SIMON Grayson last night marked his third anniversary as Leeds United manager by insisting he wants to stay for another three years.
The 42-year-old took charge at Elland Road just a couple of days after Gary McAllister had been axed with United sitting ninth in League One.
Since then, United have won promotion from the third tier, established themselves back in the Championship with a seventh place finish last term and now sit in the play-off places.
They have also enjoyed some memorable days in the FA Cup, the 1-0 win at Manchester United being the clear highlight ahead of battling draws at both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
Despite that year-on-year improvement, the Leeds manager is under pressure to keep the club progressing with chairman Ken Bates using his programme notes for last weekend’s defeat to Reading to describe the rest of the season as “the ultimate challenge for him (Grayson), his staff and, just as importantly, the players”.
For his part, Grayson is enjoying the job as much as at any other stage in his three-year reign and is already planning ahead to make sure United keep moving forward as a club.
He said: “It seems like only two minutes since I came in. When you come through the door, you want to reach anniversaries and see that the club has progressed.
“We have certainly done that. We have moved forward considerably and quickly, and we are now sitting sixth in the division with half the season gone, ready to kick on.
“I don’t get every decision right and I’m the first to admit that but neither does Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger or any of the top managers.
“I would like to think I have made more right decisions than wrong ones.
“It is a job that has a high expectancy level and people are there to criticise you when they want. But I accept criticism as well as I accept plaudits.
“I am looking forward to being here for another three years, hopefully.”
Asked by the Yorkshire Post if to fulfil that wish to stay in charge of Leeds in the long-term he would have to deliver promotion, Grayson replied: “I would have thought so, yes.
“The football club and the city demands that this club gets to the Premier League. It is not that easy to do and I have said all along that it is going to be harder to get Leeds out of the Championship than keep them in the Premier League.
“I think if we get there, our size as a club will allow us to maintain that status. Every manager is judged on what they try to achieve. Whether we have to get promotion this year or not, you will have to wait and see.
“I want to do it this year. My players understand that we are trying to do that but many other teams are trying to do the same.
“It is not like we are a club who have come down from the Premier League and are needing to go back up.
“We spent three years in League One and we have only been in the Championship for 18 months but we feel that we are capable of doing it.
“The bottom line is that we want to do it. Our fans will hopefully see that we are progressing and if it doesn’t happen this season, then next season we have to progress again.
“You have got to believe that you can achieve it and we are in a good position. It will go down to the last few games of the season, I am telling you that now.”
Grayson’s reign is the longest of any Leeds manager since David O’Leary, who led the club for three years and eight months before being sacked in June 2002, after missing out on a Champions League place for a second consecutive season.
In terms of Yorkshire football, of Grayson’s peers only Huddersfield Town’s Lee Clark has been in his post longer, the former Newcastle United midfielder having been appointed 12 days before the Leeds chief took charge at Elland Road.
Grayson, who on the evidence of recent matchdays retains the overwhelming support of the Elland Road crowd, said: “I love coming to work every day.
“It only seems like two minutes since I was first driving down the driveway (at the club’s Thorp Arch training ground) and I have still got the buzz and excitement.”
United have toiled in their last two games, a 1-1 draw at Watford and last weekend’s hugely disappointing 1-0 home defeat to Reading.
It means Leeds go into back-to-back away games – they travel to Derby County on Boxing Day and Barnsley on New Year’s Eve – needing to collect points to keep the chasing pack at bay.
Asked if he was feeling the pressure as United manager, Grayson replied: “If I was sensitive then yes.
“And if I didn’t actually know what I was trying to achieve and if I didn’t know the reasons for the decisions I am making then I would be more concerned.
“I like to think I know what I am doing but I am not so big-headed that I know everything. I work hard to make the club successful and that is what I am going to do.
“There is pressure but I would feel it more if I didn’t think I was doing the right things.”