Daniel Farke not hitting the roof over Leeds United acclaim as he says football managers are 'superstars or clowns'

You see it more and more these days, whenever Sky Sports promote a game with images of an individual from either side – football is becoming increasingly centred on personalities.

Leeds United manager Daniel Farke is not having it.

In the build-up to tomorrow’s Championship play-off final against Southampton at Wembley, a giant image of the German’s face was put onto the glass dome roof of Leeds city centre’s Trinity shopping centre, looming over people going about their daily business like some godlike figure.

At the club of Don Revie, Marcelo Bielsa, even Howard Wilkinson, Farke has an awful long way to go before he can achieve that status, even among those who adore the city's flagship football team.

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But the narratives around Farke, the serial promotion winner who came in last summer with the club at a low ebb after relegation to return them to the promised land of the Premier League, have all been there in these play-offs.

Firstly they took Farke back to Norwich City, where he won two Championship titles, and pitted him against a compatriot in David Wagner. Now he faces a Southampton side led by Russell Martin, his first captain at Carrow Road.

You do not have to think back long – maybe 12 months might do it – to a Leeds manager who might have quite enjoyed the attention but it does not sit well with Farke, who is acutely aware this is a team game, and has built his team around the club’s best principles of side before self.

He is right but if Leeds triumph at Wembley tomorrow, a huge dollop of the congratulations deserves to land on the shoulders of the unassuming but steely character who has been the calm presence in the maelstrom of footballing life that is Elland Road, guiding a squad that could easily have been swept away by it. Leeds’ fan base can be such a powerful tool it can run out of control when not placed in steady hands.

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LOOMING PRESENCE: Leeds United manager Daniel Farke's image at Trinity shopping centre in LeedsLOOMING PRESENCE: Leeds United manager Daniel Farke's image at Trinity shopping centre in Leeds
LOOMING PRESENCE: Leeds United manager Daniel Farke's image at Trinity shopping centre in Leeds

Farke has struck a good balance through the good and the bad times in West Yorkshire, and his final pre-Wembley press conference was no different.

“So many questions of myself about a picture in shopping centre,” he said with bemusement that felt genuine.

“I would have been distracted by this in the early stages of my career but once you work a bit longer in this business, in my chair there are just two options – either they want to build a stadium and put some pictures in a shopping centre or they throw rotten tomatoes. Either you are a superstar or a clown.

“You have to make sure you are not too driven by these emotions and this judgement, staying what you are.

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YOUNG SQUAD: Leeds United manager Daniel Farke with 18-year-old Archie GrayYOUNG SQUAD: Leeds United manager Daniel Farke with 18-year-old Archie Gray
YOUNG SQUAD: Leeds United manager Daniel Farke with 18-year-old Archie Gray

“I am never dancing on the table if someone is praising me or too down if one or two of our supporters or even a few more don’t like what we did because you always have to do what you’re convinced of.

“I'm quite focused on my job.”

But Leeds, as Farke often says, is an emotional club and having built such a young team, it is his job to transmit that calmness to his squad.

“For our players it’s quite important,” he says. “I’m an old man but my players are young, some of them are like kids – 18, 19, 20 years old.

FAMILIAR FACE: Southampton manager Russell MartinFAMILIAR FACE: Southampton manager Russell Martin
FAMILIAR FACE: Southampton manager Russell Martin

“It’s important they know they have the backing, the trust and a whole city, a whole community, a whole fan base who are there for them not just when they are scoring goals but also when they go through a difficult spell.

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“Recently I invited everyone to be a believer. I’m so grateful our supporters have shown this in recent weeks.

“The atmosphere at Elland Road in the last game against Norwich was second to none and even some of the journalists who have been coming here for decades have never experienced such an atmosphere.

“After our last game against Southampton, the positivity to send us with backing into the play-offs played a huge part and we were back to our best in the games.

“We need this backing and I'm pretty grateful – not for myself because my picture is in the shopping centre more for my players.

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“I hope there is a white wall heading to London to take over the capital. Hopefully we can use it as positive energy to reward them with a brilliant result.”

So naturally, Farke is quick to stamp down on any narrative of him versus Martin by smothering his rival in praise.

“I was quite blessed when I had him at Norwich,” is the first thing he has to say. “He was my captain and for me it was more or less my first steps in English football as a pretty young – in this league – inexperienced coach.

“Russell was in the later stages of his career, he was the club captain and especially in the first weeks I got a lot of information from him.

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“He judged the games and everything that happened around the pitch and in the dressing room with the eyes of a manager.

“I was quite sure he would do a really good job in this business. Right now he’s proving me right.”

In such a well-matched game, whether Leeds will have a winning manager tomorrow evening is anyone’s guess but one thing is for certain: Farke is nobody’s clown.

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