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.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Leeds win 4-0 as Diouf signing divides supporters

Leeds overcame a shaky start to run out 4-0 winners against Shrewsbury Town in the first round of the Capital One Cup this afternoon. The Shrews started the game on top and it could be argued were the better side for most of the game. They played some free flowing football at times, but football is a results business and Neil Warnock, the players and the fans won’t mind that the majority if not all the goals came against the run of play. Leeds first goal came immediately after Kenny had saved the ball on his line. Rodolph Austin produced a stinger of a shot that the Shrews goalkeeper managed to parry, but Becchio was on hand to tap the ball into the net to give Leeds the lead. The second came after Ross McCormack saw his shot blocked, but with the rebound managed to find Luke Varney who finished from close range. Incidentally Varney had done well to stay onside during the build up to the goal. Leeds went in at half time two goals to the good.

Captain for the day (and maybe permanently, who knows) Norris made it three in the 65th minute whilst a handball in the box four minutes later gave McCormack a chance to get off the mark this season. He didn’t disappoint and duly converted the spot kick. So a 4-0 win to kick off the season will have pleased everyone associated with Leeds United this afternoon. Brown, Poleon and new man Diouf (who I’ll come to in a minute) all came on later in the second half but neither of them really made an impact. The player who caught everyone’s eye today though was youngster Sam Byram, who has come on leaps and bounds during our pre season campaign. He impressed again today with purposeful runs whilst twisting and turning opponents, getting shots in and producing a solid display at the back. After Eddie Gray asked Neil if his performance had given him food for thought, he answered ‘he’s definitely going to be in our squad, but we’ve just got to be careful, he is a young lad’. He was full of praise for the youngster and after playing in front of 18,000 fans today Warnock said ‘he looked like he had played there all his life’, high praise indeed for the 18 year old.

Austin seems to have fitted in quickly, which is great news, he seemed to not be as involved in the second half, but I think that was down to him playing a deeper role. Paddy Kenny performed some brilliant saves to keep Leeds in the game and is really looking like a key component to our promotion hopes this season. He could prove to be our most solid goalkeeper for years. ‘I wouldn’t swap him for anybody in the country and that’s in the Premiership and Championship’ Warnock said after the game. Whilst I wouldn’t go as far to say that, he will no doubt be a brilliant capture for this division. There were reports that Ross mimicked the signing of a contract in his goal celebration, if that’s true and he does go on to put pen to paper, then that’s a massive boost ahead of the new league campaign. He is a quality player with the ability to make a chance out of nothing and is without a doubt our most important player.

The news that was on everybody’s lips before the game and last night was that El Hadji Diouf had signed for the club. It was confirmed that he had trained with the club by academy player Simon Lenighan I believe, whilst Warnock had hoped to keep the deal quiet. He said of the culprit who leaked the news on Twitter ‘when I see him on Monday he’ll be twittering’, so Simon if it was you, I’d be hiding on Monday. The signing of Diouf on a non-contract deal, i.e. pay as you play, was confirmed prior to kick off. Personally I’m not a fan of Diouf, who has in the past spat at opponents and fans, been convicted for driving offences and arrested for bar brawls. I think he has the potential to upset the dressing room and affect squad morale. The decision to get him on a pay as you play deal is a smart move on Leeds’ behalf, so that if he does step out of line, the club can severe their ties with him. Is it worth the risk? Time will tell, Warnock has a history of getting the best out of players and I sure hope he can tame Diouf for all our sakes.

Neil told Yorkshire Radio that he ‘met him six weeks ago’ and that it ‘wasn’t planned’. He said ‘I told him what I didn’t like about him and yet I told him what I liked about him’. Neil’s past with Diouf is well documented and it looks as though the two have buried the hatchet and that will certainly need to be the case going in to this season. The situation has divided fans once more and I just hope that we get some positive news at the end of this takeover saga to unite us once more. As for the cup campaign, I wouldn’t expect us to go far in the competitions this year as Warnock told YR ‘if it had been on a Tuesday we’d have probably been beaten. I would have played four or five of that squad and that wouldn’t have been good enough against Shrewsbury’. It seems the league campaign is Neils sole priority this year and too right it should be. We need to get out of this division as soon as possible for the long term future of the club. As for the signing of Diouf, let’s hope the icing on Neil’s cake isn’t saliva, because that will surely leave a bitter taste in Leeds fans mouths.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Takeover collapses, what now? Is there still hope?

