By Keith Ingham
The appointment of a new captain at Leeds United was welcome news for most supporters of the club. The talismanic Scottish striker had earlier in the season struggled with the 'diamond' formation Brian McDermott was using, with the player used in front of the midfield and even though it was tough at times he still weighed in with some important goals, the equaliser against Wednesday, where he passed the ball to himself then coolly slotted the ball inside the right upright and the winner down at Ipswich.
Fans like myself clammed for his rightful place upfront after a indifferent run of results where goals were proving difficult and failed transfer bids from Middlesbrough made the board improve his existing contract. To keep a player instead of selling him was a welcome change from years before, where players regularly left the club much to the annoyance of fans.
Ross came from Cardiff City where he was key member of the side until there seemed to be a fall out with the then manager. Leeds fans, myself included couldn't wait to see him regularly getting in the goals in the white of Leeds. His first season was one of frustration where the formation of 4-5-1 with a certain Argentinian leading the line and his opportunities were limited. When he did get the chance I always thought he gave his all and in the game against Burnley he scored the only goal to get Leeds that three points.
A lot of people thought he might leave but while others moved on for the bright lights of the Premier League, Ross was content in the knowledge he was at a big club already so why move on. The season after he scored nineteen goals and was
a revelation and his celebrations showed fans where his heart lay. He was Leeds and bloody proud of it. When Warnock came I hoped for another good season but the manager seemed content in knocking the confidence of the player and I think as a result his performances dropped because of the constant 'sniping' by the Cornishman.
We needed a leader, a man that showed that playing for the club meant something and was an example, fly tipping apart that others could look up to. Rudy Austin's performances of late have been disappointing because of the weight of the captaincy proved just too much for the Jamaican. I hope now we can see the Austin of old because he is on his day a excellent box to box midfielder.
I wish the captain good luck because in Leeds' history when the captain was a Scottish one, a certain Billy Bremner usually a few trophies followed. And in the week when the club lost a legend in the death of Bobby Collins it is hoped that Ross McCormack can follow both Billy's and Bobby's example and lead the club to better times. The advertising boards around Elland Road have been warned !.
On On On
By Rob Atkinson
The Foxes are on the prowl in Leeds this weekend, looking for easy prey, slavering and snapping at the tell-tale scent of blood which betrays the presence of a wounded and defenceless beast - or at least some hapless chickens come home to roost.
The potential victim of choice is Leeds United, mortally savaged last weekend when a soft underbelly was ruthlessly exposed as they rolled over and surrendered at Hillsborough. Slinking away to lick their wounds, Leeds have spent the week since trying to marshall spent energies for a last-ditch defence of their territory, readying themselves for an attack from the top pack out there. Sadly, it promises to be an unequal battle.
But now we'll leave behind us this already over-stretched "battle of nature" metaphor, before it gets too gory and messy for the requirements of good taste. We all know we're up against it this weekend, and that if things go anywhere near as spectacularly wrong as they did in darkest Sheffield last week, it could be bloody carnage in LS11. And yet there is hope springing from out of the mists of time, and the one thing above all that any beleaguered team or manager needs is a little hope.
That historical glimmer of light shining wanly through the gloom takes us back to the last time we let in half a dozen at Wednesday. On that occasion, having capitulated 6-2, Leeds were required to bounce back swiftly as Man U rolled into town seeking to take advantage of our reduced state. Well, we won 3-1 on that memorable Christmas Eve, with tomorrow's opposition keeper's dad in goal and with our strike-force serving us well, so who's to say we can't spring a comparable shock just over 18 years later? Alright, common-sense and the formbook are two that spring to mind, but let's not abandon ALL hope - not just yet.
