Thomas Christiansen vowed to take a hard line on discipline at Leeds United and warned his players that repeated red cards could come at the cost of a top-six finish after losing Eunan O’Kane and Samuel Saiz to rushes of blood.
Christiansen revealed he spoken to players both individually and en masse this week and told them he would “not accept these situations anymore” following the dismissal of two key players in the space of seven days.
Saiz incurred a six-match ban for spitting during Leeds’ FA Cup defeat at Newport County on January 7.
O’Kane starts a three-match suspension tomorrow after condemning United to a 1-0 loss at Portman Road last weekend with a first-half headbutt on Ipswich Town’s Jonas Knudsen. Christiansen had initially attempted to fight the corner of both players, only to find that evidence later proved their guilt, and speaking before this Saturday’s clash with Millwall, the United head coach was unequivocal about the need for higher standards.
Leeds are in close contention for a play-off position but have fallen to seventh in the Championship and a drop in form has been compounded by injuries and untimely red cards. “I’ve spoken individually with some players but also with the whole team,” Christiansen said.
“I will not accept these situations where the discipline has to be most important.
“If we look back, perhaps at the end of the season, and we need three points or four points (to make the play-offs or win promotion) we will all complain about these situations which could have been avoided. I said to my players ‘I will not accept that any more.’
“One thing is to get a yellow card because you go strong in a tackle or come a little bit late.
But discipline like the one from Samu and what I saw from Eunan, that’s unacceptable and I will not permit that anymore. From that we close this page, continue and look only positively at the rest of the games.”
United midfielder Kalvin Phillips was booked for the ninth time this season at Ipswich, leaving him a yellow card away from an automatic two-game ban, and Pontus Jansson skirted with a red card late on after being booked for dissent amid mounting frustration about the performance of referee Robert Jones.
“The issue comes when we receive cards for speaking to the referee, for kicking the ball away or for the two acts I mentioned with Eunan and Samu,” Christiansen said. “There was also a situation with Pontus, that he was so frustrated because of the referee. These are the things we have to manage.
“We need everyone to be focused. With the referee, you cannot deal with him. He decides everything and of course we can say that some decisions have been wrong. But finally at the end of the season what they take away they give back.
“We have to do our work on the pitch and not complain about red cards. We have to put in the discipline and from now on I will not accept these situations because at the end of the season if we need three points, everyone will look back at these situations.”
Leeds are without a win in three league matches and will attempt to climb back into the top six against Millwall at Elland Road tomorrow afternoon.
O’Kane’s suspension and the likelihood of losing Phillips to a ban encouraged United to pull off the signing of midfielder Adam Forshaw from Middlesbrough on Thursday, a deal which could cost up to £4.5m. A minor injury complaint will stop Forshaw making his debut against Millwall but the club have secured a player who won promotion to the Premier League with Boro in 2016.
“It was not our priority (to sign a central midfielder) but the opportunity sometimes comes,” Christiansen said.
“We didn’t know that he could be on the market and when that came it was a good opportunity to sign a strong and good player with experience. Of course, looking back to the red card of Eunan, we also know that Kalvin has nine yellow cards. All of these things you have in mind.”
Christiansen, meanwhile, refused to say if Forshaw’s arrival would signal the end of Mateusz Klich’s short spell with Leeds.
Klich has barely played since a £1.5m move from FC Twente in June and the Poland international is attracting interest from abroad. “We will see what happens,” Christiansen said.