AFTER what has comfortably been the most harrowing few days at Leeds United for several years, Neil Warnock admits: It’s all hands to the pump right now.
The Elland Road club have suffered a series of blows with influential midfielder Rudy Austin ruled out until the New Year and an appeal against Jason Pearce’s red card in the 6-1 defeat to Watford being turned down by the FA.
It means Pearce will miss the next three games, while also forced to sit out Sunday’s trip to Millwall is Michael Brown after the midfielder collected a fifth booking of the season in the loss to the Hornets.
With Ross McCormack still not ready to return after injury and a loan move for Cameron Jerome collapsing at the eleventh hour when Stoke City manager Tony Pulis had a change of heart, the last few days add up to something of a nightmare for Leeds.
Warnock, however, is determined to come out fighting ahead of his side stepping into the Lions’ Den in front of the live Sky cameras.
He last night told the Yorkshire Post: “I am gutted for Rudy, I really am. He has been our best midfield player this season.
“Of course, if there is a plus, it is that Rudy hasn’t suffered the double fracture we all feared on Saturday. That would have seen him out for a long, long time.
“But losing a player of Rudy’s quality is still a big blow as he is a big player to replace.”
United’s miserable recent spell is unlikely to get any easier over the coming fortnight or so with the club’s next four games all being against in-form teams.
Millwall, for instance, are unbeaten in nine games, while Leeds host leaders Crystal Palace and fifth-placed Leicester in back-to-back games before the end of the month.
They they travel to Huddersfield Town, sitting sixth in the Championship table right now.
Such a schedule would ask serious questions of any team in the Championship, never mind one so clearly down to the bare bones as United’s is right now.
Warnock said: “It is all hands to the pump right now, no doubt about that. It has not been a good week and we do have a tough schedule coming up. But I know whatever team I send out at Millwall will be fired up and determined to turn things round.
“We all love football because it is such an unpredictable business and we will go down to The Den looking to upset the form book.
“Everyone was down after what happened to Rudy on Saturday and the manner of how we lost. But I must also give the lads credit as they never gave up.
“We could have just given up and looked to shut up shop while just accepting defeat. But we kept going to try and rescue something. At one stage, we were losing 3-1 and had four men in their box. That’s quite a number when you only have nine on the pitch, in the first place.
“These lads never give up and I have to commend them for that. That’s why I know they won’t let anyone down at Millwall.”
A police investigation into alleged comments made by referee Mark Clattenberg during a match between Chelsea and Manchester United has been dropped due to a lack of evidence, Scotland Yard said last night.