Whatever recent form or historical precedent might tell us, there's little doubt that Leeds United are the underdogs this weekend - and perhaps, after failing against nominal inferiors last time out, this is just what they need. There is also the small matter of a change of leadership on the field - or, as some would bitterly point out, the introduction of some leadership, a quality notable by its absence in the last two craven performances. Ross McCormack has long been identifiable as a man who carries the club in his heart and wears that heart on his sleeve. Striker or no, there can be no better candidate among the current crop for a captain's role - and there may even be a bonus in the shape of a return to form for Rudy Austin, freed to concentrate simply on playing. If Austin could produce a performance comparable to his single-handed subduing of Birmingham City a while back, then all bets are off. Rudy was almost unplayable that day, as the rest of the team benefited from his industry and commitment. So the change of skipper could be a double-edged and beneficial sword - and we may look also for the galvanising effect of a "clear the air" meeting in the wake of humiliation.
A change of formation could also be on the cards, now that we have two wingers to (we hope) create havoc down both flanks. The downside to that is the loss of battering-ram Matt Smith, who is suspended after an appeal against his red card last week was, unsurprisingly to anyone who has followed United's run-ins with authority, summarily dismissed. So Smith is out, and there is a vacancy in attack alongside Captain Ross if we ARE to go 4-4-2. Whispers are abroad that the mystery transfer target Brian McDermott was having a chat with yesterday might just be a certain Argentinean who left us to become Becchio the Benchwarmer of Carrow Road - and that would certainly solve a problem or two, though it's a little late in the day now for new blood to be available for the Leicester test.
There is, on the other hand, new blood in the Leicester City ranks - though that new blood is of the distinctly old variety as veteran Kevin Phillips arrives from Crystal Palace to threaten Leeds' wobbly defence. It is this factor that worries me above all; Phillips is the kind of man who you suspect will make an instant impact, even if it's off the bench. Elland Road before the TV cameras is a scenario made in heaven for the lethal finisher, and you wouldn't bet against him harming our heroes at some point. Recent form is as good for Leicester as it is bad for Leeds, with the Foxes having slain the Rams last week, City beating Derby by a convincing 4-1.
So, there are many reasons to worry about this home fixture - though we should bear in mind that we already have a point in the bag from Leicester in an early-season stalemate that we could even have won near the end. You suspect that all of a Whites persuasion would be happy to see another point tomorrow; it's an outcome some optimistic urge in me is tempted to forecast. But taking everything into account, with a determined Son of Schmeichel in goal for the Foxes and prepared to throw himself at everything to avenge his dad's defeat in that Christmas Eve win over Man U; with the X-Factor of Finisher Phillips in the mix and with all of the trauma currently surrounding Leeds United - I will reluctantly go for a routine away win as the Whites battle hard but are undone by a frankly better squad.
0-2 for me, a goal at some point for Old Man Kevin, fresh from the Palace - and some honour in defeat to be garnered from what I confidently expect to be a much-improved performance. Now come on, Leeds - you proved me wrong last week. Get those sleeves rolled up and do it again!
By Shaun Stone
With Leeds hosting the Championship leaders, Leicester City at the weekend, many fans are nervous about this encounter. Their uncertainty of the outcome of this game is encouraged by our poor performances in recent games among other reasons.
Whereas I understand the anxiety of the fans ahead of this game, I also feel that this game could also be the start of something special for Leeds United - the confidence boost to kick-start a decent run. Has anyone actually given a thought to us winning this game? Is it really such a hard task? Given the results from our last few games and the effort that was put in, it is fair to say that a mutual football fan would not be hopeful of a Leeds United victory.
Well, I am not a mutual football fan and I think we can beat anyone in this league if we are playing like we can. Hopefully the meeting last Sunday between the coaching staff and the squad achieved something and both manager and players were able to reach an understanding of what is going wrong.
With this in mind, I am confident that we will be a different team to what we have shown over the past few weeks. It is easy to pass judgement on the team for their lack of effort, but we all know that we have the best support in the land. So, let us show this again at the weekend and support the team.
We need the players to perform at their best and in turn, they need us to support them at our best.
By Andy Gregory
Brian McDermott has named Ross McCormack as Leeds United's new Captain, replacing Rudy Austin following discussions this week.
It is understood that Austin asked to step down as captain, so he can concentrate on his own game. To be honest after recent performances, most fans would agree that is something he needs to do following some poor showings of late.
