24 May 2024

Junior Firpo says Leeds’ mindset never wavered from promotion

24 May 2024

Junior Firpo’s conviction that Leeds will bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt has never wavered.

Daniel Farke’s side let automatic promotion slip from their grasp during a poor run-in and face Southampton at Wembley in Sunday’s Sky Bet Championship play-off final.

Leeds were consigned to the play-offs after winning only one of their last six games of the regular season, but Firpo insists they did not buckle mentally under the pressure.

The 27-year-old defender told the PA news agency: “It was difficult, but for me, I think it’s more about a lot of players having played a lot of games.

“Players who had played 50 games and that’s a lot, especially at the end of the season, when you need the players as fresh as possible. People were tired with knocks, with little injuries or whatever.

“So I think the most important thing that we did was recover from the physical side, because our mindset did not change – if it’s not automatic promotion, we’ll go up through the play-offs.”

A last-day defeat to Sunday’s opponents Southampton sealed Leeds’ play-off fate before a timely return to form saw them overrun Norwich in the second leg of their semi-final.

The most important thing that we did was recover from the physical side, because our mindset did not change - if it's not automatic promotion, we'll go up through the play-offs

“Obviously it’s not been normal (this week), it’s not a normal game,” Firpo said. “It’s not every day you can play in a final. It doesn’t matter if it’s a play-off final or whatever.

“It’s a final. It’s 90 minutes. It will be a nervy game, a difficult game I think, but if I have to pick one team in the final, I pick us.”

The Dominican Republic left-back is one of a core group of players relegated with Leeds from the top flight last season to have stayed at Elland Road.

When asked what victory on Sunday would mean, Firpo said: “Not so much for the players, especially for the club. It will be a really good achievement.

“When you go down and bounce straight back straight away, it’s really good for the club, so the club doesn’t lose as many players and as much money.

“For the players who stayed to fight to get the club where it belongs, it will be really good.

“It will be a really important game, for what it means. What it means to the city, to the fans and the club.

“For me, I don’t know. I think I’m still young. Always you have different reasons. One normal league game can be one of the most important.

“I’ve played in really good games, but it will be a really special game for me, yes.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox