Sam Allardyce believes he is “just as good” as Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta – but what do the Leeds players think?
“In his own way, he has the right to say that,” winger Jack Harrison exclusively told Sky Sports. “He’s very experienced and has a lot of knowledge about the game. It’s Sam Allardyce. Everyone knows who he is and it’s for a reason.”
Allardyce, 68, has four games to keep Leeds in the Premier League and made the bold claim in his first press conference that “nobody” is ahead of him in football.
“He’s an experienced manager,” Leeds left-back Junior Firpo said to Sky Sports. “He’s been managing for 29 years so he has the right [to say it]. He’s been in football a long time and throughout all the changes [in the game], he has been changing as well.”
This is the sixth time the one-game England manager has taken over a Premier League club during a season. Each of the previous five were threatened by relegation when he arrived and four of them survived.
Allardyce has made his message clear to the players about what is needed now.
“It was about confidence. It was clear to him we weren’t playing with confidence,” said Harrison. “That was the first thing he wanted to address, and the other thing is tactically being organised, defending, and not conceding as many goals. Those were the first two things he said and we stripped everything back to basics.
“He has a great reputation of keeping teams in the Premier League. We’re all going to buy into it and give it everything we’ve got.”
Leeds’ biggest problem is at the back where they have conceded the most goals in the division and shipped 23 in April, a new Premier League record for a single month. Fixing their defence has been the focus of Allardyce’s training sessions ahead of a daunting trip to Manchester City on Saturday, live on Sky Sports.
“Basically organisation, how we want to play against Man City, how we want to structure ourselves to concede less goals, and, as Jack said, the main thing is about playing with confidence,” said Firpo.
“Try to make as few mistakes as possible and try to exploit the areas we can damage against other teams, especially Man City.”
Harrison added: “His natural charisma and characteristics, and of his staff, brings a lot of energy into the training sessions and even in the building. It’s given a little bit of lift to the team and even just having that presence has given us a bit of confidence.”
“That’s a tough question. You can ask this to all the defenders in the Premier League and even the world and they wouldn’t know how to do it,” said Firpo. “He’s a really good player, we’ll try to give him as little space as possible because him running into space is really dangerous.
“We will try to put pressure on the ball on the players who make passes to him, so they don’t have as much time. We’ll try to stop it as a team.”
Leeds face Newcastle, West Ham and Tottenham after this weekend in a bid to extend their Premier League stay for a fourth season. Harrison is adamant they have everything capable of doing so.
“We have a great squad, a lot of talented players on the team,” he said. “I don’t believe we should be in the situation we’ve been in. There have been times throughout the season when we haven’t got the results we deserved or we should have got through small mistakes here and there. It’s happened a lot.
“We definitely have the capabilities of being a team in the Premier League, it’s just believing in ourselves to do that. The squad believes that absolutely and believe we can stay up.”
And, in theory, they have the best manager at the helm to do it.