Sunderland manager sends 'holiday' warning to Leeds United amid Championship promotion admission

Leeds United host consecutive bottom-half teams at Elland Road this week but chances of a walkover are slim.
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Sunderland manager Mike Dodds has rubbished any talk of his side not being up for tonight’s trip to ‘Premier League quality’ Leeds United.

Sunderland arrive at Elland Road in 13th-place after a dismal run of just one win in their last 10 matches. Six consecutive defeats through February and March saw their faint hopes of a play-off place disappear, with manager Michael Beale sacked in February and Dodds taking interim charge until the end of the season.

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That Sunderland opted against a permanent appointment was indication they had little to play for in terms of league position, but Dodds has continued to refute claims of their season winding down early. And the interim boss has warned his players that failure to give 100 per cent will simply see them dropped.

“If any of the players, and they’ve been told this under no uncertain terms, if any of the players feel they want to start looking at holidays or getting their flip flops out, they won’t play for me and won’t play for the football club,” Dodds said. “This is an unbelievable football club and they should be privileged to wear the Sunderland shirt. 

“We want to get to the Premier League, that’s our ambition. I want to be at a football club that wants to get to the best league in the world. If we think, staff, backroom staff, people above me, players that put on the shirt, if we think we’re good enough to not turn up for five games and then next year mount a challenge, we are incredibly naive and probably stupid.”

Coincidentally, Dodds was also in interim charge when Sunderland beat Leeds 1-0 at the Stadium of Light in December, on a rare off night in which Daniel Farke’s side failed to score. Since then, the Whites have been imperious and following a brief blip at the end of 2023, went 15 games unbeaten to claw back a huge gap between themselves and the top two.

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Defeat at Coventry City on Saturday saw that unbeaten run end and Leeds drop out of the automatic promotion places, but Dodds is in no doubt about the quality of tonight’s opposition and expects them to go up.

"I think they are a Premier League team in waiting, having watched a lot of their games,” the interim Sunderland boss added. “I like a lot about their team and think they have a lot of quality, whoever they pick.

"The reality is they can make three or four changes and still have Premier League quality. I think they're a Premier League team in waiting, but these sorts of games I relish. It's not a free hit, it's an opportunity to show where we're at and how much more we need to do to get to where we want to be."

Leeds are sweating on the fitness of Ethan Ampadu, who has missed training this week due to illness, while Connor Roberts, Wilfried Gnonto and Ilia Gruev are all expected to be available again, following surprise returns at Coventry on Saturday.