Ahead of today’s clash with Bolton Wanderers on a sellout Good Friday, I spoke with Reece Jones an aspiring sports analyst and a big Bolton fan.
How long have you been a Trotters fan?
I’ve supported Wanderers ever since I can remember. There’s a picture of my Dad and I at the first ever game at the (then) Reebok Stadium back in September 1997 when I was only three months old. He was determined to make me a Bolton fan and I followed suit. Growing up with the likes of Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha and Nicolas Anelka at the football club, it was hard not to want to support them.
Can you name one of your most memorable moments?
Annoyingly, being a Wanderers fan, most memorable moments of recent years have been for the wrong reasons. However, promotion back The Championship last season was a good one. The whole season gave the players and the fans a bit of belief in the club again and restored the pride for some of the players. That being said, the most memorable moment for me was when Chung-Yong Lee scored a 90th minute winner against Birmingham City in the FA Cup Quarter Final to send us to Wembley. (We won’t go into what happened there)
Who has been one of your most influential players?
Only one man can be the answer to this, Kevin Davies. My childhood hero growing up, I even cried when he left the club. The way he left The Wanderers was so disappointing and Kev didn't deserve to be treated that way after giving everything for the side for the ten years he was with us. I wish his contract had have been renewed, and that for me was the start of the demise of the club. His leadership, passion and determination was something we haven't been able to replace since he left.
With former academy star Lewis Cook set to enter the England first team picture this evening, it’s been a while since the club could boast a Leeds player (albeit former) being selected for the senior squad.
The last time Leeds players pulled on the shirt of the Three Lions in a World Cup tournament, the year was 2002 and Sven-Goran Eriksson was the man given the sizeable task of meeting expectations still skewed by that famous victory in 1966.
The squad that Eriksson had at his disposal is widely regarded as the most formidable collection of English players in the 21st-century, but the inability to deploy a player of Paul Scholes' talent correctly remains an indictment of their underachievement. With the perfect balance of experience and youth, and featuring many players with genuine claims on a world-class status, 2002 will remain the one that got away unless England can surpass the quarter-final stage in Russia this summer.
Of course, it did take a freakish goal from Ronaldinho to defeat England in 2002. Also it is worth remembering how brilliant that Brazil side was, with Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo a ludicrously talented set of attackers. Yet that England side featured global superstars in the shape of David Beckham, Michael Owen and Sol Campbell. It would have also included Gary Neville had the right-back not fallen injured before the tournament.
This opened the door for Leeds' Danny Mills to step in and play every minute of England's campaign. Although Mills had question marks over his temperament as identified at the time by The Guardian, his rampages forward from right-back made him an underappreciated component of Eriksson's England.
England could certainly do with a right-back of Mills' ilk for this summer. Kyle Walker surely has ownership of the starting berth, but then Neville would have done so in 2002 if not for injury. Yet when Neville became unavailable, Mills was the ideal replacement. If Walker were to succumb to injury, either before or during the tournament, Spurs' Kieran Trippier or the Liverpool duo of Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold will be required to step in. Although there is talent abound in that trio, there is a lack of experience and dependability on the biggest stage.
Gomez did look assured in his recent England outings, although Alexander-Arnold will be looking to definitively usurp his compatriot for both club and country.
Many experts, including a spokesperson at Oddschecker, are suggesting that Alexander-Arnold may yet earn a spot on the plane to Russia if he maintains his level of performance. Odds on Southgate selecting him have been slashed in recent weeks, with the England manager aware of what it is required when choosing a group of players for a major tournament. Southgate was a member of that World Cup squad in 2002 in a backup capacity, and he shared the plane to South Korea and Japan with a quartet of Leeds players.
Mills was joined in England's starting defence by the prodigiously talented Rio Ferdinand, whose performances for England would tempt Manchester United to splash out that summer. Robbie Fowler, who never quite reached his full potential in an England shirt, was a striking option, while the experience of Nigel Martyn made for a strong goalkeeping deputy to David Seaman. 2002 versions of all of these four players would be welcomed gratefully by Southgate, with England lacking a defensive leader like Ferdinand, depth in striking options and experience among goalkeepers.
