Simon Grayson will reach his second anniversary as manager of Leeds United next week with a feeling of satisfaction after admitting that the club's progression in the past two years has exceeded his expectations.
Grayson said the rise of Leeds to fourth place in the Championship on Saturday was an achievement which went beyond his initial hopes when he took control of United shortly before Christmas in 2008.
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The club's standing in the Football League is their highest for four-and-a-half years, equalling a position held under Kevin Blackwell during the closing stages of the 2005-06 season, but Grayson promised to push for further improvement during the second half of this term.
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The 41-year-old has stopped short of classing his team as clear play-off contenders, playing down their chances despite the impact of eight games without defeat on their league position, but Grayson said he and
United's players had a responsibility to "keep building for the rest of the year".
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The midway point of the season will arrive on Boxing Day, three days
after Grayson's second anniversary as manager, and his performance in that time has repeatedly justified Leeds' decision to recruit him from
Blackpool in 2008.
United paid undisclosed compensation following his arrival at Elland Road, tying him to a one-year rolling deal, and their promotion from League One last season earned Grayson an improved three-year contract.
Leeds came into the Championship in August with avoiding relegation their first priority but the club moved on to 35 points after a 3-2 win at Burnley on Saturday and are five wins away from reaching the 50 mark, a total which has been sufficient to ensure survival in England's second tier during both of the past two seasons.
More impressive is their ranking two places below the automatic promotion positions, and Grayson said: "In terms of being a realist, I wouldn't have thought that two years down the line we'd be fourth in the Championship.
"But the reason I came to the club was firstly to get us out of League One and ultimately to try and get us back into the Premier League. It doesn't mean we're going to do it this year but we've given ourselves the opportunity to keep building for the rest of the year.
"You've got to keep progressing and whether it happens this year or not, somebody will take this club back to the Premier League.
"It's been proven many times that the club deserve to be there."
Grayson refused to be drawn into discussing the possibility of promotion ahead of a clash with league leaders QPR, insisting his only concern was to see Leeds improve their unbeaten run to nine matches in their last fixture before Christmas.
"We set out at the start of the season to get promoted like everyone else," Grayson said. "But there's a long way to go and I just want us to keep extending this run.
"We've got a very difficult game against QPR now and ultimately all that matters is where you are in April or May. We'll see where this takes us."