Cardiff City v Leeds United: Daniel Farke looking for Whites to marry class and style with true northern grit

RIGHT-BACKS Luke Ayling and Djed Spence left Leeds United in very different circumstances this month but when they did, there was a common theme to how manager Daniel Farke tried to address it.

Unprepared to spell out why Spence was dispensed with – although he did hint it was down to attitude – and unwilling to stand in Ayling's way after all he did for the Whites, in both cases Farke talked about acting "with class and style".

It is probably fair to say being overly concerned about being seen in the right manner has not always been the Leeds way.

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In their heyday under Don Revie, "dirty Leeds" were widely reviled by outsiders, their toughness magnified, the skill that came with it downplayed. Even when he became Revie's successor, Brian Clough told his new players he despised what they stood for.

Leeds just got on with polishing their medals and ignored – or in the case of Clough, quickly saw off – their critics.

Farke takes the 21st Century Leeds to Cardiff City – a place where they have had a few memorable scraps in recent years and may well face another on Saturday – unwilling to shake off that tradition as a club nobody looks forward to playing but more conscious of the image he presents to those who might be thinking about coming into the tent.

"Just a few days ago I read a comment from George Best speaking about how every club needs a dirty player," he says, with a smile. "He spoke about players like Nobby Stiles and said (in his era, the 1960s and early 70s) each club has this player. His conclusion was that Leeds United had 11 in the line-up!

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"I quite liked that because I like it that nobody wants to play against us. It is important to be competitive on the pitch, and to sometimes play pragmatically.

TOUGH BUT NICE: Daniel Farke wants his Leeds United team to be respected, but also representative of the area it lies withinTOUGH BUT NICE: Daniel Farke wants his Leeds United team to be respected, but also representative of the area it lies within
TOUGH BUT NICE: Daniel Farke wants his Leeds United team to be respected, but also representative of the area it lies within

"My belief of football is not that we put the ball in the stand or over the stadium in the rivers, but that we want to play in hopefully a style I feel football should be played in.

"I want my players to be the protagonists, to play with confidence and bravery, keep the ball on the floor and entertain our supporters. But I also like sometimes that we have a competitive edge and steel, I don’t want to take this away.

"It’s not like we just accept our fate and we are not competitive. I like it when we are competitive."

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As Revie (and later Howard Wilkinson, Marcelo Bielsa and others) did and Clough tried and failed to, Farke has been quick to try to impose his values on the club. It is why Spence is already an ex-Leeds player, why Ayling only left with a fanfare for what he did on and off the field, and why Charlie Cresswell got a very public flea in his ear this week about his attitude to fighting for his place.

CRITICISM: Leeds United's Charlie CresswellCRITICISM: Leeds United's Charlie Cresswell
CRITICISM: Leeds United's Charlie Cresswell

"I want the outside world to look at Leeds United and say it is really difficult to play against them and they have real steel and competitive players but as a club, they all handle things with class and quality and style” he explains. "We are a club and region who stands for honesty and hard work. It is a tough region.

"We don't want gifts, we want to work hard and don’t try to cheat an opponent in terms of business or whatever. We want to earn what we get. I want us to show style and class, this is how I want our club to look, at least as long as I am in charge."

In Farke's lexicon, class means not just being nicey-nice when a loyal servant like Ayling moves on, joining Middlesbrough this week on a loan which runs until the end of his Elland Road contract. At other times it simply means being up front, dishing out the blunt, no-nonsense honesty Yorkshiremen and women pride themselves on when someone threatens to get above their station.

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Players should see how Ayling was waved off and think Leeds are a club they want to play for but those with the wrong attitude should hear Farke’s scathing comments about Cresswell and be scared away.

RESPECT: Luke Ayling, who left Leeds United for Middlesbrough this weekRESPECT: Luke Ayling, who left Leeds United for Middlesbrough this week
RESPECT: Luke Ayling, who left Leeds United for Middlesbrough this week

The England Under-21 centre-back is not the first to have had his character flaws paraded in public by Farke – in August it was Willy Gnonto. Hopefully Cresswell recognises he has lost his way and quickly gets back on the right track.

Whether he does or not, the messages to potential January signings should filter out undesirables.

"You send clear messages out that you are in the driving seat and not driven by players, if you are Leeds United, you decide, not the players or the agents," warns Farke.

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"No top player I know wants to come into a club where he feels he is bigger than the club. Every player wants to play for a club where everyone knows the club is bigger than you, and handles everything with style and class.

"Then every player knows if you represent the club in the perfect way, we look after you and your family, because you are a part of our Leeds United. But also, when your behaviour is not the way we want it, we are strict because these are our values, not a flag in the wind.

"I think this attracts players and it is one of the reasons why I think it makes sense for a club to act like this and not sneak around. In the mid and longer term it always helps."

So expect a full-blooded encounter in south Wales, but expect Farke to behave with class and dignity.

If he achieves nothing else at Leeds – and the signs do not point that way – he has given an identity to progress to better things.

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