Leeds United v Brighton: Rosler confident his ‘underdogs’ can spring surprise on Brighton

Leeds United's Stuart Dallas.
Leeds United's Stuart Dallas.
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AMID the hullabaloo of Uwe Rosler admitting automatic promotion was not the target this term and Massimo Cellino taking a stand against the Football League and Sky Sports that seems likely to hit Leeds United fans harder than anyone else, it has perhaps been easy to lose sight of an unwanted slice of history that is beckoning.

Namely, how if Brighton & Hove Albion leave Elland Road with any kind of points reward today, a new record of 11 games without a win on home soil will have been set by the current squad.

It is a run stretching back to March that will, thanks to the Seagulls boasting the only remaining unbeaten record in the League, take some ending before it eclipses the previous winless sequence of 1981-82.

Rosler, however, believes his side can rise to the task.

“We generally do well against teams who are called favourites or who are above us in that moment in time,” he said.

“There is a little bit of underdog syndrome, which we quite like at the moment.”

Whether United fans, an expectant crowd regardless of the club’s troubles in recent years, will be comfortable to be regarded as underdogs in a second-tier home fixture is a moot point.

Certainly, Rosler’s assertion earlier this week that a place in the top 10 and not promotion was the target for the campaign ruffled a few feathers. So much so that the Leeds head coach felt it necessary to explain his thinking yesterday at the club’s training ground.

“I don’t understand why they are upset,” he replied when asked about the reaction of supporters on social media.

“I was absolutely clear, when I came through the door, that we are not in a position to win automatic promotion. That is what I said.

“Many times I have repeated that. The problem is you guys are not listening. Two times, this club was 15th.

“My task from the owner is to improve the team, the players and the position from the last season. Mr Cellino made that absolutely clear.”

Pressed on the matter, Rosler replied: “You think all fans feel like this? I don’t think so. In our club, we have a very knowledgable crowd who understand that this team is not ready to challenge for automatic promotion.

“The team wasn’t ready last year, or the year before, and not this year. We want to build, that was always the aim.

“We were absolutely clear on this. If I upset people then I apologise. That was not my aim. I just repeated (earlier this week) what I said on day one.”

Rosler’s side went into the international break on the back of a 2-0 defeat at home to Birmingham City. It was a deserved victory for the Blues, who were well drilled and organised in defence but had pace up front that the Leeds back-line simply couldn’t handle.

The United head coach is expecting a much more open game today as he ponders whether to start Stuart Dallas after the winger’s exertions on international duty with Northern Ireland. You can see my disappointment when we don’t win at home,” he said. “I speak to my players every day and, of course, we find solutions.

“I have said to the players, I want some answers. In preparation for Brighton, we gave them a clear simple game-plan, which we feel can win the game.

“We want to be very, very difficult to beat against the best team in this league at this moment in time.”

Victory today over the leaders would, of course, be a welcome fillip for the club’s supporters, who are still reeling from yesterday’s bombshell news from Cellino that future away games will see a cap placed on the ticket allocation at 2,000.

The move – which threatens to penalise the supporters who follow Rosler’s side on the road more than anyone else – has come in response to the League’s rescheduling of so many Leeds games for television coverage.

By the end of 2015, 10 United matches will have been moved for live broadcast by Sky Sports – way more than any other club in the country. A further three will also have been shifted on either police advice or to accommodate the switching of a TV game.

Cellino believes that not only are fans being “exploited” but the club is missing out on income from increased gates at Elland Road due to being on television so many times. The club’s next home game after Brighton is against Blackburn Rovers a week on Thursday, a switch that was made to accommodate Sky.

“Our loyal season ticket holders are being unfairly penalised by the large amount of fixture changes,” said Cellino.

“They have already paid to attend these games but many are no longer able to and attendances are suffering as a result of this.

“This affects our revenue to a level where the club is losing money with each televised home game, as Sky’s compensation payments are not enough to cover the losses in ticketing, retail and catering.”

Cellino’s cap on the number of away tickets that Leeds will sell is expected to start against Huddersfield Town on November 7, a fixture that would normally see a little under 4,000 away fans present.

The decision came too late to affect next week’s trips to Fulham (where the full allocation of 3,800 has been sold) and Bolton Wanderers (3,400).