If new manager Paul Heckingbottom can take Leeds back to where they belong within the next four years, perhaps we'll be talking about a new set of players who pull on the prestigious white shirts of both Leeds and England.
As Leeds look to finish strong in a season that has dropped off, one eye will be firmly fixed on next season.
With suggestions that Leeds are already starting their recruitment drive, it’s likely that many teams will be doing the same.
One player who could be set for a barrage of interest is Leeds’ defensive supremo Pontus Jansson.
The talented Swede will have fielded plenty of calls last summer with potential moves to higher ranking clubs but chose to stay in Leeds.
However, with a failed season behind him and another campaign set to fizzle out, Jansson could receive offers that peak his interest.
One deal however will not be in the best interest for the defender and the club. That deal is the rumoured £4.8million offer that West Ham have set the bar at.
To say Leeds were offered more than double that last summer from Southampton, the deal seems extremely unreal. For Jansson, leaving Leeds (a club he states he loves) to join a club constantly threatened with relegation will not be in his best interest.
If Jansson is to depart we’d imagine that it would have to be a club that are challenging for European honours or within the top eight of the Premier League to make it worth his while.
However, stranger things have happened in LS11. Hold on to your hats for a summer of constant speculation and worry. Oh it’s fun to be Leeds.
By Ryan Ingham
A look back at the football (and rugby league) news during the international break.
Reading sack Jaap Stam, couldn’t have happened to a nicer man!
Paul Heckingbottom on his first eight games at Leeds. An insightful interview with BBC Radio Leeds sports reporters Gareth Jones and Adam Pope. Follow the link to hear the interview, It’s definitely worth listening to.
Stuart Dallas withdraws from the Northern Ireland squad with a thigh strain.
Pontus Jansson wants assurances about the future at Leeds. The 27-year-old Leeds United defender has claimed he wants to "see what's happening" at Elland Road next season, report Swedish newspaper ‘Expressen’.
The national newspaper in his homeland revealed that Jansson was thriving with the Whites in the Championship, but the defender wanted to see what is planned for next season after a disappointing campaign. "We'll see what's happening, I want to hear from the club how to look next year and so on,” he reportedly said.
Paul Clement appointed Reading manager.
If Lewis Cook plays for England in either of the internationals in the coming days his grandfather will be £17,000 richer. Trevor Burlingham, who placed a £500 bet that his grandson would win a international cap for his country before his 26th birthday.
Happy Days. manu are knocked out of the Champions League by Sevilla, the Spaniards win 2-1 in old farmyard to progress to the Quarter-Finals.
Leeds United offer Season Ticket holders the opportunity to ‘bring a friend’ for free to their Good Friday game with Bolton Wanderers. The offer is a Thank You for the support the club has had this season.
In a poll conducted by the YEP a massive 83% voted that Andrea Radrizzani was right in criticising the players in public.
Bailey Peacock-Farrell call up by Northern Ireland under21 squad for the forthcoming European qualifiers with Spain and Iceland
Mark Hughes is confirmed as new manager of Southampton, his contract runs until the end of this season.
Chelsea crash out of the Champions League, they lose 3-0 to Barcelona at the Campe Nou to go out 4-1 on aggregate. Liverpool and Manchester City are the only remaining English teams left in the competition. The draw for the quarter finals takes place on Friday.
Caleb Ekuban vows to improve: ”It’s been tough but it’s all about learning and growing up. I had a couple of injuries that, let’s say, killed the season for me personally, but now I’m back and I’m trying to find my rhythm.
“I’ve had quite a lot of opportunities to play and I just hope to get the momentum going, the more you play as a striker the more you feel confidence. That’s what I’m searching for and, hopefully, I can score one or two goals and have more confidence in myself.”
The scenes of snow falling on the Elland Road pitch at half time may have looked pretty, but the final whistle had a different story for our 31,000 fans.
A game against a team so far transitioned from last years Playoff birth (in place of us) looked like three points and a boost in confidence for Paul Heckingbottom‘s side.
