Leeds’s players have been challenged by Sam Allardyce to summon the spirit of their success under Marcelo Bielsa for their Premier League run-in, though the manager said a lack of match-winners in his squad could hurt their chances of survival.
Leeds are two points shy of the last safe spot with three games remaining as they prepare to host Allardyce’s former club Newcastle on Saturday. Victories for Nottingham Forest and Everton on Monday mean Leeds start inside the bottom three, and Allardyce has now called upon his squad to rediscover the resilience they were notorious for under Bielsa.
“When I was at West Brom they came to us in the second or third game of the season and they blew us away under Bielsa,” he said. “We’re trying to see the Leeds of old with the energy they had, coupled with some of the resilience they had under Bielsa. I don’t know where that’s gone, but that’s what I’m looking for on Saturday. I know what some of the players here are capable of.”
Allardyce said, though, that he had concerns over the quality in the squad he has inherited. “The squad lacks confidence at the minute,” he said. “It hasn’t got a match-winner in terms of the best match-winners in the country … it hasn’t got anything like what Man City have got, for example. But what we need is a lot of the players to be able to take a chance if it comes their way. I could rely on Jermain Defoe at Sunderland – he got me out of trouble because he scored 18 – but here we’ll have to share it about.”
Allardyce has repeatedly insisted he has not given any thought to what happens beyond this season but said he was hopeful he could emulate Roy Hodgson’s success at Crystal Palace and be remembered for his Leeds stint in a positive manner. “I want a reaction,” he said. “Like Roy had at Palace, I want one of those reactions on Saturday. I want a performance that gives us a chance to win the game.
“Roy must be sat there with a cigar now. All the criticism he got about coming back, he’s proven everyone wrong, and hopefully I can do a bit of that. Hopefully people can say: ‘Sam came in at a difficult time but he did enough to keep us up.’”