Leeds United's squad is good enough to compete for promotion says O'Kane
Republic of Ireland midfielder Eunan O'Kane says new signings would be welcomed at Elland Road, but insists the current group have enough ability to push for promotion to the Premier League. Lee Sobot reports.
EUNAN O’KANE says he does not know the extent of Leeds United’s plans in the January transfer window.
“That’s not something that I have even considered or thought about,” says O’Kane, who will leave the club’s recruitment to the powers that be.
Yet the current strength of United’s squad is something the Irishman is quite happy to analyse and the midfielder insists that even without extra recruits the current Whites side already posses “the tools to be successful in this league”.
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O’Kane returned from a “little niggle” to partner Kalvin Phillips in centre midfield for the New Year’s Day Championship hosting of Nottingham Forest as Leeds looked to regain momentum following Saturday’s 1-0 loss at bottom club Birmingham City.
Defeat at St Andrew’s ended United’s run of four Championship wins in succession as the Whites blew a chance to further strengthen their play-off place and better still, close the gap on the division’s top two.
The New Year’s Day hosting of managerless Forest gave Thomas Christiansen’s side a second bite at the cherry but a combination of some wayward finishing and smart goalkeeping from Jordan Smith meant United were forced to settle for a goalless draw.
A return of one point from the club’s last two games has naturally raised calls for Leeds to strengthen their squad in the January transfer window which opened on New Year’s Day and shuts at 11pm on January 31.
The squad that Leeds will be left with on February 1 will be the one charged with the task of finally taking United out of the Championship and into the Premier League with United now sat sixth – six points off the automatic promotion places and one ahead of seventh-placed Sheffield United.
A particularly demanding set of fixtures in February and early March will likely go a long way to deciding United’s fate with the Whites facing seven consecutive games against clubs in the Championship’s current top ten.
With the absence of a loan window, aside from signing free agents, United’s only chance to strengthen comes within the next 28 days.
O’Kane says any new recruits that help the squad will be gratefully received but the 27-year-old says that either way the current squad is definitely good enough to achieve this season’s goals.
Asked if it was important that clubs strengthened their squad in the January transfer window, O’Kane explained: “I don’t know. That’s not something that I have even considered or thought about.
“As players, we keep our heads down and if people come through the door then you welcome them as they are here to help us and to propel us forward.
“If they don’t and the club for whatever reason don’t add people then we have a good squad, we have good players and we are confident in what we are.
“That’s not something for me or anyone else in the squad to concern themselves with, that’s down to the people upstairs –the owner, the board, the manager – I assume he is involved in it. So over to them and if someone comes in then we will welcome them and hopefully they can kick us on.”
Asked if there was enough within the current squad to finally seal promotion back to the Premier, O’Kane insisted: “I think so. I think we have a very good squad.
“Obviously everyone has good and bad days and people will fire some days and other days have an off day.
“But I think we have got a very good squad here and we have the tools to be successful in this league and to move higher up than that sixth position.
“I don’t think we have anything to be afraid of from any of the teams that we have played.
“We have given a good go to everyone and if people come in then they come in, that’s great to help us forward. If they don’t then we will pick ourselves up and go on with what we have.”
United ultimately did not have enough to see off Forest in their first game of 2018 and O’Kane admits there is definitely room for improvement with the side’s decision making in the final third. Kemar Roofe, Pierre-Michel Lasogga and Pablo Hernandez all spurned good chances as Forest clung on to a point through a goalless draw.
“Some of the chances, if we look back on them, I feel we could have made better decisions,” admitted O’Kane.
“There was definitely one where I was high up the pitch which is not very often and I was screaming at people to take another one and they took a shot. “It’s easy in hindsight to say those things and it’s easy when you are sitting 40-50 yards away looking in on the full picture but when you are in the heat of the moment it’s a little bit more difficult. But that’s what we get paid to do, that’s what is expected of the front players and it’s something that we will have to get better at as we move on.”
Assessing United’s prospects of finishing second, O’Kane insisted: “I think it’s way too early. You can very easily be up there now and in May time not find yourselves there. We have to win matches, we have to put ourselves in a position to be going for second or a play-offs place.
“Obviously that’s what’s expected of us and we just need to put ourselves in the best position we can come the end of March going into April to give ourselves a chance of achieving what we set out to do.”