By Keith Ingham
As I was about to head up the 'wooden hill' for some reason I looked at my phone and Twitter to be greeted by one of the worst kept secrets in football. Brian McDermott had left Leeds United FC by ' mutual consent '. I say worst kept because the moment the mad Italian had the keys to the directors lounge it was plain to see that Mr McDermott was not to be given another season to attempt to get Leeds into the Premiership. Massimo Cellino sees Leeds taking a different route with him in the driving seat. The broken Ferrari he bought needs more than a good body spray to get it roadworthy and he didn't see Brian as the man to help him get it so. I liked Brian, just because with the 'shady' goings on behind the scenes he never hid behind them and his admiration of his position as Leeds manager instilled support of his tenure. He gave every interviewer an honest answer, in these times it counts for a lot.
This isn't the first time he's been removed from a club, Reading did it after he got them to the promised land and back on 'mad Friday' Cellino asked his lawyer to sack him over the phone as soon as GFH had agreed in principle the sale of the club. The mess that followed that day is well documented and more's the pity will go down as another when our once mighty club laid itself open to ridicule from other clubs fans.
When Brian came I welcomed the man with open arms, a tried and successful manager, intelligent and with a CV that was hard to question. He started well and his influence got the points needed to allay fears of the distinct possibility of relegation with back to back wins over Sheffield Wednesday and Burnley. He was working with what he had and where Warnock struggled to get a performance out of them, Brian at least brought in a workmanlike ethic sadly missing up to that point in that terrible season, although Warnock said all was needed was a couple more 'gems' to make us a force not many believed the deluded 'Colin'. We ended the season in mid table but it could have been far worse.
The 2013/14 season brought better hopes with several additions to a top heavy, especially in midfield squad. The players brought in were Noel Hunt, Matt Smith and Luke Murphy our first million pound player since 2008. In a never to be forgotten first game Leeds came from behind to win in injury time with a Murphy goal. A goalless draw at the Champions Leicester City was followed by wins at Ipswich and Bolton, we were steadily moving up the league and the only real disappointing performance was the spineless effort at Derby, ten straight defeats against the 'Rams'. November brought a four goal salvo from Ross McCormack at Charlton in a 4-2 win at the Valley.
Whatever happened over Christmas and into January is open to question, whether something happened to split the dressing room is debatable but some of the performances shamed the famous shirt the players wore. I'll not mention them all but reverses in the FA Cup at Rochdale and the week after a 6-0 hammering at Wednesday were more than some fans could take. It simply wasn't good enough and the managers tactics were open to question. The chaos behind the scenes continued but although it didn't help you cannot blame all the ills on very poor team performances. If results go wrong fans look to signings if they don't do it they look at the manager. It's surprising that although the players commitment was openly questioned the manager still was backed by the fans. After that fateful Friday his support was strengthened as the fans thronged the East Stand in support to demand his reinstatement after his sacking and the players produced a performance for their absent manager. The 5-1 win over Huddersfield being one of the highlights of the season.
March was another shocking month with a 1-5 defeat at home to Bolton followed the Tuesday 2-4 beating by Reading, Leeds were 4-0 down in this game. A disgraceful 4-1 defeat on the South Coast at Bournemouth was another performance when several players waved the white flag. The fans, myself included questioned why the manager wasn't replaced as Leeds slid down the Championship, with a win needed a 2-0 win over Blackpool followed by a win at Oakwell guaranteed Leeds their Championship future. He remained committed but the fifteenth place in the Championship was still a disappointment. His record at Leeds was 55 games in which he won twenty one, drew nine and lost twenty five. His win ratio was 38%.
Much has been written that Brian's tenure was blighted by the club been in disarray with the ownership been in question from November onwards. I still hold Brian McDermott in high esteem because he remained focused on the job and he never failed to show the supporters respect they deserved. Maybe he was the right man but at the wrong time I don't know but respect in my world is earned and Brian McDermott earned mine and I know that a club will get a good, honest bloke who given better circumstances will make his next team benefit from his experience of his time at Elland Road.
Thank you Brian, a true gentleman. Good luck wherever you go.
