Stuart Dallas still 'integral' to Leeds United, says Daniel Farke in emotional tribute

Daniel Farke has paid tribute to Stuart Dallas as a Leeds United legend on the pitch and a great human being off it, who will continue to help the club in their Championship promotion push.

This week the versatile Northern Ireland international announced his retirement aged 32 after nine years at Elland Road, the last two of them wiped out by a terrible fractured right femur which he was never able to recover from.

Whites fans are well-versed with what Dallas did for them on the field since joining from Brentford in 2015.

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He blossomed as an integral part of the team when then-coach Marcelo Bielsa revitalised a flagging club, playing in a variety of positions but particularly left-back in their promotion-winning season of 2019-20 and the ninth-placed Premier League finish that followed.

But Farke was able to highlight the important role Dallas has played on the sidelines this season, a role that will continue until the campaign finishes, calling a player who never pulled on a shirt for him "an integral part of our group" as they look to return to England’s top flight after relegation last season.

Before taking any questions in Friday's press conference to preview Saturday’s Championship game at home to Blackburn Rovers, Farke said: "I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute and say thanks to Stuart. He is an integral part of our group and it was quite emotional for all of us in the last few days.

"He had some setbacks with his rehab in the last few weeks. Once he announced it, it was quite emotional.

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"I am a bit sad that I wasn't allowed to send Stuart onto the pitch. I was really looking forward to working with him because I knew what a fantastic player Stuart was. I was always respectful when I played against him (with Norwich City) and I would have loved to have sent him out in this shirt with his fans.

"LEEDS UNITED LEGEND": Stuart Dallas was forced to retire from football this week"LEEDS UNITED LEGEND": Stuart Dallas was forced to retire from football this week
"LEEDS UNITED LEGEND": Stuart Dallas was forced to retire from football this week

"I am really grateful and blessed to be one of the managers of Stuart. He was my player and will always be my player in my heart.

"I learned more about him as a human being. He's unbelievable how he interacts with the guys and he's still so important for our spirit.

"What he has done for this club is so much more than what I have done in the nine-and-a-half months at the club.

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TRIBUTE: Leeds United manager Daniel FarkeTRIBUTE: Leeds United manager Daniel Farke
TRIBUTE: Leeds United manager Daniel Farke

"He's a legend of the club and deserves all the praise. He led the club to the highest highs with promotion and a fantastic first season back in the Premier League."

What particularly stood out to Farke was that when Dallas told his team-mates he was retiring this week, his message was more about them finishing the job in an extremely tight Championship race.

Leeds go into their televised lunchtime kick-off a point outside the automatic promotion places with four games remaining. Second-placed Ipswich Town are due to host Middlesbrough shortly after full-time at Elland Road.

"He is there for the boys, giving them recommendations," said Farke. "It says a lot about his character when he came to speak about his decision he was thinking more about the group and the club than himself. I want to say a really big thank you to him and for having been able to work with him this year.

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"Our hearts will always be open to him. He's a Leeds United legend.

" We still have him for a few more weeks (left this season) and our doors and heart will always be open. Let's enjoy the next few weeks having him on site.

"It's key to have him around. I would prefer to have him available for the games. To have his experience and personality around the dressing room calms the nerves down and helps motivate everyone.

"We have got some young lads so to have a proper Leeds legend there is always important.

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"You need that energy and enthusiasm of youth and the experience of the more experienced players. Stuart is a top-class character."

Leeds pick from the squad who drew 0-0 with Sunderland.

Leicester City, level on points with Ipswich from a game less, are at Plymouth Argyle on Friday.

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