Hopefully the introduction of Rossco as skipper coinciding with Bmac's new 'back to basics' philosophy will give us a kick start and help us put an end to a dismal run of games, which hit a new low last week at Hillsborough.
The appointment has generally received a positive reaction from our fans, with the club's leading goalscorer being one of the only players to come out with any credit recently, so here's hoping he can help to encourage others to follow his lead in his new role.
McCormack's first game as skipper is against table toppers Leicester on Saturday at Elland Road... Should be an easy game to start off with then.
Bmac on Rudy:
“The situation is that I had a good conversation with Rudy Austin. He is a great guy and we had a good discussion. I want Rudy to play his game. He feels his personality isn’t conducive to that role.
"You can see his leadership qualities in the way he plays and tracks back. Leeds United means so much to him. I just want to take that pressure away and I want him to play the way he wants with freedom.
“I actually spoke to Ross in April and said ‘we need leaders and you are leader.’ Whether he saw himself as a leader then I don’t know. “I see him as a talisman and a leader. He has matured an awful lot, everyone knows what he thinks he about Leeds United.”
By Keith Ingham
Wednesday the 15th of January 2014 could actually be start of a new beginnings for the Yorkshire club. Reuters, the news agency announced early that day 'GFH were to sell a percentage of the club to British investors'. Although not named it is generally thought that a consortium including David Haigh and Andrew Flowers were to finally agree a deal to receive around 75% of the clubs shares with GFH still holding on to a 'percentage'. Confused ? You could well think that because deals surrounding the club have never been far from your headlines. It was quite clear from the offset that the company who purchased the club off that nice Mr Bates never really had a vast amount of money to invest itself. It was an investment bank and although not completely versed in these matters it seems they buy a company then ask others to invest in their investment. To use the word 'flipping' is probably harsh but they (GFH) have been content to keep the running of the club in a sensible way and after previous owners have done the opposite it may have been the sensible way.
The board did back the manager with some signings. Noël Hunt, Matt Smith and a one million pound player was bought. Luke Murphy was the clubs first million pond player since 2005. Other players have come in since then. Scott Wootton, another rumoured million pound signing and Marius Zaliukas have come in with funding from within the company. Since the rumour of another takeover the consortium involved has allegedly invested six million pounds in 'running' the club. They also provided funds for the signing, albeit on a ninety three day loan Cameron Stewart and also Jimmy Kebe on a loan from Crystal Palace. These players will no doubt be costing the club a considerable sum as both were on Premiership wages.
It is hoped that Football League approval is granted as soon as the necessary paper work is forthcoming as it would be a statement of intent if the new owners brought in a signing that gave the fans a fresh impetus after a horrendous set of results ended with one of the most embarrassing performances I've ever had the misfortune to witness. There is much to do at the club, we do not own Elland Road or Thorpe Arch, these must be high on any investment company's list do things 'to do'.
One thing that is certain this should be the last takeover for the club, a period of stability has to be achieved and if this means at least another season in the Championship so be it. The summer will see at least seven players either leave or be offered new contracts. Even at low estimates as much as three million could be raised by this alone. We have a manager that most fans still believe in even after such a poor run and with careful investments in the playing staff in January, Leeds United could be still be in the race for the coveted top six place come the month of May.
The board I hope will be bold enough to continue to back the manager financially and if they do before the too long exile of the club from the top flight will finally be ended.
The hopes and dreams of thousands of fans rest with you.
On On On
By Seán Ryan
Ok I have finally calmed down enough to write the article that was brewing in my head as I sat at home with my Dad to watch what I thought would be the end to our bad run of form against Sheffield Wednesday. Dear Lord could I have been further from the truth? Living in Ireland sometimes has its benefits when it comes to being a Leeds fan because if I were in Leeds I’d be locked up for multiple counts of murder. That was the most shambolic, disgraceful, hopeless, heartless and disgusting display I have EVER seen from a Leeds United team. I was left looking at the TV in complete and utter shock. I was forced to leave the room for five minutes because I was repeatedly screaming at the television as if it would make a difference. “Put in a f*****g tackle Austin, you useless p****” seemed to be the most common. My dad, a Leeds fan since 1964, was in total disbelief. He has followed Leeds nearly all his life and he was shell-shocked.
