United’s director of football David Holdsworth spoke this week about the need for calm heads and clear focus as the club continues to strive for a successful conclusion to the season.
“I understand and respect that there is frustration around at the moment,” he said. “We want to be successful, but we’re under no illusions that you need be winning games to achieve that. If you aren’t getting those wins there will always be unhappiness, because everybody wants the club to be picking up results.
“I fully appreciate that our fans also want to see a successful club and that they don’t like to see us slip out of the play-off places, particularly with us having worked so hard. We’re having a successful season in terms of where we are with picking up the pieces from last year, and we mustn’t forget that.
“But what we also must do is roll our sleeves up on the pitch and the players must take responsibility. They have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks, but they need to get out there and show the passion and pride our fans expect to see every time they pull the shirt on. At a time like this we’re looking for leaders, and that’s what I want to see.”
“A lot of these players are out of contract in the summer,” he continued. “Part of it is that if they want a new contract they had better roll their sleeves up and put their lives on the line every time they go onto the pitch.
“What I will say is that I’m not going to give a player a contract until I know what league we’re in. I’ve had quiet discussions with some, and certainly with a lot of agents, but we’ll make those decisions based on facts when the time is right.
“If you haven’t participated you don’t get a contract. If you don’t earn it, you don’t get one either. It’s simple, basics. This is a really big moment in this club’s season because we’ve got everything to play for.
“We support the manager and the team, but we need the players to perform every week so that we get the job done. I’m not suggesting that they haven’t been trying, absolutely not, because we’ve seen some very good performances.
“What I’m talking about now is the willingness to go beyond what they’ve shown. We need them to support this club and give it everything they’ve got. Fans will forgive you anything if they can see that you’re prepared to go out there and do that for them.
“Our fans are fantastic. Those who travel have been wonderful, and the fans who come to our home games are beyond superb. All they ask if for their team to repay that level of support. We’re playing Bury next and I know the approach from Steven has been methodical, so we now ask the players to go out and give more than they think they have.”
Speaking more about the frustration shown by the fans, he told us: “Adapting when you come into a club half way through a season does take time, and Steven has done everything he can to make sure he has become a part of our club.
“We’ve been very impressed with Steven’s approach to management since we brought him in. There are many factors you can consider when you talk about a position like this, but we will always look at professionally and with facts at the heart of everything we do.
“I was there at the weekend and I didn’t enjoy hearing the supporters calling for Steven. He’s a very passionate guy and I see everything he does with his coaching staff, and they really do put a lot of work in.
“He’s fully aware of his players and the abilities they have, and he has a very good football mind. We discuss things with Steven and his methodical approach is excellent.
“I respect and understand the fans completely, because they have some very good opinions on everything that happens at this club. Taking Jamie Devitt off last weekend annoyed them, because he’s a person they see as being someone who can score goals.
“Steven is the manager and he makes those changes, and he’ll live and die by those, as will every manager. He had to take the reaction to that substitution on the chin, which he did, but he’s more than aware that what it all comes down to is winning games.
“What we must remember is that when you do inherit other people’s players you can only play a certain way. That’s why any judgement going forward will be based on facts. We’re still growing and changing as a club, and there are going to be more changes in the summer. I’ll repeat it again, everything we do will be based on facts.”
“The biggest part of things for us at the moment is seeing how hard the manager and his staff are working off the pitch,” he continued. “Not getting results makes things become frustrating, of course it does, but we have maintain a professional approach.
“What we aren’t getting at the moment is the winning goal, and it isn’t great for us that goal scorers like Cullen and Gnahoua have been missing. Defensively we’ve let in goals and I will say that Steven hasn’t had the ability to change that because two of our defenders have been stuck in the treatment room.
“With the striker situation, there’s two that are injured, and you can’t bring in four. You can’t work beyond your means. If we had hindsight we’d have added more, but you don’t have that benefit. We did everything we could to get Yates and Nadesan, so we couldn’t have done any more than we did in January.”
As for when a decision on the manager position will be made, so that planning can begin in earnest for next season, he said: “We have everything prepared to extend Steven’s time here, that’s already in place. We did that a while ago, so that option is there.
“It would be remiss of us not to look at every option. We don’t panic over anything, we take a calculated view and we consider every aspect. Steven knows of every one of the aspects we talk about, but he knows we aren’t going to be rushed into anything.
“It will be a professional approach. Steven is a good man and we’ll support him, as we have done since day one. He was very aware of the term of the contract when he came here and he was also aware of the responsibilities.
“He’s put a heck of a lot of work in and he’s a very professional person. We’re just hoping he can the victories which will calm everybody down. Everybody has a different opinion, and we respect that, particularly from our fans, and that’s why we will always deal in facts.”
“Any decision going forward will be based on ability, first and foremost, and who we think will be best placed to do the job,” he confirmed. “We all like and respect Steven and we like the way he works. We are very aware as a club of where we want to be, and Steven shares that ambition.
“As we say we deal in facts, let’s be fully aware of how football is. There aren’t many Leicester’s around and it tends to be that the clubs at the top of the divisions are those who are spending the money.
“This season we started our work very late, as everyone saw, and we were on one of the more respectful budgets. Steven inherited the squad situation as it was, so can he be judged on that?
“Well, yes, he can, but you also employ a professional and respectful approach when you do that, because you can see where he might change things if he is here with us at the start of the season.”
“In terms of off-field stuff, the pre-season schedule is nearly completed,” he concluded. “We have the new kit launch planned, and most of our kit is already in, so supporters can rest assured that will be done.
“Everything off the pitch is running smoothly. On football matters, everybody gets unsettled when you aren’t winning. That’s why we’ll be measured and professional and we’ll do everything, in every area of the club, based on facts.”