How do you think David Hockaday will fare as head coach at Elland Road?

I honestly have no idea who he is. I’ve asked a few of my friends in football and they are the same. So I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does. Leeds fans have many good traits but we’ve destroyed many a player’s confidence after a few bad performances. So Hockaday’s track record – or more specifically, the lack of it – works against him and he’ll need a few good results early on. The fact that Cellino is pulling the strings and buying the players will help him in terms of not being entirely to blame if things don’t go well but with Cellino’s record with managers, he’ll have done a very good job if he’s still here at the end of the season.

Who will be the club’s key player?

Losing McCormack is a blow but I hope that, like when Beckford disappeared into Premier League, the whole team steps up to fill the gap. That season Becchio, Howson, Gradel, Snodgrass and others chipped in with goals – which is much better than being a one-man team. I’d like to see Luke Murphy do well. Ultimately, though, I’m hoping this season’s star has yet to be signed. Maybe we can be the final chapter in Pirlo’s book? Please.

Who will be the surprise package in the squad at Leeds?

Steve Morison has proved he can score at this level. Maybe he can come good this time. Alternatively, Cellino and Hockaday seem keen on bringing kids through so the surprise could be someone from the academy. Or, of course, Pirlo. Please.

Which clubs do you expect to pose the biggest threat in the Championship?

All the teams who came down are obviously in contention, simply because they have more cash than anyone else. It’s annoying that another two ‘rivals’ are back in the league in terms of Norwich and Cardiff. That’s two extra teams coming to Elland Road to play their cup finals. Cardiff have a good chance of going back up and Derby looked much improved under Steve McClaren.

How would you rate Massimo Cellino’s performance as owner of Leeds and do you believe his reign will be a success in the long-term?

His entrance was one of the most eventful things ever to happen at Leeds – and that’s with a lot of competition. No-one wanted him. Then everyone wanted him. But since he got control, he’s been getting things the way he wants them. I know people losing their jobs is unpopular but it’s obvious that Leeds has been run into the ground. Someone needed to wipe the slate clean. And for a change, he seems willing to put in his own money. For the moment I believe that everything he’s done has been done with the right intentions.

Where do you think Leeds will finish in the Championship table?

As fans we should be wildly optimistic so I will go for first. Realistically, I’d be very happy with anywhere in the top six.

Jay-Roy Grot heads in Leeds' equaliser against Sheffield Wednesday. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

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