NEIL Warnock believes Leeds United are approaching the Championship run-in without nerves, claiming the crisis which developed at Elland Road earlier this month lifted a weight of expectation from his team.
The United boss said he and his squad were at the point of “throwing it all in” after a defeat to Middlesbrough on February 12 appeared to end their season but he spoke of a buoyant camp today as he rallied the club for their clash with Millwall.
Leeds would rise to within three points of the play-offs, albeit temporarily, with victory in Saturday’s lunchtime game and they will kick off in ninth place after midweek losses suffered by Blackburn and Burnley left their league position unchanged.
Warnock seemed to be on the brink of parting company with United 10 days ago as public criticism of his performance as manager spiralled and his team drifted away from the top six but he insisted that Leeds had emerged from an embattled spell with new-found belief.
Warnock said: “We all knew the situation we were in. Everyone could see the pressure I was under, the players knew it, and we could have thrown it all in. I could have thrown it in. But I got them together and said ‘listen, I don’t want to finish up with the fans on my back.’
“From the players point of view, I don’t think they wanted to go through more nights like (Middlesbrough) either and in a strange way that period lifted a bit of the pressure. It was a case of ‘what the hell. Let’s play freely and see what we can do.’
“In the performances against Blackpool and Blackburn last week, I couldn’t see any nerves or anxiety at all. Other teams will be feeling it more than us. We’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Warnock admitted over the weekend that United’s prospects of overhauling a six-point gap to the Championship’s last play-off place would depend on them surviving the coming nine days in which the club host Millwall before travelling to Leicester City and Crystal Palace.
Leeds have been held back by persistently poor results away from home - no team in the league has claimed fewer away wins than United’s tally of three this season - but six of their final 10 matches will be played at Elland Road.
Warnock said: “This is a big week for us.
“We need points from the game against Millwall and we need points from the games at Leicester and Palace. That’s how it is for us now. But there’s a huge incentive for the players because if we manage that, we’ll go into the last 10 games with a shout.
“The way we’ve played in the last two games has been a breath of fresh air. I’m looking forward to going to Leicester and Palace because I know we’ll cope against those teams and at those grounds. That might not have been the case a week or so ago when everything was doom and gloom.
“The way we all felt back then, we just wanted to give it our all and see where the results took us. The last two games kept the glass half-full.”
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Friday 24 May 2013
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