Toumani Diagouraga is refusing to write off Leeds United’s top-six hopes but is already eyeing up a Championship play-off push next season.
The midfielder made his debut on Tuesday night against former side Brentford, only a day after officially departing Griffin Park.
Diagouraga was forced to watch the first hour from the bench as Leeds struggled to contain a strong Bees midfield.
The introduction of the 28-year-old heralded a turning point in the match, his presence allowing United to wrest control of the game and start applying pressure on the hosts.
That told late on as Mustapha Carayol managed to curl the ball into the back of the net to earn a point. The result put Leeds up to 14th, a distance of 12 points away from Sheffield Wednesday in sixth, but Diagouraga was unwilling to call time on the season.
Asked about whether the play-offs were out of reach, the former Paris Saint-Germain trainee said: “I don’t know. The Championship is a very strange league. If you can put a string of performances together and get a few points, all of a sudden you might have an outside chance.
“You just have to concentrate on winning games and see where that takes you.”
He did admit that next season was a more realistic prospect for any promotion aim. Having signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Leeds, Diagouraga is clearly taking a long-term approach. He continued: “Start winning a lot of games this season, win as many as possible and then next time try and push on and get into the top six.
“Consistency is very important because the Championship is a very tough league, and when you get to the play-offs it gives you the best chance to win them, which is not easy.”
Reflecting on Tuesday’s result, he said: “A draw is probably the best result, and a fair result. They edged the first-half, we got back into it in the second.
“It was very strange. I have been here for six years, so to play against Brentford was a strange feeling. I’m glad we have got a point, now I can look forward to the next game.”
Diagouraga is in line to make his full Leeds debut in the FA Cup fourth round at Bolton on Saturday. The Whites have already sold over 6,000 tickets and Diagouraga admits: “I’m looking forward to it. Now I have made my debut I want to play as many games as possible.
“There was a lot of quality. All around the pitch there was a lot of quality. It’s a quality squad. I’m sure it can push on.”