LUST have confirmed today in an official email to members and to followers on Twitter that the proposed takeover of Leeds United has collapsed. After more than two months of confirmed due diligence the deal has broken down for whatever reason. There are many rumours circulating as to why the breakdown has occurred, but the one that has the most substance is that Bates has changed his demands at the last minute. Adam Pope of BBC Radio Leeds claims that LUST have told him that Bates is an ‘unwilling’ seller and that he has ‘moved the goalposts at the last minute’. I for one firmly believe that this will be the case, with Bates no doubt wanting to still earn out of Leeds after he has gone. Remember that this is what he tried to do at Chelsea, and he is rumoured to still own shares in the hotel at Stamford Bridge.

Well as I am writing this Leeds have released a statement that to me says that takeover talks could still continue but they are willing to listen to other offers. They say the exclusivity agreement is over and that ‘the club remains happy to continue discussions, but not on an exclusive basis, so as not to prevent other options passing’. This could of course all be more spin from the club. Either way I think this takeover saga is far from over. As for what this means for our season, it could very easily all go downhill from here. Crowds will no doubt drop even further and the Bates out chants that players admitted affected them last season, will no doubt be chanted with more venom. The atmosphere at Elland Road could soon get even more venomous if results don’t go our way. The players will feel it and this season could all very soon go down the pan that is League 1.

This is of course one of many scenarios, but with Leeds, it’s the most likely as everything seems to always go against us, especially when we are down. The support has been fantastic these past seven years but I feel that we’ve all finally had enough, and if the truth be told, Bates has taken a chunk from the hearts of all Leeds fans. We seemed to have lost some of that ‘never say die’ attitude, some of that ‘us against the world’, ‘up and at them’ philosophy that has driven this great club on for decades. I for one cannot wait for the day I can just support a football club again and not worry about, what’s happening in the board room. I want us to spend reasonably and within our limits, is that too much to ask? Well I think we all know the answer to that with Bates in charge.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Burton Beaten as Austin and Peltier make debuts.

Leeds United concluded pre-season on Tuesday night with an unbeaten record. The 1-0 victory over Burton Albion was our sixth victory in seven games and whilst all the opposition were of a lower standard then the Npower Championship, pre-season is a time for regaining fitness and bonding as a group. The results were a huge bonus and as Warnock said himself, the lads will no doubt be pumped up for the Shrewsbury fixture and more importantly the Wolves opener.

I’m always optimistic for the season opener, it’s a new start and no matter how bad the pre-season or the outlook seems I can’t help but be excited for a new season and what that may bring. But I’m still undecided about how we will perform this season and where we will ultimately finish. In my eyes the defence is vastly improved on last season. The addition of Peltier, who reports suggest had a good debut and Adam Drury will give us much needed pace in the full back positions. That is something that I can’t remember having on both sides of defence since I’ve supported Leeds. Whilst the addition of Pearce will no doubt shore up the defence with his never say die attitude. I believe he will bring on Tom Lees considerably too and I’m hoping they can both be rock solid this season. I think we still need another defender for back up with Kisnorbo being the only recognised back up in truth. I know we have White who can play left back and Lees and Peltier who can play multiple positions, but that’s not enough.