By Keith Ingham
By Keith Ingham
After a month of the last ball being kicked inside the 'Theatre of Hope' the fans are still no clearer in what will happen to Brian McDermott. In an interview given last week Massimo Cellino seemed to question why the manager of the club was absent from it. As it turns out he's visiting his sick mother, surely not a sin. This you would have thought would be Cellino's first job but it seems way down a very long list of things to do.
The Italian millionaire has still to show his closely guarded hand to the fans. His plans seem clouded in mystery but his presence is without doubt being felt around Elland Road. Seven players were not offered contracts when they run out in June, amongst them Paul Green, Danny Pugh, Michael Brown and Luke Varney. Several juniors were also shown the door as Massimo tries to trim a near twenty million (rumoured) wage bill. Of the players released I would have offered at least a year to Danny Pugh, but it seems his wage was far too much to oblige.
The new owner is still been seen in the right places, a York race meeting he was seen along with his entourage. The club fans that has seen more false dawns than most must hope that now we are eating from ordinary plates instead of gold to see something to encourage them to place faith in him and fork out of their pockets money for season tickets. It's not cheap to watch Leeds United, even though children under eleven can get in for sixty nine pounds but it's fair to say that it costs a parent in the region of five hundred pounds to accompany the child.
It was never going to be a quiet change of ownership, the new broom has clearly set on reorganising the entire club after GFH made it a way of increasing their companies bank balance. The very latest interview Cellino gave to Thom Kirwin on LUTV he stated that at least now everybody at Leeds is starting to move in the same direction. Whether the players respond in a positive way if he (Cellino) carries out his demands on wanting back at the now closed, for now the time being Thorpe Arch the manager and players before the months end, we will see in the coming months. They certainly should be fitter than last season.
It wouldn't be Leeds if it was simple as man takes over club spends money and improves it and does it quietly without any fuss!
On On On
By Keith Ingham
The final part of a difficult 2013/14 season...
Ross McCormack takes the plaudits his fantastic season deserved. Without the Scottish internationals 29 goals Leeds could have been relegated, just a shame he missed out on the 30 goal mark. Little McCormack though did get a couple after the game at the 'Kop' end and shows promise. Sign him up Brian !.
By Andrew Butterwick
The sun had got it's chilly hat on as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly boarded the Leeds train for the last time this season. After a mini recovery of 3 wins in 4 games had steered Leeds clear of relegation Derby provided the opposition for Brian McD's charges final game of a hugely frustrating season. Prospects of finishing the season on a high weren't good. Derby were seeking their 11th straight win against the mighty whites and to extend a run of 5 wins on the bounce in the championship something that wasn't lost on HC. "There's more chance of Jeremy Clarkson becoming the next chairman of the Equality and Human Rights commission than we have of beating Derby" Mmmm he had a point?
With the likelihood that this would be Brian McD's last game in charge at Leeds his team selection was eagerly anticipated. He had suggested that the squad would be bursting with academy players but in the end the starting eleven had a familiar ring to it. Walters, Thompson and Dawson made it onto the bench but other than that the team was unchanged from last week's victory at Brum. The tingle of anticipation amongst the 29,000 crowd was there for all to see as we made our way to our seats. It might be an end of season game with nothing at stake but try telling that to the baying fans from each side. This was real Football warts and all.
Derby started well. Forsyth sent a stinging shot goalwards that tested Butland to the full before Dawkins poked in a soft goal after just 5 minutes. 1.0 Derby and the game had hardly started. Derby in the form and confidence they oozed could do Leeds some serious damage I mused. Leeds struck back well though and although Derby continued to look dangerous on the break Smith carved out a couple of great chances with his head in between a stinging block on a shot from Tonge. This was a lot more positive from Leeds than we were used to. On 30 minutes Brown advanced towards the Derby goal and unleashed a searing shot that Grant only just managed to punch away. This was good from Leeds but they looked ever so exposed on their right flank with Austin playing in the unfamiliar right wing back slot. Derby continued to exploit this weakness and but for some resolute defending and hesitant finishing could have doubled their lead.
