Sunday 30 September 2012

Toffees, Bristol City and takeover titbits

I along with many other supporters didn’t believe that we would get anything out of the Capital One Cup tie against Everton on Tuesday night. A belief that was further strengthened when I saw the team sheets announced on Twitter. A team featuring Fellaini, Mirallas and Naismith would easily overpower and defeat a Leeds team starring the likes of Brown and Pugh I thought. How wrong was I? Brown was strong, sturdy and his tackles stifled the Everton attacks, whilst Danny Pugh gave his best performance for Leeds and was equally as impressive. Both these players have come in for a lot of criticism from myself and many others in the stands, but I’ll hold my hands up and say they performed beyond my expectations on Tuesday. However let’s not kid ourselves that this solves squad problem, as it clearly does not. However if they continue to put in these performances then they could become valuable squad members. Fingers crossed ay.

As for the rest of the team, they all performed admirably. No one had a bad game and for the first half, Everton had nothing to throw at us. Leeds stifled the Toffees and for the first 20 minutes or so would not let them out of their half. And even though, Everton came back into the game in the second half following two changes from David Moyes, Leeds continued their brilliant performance and duly deserved to go through and have their name in the hat for the next round. If i had to pick a player for man of the match however, it would have to go to Diouf. I was among those who didn’t want the Senegalese when he joined the club. But his performances have been nothing short of brilliant for the club since he has joined, whilst his behaviour has been exemplary. Who’d have thought we would have been saying that two months ago? If he carries on like this he will no doubt become a cult hero at Elland Road. It could very well be another Vinnie Jones situation brewing. I enjoyed the atmosphere at the game as well and I am looking forward to the same kind of atmosphere every week if this takeover finally goes through, however more on that in a minute. It was great to sing for Gary Speed once again for 11 minutes and when our fans are in full swing, I don’t think anyone can match them.

This brings me to the Bristol City match. The first half was one of few chances and as Eddie Gray kept mentioning, it was very ‘dour’ or was it ‘dire’? Who knows? However in the second half Leeds managed to break the deadlock with a goal for Diouf. Unfortunately Bristol hit back six minutes later with an impressive diving header from Adomah. The pendulum swung in Bristol’s favour as the home side applied more pressure on Leeds’ back line. However 11 minutes later it was the away side that were back on top, when Diouf calmly slotted under the goalkeeper. Two minutes later on loan midfielder Michael Tongue lashed a shot into the net from outside the box sending the crowd into delirium. I thought we would hold out and head back to Leeds with a plus two goal difference. However a scrappy Austin own goal ensured a few nervy minutes until the referee ended the match sending Leeds home with three points. It was a good win away at Ashton Gate, especially seen as only Blackburn had beaten them on their home patch so far this season. The match rounded up an impressive streak of three victories for Leeds United. The first time we’ve achieved the feat since 2010. Let’s hope we can continue this rich vein of form into the Bolton match at the Reebok on Tuesday night.

As for the takeover, we all know it has taken its sweet time, but developments in the past week or so seem to finally indicate that it’s moving in the right direction. Statements from GFH Capital surely hint that it is all but done, as such statements surely wouldn’t be released if there was lingering doubts. All signs lead to it being completed and announced this week, with tomorrow even being a possibility. Who knows? Monday 1st October could be the start of a new era for Leeds United. New week, new month, new start?

Thursday 20 September 2012

The season so far

So after Leeds’ 3-2 defeat on Tuesday we are in the same position in which we concluded the last campaign. Is this where we all expected? Well before the season started I predicted a 5th place finish on The Scratching Shed but that was dependent on this ‘imminent’ takeover going through. Without it we will obviously struggle but personally I thought we’d be doing slightly better than we are doing right now. I have mentioned many times before that our squad is average at best and it is certainly too small to mount a promotion challenge. But the injuries to Paul Green, David Norris and more recently Ross Mccormack and Luciano Becchio have depleted it even more. Whilst players like Davide Somma and Leigh Bromby have been out since the season begun. There is no doubt in my mind that we have been unlucky with injuries for a few seasons now and it’s just our luck that with the smallest squad I can remember for some time, we have suffered an even higher volume of injuries than in recent seasons.

But they say one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity and these injuries have allowed youngsters to come through and flourish. Dominic Poleon and Sam Byram have come into the team and settled in immediately. Whilst Poleon has only had fleeting appearances, young Byram has become a permanent fixture in the first team and has churned out consistently impressive performances whether that be at right back or on the wing. His goal against Oxford in the cup showed maturity beyond his years and he evidently has confidence in abundance. His finish was composed and outrageous at the same time. If he carries on in the same vein, I believe he will become a very valuable player for us in the future, if he isn’t already, so hands off Norwich. Poleon will no doubt be starting games more often after the recent injuries to the forward line, starting with Forest on Saturday. I hope he can start scoring some goals that his energy and evident skill deserve.