I was ashamed. For the first time in my life I was afraid to say to people I supported Leeds United. That shouldn’t happen. We are famous for sticking with our team to the end, but for the first time I can remember the fans started to leave when Lavery scored to make it five. It had looked like the perfect fixture to get us out of the rut we were in. A local derby against a team that will probably go down, perfect timing. But instead we rolled over and died. It all looked so promising. Two wingers signed. Actual wingers. It was like Christmas all over again. Kebe and Stewart are decent players, but BMAC’s formation did them no favours. The team looked like they had never played together before. Kenny was at fault for the third goal, but there wasn’t much he could do for the others. Pearce tried and worked his arse off, but he was doing the job of three. Zaliukas was atrocious. I’m getting angry again just thinking about it. Lees looked lost. Pelts and Pugh were awful and gutless. Johnson, our former player, tore Pugh to bits. Kebe was lacking match fitness and confidence. Stewart wouldn’t tackle. Mowatt tried, but he needed someone beside him. Austin. Gutless, afraid, disgraceful, pulled out of tackles, gave the ball away the list goes on. If I were the manager he’d be gone. It was that bad. McCormack tried, but had nothing to work with.
The game's over, but it should never be forgotten. The players owe it to the fans after the last two performances to respond with a decent game against Leicester, but a win may be a bit of a stretch. Austin and Zaliukas especially need to prove why they should be in the side. A change of captain is essential because it could release Austin from everything except playing. McCormack has been ok the last few games, but not even close compared to what he was at in the first stage of the season. There is one positive from the Sheffield Wednesday game. It couldn’t possible get any worse. And now we’ll probably lose seven nil to Leicester. Well the only way is up.
On On On
By Mike Courtney
Right, let's get yesterday out of the way first. Yes it was humiliating, yes it was embarrassing and yes there are some players wearing the shirt that just aren't up to scratch. An awful lot has been written already about the hammering Wednesday doled out to us. The fact that it was live on Sky for all to see makes the defeat harder to take. Already the doom and gloom merchants are out and some are even calling for the head of BMAC. I read one comment from a fan on this site saying that "I reckon Colin, with the backing BM's had, would have done better than this".
How quickly he forgets that it was "Colin" that assembled most of the squad that we are now lumbered with and that the humiliating defeats against Watford and Forest came under his watch. Also if Warnock was still in charge he would be blaming everyone but himself. At least BMAC is man enough to say that he got the formation wrong. And how wrong it was. Playing 3 centre backs with only 2 central midfielders left us exposed to the quick counter attack for which we were well and truly punished. If BMAC wants to persist with the 3 at the back he has to play 3 in the middle to protect them. Bringing in the two new boys and leaving Ross isolated up front on his own was a mistake.
If he wanted to play the new signings then 4-4-2 with Smith up alongside Ross should have been the obvious choice. No point in having wide men swinging in crosses to one of the smallest men on the park. When I saw the line up I could not for the life of me figure out what formation we were going to play. We essentially had 4 wide men on the team with no target to aim for.
An awful lot went wrong yesterday, what could go wrong did go wrong. I was sat watching approaching half time thinking if we can get in at just one down the changes will be made and we would have a shot. As it happened we were lucky to go in just 2 down and when Smith was red carded at the start of the second half I texted a friend and said it could be 5 or 6. Sadly I was right. The manager and the players do have a lot of soul searching and thinking to do because if we don't get this turned around fairly quickly the season will be gone from us by the end of the month.
