Leeds United manager Paul Heckingbottom has begun to look ahead to next season as he looks to mastermind a promotion challenge back to the Premier League.
The aim for the Yorkshire outfit was to go up this season, but a couple of indifferent spells in form, the second of which accounted for manager Thomas Christiansen, put them on the back foot and they have not been able to recover.
The Whites now find themselves in the bottom half of the Championship table and as many as 11 points away from the play-offs, so while Heckingbottom is keeping a brave face regarding their chances of promotion this year publicly, the reality is they will have to aim to go up next term.
Leeds fans accepted that their chances of going up were over a few matches ago and it appears that their manager has caught up with their realisations.
He admitted as much after the 2-2 draw with Reading on Saturday, when his side fell into the bottom half of the pile.
“It’s out of my mind, but it’s attainable,” Leeds Live quote him as saying.
“My mind’s on getting the players winning, working with them, pushing them and beginning to build a winning mentality, a strong mentality because whatever happens this season, if we’re not in them next season, we want to be in them.
“So all the work starts now.”
Given that Leeds need to hit the ground running next season if they are to push for promotion, it is important that they finish the current campaign strongly to build up some momentum to take forward with them.
They have nine matches remaining and even if they are unable to win enough to finish in the top six, every victory will boost their confidence and belief to take into next term.
Heckingbottom is well aware that his side need to pick up as many points as possible between now and the end of the season, and he declared so when asked about his ambitions for the final fixtures.
“Just winning games.
“Just winning games because I want players to feel that, I want them to understand what it takes because, for me, we should have won that, but we haven’t.
“We know why. A little bit of naivety, some poor decision making, but there’s lots of quality in there, evident in the goals, lots of hard work in there.
“The determination was there in coming back from being behind, but we need to turn that into wins. That’s it.”
One upside of having dropped away from the promotion race is that Leeds are able to grab a head start on their rivals when it comes to preparing for next season. It appears Heckingbottom is fully intending to take advantage of that opportunity.