By Tony Leighton
After a season of uncertainty both on and off the pitch, Leeds United can prosper in the Sky Bet Championship next term, says manager Brian McDermott.
Against the background of a protracted takeover of the Elland Road club and speculation surrounding his own future, McDermott has guided his team through a campaign which at one stage threatened to become a relegation battle.
But with just one game of the season left after wins in three of their last four outings, the ex-Reading boss believes that better times are around the corner.
"The future is looking brighter," said McDermott. "If you analyse our season, we started well and we were top five before we had a dip.
"Then we had a lot of stuff going on with the ownership, which was very difficult - and these are mitigating circumstances, they're not excuses. We've had a tough time over the last three months, since the ownership's been sorted.
"Our form dipped alarmingly but now we are where we are - safe as houses in this league and looking to build a squad capable of challenging next season."
With eight players out of contract in the summer and another dozen having just one season more left on their deals, a squad re-building programme seems an inevitability for McDermott - if indeed he is still in charge come the close season.
The rumour mill is turning with names being bandied about as to who may take over if McDermott, who joined Leeds 12 months ago, is relieved of his duties.
But the manager reacts stoically to the speculation. "It doesn't unsettle or frustrate me," he said. "The most important thing is Leeds United Football Club and what's best to take this club forward, not me personally.
"My job is to make sure, whatever happens away from the pitch, that the football side is right. So the only agenda I have is to win the next game.
"There's a swathe of negativity that goes around with our club for whatever reason and it's got to stop. For us to be successful everyone's got to work together. We have to be positive as a group going forward.
"I want the fans to be able to look ahead with real optimism because we need that. We'll be looking to improve and do well next season."
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