AS any Leeds United fan who endured the tortuous journey home from Bristol last weekend can testify, winter has finally arrived.
The M42 south of Birmingham having disappeared under snow was a big clue, as were the plunging temperatures in the days that preceded Neil Redfearn’s bow as caretaker manager at Ashton Gate.
If anyone was still in any doubt then the fleet of abandoned vehicles littering the stretch from Gloucester to just south of Chesterfield on the trip back to Yorkshire offered conclusive proof that Jack Frost had made a belated arrival after wintering elsewhere in Europe.
However, despite that and the likelihood that this week is set to leave the county shivering again, perhaps the most appropriate way of summing up the current situation at Elland Road right now is the idiom, ‘One swallow does not a summer make’.
As welcome as United’s 3-0 win over the Robins was, that is all it was. One win. Leeds still sit ninth in the Championship ahead of Saturday’s visit of Brighton & Hove Albion, while the uncertainty surrounding the managerial vacancy created by Simon Grayson’s dismissal last week means looking forward with any confidence is difficult.
One key figure, though, who believes the club could have turned the corner with the win in the West Country is captain Andy Lonergan.
He said: “It was a difficult week. When a manager leaves, it is never nice but that is part of football. There is nothing, as players, that we can do other than focus on ourselves. I have seen a few managers leave in my career and the older you get the more you realise things are out of your control.
“The good thing was we were able to end on a positive result. I know a few things helped us (Bristol City played the final 33 minutes with nine men following the dismissals of Mark Wilson and Yannick Bolaise) but you can only beat what is in front of you.
“The conditions weren’t great but we got the win and I think a result like that can kick us on.
“We had a very similar performance to that against Doncaster (in October) when we also won 3-0. That was against 11 men but we were just as professional, keeping the ball and stroking it around.
“The club needed a lift after what happened (last week) and that is what we got. We have a good run of games now where we have to push on.”
United’s convincing victory has earned Redfearn a second game in charge with the 46-year-old, who before being named caretaker manager had been combining the duties of looking after the reserves and Under-18s, set to be in the dugout against Brighton.
It is a chance Lonergan, handed the captain’s armband in the wake of Jonny Howson’s sale to Norwich City, believes the former Barnsley and Bradford City midfielder has earned.
He said: “Redders is a top man. I have played for him a couple of times in the reserves when coming back from injury and he is a very positive person.
“We worked Thursday and Friday last week specifically on our game plan. I know a lot was made of Bristol’s red cards but let’s not forget we were 1-0 up against 11 men after soaking up pressure.
“That was down to our game plan as we soaked up what they had to offer before getting the goals.”
Speculation continues over who will succeed Grayson with former Preston and Nottingham Forest manager Billy Davies admitting he is ready for a possible return to the game.
He said: “I am prepared to listen to anyone. I have got no preference – Scotland, England or abroad. I am very happy and very much looking forward to discussing with any interested party.”
Asked if Leeds would be of particular interest, Davies, whose Preston side lost to the Yorkshire club in the 2006 play-offs, replied: “It is up to other people. Leeds are a fantastic club with a great fan base but we will just have to see what happens.”