Heckingbottom must axe 26-yr-old v Fulham, he is in fight to save his Leeds career after rant
COMMENT By Richard Parks
Never change a winning team, goes the old refrain.
But Paul Heckingbottom must tweak his starting XI for Tuesday night’s Championship clash against high-flying Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Starting Stuart Dallas at full-back against such a vibrant attacking team is asking for trouble.
The Northern Ireland international, who has spent the vast majority of his career in a wide midfield or winger role, kept his head above water after being shoehorned into a makeshift right-back role in Good Friday’s 2-1 win against relegation strugglers Bolton Wanderers.
But tasking Dallas with keeping the brilliant Ryan Sessegon, probably the outstanding individual in the Championship this season, would be suicidal.
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Heckingbottom must instead select someone used to playing the experience, and with the mobility and instincts to keep up with Sessegnon. The oddly-ignored Vurnon Anita is the best bet from the current squad.
Handed a new three-year contract that was announced by the official Leeds website on 30 August of last year, it has been a mostly wretched campaign for Dallas.
He has the trust of Heckingbottom but it is unclear what the 26-year-old has done to deserve 10 starts from the last 11 league matches.
In 28 matches in all competitions this season, Dallas has scored two goals and supplied a further two assists. Those are puny returns for an attacking midfielder whose job it is to create problems for opposition defences.
Radrizzani told talkSPORT in an explosive interview on the Jim White Show last month that he felt particularly angry with the players who were handed lucrative new contracts last year after he took over as sole owner of the club in May.
“We have given them everything possible to just focus on the football,” said the Leeds owner. “As a club we support them in everything – we gave them long-term contracts, we supported them going to a mid-season camp in Spain.
“We did everything they wanted, but we didn’t get back their commitment, passion and the spirit.”
Radrizzani did not name the players who were the subject of his ire, but it is clear that he was pointing the finger at the likes of Dallas.
The Ulsterman has the comfort and security of another two years on his contract. Even if he was to slip down the pecking order in the final weeks of the campaign, he has to be paid up until 2020, or sold this summer.
Radrizzani’s public attack was a thinly-veiled attempt to cajole improved performances from Dallas and company.
It did not reap immediate dividends, as the only conclusion to be drawn is that the former Brentford wide man is not good enough for a club of Leeds’ calibre and expectations. Not a full-back, and not up to an attacking midfield role.
He is in the battle of his life to save his United career, and that should start with him being dropped to the bench against Fulham.
In other Leeds United news, the club are working on a deal to sign an English centre-back who has been the best in the league this season.