With confirmation star could quit, Leeds are facing terrace mutiny and must act before too late
COMMENT By Richard Parks
Leeds United know what they have to do, fans are convinced what must be done.
But can the club allay fears about Pablo Hernandez’s future following confirmation from Paul Heckingbottom today (Thursday) that he could quit within weeks?
Leeds are not nearly so strong enough or brilliant enough at talent spotting that they cannot afford to extend the contract of the Spanish maestro in the coming weeks.
The demand from supporters for Hernandez to be tied down to a new deal is reaching fever pitch as a campaign that once promised so much now peters feebly to an end.
There was encouragement for Leeds fans a few weeks ago when Hernandez revealed it was his wish to stay and Heckingbottom stated that talks were “ongoing” over a contract extension that all parties were keen to nail down.
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Now, the U-turn. Or, at least, that’s how Leeds fans are seeing it.
Heckingbottom said at his media briefing today, as quoted by the personal Twitter account of BBC Radio Leeds correspondent Adam Pope, that he has had extensive talks with Hernandez about his future but “there’ll be others trying to turn his head”.
PH on Hernandez: “I’ve had chats with him in football, the club & his future. He’s driven not by money but football. However, there’ll be others trying to turn his head.” #lufc
— Adam Pope (@APOPEY) April 19, 2018
The immediate response from supporters on social media is that the player is heading for the exit door.
Leeds must act quickly to prevent that happening, and avoid terrace mutiny over a huge fans’ favourite.
The playmaker has his off days, and his tendency to go missing during tough away matches should prompt a rotation from Heckingbottom that neither Thomas Christiansen or Garry Monk were willing to countenance.
But it is a sign of Hernandez’s continued significance at Leeds that his impressive displays of recent months amid a sea of mediocrity around him were met with an avalanche of calls from supporters for the club to extend his contract.
Aged 33, the Spaniard remains one of the few players in Leeds’ squad who can elevate the team’s play and produce a moment of magic to rip open up a defence in a close-fought Championship encounter.
His brilliant technique, vision and set-piece excellence make him a key player. His game remains largely unaffected by the passing time.
The team is not so good that they can plan for next season without the Spain international, who has scored nine times and supplied 10 assists from 41 matches in all competitions this season.
Leeds must look to get Hernandez tied down before other offers trump their own.
Sure, his best years might be behind him and he is at a time in his career when the days of long-term deals are not an option.
But a two-year contract extension would be the perfect for a player for whom the fire still burns bright.