The players and management have a great chance to redeem themselves and get the season back on track with the visit of table-topping Leicester to Elland Road next week. The form that we are in since just before Christmas doesn't auger well but we have seen this before from teams in this League that when they are up against it that is when they pull a result out of the fire. That's what needs to happen next weekend. Bmac has to get his team selection right. Smith will be missing, the appeal against his red card will fail because it was merited, so we he will have to find a partner for Ross up front. It will most likely be a straight choice between Varney and Poleon, neither of whom have set the world on fire this season. Byram has to come in at right back, Peltier just doesn't do it for me. Take any 2 from Lees, Zaliukas and Pearce at Centre Back and though Danny Pugh has impressed as a wing back I would bring back Warnock in a flat back four.
I wasn't convinced by the two new signings yesterday but as they were thrown in at the deep end in a flawed formation I reckon they should get another shot against the league leaders to show what they can bring to the team. Centre midfield is a problem. Alex Mowatt looked slow and burnt out yesterday as did Rudy. Our options are limited. We need someone who can control the game and unfortunately we just don't have that player. Luke Murphy doesn't impose himself on the game enough, Brown and Tonge are well past their sell by date and Paul Green is just returning from injury. We need energy in that department and with Rudy doing his Jeckyll and Hyde impressions of late we just don't have that type of player. This is where investment is required. We need a player with vision, skill, pace, power and the ability to control proceedings. We were overrun yesterday by a very average team and I shudder to think what will happen against the runaway league leader if we don't get the formation, attitude and desire right before next weekend.
There is a lot of work to be done this week by the management, the players and the money men. We should be able to compete in the market now with the alleged new investment, yet all we have to show for it is two loanees. True investment means bringing in quality players that are badly needed. A commanding defender, a quality play maker in the middle of the field and a goal scorer to ease the burden on RossMac. Now is the time to do it before the season gets away from us and we hear those dreaded words "We are building for next season".
There is still hope. A good run of results can see us make the top six. There was true optimism before Christmas that this could be our year. A string of bad results and poor performances has severely dented that optimism but I think the season can still be saved. I do think BMAC is the right man to get us there. He needs to reinvigorate the squad with quality signings and he needs to do it now. There will be no new additions before the Leicester game so he knows what he has to work with. Hopefully he will earn his wages and get the squad back to where we were in December. The players need to stand up and fight for the shirt and the club and the fantastic support that they are getting. Now is the time to get our season going again. Can we do it? That remains to be seen. Its along way between now and the end of the season. The next few games are season defining. I can only hope that by the end of January we will still have something to play for and won't be looking over our shoulders at the wrong end of the table.
MOT Leeds Leeds Leeds
By Mark Rasdall
Like many Leeds United fans I woke up yesterday morning with a fresh spring in my step. We had finally signed two genuine wingers with 'pace to burn' by all accounts and who would give us width and finally decent service to Matt Smith. I hadn't expected both of them to play from the start but did think they'd appear at Sheffield Wednesday at some point.
For fans of LUFC it is never dull and things rarely run according to the best-laid plans or expectations. Stewart and Kebe both started the game - despite some initial and understandable concerns about their fitness levels, familiarity with the team and so on - but Matt Smith was left on the bench. We were sort of playing a back three with Peltier and Pugh pushing on to give us width we should surely now have had in abundance?
I can't dwell on what happened next as the images are too stark and upsetting. Alcohol has helped to dull the pain but still the horror film rolls at the back of my mind...
I trust Brian McDermott implicitly. I like him and like the respect he shows for others but I didn't understand his tactics yesterday. To me it smacked of the terrible run of form we've had recently and him getting carried away with having not one but two wingers that we've all been crying out for since he arrived last season. I think he truly believed we would blow both Sheffield Wednesday away and also those lingering doubts that had formed during December and the early days of 2014.
