McCormack chosen to release Austin from captaincy burden

Ross McCormack
Ross McCormack
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Leeds United manager Brian McDermott has opted to give the captain’s armband to the side’s ‘talisman’. He explains to Richard Sutcliffe why and outlines Austin’s reasons for stepping down.

NEW captain, new impetus for Leeds United’s season.

This is the fervent hope of manager Brian McDermott after the Elland Road chief responded to an immensely challenging fortnight by handing the armband to Ross McCormack.

Rodolph Austin, named captain in the summer, had asked to be relieved of the responsibility and the hope for Leeds now is that the Jamaican can rediscover some of the verve and energy that characterised his early displays.

The same can be said about McDermott’s entire squad after the manner of United’s FA Cup exit to League Two Rochdale and last weekend’s six-goal derby thrashing by Sheffield Wednesday.

Both results left the 52-year-old shell-shocked and his challenge now is to not only inspire an upturn in form but also prove to supporters and club hierarchy alike that he remains the right man to take Leeds forward.

“When I took the job at Reading we were 23rd in the league,” said McDermott, who insisted yesterday that he retains the “100 per cent” backing of managing director David Haigh and acting chief executive Paul Hunt.

“We came eighth that season. The following season we got to the quarter-finals of a cup twice and got beaten in the play-off final. The season after that we won the league. So, it took two and a half years to get to where I wanted us to be.

“Given time, I know that I can get this club into the right place. Given time. That is what you hope for. You certainly need it at this club.

“When I first came here, I was told that this was a long-term project. The club wanted me to build the infrastructure, the Academy, the training ground and also build up numbers at Elland Road.

“That can’t be forgotten and I have to focus on that until I am told that they have changed their minds and this is now a short-term project.

“In the medium term and long term, given time I am sure, absolutely sure, we will get it right.”

Asked if he was anxious about his board’s reaction to the debacle that was last Saturday’s performance at Hillsborough, McDermott said: “Yes, when you get beat 6-0. This is 2014. That (the possibility of time running out) would cross your mind.

“But we have had three managers in 20 months here. If you have got a manager with a track record who’s done it before, he needs time.

“David Haigh has been nothing but supportive. When you are a manager and you get beaten in the way we have been beaten, you need that support.”

McCormack, United’s top scorer with 18 goals, will lead the team out at Elland Road tomorrow as Leeds take on leaders Leicester City.

As with last weekend’s derby against the Owls, the Foxes game is being shown live on television and McDermott is looking to his attacking talisman for inspiration.

He added: “I spoke to Ross in April and I told him that I needed leaders. He is a leader.

“Whether he saw himself as a leader at that time in his career, I wouldn’t know.

“But I have always seen him as a talisman type. He has really matured a lot and everyone knows what this club means to him. From the team’s point of view, he’s the right man.”

As for Austin, who has started all but the first two of United’s games this term, the decision to pass on the captaincy was his.

McDermott, whose side have lost their last four games, said: “I had a good conversation with Rudy. He is a great guy and he has been a great captain, in my opinion.

“He has spoken to me and he feels it is in the best interest of the team – and he always talks about the team – that someone else is captain.

“I have taken that on board. This isn’t about Rudy and this isn’t a slight on Rudy at all.

“I want Rudy to play free and to play his game. He feels that his personality possibly isn’t conducive to that role.

“His leadership qualities are there for all to see, the way he plays, the way he tackles. The fans love him for that and I want him to get back to loving his life.

“It all means so much to him and I want to take that pressure away from him. That is the reason, no other reason.”