As for the games we have already played, five of the six teams we have played are in the top 8 with bottom of the league Peterborough being the other team in question. First game of the season against Wolves was a great result and in my opinion a very solid performance, the injury to Green being the only sour point that day. Our loss to Blackpool was coming all game as they well and truly dominated the game, but it was still a shame we couldn’t hold onto our slender lead. The victory over Peterborough wasn’t that convincing to be honest but the victory was still deserved. The game against Blackburn was a thriller and it was one I didn’t think we would get anything out of when we went 2-0 down early on. But the lads fought back and showed great character to bring it back and go in front. The back heel surprised everyone and there’s certainly an argument that the free kick leading up to the goal shouldn’t have been. Diouf could and maybe should have won it at the end and with that goal we would be ninth currently. As for Cardiff, I never expected anything as we haven’t beaten them in 28 years and to be honest we didn’t deserve the three points but we could have certainly drawn the game. Bellamy’s free kick was brilliant but Michael Tongue didn’t have to commit the foul, whilst I don’t think it was a penalty for their second goal. The defending in the Hull game was reminiscent of last season and all in all it was a depressing night, with Poleon being really the only shining light.

So all in all we could have and maybe should have got all three points against Blackburn and without a silly mistake and a contentious refereeing decision against Cardiff could have got a point and maybe all three. You need a little bit of luck in this game and we certainly aren’t getting a fair share of it at the minute. With this takeover still chugging away in the background, I hope it is completed fairly soon, so that Warnock can get whatever is left available. If it is completed then hopefully Warnock can keep us in contention until January when we can hopefully strengthen the squad and maybe mount a promotion challenge. However until it materialises, I can’t see us challenging this season, with our threadbare squad and mounting injuries. Let’s hope these rumours of completion this week are correct and we can finally start thinking about football once again, after all, that’s what everyone else is doing.


Saturday 1 September 2012

Transfer window slams shut, as takeover saga continues

The transfer window closed last night at 11pm with Leeds managing to hang on to their key players for once, however they failed to add to a depressingly small squad. Fans had to endure one time targets sign for our Championship rivals, and with so many teams strengthening it’s hard to see us challenging this season. Of course there is always the hope that we are taken over and that we strengthen in January and do a Reading. Or that the takeover is concluded in time for us to delve into the oh so familiar emergency loan market and acquire players with a view to permanent deals either in January or at the end of the season. But the frightening reality is that our squad cannot handle back to back Saturday and midweek games. It is too small and the quality outside of the first eleven too average for us to hope we can go to the likes of Forest, Cardiff and even Bristol City and continue to pick up results.

Warnock is no doubt as annoyed as us that he hasn’t been able to strengthen. A poster on WACCOE who is well respected and was deemed ‘kosher’ by the LUST chairman Gary Cooper confirmed as much last night when he posted that Warnock has already resigned ‘once this summer, but was persuaded by Harvey and the buyers to stay’ and that ‘he will be gone if bates is still presiding over next summer’. This to me proves that the Warnock resigning rumours earlier this summer were certainly true, whilst the poster also revealed rather interestingly that the ‘buyers have been in contact with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. Presumably this is to get information on how to deal with Ken Bates and the best tactics if you will to acquire the club. This to me is a great sign, I think that it shows that our potential new owners are business savvy and doing all they can to purchase the club.

There is of course other information given by that poster and others on WACCOE but I’ll let you seek that out for yourself, I would recommend every Leeds fan to do so as there is information that many of you should, but probably do not know. Moving back to the transfer window, I can’t help but look back and imagine what sort of team we could have had right now. I do think that the back five is the best we had in years, but imagine adding the likes of Howson, Snodgrass and Gradel to our midfield, whilst having players such as Beckford, Johnson, Clayton and Delph in reserve. Whilst I think that the situations with Beckford and Delph can be excused if not condoned, as I feel that Beckford was always going to end up in the Premiership and we should be glad that we held on for as long as we did. Whilst Delph was the first in a long line of players to leave and we couldn’t really turn down the reported amount of money whilst in League 1. The situation with the other players could have easily been avoided. Instead of signing the likes of Vayrynen and Pugh we should have been offering new contracts to our best players.

It really is inexcusable what has happened at Elland Road over the past few years and there isn’t any words that exist that could describe how we all feel about the current situation and what we have had to suffer over the last seven years. Fans are sick of it and many have ideas of how to try and show our feelings. Chants, banners, flags, peaceful protests and ideas such as sitting in the centre circle before a game or lining up outside Elland Road and not going into the games, but the main problem is that many are struggling to agree on what the right course of action is. We aren’t marching on together in the same direction at the moment and that is all down to one thing, and until that disappears the majority of supporters will not be happy and we will not be united as one.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Leeds win but lack of depth still key issue

Leeds overcame a poor Peterborough on Saturday to record their second win of the season. Two goals from in-form Luciano Becchio were enough, although a late scare materialised when the opposition got one back. In all honesty we should have scored more. Peterborough’s defence was comical at times and I lost count of the amount of times they gave the ball away. But sadly Leeds were guilty of this also, with neither side getting a strong foothold in the game for long enough to dominate. Our defence held firm for most of the game once again which is great, but it’s in attack where we seem to struggle.