The midfield is lacking in the creative, attacking quality we had last season. However I think we will be harder to beat this season and that will hopefully start with the midfield stopping attacks where they begin. Austin will be vital for this if he adapts to the English game quick enough. Wolves will be a much harder test then Burton Albion so I’m hoping he produces the goods when it comes to the crunch. Norris hasn’t had a full pre season, so I don’t know if I expect him to start much at the beginning of the season, Green has shown glimpses of creativity and if he can set up the attacks whilst getting stuck in on the tackling side I’ll be happy. We all know what Michael Brown does and if he can stay out of the book (wishful thinking I know) he could surprise us this season, who knows. Warnock knows him well and even if he doesn’t impress on the pitch, his influence on the rest of the squad could prove invaluable. Robbie Rogers seemed to start pre-season well but hasn’t got much game time in recent weeks. I for one would like him to be given more of a chance. As for Pugh, well Pugh’s.....Pugh.

Ross McCormack and Luciano Becchio are key this season. Their partnership needs to be blossoming from day one, and they need to be banging those goals in. McCormack can create a chance out of anything and loves a shot, whilst Becchio is probably the best header of a ball in the opposition’s box I’ve seen at Leeds. Andy gray hasn’t exactly lit up the games he’s played in, but is apparently one of the fittest at the club so should give his all. Somma should be back around October- December time, but I’m not sure he’ll be the same player. He suffered a similar injury to the one that finished off Bridges and the omens don’t look good.

The youngsters have looked promising with Sam Byram and Dominic Poleon impressing. As Warnock has said himself, I think the youngsters will feature quite heavily this season, so let’s hope their youthful exuberance and ability can help us across the line this season. We need a tricky winger, a striker and another defender, and then I’ll be more confident in our ability to win games and challenge this season. Let’s hope Warnock gets his icing and his cherries to finish off his sturdy looking, but rather plain cake.

Leeds draw 1-1, O’Brien heads to Canada and Billy heads to Doncaster on trial.

Leeds contested a 1-1 draw with Norwegian second tier club Sandefjord on Wednesday night. Jason Pearce was on target again for the Whites and I for one am hoping that he continues pitching in with the goals when the Championship season begins. Warnock described the game as ‘a good workout’ and used the game as an opportunity to ‘try different things’. It was also the first appearance for new signing David Norris in a Leeds shirt, who will have been happy to get some game time under his belt.

 As it stands I’m not sure who Warnock intends to start in his midfield on the opening day of the league campaign against Wolves or even the Capital One cup game against Shrewsbury in nine days time. I think Rodolph Austin will be one of the central pair as he will be match fit and from what I’ve seen could be a massive asset for us this season. But who he pairs him up with I’m not sure. It’s good that we have options especially if Brown signs a new contract. I think White will start on the right as he has been during pre season with Varney on the left, which when compared to Gradel and Snodgrass, doesn’t set your heart racing. However I think if we get a right back in, preferably Peltier then I think we will be a lot harder to beat this season, which will certainly be an improvement on last season’s defensive frailties.

Andy O’Brien has had his contract terminated by mutual consent, so that he could complete his move to Canadian based MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps. O’Brien impressed initially in his Leeds career but his performances deteriorated drastically which coincided with personal problems that the defender was experiencing. He was also rumoured to be one of the highest earners at Leeds which would make sense, since he joined us from then Premier League Bolton Wanderers. This will make extra funds available to Warnock to maybe offer Ross a better deal or offer to an incoming player.

Blackpool have decided against taking Billy from us as his trial was terminated less than a week after joining them. He has now reportedly gone to Doncaster Rovers on another trial as Leeds try to get him off the wage bill. Personally I think Billy’s level is league 1 and hopefully he can rediscover his scoring boots for whoever he ends up plying his trade with next season. In terms of incomings, Warnock has hinted a new signing could feature against Preston on Saturday. ‘I’m hopeful we will have someone in’, ‘we’ve been working on one or two things. A lot of players have been mentioned and until we get it on the dotted line I don’t really like talking about anyone’. Well let’s hope he gets the players in that he wants, because with the season approaching, I think our squad is lacking in depth and the required quality to get us promoted come May. Of course as always, I hope I’m proven wrong, but the signing of Peltier or another similar quality defender is needed along with another three quality signings at the very least. Then I think we can realistically think about challenging this season.