For me, there are three things that need addressing:
1. We had resorted to playing a long ball game largely for two reasons: firstly, our defence were running scared and just wanted to clear their lines quickly each time and, secondly, we had a giant of a striker up front who surely would get on the end of something and magically make things happen for the team. I'll come back to the defence but just to say yet again that Matt Smith is learning the game and has much still to learn! The expectation and pressure that a long ball game puts on any target man is immense and I think he felt that keenly when he finally came on yesterday. Youthful naivety and aggression in the form of 'rough 'em up a bit Matt and grab us an early goal' proved disastrous and we'll never know whether an assumed 4-4-2 would have worked any better against the Owls or not. Smith won't be back for three games and I'm really hoping we can try a midfield passing approach with width and speed down the wings before he returns and we are tempted to slip back into a 'give it to Matt quickly' approach. Against Leicester and Ipswich, though they are tough games to follow the thrashing, we really have no alternative but to try something different but also less cavalier than yesterday.
2. The defence is clearly shell-shocked, hence the 'get rid quick' approach. For me this began against Nottingham Forest. Halford should never have been allowed to ghost in behind three big centre-halfs and get to the ball, let alone a header on target. I don't think our defence has really recovered from this one aberration. In that game we suffered a bombardement, got back into it and still lost to a wonder strike. Our midfield went missing or failed to hold on to the ball time and time again. If you add all of that up in a defender's mind you get to a point of uncertainty and insecurity - certainly not a safe platform to build on.
3. If the defence is psychologically damaged, the midfield is struggling with existentialism. Austin has really struggled lately. Only he and Brian will know if the captaincy is too much for him. Whether it is or not, his form has been erratic. Mowatt is, like Smith, young and still learning. I really believe he will be a tremendous player but am also concerned that we'll overplay him like Byram last season and/or he will have too much responsibility too young and apparent disappointment apportioned to him will cause him to leave for a club that will truly nurture such a talent as happened with Lennon.
I personally would make Jason Pearce the captain. I think he and Paddy Kenny have been our most consistent performers this season. I also think captaincy from the back is always preferable in terms of reading the game and the players' performances. Pearce is playing with Zaliukas and Lees or Wootton. Zaliukas's confidence has clearly deserted him while Lees and Wootton are excellent prospects but need their confidence restoring.
To aid Pearce in his captaincy and the entire defence in their difficult period I would play a version of the diamond with a traditional back four comprising Byram on the right, Pearce and one from Lees, Wootton or Zaliukas in the centre, and Warnock on the left. We have Peltier and Pugh as alternatives and can be brought in or out according to injuries and/or changes required in the game when we need to push on or hold on.
I'd play two defensive midfielders in front of them from Austin, Tonge and Brown - or younger but experienced players bought to play in that same position. Our defence desperately needed additional protection yesterday and I think this would begin to address their confidence issues. They were just hopelessly exposed, quite apart from not operating as an organized unit. If Austin or Tonge need to support the attack then the defence still has some midfield presence in front of it. If either full back goes forward then one of the defensive midfielders fills the space. Again, it means we aren't left with an exposed back three fearing the worst.
Ahead of them I'd have three with Kebe and Stewart wide when they get fit and one from Murphy or Mowatt in the middle. Mowatt's confidence will improve from knowing their are two behind him and hopefully Murphy's creativity will finally flourish consistently. In the meantime both could play until our new wide men are ready, or can be mixed up during a match if we need injections of speed which Poleon could also supply.
I'd have Ross up front with an option of bringing Matt Smith in during a game and sacrificing a defensive midfielder if the game was running away from us.
There are no doubt lots of reasons why this might not work but I believe it would give the team a better balance and shape and buy time to get over the nightmares. We saw in the first part of the season that we have decent squad, now supplemented by width. I wonder if we don't still need better quality in midfield but also am a believer in developing the players we have - and I'm delighted that McDermott is trying to do this while not overplaying that youthful talent.
It's tough at the moment but we march on. Sacking the manager is absurd. Under Warnock and, in the later days, Grayson, I felt laziness and complacency had set in. I don't think that is the case here but I do think confidence (and I include Brian in this) had already gone before yesterday's mis-match and only patience and long-term planning is going to really make a difference. Yes there will be freak results from time to time but yesterday's is still thankfully consigned to a relatively small sample such as the 5.0 to Barnsley or the 3.7 to Forest or the 7.1 at Stoke...