Belfast Telegraph

I need to play football: Peacock-Farrell admits Leeds exit is possible if he doesn't regain number one spot

Estonia v Northern Ireland, Euro 2020 Qualifying Group C A Le Coq Arena, Tomorrow, 5pm

Playing for keeps: Northern Group C Ireland goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell at the team hotel in Tallinn ahead of Saturday night’s Euro 2020 Qualifier in Estonia
Playing for keeps: Northern Group C Ireland goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell at the team hotel in Tallinn ahead of Saturday night’s Euro 2020 Qualifier in Estonia
Marcelo Bielsa

By Paul Ferguson in Tallinn

As Bailey Peacock-Farrell contemplates his future on the rooftop terrace of the Northern Ireland's team hotel on a gloriously sunny evening in Tallinn, he keeps on coming back to the same realisation.

The 22-year-old goalkeeper simply wants to play football.

Leeds United, for half the season last year, gave Peacock-Farrell that opportunity with 28 appearances, but then it was taken away from him in the January transfer window when manager Marcelo Bielsa brought in Kiko Casilla from Real Madrid.

Peacock-Farrell, who has been at Leeds since 2013 when he joined on a youth contract, admits he takes no pleasure from being a spectator on the bench.

The Darlington lad is confident in his ability, believes he has made great strides to improve his game and is determined to reclaim his No.1 place at Leeds United.

Peacock-Farrell, having played all the Nations League games and the opening two Euro 2020 qualifiers, is now considered Northern Ireland's starting goalkeeper. The former Middlesbrough man takes pride in this achievement, but he wants to be the man for both club and country.

"If you had told me a few years ago I would have played 40 games for Leeds and then all the Nations League games with Northern Ireland and the qualifiers now, I'd be really happy with it, but in the moment you probably get greedy and want more," says Peacock-Farrell, who is set to win his eighth cap in Tallinn.

"Everyone wants to play every single possible game. Everything that's gone before, that is really kind of pointless if you don't continue making those strides. You just relax and say it's good I did that. If all of a sudden you don't play next season, you're missing out, you've gone nowhere.

"It's not even levelling off, it's taking a step backwards because you're not maintaining the strides forward you expect and I hold myself to.

"So the aim is to be playing football, I have to, for selfish reasons. I'm not one of those goalkeepers who's maybe content with sitting on the bench and picking up a wage."

Peacock-Farrell has one year left on his current Elland Road deal and is hoping to hold talks about signing a new contract over the summer.

He doesn't believe there is a bigger club in the Championship and therefore he insists he's at the right team - he just wants to be told he has a fighting chance of reclaiming his position in the team.

Casilla made 17 appearances during the closing months of the season and it appears he is Bielsa's main man between the posts going forward.

Boss Bielsa has just signed on at Leeds for another year, so Peacock-Farrell knows he needs to change the renowned Argentinian's view on the goalkeeping situation and quickly.

Peacock-Farrell says: "It's great to have the stability of the manager staying another year.

"At Leeds we've had a lot of managers who have come and gone, so to have a manager like Bielsa, with his pedigree remain at the club it is absolutely huge.

"You can see the progress that we have made under him and hopefully with him staying on as manager we can build on that next season.

"If I'm staying at Leeds, I don't see that there's anywhere other to play that's better, unless it is the Premier League.

"When you look at the stature of Leeds, the level of club that it is, for me you can't get anywhere better to play.

"I wouldn't want to go anywhere else out of choice, to a certain extent.

"Obviously if I'm not going to play at Leeds then I'll have to consider my options.

"They said they wanted to open discussions on a contract so I'm really looking forward to having discussions with them about a new contract."

Having played a major role in Leeds' surge towards the Premier League, Peacock-Farrell was desperately disappointed to watch from the bench as they lost out to Derby County in the Play-off semi-final.

It was a crushing blow for the Leeds players, including Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas and Peacock-Farrell.

"Obviously it a was a real shame how it ended," conceded Peacock-Farrell.

"You don't get anything out the league unless you deserve it and, at the end of the day, the performances in the last 15 games, we didn't deserve promotion.

"It hits home hard and I honestly couldn't watch football since that finished.

"I didn't want to watch anything. When Aston Villa played Derby, I was training. When I found out who went up I was slightly happier."

While Peacock-Farrell was bitterly disappointed, he stresses his mind is clear of negative vibes now and he is determined to play well for Northern Ireland against Estonia on Saturday night in Tallinn.

"Mentally, going into these games is fine because it's a refresh almost," concedes the likeable young goalkeeper, who started his career with Middlesbrough.

"Your form in the league kind of gets forgotten about when you come away. It's a different kind of vibe.

"It's a switch, you go into international mode, you focus and I'm fully focused on playing. Hopefully I get to play. That's what I enjoy the most."

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill will grant Peacock-Farrell his wish at the A Le Coq Arena, but Leeds chief Bielsa may need a little bit more persuading.

Peacock-Farrell has made his views on his club situation known loud and clear - from the rooftop terrace in Tallinn to Elland Road - and now his club future rests in the hands of the proud Yorkshire club.

Fixtures

Saturday: Estonia v Northern Ireland (5pm), Belarus v Germany (7.45pm)

Tuesday: Belarus v Northern Ireland, Germany v Estonia (both 7.45pm)

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