Leeds United manager Daniel Farke has claimed that the leadership qualities that defender Luke Ayling brings to his squad is crucial, and that the right-back’s influence off the pitch is just as important as his performances on it.
Whilst Leeds fans may have had some concern when the club revealed that summer signing Djed Spence – brought in on loan from Tottenham to assume the right-back berth – had suffered an injury in training and would be out for eight weeks, Ayling has appeared solid in his last few games in White despite a rocky start to the season.
Signed in 2016 from Bristol City, Ayling is the longest-serving – as well as the oldest – member of Farke’s regular starting XI by some margin, and has stepped up to assume the mantle of club captain following an injury to Liam Cooper on the opening game of the season against Cardiff.
The Englishman has been handed the armband in six of seven league matches for Leeds so far this season, and according to Farke, it is Ayling’s leadership qualities which make him such a key asset to a young Leeds squad.
“Luke’s influence is massive, you can’t overrate it because it’s so important,” Farke told the media at his pre-match press conference today.
“He’s a good player but he leads in the dressing room. He calms the lads down, sometimes an arm around the shoulder, sometimes a kick.
“We need this, we have young players but we need experienced players.
“I love his mentality and he brings it into the dressing room.”
Ayling is set to retain his place in the side for as long as new signing Spence is injured, and will no doubt offer stiff competition for the right-back role even when his younger counterpart returns to full fitness.
Leeds host Watford at Elland Road tomorrow afternoon, with Farke undoubtedly keen to provide the watching crowd with their first home victory of their league campaign.