The international break arrived at an incredibly unfortunate time for Leeds United following their 4-1 drubbing against West Bromwich Albion.
International breaks are seldom greeted with enthusiasm by avid supporters of club football and the latest hiatus has proven no exception. But with a handful of Leeds players in action over the two week period there is plenty of reason for the Whites faithful to keep a close eye on results around the world.
Thursday evening conjured up a friendly fixture with an extra incentive as the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland went head-to-head at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
The clash was rather fitting on a day when Theresa May’s government unfolded in stunning circumstances following the revelation of a proposed Brexit deal, which has been widely scrutinised for a multitude of reasons, including its failure to properly address the complex issue which the Irish border has thrown up.
That the fixture finished as a stalemate was perhaps even more fitting, but if anyone was likely to alter the 0-0 scoreline last night it was Stuart Dallas.
Leeds’ left-winger has been forced to play something of a utility role since Marcelo Bielsa took the reigns at Elland Road, as a consequence of the injury-ravaged campaign the promotion hopefuls are experiencing.
However, Dallas was unleashed in his natural position last night and he caused all kinds of problems for Everton’s Seamus Coleman.
In the aftermath of proceedings, BBC Sport pundit Mark Sterling paid homage to Dallas’ performance with a glowing review in his post-match report.
‘Playing on the left of Northern Ireland’s front three, Stuart Dallas was in sparkling form, particularly in the first half.
‘The Leeds United man is always full of running for his country and that was the case once more as he made sure Republic captain Seamus Coleman had a busy night on his return to international football after a long-term absence.’
It was a compelling outing for Dallas which will give Bielsa food for thought as he prepares for the gruelling Christmas period, and he may be inclined to replace Ezgjan Alioski with the Northern Ireland international on the back of this performance.
But even if Bielsa decides to continue using Dallas as a utility player, there is no doubt that he will have a vital role to play this season.
Every club needs a jack of all trades; a boring James Milner; someone to selflessly fill in as and when they are required.
At Leeds United, Dallas is slowly taking on that particular role but, while utility players are often perceived as functional cogs who lack the talent to thrive in their natural position, the quality of his performances will be pivotal to the club’s chances of securing promotion.
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