We could and should have scored more with Ross and Becchio coming close a few times but our options of the bench are minimal at best. We have no game changers. We are relying on youngsters to change a game, which is a big ask for season debutants Sam Byram and Dominic Poleon. Don’t get me wrong, Sam did very well when he came on and had a few chances to score whilst Poleon didn’t really get long to shine. But we shouldn’t be looking to them or should I say relying on them for goals. I know I keep repeating myself, but until we get investment I can’t see us doing much this season. I think even just one or two more injuries and we are really stuck. Imagine losing Ross and Austin or Pearce and Peltier, we would be in big trouble. I know it’s all hypothetical but the fact we are not prepared for such eventualities worries me.

As for the whole takeover saga, there hasn’t really been any news this week. The Pen4Ken idea is harmless fun and a way of trying to take our minds off the whole saga. I think it’s a brilliant campaign, but I can’t see it achieving much. But at least we’re trying to force Kenneth’s hand. In truth we don’t know what’s holding this deal up, it’s all rumour and until it concludes one way or another we will still be in the dark. Gary Cooper has plans of maybe writing a book about the whole process, that’s certainly something I would read and I’m sure some of its contents will be unbelievable to say the least. But there’s also a strong possibility we won’t ever find out what’s been going on, that could well be one of the sticking points in the deal right now.

Personally I think that we will hear some more developments this week (fingers crossed) with the transfer market coming to a close this Saturday. Many fans think he will sign just after it closes, as one last dig at us ‘morons’ but even if that does happen I’m sure we could get some loans with a view to buy in January so it’s not too much of a loss. Either way I just cannot wait until the next chapter in the clubs life, one that will hopefully be prosperous.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Rogers loaned to Stevenage as squad looks dangerously thin

Robbie Rogers joined League 1 Stevenage today in a deal that will see him stay at the Boro until the New Year. This deal has surprised many fans, myself included because we look to have a very thin squad. The injury of Green has further highlighted it whilst Warnock himself is wary of the situation. When asked if this squad could last the whole season he replied ‘No, not a cat in hells chance. If we went to Peterborough and lost Pearce and Austin I don’t know what we’d do’.  Which begs the question, why send Rogers out on loan. Tuesday night at Blackpool showed that we lack creativity, especially on the wings, so I can’t believe that we have loaned him out to be honest.

Could it be to finance Diouf’s contract? Or a loan signing? Maybe so, but we are then still in the same position with a lack of depth in the squad. One in one out doesn’t solve the problem. I know the real problem here is the lack of a signature on a certain piece of paper, but until that materialises, we are stuck with what we’ve got. I think Rogers should have been given a chance and I would have rather had him on the bench than Danny Pugh on Tuesday night that’s for sure. He hasn’t been given a chance at Leeds in all honesty and I for one hope he puts in some good performances for Stevenage and earns himself a recall, because personally I think we need him.

So who does that leave at the club who can come on and grab a goal if we need one? A 34 year old journeyman and an unproven 18 year old, brilliant isn’t it? I really hope one of them can surprise us all and turn out to be a goal machine, but I can’t see it can you? We need this investment fast. With only 8 days left of the transfer window, Neil is looking at that familiar friend, the emergency loan system to grab us some premier league cast offs. Don’t get me wrong some of them could turn out great, but I’m sure all of us remember Jake Livermore and Andros Townsend. This whole takeover business has really taken the proverbial now and I’m sure every Leeds fan is as frustrated as I am. A potential successful future is just within our grasp but one man is standing in the way. Let’s hope he picks up a pen soon otherwise the future of Leeds United could be a very bleak one.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Solid Leeds beat Wolves as league campaign begins

A crowd of 23,745 and many more watching on television saw a strong, sturdy and impressive performance against recently relegated Wolves. Before the game, many fans didn’t know what to expect. With 10 new faces to the squad, we knew they would need time to gel, but what we witnessed was a side playing as a team from the off. We defended as a team and restricted Wolves to half chances throughout the game. Paddy Kenny didn’t really have a save to make, whilst Pearce and Peltier were strong and composed at the back. Aidy White did well, but I personally prefer him on the wing, which is where I expect him to play on Tuesday. As for Sam Byram, he impressed everyone. After a nervous start, where he slipped on the turf, he grew from strength to strength. He was aggressive in the tackle, in a fair way I must add and for the majority of the game had former Premier League winger Matt Jarvis in the back of his pocket. What really impressed me about him however was his composure on the ball. He had a few nervy clearances, which is expected for an 18 year old on his league debut at Elland Road. But he had the composure to turn on the ball under pressure and then clear on his stronger foot. Most of our defence last season wouldn’t have even tried such a thing. So yeah I was very impressed with his performance and let’s hope it continues.

