Leeds United are doing things the Dennis Wise way now. Barely minutes after the Championship's biggest underachievers had beaten Southend United on Saturday, the squad members who had not played were given a gruelling sprinting and running session by Gustavo Poyet, the new assistant manager.
Leeds had conceded 18 goals in a run of five defeats before Wise's first game in charge, and he sees a lack of fitness as the main reason for their recent woes. While there was a palpable sense of relief around Elland Road at this win, courtesy of Ian Moore's 40th-minute finish and Robbie Blake's sweetly struck free-kick, it was alarming how clearly the home side ran out of steam around the hour, when Southend poured forward and forced them to defend in numbers.
"It's hard graft, what they're going to do now," said Wise, who refused to criticise his predecessor, Kevin Blackwell. "You could see they were tired out there. They've done their pre-season training programme and I'm not going to knock it, but this is the area we need to work on to stop the rot."
Wise has already sacked the club's fitness coach, Dean Riddle, and has told a number of first team players to shed some pounds. One of those is Blake, whose delicious 25-yard strike settled the encounter. "He's such a talent and I want him fit, but there are a couple in the same boat," said Wise.
Another player who looks to be carrying extra bulk, Paul Butler, was deposed as captain in favour of Kevin Nicholls last week. The new manager was also quick to bring in Reading goalkeeper Graham Stack on a three-month loan to replace the struggling Neil Sullivan and Tony Warner.
Such decisiveness seems to be endearing Wise to the Leeds fans, who were initially sceptical about a former Chelsea man running their team. The tone on the Leeds messageboards has shifted from hostility to outright optimism after a first clean sheet since August, and the new manager received a standing ovation on Saturday.
Goals: Moore (40) 1-0; Blake (88) 2-0.
Leeds United (4-4-2): Stack; Kelly, Butler, Kilgallon, Lewis; Moore (Richardson, 61), Douglas, Derry, Johnson (Westlake, 87); Healy (Blake, 80), Cresswell. Substitutes not used: Warner (gk), Foxe.
Southend United (4-4-2): Flahavan; Hunt, Sodje, Barrett, Hammell; Guttridge (Campbell-Ryce, 78), Maher, Clarke, Gower; Hooper (Harrold, 72), Eastwood. Substitutes not used: Collis (gk), Prior, Moussa.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Booked: Leeds Lewis, Douglas, Stack.
Man of the match: Derry.
Attendance: 19,528.Reuse content