THOMAS CHRISTIANSEN said he was confident that Leeds United continued to see him as part of their long-term vision after receiving fresh support from his board ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Middlesbrough.
Christiansen was given public backing by Leeds managing director Angus Kinnear this week, a response to a run of seven defeats from nine Championship games, and the club’s head coach revealed that private messages of reassurance had also been given to him in the midst of growing pressure.
Kinnear defended Christiansen and described him as having “absolutely the potential to deliver in this league” as Leeds prepared to resume their season with three games in seven days against Middlesbrough, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Barnsley.
Christiansen, who is six months into a two-year deal at Elland Road, is battling to bring the club’s campaign under control and help his squad reassert themselves in the Championship.
United are three points beneath the play-offs despite their torrid run but have lost seven of their last eight fixtures in all competitions, turning attention on Christiansen’s performance.
“Angus came out in the press saying that and I appreciate it a lot,” Christiansen said. “But internally, with calls and meetings, I get the same response from our chairman (Andrea Radrizzani), from Victor (Orta, the club’s sporting director), from everyone.
“It’s a project we’re building up and it’s difficult to take immediate results after making so many changes but of course we are ambitious and we want to be in the upper part of the table, trying to do our best.
“I’ve said from the beginning, and also when we were in a good run, that the bad moments would come. We’re in a project of several years where everyone is new in this: the chairman, the sporting director, the coach and many players who we’re building up for the future. Perhaps it was realistic to be where we are now but our target is still to be in the top six.”
Christiansen insisted that he was not surprised by United’s faith in him, saying: “It depends on which club you are at, which chairman you have, what ambition and which project you are working in. It will be different one place to another.
“I put probably more pressure on myself than the rest. I like to live with that, it makes me feel alive, and I want to try and find solution.”
It’s a project we’re building up and it’s difficult to take immediate results after making so many changes but of course we are ambitiousLeeds United boss Thomas Christiansen
Leeds sit three points behind Middlesbrough, whose manager Garry Monk returns to Elland Road tomorrow for the first time since his controversial decision to resign as United’s head coach in May.
Monk took Leeds to the brink of the play-offs before a dramatic collapse last season and Boro - the Championship’s pre-season title favourites - have recovered from a slow start to climb to fifth in the league.
“We have our targets - what was said before the season,” Christiansen said. “The target of Middlesbrough is direct (automatic) promotion. They started badly but they’re in a good run now, the opposite of what we’ve done but we are only three points away from each other. That can turn.
“The players know the importance of the game: the three points we all need and I believe we deserve but we need to work hard for it. The coach was here last year and we will see how his reception will be but it’s still the players on the pitch who have to deliver.”
Midfielder Kalvin Phillips claimed yesterday that the extent of United’s struggle had been “over-exaggerated” but Christiansen said: “I can understand it. After so many defeats normally it would be a negative situation. But we also have to see the other side - too positive (earlier in the season) for being new in this business.
“We handled it in a good way when we were up and we have to handle it in a good way when things are not so good. This is what will bring us back.
“Several things have brought us to this situation. It’s not an excuse but having bad luck when you’re doing quite well. When you have opportunities to go up, you don’t put them in and then you concede. After that the reaction of the team has not been the right one.
“We’ve also missed a little bit of intensity but what has been said about the team - that we concede a goal and we don’t come back - at Brentford we equalised and gave a good performance. Again, we then made mistakes.
“That’s the situation we’re in right now but it’s also about confidence. When you’re doing well it doesn’t matter what you do. The ball goes in. Now we need more opportunities and we’re working on that.”