Leeds United's new boss Sam Allardyce ready to surprise people after shock call to take over at Elland Road
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The increasingly desperate Leeds board have turned to renowned football firefighter Allardyce to try to keep in the top flight after a run of one point from five matches has left them perilously close to the drop to Championship level.
Javi Gracia has been relieved of his head coach duties along with director of football Victor Orta and a big shift in style is on the cards on the pitch with Allardyce’s pragmatic approach likely to take shape quickly as he faces possibly the biggest challenge of his long career in management.
The new boss even reckons it will be a surprise if United win either of his first two games in charge – at Manchester City and against Newcastle – but he remains enthusiastic that the team can get the six points he thinks they need to stay up in their final four matches of the season.
"We’ve got as tough a run-in as anyone else,”said Allardyce.
"We need to pull off a surprise win from somewhere. I don’t think anyone outside Leeds expects us to win any of these games.
"What’s important to me is they (the players) are qualified to do the job and they do the job to their best ability. Now if they won’t do the job serviceably, even within this four week period, I’ll find out and I’ll do something about it, because I don’t want to lose anybody because I need everybody pulling in the right direction.
"I hope that we can find six points in four because I think that that would be really good achievement.
"Generally as a new manager, you expect that little bit more from the players. Go along with the territory that you get a new manager and they seem to lift the performance because it’s a new manager not that the manager has done anything really brilliant.
"I’ve seen quite a positive attitude, I would have expected a little bit more miserable than what they were. First impressions are that they are desperate to do better.
"I’m only interested in what’s happening here. And only we’ll be interested in what’s here because it does consume your time 24/7.
"I have so much to go through. Previous games, what’s happened in previous games. What the stats look like, how did they do the free-kicks, how many goals conceded? Why have they conceded those goals? Where can we improve in those areas?
"So there’s a lot to do particularly in analysis to go through to try and drum up as many as many alternatives to try and get better in each department.
"So I always say to players it’s not a great deal of improvement that you need. So if everybody improved by 2%, that’d be 22% improvement in the team which is massive. So 1 or 2% better than they’ve already been will make a big difference.”
On being given the opportunity to do the job at Leeds, even only on a short term basis to begin with, Allardyce explained: "I’m happy I’m here but I’m really surprised I’m here, like. I’ve never moved as quick in my entire life for a position.
"I’ve always known the history of the club and the fact I used to play here, you know, against Allan Clarke and people like that, you know, and it was always been a pleasure to play at Elland Road like I mean so.
"When you get the opportunity to manage it, then for me, you jump at the chance even though it’s only four games. Rather it was a bit longer but it wasn’t to be, but here I am and it’s a hard challenge.
"There’s two things in the game. There’s ideas and knowledge. Then there’s staying ahead of the game which is what I did in the early 2000s. Nothing much has changed.
"What has changed is algorithms and AI. Everything is about recruitment. If we stay up this year it’s obviously clear the squad would need strengthening. If I stayed on I wouldn’t want to be in a relegation dog fight from the very start.
"There’s nobody ahead of me in football terms. Not Pep, not Klopp, not Arteta. In terms of knowledge and depth of knowledge up there with them, I’m not saying I’m better than them.”
Allardyce has quickly identified striker Patrick Bamford as a key player and intends to make a quick decision on whether to stick with goalkeeper Illan Meslier after he has made mistakes in recent games.
He added: “I want Patrick Bamford to be on top form because I think he’s a key player in terms of holding the ball up and being able to to get the ball to him and him to score goals, to give him the opportunity to score goals. So hopefully he stays fit and he becomes a key player.
"Based on what he (Meslier) says to me and how I feel would help me make the decision going forward. Unfortunately he's made mistakes and cost a couple of goals, at the wrong time.
"The most important position is there if we're going to stop the goals going in because we're not going to stop every shot.
"Whether it's right for me to keep him in and hope he has a big game and gets back to what he can be. I always thought he was a magnificent goalie given how young he was. We'll make a decision Friday probably.”