HEAD COACH Paul Heckingbottom struggled to contain his frustration after Leeds United’s 20th Championship defeat of the season at Norwich City, saying the Whites needed to change “the whole mentality of the group”.
The head coach said “winners” and “brave” players were required as news emerged that United were in talks with Swansea City over signing centre-back Kyle Bartley in the summer.
I know when we look at the physical stats the boys will have run. But when we look at the challenges and duels we won’t be coming out on top. That’s what we have to change. We want to be winners.Paul Heckingbottom
United travelled to Carrow Road for their final away assignment having taken just 15 points from their previous 20 games, a record only equalled by relegated Sunderland.
Leeds arrived for a true end-of-season dead rubber having won only three times since Boxing Day and were again left licking their wounds after Kalvin Phillips’s opener ultimately counted for nothing.
Phillips fired Leeds in front with a fine finish from the edge of the area in the 39th minute, but Wes Hoolahan equalised in his final game for mid-table Norwich on the stroke of half-time from a passage of play that began with a Leeds corner.
Slack marking and a failure to track back allowed the lively Josh Murphy to slam home the Norwich winner nine minutes later and United rarely looked like staging a comeback.
Leeds have still not won away from home this year and the latest setback left United 14th with Heckingbottom having taken only 13 points and just three wins from his 15 games in charge.
With major surgery clearly needed over the summer, Leeds have already opened talks about a summer deal for Swansea defender Bartley who excelled on loan at Leeds last term as they finished seventh. The player is understood to be open to a return to Leeds having featured just four times in the Premier League since moving back to Wales.
“We have to change the whole mentality of the group,” said Heckingbottom.
“In the final two minutes of the first half there’s no danger. People have to be brave and get on the ball and I’m not going to have a go, but do we really need to play there at that moment?
“I know when we look at the physical stats the boys will have run. But when we look at the challenges and duels we won’t be coming out on top. That’s what we have to change. We want to be winners.”
Reflecting on a disappointing first two and half months in charge, Heckingbottom reasoned: “What it’s given me is how certain I am in terms of what has to happen and what needs to change. The hard work starts on making it happen now.”
Norwich City: Gunn, Reed, Hanley, Klose, Lewis, Leitner, Vrancic, Maddison (Hernandez 87), Hoolahan (Trybull 85), Murphy, Oliveira (Srbeny 82). Unused substitutes: McGovern, Pinto, Husband, Zimmermann.
Leeds United: Peacock-Farrell, Pennington, Jansson, Cooper, Pearce (Lasogga 83), Vieira (Forshaw 74), Phillips, Saiz, Hernandez, Alioski (Grot 70), Roofe. Unused substitutes: Lonergan, Anita, O’Connor, Ekuban.
Referee: John Brooks (Melton Mowbray).