With 10 games remaining and safety all but assured, Leeds are enjoying some stability at last, but there is still plenty to learn from season 2014-15.
Saturday's 1-0 win at Wigan Athletic was Leeds' seventh win in 10 games; a run that appeared from nowhere after a traditionally sorry Christmas and New Year period, and the unsettling element of ongoing boardroom chaos at Elland Road. Against the odds, head coach Neil Redfearn has utilised forgotten men and academy youngsters to instigate a run of form that never looked likely in the first half of a disrupted campaign.
The final 10 games now give Leeds a rare opportunity to build on their current run of form and take some positives in to the summer break. So what do Leeds need to do before May 2nd's final game at home to Rotherham?
1. Utilise the squad and learn about the fringe players. The policy has been to disregard 'older' players approaching the end of their contracts, with Stephen Warnock, Jason Pearce and Michael Tonge shown the door during this season. Therefore, the odds are on Rodolph Austin not receiving a new contract offer in the summer, although Redfearn was successful in arguing that the Jamaican was a useful asset to have around while Leeds remained in a dogfight in January.
Now, with safety almost assured Redfearn can look elsewhere in his squad at players he has barely used this season. A dizzying influx of 15 players last summer has seen a number on the fringes all season and the likes of Dario Del Fabro, Brian Montenegro, Caspar Sloth and Zan Benidicic remain 'unknown quantities'. January loan signing Granddi Ngoyi has yet to even make an appearance. Players like Adryan, Souleymane Doukara and Edgar Cani have appeared, but have failed to convince they are capable of establishing themselves in the Sky Bet Championship. At the other end of the scale, Redfearn has youngsters such as Lewis Walters, Chris Dawson, Kalvin Phillips and Louie Coyle who are close to getting a run out and showing what they can do. Now must be the time.
2. Sort contract decisions ASAP. Redfearn and his assistant Steve Thompson have the option of a year's extension to their contracts and they have done enough to merit the security of another year. In Massimo Cellino's absence acting chairman Andrew Umbers has claimed that all contract discussions will wait until the summer, so as not to upset the 'equilibrium' of the squad. However, serving the club's intentions now, with safety as-good-as assured would be a huge boost to a squad that are clearly right behind Redfearn and his staff. It is also, quite simply, the right thing to do to reward outstanding performance.
Furthermore, Leeds have four youngsters in Sam Byram, Alex Mowatt, Lewis Cook and Charlie Taylor who are all being talked about and discussed by Premier League clubs, and that speculation will only grow more intense. There is no benefit to playing out the season with futures unresolved and question marks in the air. Securing the long term futures of all four players now will benefit the whole club going in to the summer and make good Cellino's claims to re-build the club on homegrown talent. The direction of the club under the temporary chairmanship of Andrew Umbers should not distract from this crucial matter.
3. Carry some momentum in to the summer. Recent seasons have seen Leeds stagnate in the second half of the campaign and fans are used to wishing the games away as they plead for the summer break amid despondency and uncertainty. In 2013-14 Leeds were in fifth position before Christmas but Brian McDermott's team were flirting with relegation by Easter time. The season before saw manager Neil Warnock leave the club in April in the thick of a relegation battle, which McDermott's arrival dealt with.
This season Leeds are flying and it doesn't look likely that wholesale squad changes will be required for once, with the nucleus of a competitive side already in place for next season. Key additions are essential, but a squad philosophy and pattern are clearly evident, and continuity and momentum can be taken in to next season instead of Leeds once again starting from scratch and playing catch up. This of course, depends on point number 2, above, being addressed.