NEIL WARNOCK has launched an impassioned defence of Leeds United’s playing style amid mounting criticism of their tactics and performances.
The United manager has come under fire from a section of the club’s supporters who want attractive football as well as success.
Warnock, whose side will be aiming to rekindle their promotion hopes at home to bottom club Bristol City this afternoon, believes Leeds’s approach is anything but staid.
And he claimed his players had not received sufficient credit for their performance at Birmingham on Tuesday, where their 2-1 win earned a lucrative FA Cup fourth-round tie against Tottenham Hotspur at Elland Road on January 27.
“We play some good football,” said Warnock, whose side are five points and five places outside the Championship play-off spots.
“All managers are expected to deliver both (style and success) and that’s what I set out to do this season for everyone connected with the club.
“To be honest, I don’t think we got as many plaudits as we should have done for the performance against Birmingham.
“We probably surprised a few people coming back as we did after the defeat at Barnsley last Saturday, and it was a better performance than maybe some people thought because it took guts to do that.”
Warnock faced calls for his dismissal following the 2-0 defeat at Oakwell, where he admitted that he and his players deserved to be “slaughtered” for a sub-standard display.
But the pressure on him eased somewhat with the victory at St Andrews, which, although not of the classic variety, was at least imbued with plenty of spirit.
Leeds were without Luciano Becchio for that match, with the 19-goal striker missing with a virus.
Although Becchio is set to return to the starting line-up today, Warnock feels the Argentinian’s physical presence perhaps encourages a more direct approach – if far from a dull one.
“Because we have Luciano, players tend to hit the longer ball at times,” said Warnock.
“We didn’t have him on Tuesday so we wanted to play more.
“We had to play it into Ross McCormack’s feet more and yet we still had the threat.
“If we play well, we don’t always hit the long ball, and, the other night, we were good playing out of defence and through the midfield.”
Not that Warnock would ever consider dropping Becchio, whose future at the club remains shrouded in uncertainty.
The 29-year-old has been linked with several clubs including Premier League Wigan Athletic.
“You have to look at whoever’s fully fit and, if Luciano’s fully fit, it’s a brave man who leaves out a 19-goal striker,” added Warnock.
“We can play well with him in the team, but, if Luciano’s not up to it on the day, if you look at the games when he hasn’t played well, we’ve really struggled when he’s not turned it on.
“What we’re asking is for him to perform away from home like he does at home; we haven’t had many problems with him at home.
“It’s away from home where we’ve not held the ball up enough or brought other players into the game, and, when we did that on Tuesday, it made it easier for the midfield lads to get forward and support.”
Leeds will be chasing a sixth successive home victory against a Bristol City side who last week parted company with manager Derek McInnes following a 4-0 home defeat to Leicester City which left them bottom of the table.
Sean O’Driscoll, the former Doncaster Rovers manager, will take charge of Bristol City for the first time at Elland Road and Warnock said it will not be an easy game.
“They’ll want to impress their new manager and it’ll be a bit more difficult than it might have been a couple of weeks ago,” he added.
“They’ll be really well organised and they’ve got good players, and, although we’ve beaten some good teams at home, this will be difficult.
“They’ll be fighting for their lives because of the points they need, but we have to concentrate on putting our own house in order.”
Above all, Warnock wants a much better performance than he witnessed at Oakwell.
“We played the bottom of the league last Saturday and never got a kick, and I’ll be hoping for a much better response this time,” he said.
“I didn’t think it was a lack of effort at Barnsley, and I know I’ll probably be criticised for saying so, but it was a lack of decision-making, a lack of aggression in areas.
“But I don’t think there was a lack of running around.
“It was just misdirected and, once they got the impetus, it was difficult to stop a train in full swing.”