As for the midfield one man stood out from the rest for me and that was Rodolph Austin. He was everywhere. He was back helping the defence with sliding tackles and acrobatic clearances, whilst at the same time setting up counter attacks with his clearances. He was another who was very composed on the ball. My only worry is that he may tire as the season progresses, because he was already half way through a season with SK Brann. Luke Varney (who I totally forgot about in my last article when predicting the team) just kept on running. I was impressed with his work rate and whilst his heavy touch when through on goal, prevented a goal scoring chance, he looked a good player. His link up play with McCormack impressed me as well. Something I think that will be key for us this season. Norris had a steady game, he had some good touches and broke up a few attacks and I think that he’s a good acquisition. Unfortunately Green picked up an injury after a good performance. He was back helping Byram whilst also supplementing the attacks. Let’s hope his injury is not too serious.

This is where Diouf came in. His introduction was greeted with a mixed response and I personally was in the camp that wasn’t impressed with seeing him in a Leeds shirt. I didn’t boo him as I just wouldn’t jeer Leeds players, but I didn’t applaud his entrance either. However his performance did impress me. He looks strong and held the ball up very well, taking the pressure off us when Wolves had their strongest period near the end of the game. The crowd warmed to him and after the game he threw his shirt into the Kop. Does this mean he isn’t signing a contract? Personally I think he just loved the adulation. If he does sign up then he will have to put in a lot more performances like that to be accepted by the vast majority. But he certainly showed what he has in his locker.

McCormack had a good game, his touch is sublime to say the least and the way he controlled Paddy’s pass to him in the lead up to the goal was brilliant. His cross in to Becchio was perfectly timed and Luciano finished it sublimely. Becchio worked hard and didn’t go down s easily as he has done in the past which is something that Neil will have drummed into him. The front two linked up well and long may it continue throughout the season.

I came away from the match very happy. We came out of a tough fixture with a clean sheet and a good performance. I firmly believe that will be one of our hardest games this season and the three points will be a massive boost the players. Whilst Wolves piled on the pressure more near the end, we kept our shape and they didn’t have any clear cut chances. All in all a solid performance that we need to take into the match against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road on Tuesday night. I expect to see Drury at left back on Tuesday and Tom Lees back in the centre with Peltier on the right. Sam Byram tired near the end and I expect Neil to rest him. I think he’ll push White up into midfield to replace Green and keep everything else the same. I think we’ll be a tough team to beat this season and if we finish off our chances we could do well this year, who knows, this could be the start of something very bright and very white for us this season.

Friday 17 August 2012

Ross signs three year deal ahead of Wolves encounter

The news we’d all been waiting to hear (no not that news) finally arrived today, when Ross McCormack signed a new three year deal with the club. “This was always what I wanted to do, it’s perfect timing with the first game of the season being on Saturday, and I was always hopeful that we could get things sorted in time” Ross said. He also added that it’s his 26th birthday tomorrow and here’s to him scoring 26 goals this season, or hopefully even more.

This is brilliant news ahead of the new season. This will hopefully give a huge boost to the rest of the squad and will hopefully spur Ross on to be a key player once again this season. With the captaincy still not decided (publicly at least), Ross is certainly a contender to lead the team out on Saturday and for the rest of the season. Personally I’m not a fan of strikers for the captaincy, I think it should either be a central defender or a central midfielder. I feel they can see the game more and can influence more of the team. However I can certainly see it being given to him as a sweetener maybe in the contract talks.

As for the team against Wolves, I think that despite Sam Byrams impressive performance last Saturday, Warnock will recall Tom Lees to the side to partner Pearce in the centre. This will allow Peltier to play in his favoured position and I think that Adam Drury will play left back. This will allow Aidy White to play on the wing along with Paul Green, with Austin and Norris in the centre and Ross and Becchio up front. As for Paddy Kenny he will of course be in goal. On the bench I think we’ll see Ashdown, Byram, Brown, Pugh, Rogers/Gray, Poleon and Diouf. This does highlight our lack of depth and has many have said a few injuries will really impact our season. But isn’t it about time we got some luck for once? As for the takeover, Gary Cooper is keeping a dignified silence, which could hint we are close to a conclusion; whilst Warnock’s recent comments suggest it won’t be completed before the transfer window closes. Is Warnock bluffing? Who knows, but at least us fans will have something different to talk about once Leeds kick off the new league campaign at 12:45 tomorrow.