By Josh Grainger
Tonight sees high flying Leicester City visit Elland Road, 12 months on since Leeds and football legend Gary Speed tragically took his own life. I’ll never forget my initial thoughts upon hearing the tragic news, the day before I remember watching Gary on BBC’s football focus, I recall tweeting ‘Gary Speed hasn’t aged a single bit’.
On a frosty Sunday morning, I remember seeing a post on facebook from a friend stating ‘Gary Speed is dead.’ What a load of absolute rubbish I remember thinking, he’s not dead, he was fine yesterday on the television, with that famous twinkle in his eyes, but then my fears were confirmed. I checked the BBC Sport website to see if these ‘rumours’ were true, and then I saw the headline – “WALES MANAGER SPEED FOUND DEAD”. My heart sank, part of me still didn’t believe it, how could this of happened. The weeks after the news, was one of the times where football unites, similarly to the Muamba situation.
It doesn’t seem right, switching back to talking about football, however a year on Leeds face a difficult fixture against Leicester City. Leeds come into the game on the back of an impressive 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace at the weekend, the first game of the GFH Capital era. Tonight’s fixture may be every bit just as difficult as the Palace match, the Foxes don’t sit 3rd in the table for no reason.
The game presents another opportunity for Leeds to banish their ‘Tuesday night hoodoo’, the last time the Whites won in the league in a midweek encounter was almost a year ago, when Simon Grayson
guided Leeds to a 4-0 victory away at Nottingham Forest. That game will be remembered as it was United’s first fixture after the passing of Speed, Leeds fans will be hoping the current side will produce a similar display tonight.
Leicester are looking for their third straight victory tonight, their last two results have been particularly
impressive, with a 6-0 thrashing of Ipswich, followed by a 2-0 away win at Sheffield Wednesday. Whilst Leeds’ recent form has been poor to say the least, the recent victory against Crystal Palace will have injected some much needed confidence back into the squad.
Leeds are likely to field the same starting 11 that beat Crystal Palace last weekend, Ross McCormack is likely to start on the bench again in his return from injury, however could possibly be in line for a return to the starting 11. New loanees, Alan Tate and Jerome Thomas are expected to keep their places after impressive debuts, Michael Brown who came off the bench at the weekend may return to the starting 11, Ryan Hall and Aidan White will both hope to return to the starting line-up, however Michael Tonge is expected to retain his place out wide. Leeds captain Lee Peltier is in line to face his former side for the first time since leaving Leicester in the summer.
Leicester will be without David Nugent and Sean St Ledger, however have no other injury worries for tonight’s fixture. Kasper Schmeichel will return to Elland Road for the second time since joining the Foxes from Leeds. Leicester have a number of players that have the ability to cause Leeds problems, Jamie Vardy was signed from Fleetwood Town and has hit the net 3 times since. Pacey winger, Lloyd Dyer will need to be watched, whilst young attacking midfielder, Anthony Knockaert has impressed since signing for the Foxes in the summer window.
Overall, either team could come away with three points tonight, however in my opinion, Leeds’ new lease of confidence will guide them to victory. I think the Whites will run out 3-1 winners over the Foxes, with Luciano Becchio, Jerome Thomas and Paul Green scoring the goals.
Before I finish, I’d just like to personally pay my respects to Gary Speed, I know he’ll be watching tonight and I hope we can put on a performance in his honour. I’d like to also send out my thoughts to Gary’s family, particularly his wife and two children, in what must be a difficult time.