What we got come final whistle was a sigh of despair and another loss that should not have happened.
Sheffield, a piss poor side with a lack of attacking intent stole three points from Leeds in a game the home side had triumphed in many areas.
Leeds came right out of the blocks and were in control of the game from kick off. Chance after chance was bundled through into the area with positive play with Caleb Eluban who was put through on goal with a freekick fresh from the training ground.
Prior to the chance for the Whites Adam Reach reassured any fans that Bailey Peacock-Farrel is the right chance forcing the young stopper to pull of some brilliant saves.
Wednesday had the goal in the back of the net seconds before the half but Sam Hutchinson’s header was questionably ruled out for offside.
Both sides swapped glimmering chances after the snowy break with Berardo and Nuhiu missing with curling efforts.
The deadlock was broken in the 72nd minute when a mad scramble in the box forced the ball to hit the post and Nuhiu was there to bundle it in from 2 yards out.
Leeds took control of the ball reacting to going a goal down and the urgency of the first half to create chances returned to the home side. Eventually a deflected effort fell to Pablo Hernandez who’s cross found a statuesque Jay Roy Grot who nodded the ball in the net under pressure. A nice moment for the youngster who’s waited 18 appearances to pick up his first senior goal for the club in a game he’d actually made an impact.
However, in typical Leeds fashion defensive heads turned off and the side were once again left in a heap as a wayward through ball was gathered up by Nuhiu who had shrugged off Pennington and calmly curved it past an onrushing BPF.
Another game, another piss poor result in 2018, placing Leeds bottom of the form table after 14 games and only 1 win.
If Leeds are unable to turn this round we will see the end of the majority of this Leeds squad in the summer and in turn another new head coach come July.
A team with no luck is punished on a bad day, but if you can’t bury your chances this is what will remain until the end of this downturn of a season. Leeds are circling the drain.
By Ryan Ingham
Leeds United are still feeling the hurt from the kong term injury to star full back Luke Ayling, but now they have other issues.
The club have confirmed that Kemar Roofe will join Ayling on the long term injury list after two conflicting scans gave hope to a dwindling Leeds side, only for it to be snatched away.
Roofe, who’s calf injury was sustained in the 2-2 draw with Derby County could now be set for a longer spell on the sidelines that previously expected.
Hardly prolific in front of goal but still a very big threat in the Leeds squad, Roofe had been somewhat a saviour during his spell as Leeds’ main striker, scoring 12 goals for the club.
A spell without Roofe proves somewhat frustrating with Leeds now playing the rest of their games in preparation for a better season next year. Giving the skilful winger more time to hone in on his ability as a forward could have give Leeds a few questions to ask come summer when Pierre-Michel Lasogga’s loan deal expires.
Joining Roofe on the sidelines for tomorrow’s fixture against Sheffield Wednesday is Andy Lonergan, Liam Cooper, Conor Shaughnessy and new striker Tyler Roberts who is yet to make an appearance for the club.
With confidence suspect from Radrizanni’s radio comments and a severe lack of form, is there any light at the end of a long season?
By Ryan Ingham
The inclusion of foreign talent in Leeds’ youth ranks could be a brilliant move in the future, but could also be very costly.
Leeds are renowned for allowing youth prospects trained through to academy to star for the first team, with players like Peacock-Farrell, Phillips, Vieira, Denton and most expectedly Lewie Coyle next season all in the first team picture.
However, with the influx of new additions from around Europe, the potential of home grown talent coming through may be stunted by such moves.
One example is that of Moise Kroma, a 17-year old forward who was heralded last season for the under 18’s as a future star due to his blistering pace and eye for goal.
However, the club have now informed the Ivorian national but still English prospect that he will not be offered any extended terms hen his scholarship is concluded in the summer.
This has caused Kroma to look elsewhere and the young forward is now set to join Premier League side Burnley on trial to prove his worth.
Losing young talent is inexcusable and hopefully the development staff have made the right call on Kroma’s development and it’s simply not a case of signings coming before an academy star.
By Ryan Ingham