Brown was relishing his battle in midfield with the blond haired Derby star, Hughes, though. They were at each others throats like two whirling dervishers and remarkably Brown was getting the upper hand. Whether he was playing for a new contract or just for the hell of it the crowd were warming to Mr Brown's best game for a long time. The game was very open and Ross Mac and Smith both went close with chances as the half progressed. Add that to two headers cleared off the line and suddenly Leeds were having the better of the game.
Half time arrived with Derby still leading 1.0 but apart from the glaring gaps on Leeds right the home team were looking good. Brian McD clearly saw the error of his ways at half time and swapped Murphy for White and move Austin into central midfield. White was now in the right wing back spot. His extra pace going forward immediately caused Derby problems as Leeds flew at Derby throwing caution to the wind. On 50 minutes they got their reward as a quick break saw Ross Mac dance away from his marker before threading a lovely ball through to Smith who delicately chipped the oncoming Grant to draw Leeds level. 1.1 and no more than Leeds deserved. The atmosphere in Elland Road was now electric as Leeds went for the exposed Derby jugular. Brown went on a weaving run that ended up with another shot goalwards that had it gone in would have brought the house down. Smith fired over from 12 yards after good work by Pugh. Smith rose and headed wide from a Ross Mac cross whilst the classy Bamford tested Butland at the other end. We were witnessing one of the better games of the season from the men in white and the crowd were lapping it up.
Leeds continued to have the better of the contest and when Pugh found himself unmarked at the back post he should have done better with his header. Minutes later it was Pugh who turned provider as he found our top marksmen unmarked with an exquisite cross but Ross Mac's header was saved by Grant. Leeds pushed forward for a final assault. Ross Mac squirted a shot goalwards but Camp fumbled the ball.......Smith was just too far to convert what was the final Leeds chance. The game finished 1.1 but with 28 shots and 11 on target Leeds had gone out on a high against an excellent Derby team who looked good enough to have a successful play off campaign.
There were smiles on the faces of the Leeds fans as the team took their end of season lap of honour something that looked highly unlikely just 5 short games ago after our 3 goal drubbing at Watford. Matt Smith was my man of the match after another inspiring display. Don't be surprised if at this time next year he's picking up the player of the year award. Michael Brown had his best game in a Leeds shirt keeping the talented Mr Hughes relatively quiet. This was a surprisingly positive performance from Leeds against a team of real class.
We were joined by Keith for our traditional end of season drinks and meal as we reflected on a another frustrating season. Much debate regarding the best away performance, Charlton, and best home performance, Birmingham. Player of the year could only be Ross Mac with special mention for Matt Smith who has developed into a real threat and handful up front. For me we are sadly missing some midfield creativity and guile something the new manager will need to address if we are to progress.......Yes I know BM is still in the chair but everything points to a change of coach before the next two weeks are done.
So that's it folks for another season, one that started with high hopes but floundered on the rocks of too little quality. Thank god for Ross Mac's goals. I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings and musings this year and hopefully we can do it all again next August. Not the most memorable season but as ever following Leeds there were plenty of ups and downs. Next year will be different though. If we can just get a decent midfield general and maybe another centre half.......
Roll on next season.
By Keith Ingham
The motley crew in the Season 2013/14 will now have packed up their snorkels and Speedo's to jet off to a sunny destination, so I thought it a good idea to cast an eye on my opinion of their efforts through another dismal season in Leedsville. Some of you might agree others might not, any comments are always gratefully read.
Paddy Kenny, a slimmed down version appeared between the goalposts in August. He still is a great shot stopper but his kicking is woeful, even when un-injured and he's let a few soft goals in but he's still one of the best in the Championship. 6/10.
Jack Butland, a loanee from Stoke City. His first game versus Middlesborough he was Man of the Match in a goalless draw, he suffered after because of the constant changes the manager made and the worst ever Leeds back line in years. Will be great at another club that can defend. 6/10.
Alex Cairns: Obviously not rated by McDermott as he only plays Development games. Out of contract 2014. No Mark.
Jamie Ashdown: injured all season. Out of contract. No Marks
Jason Pearce, the most improved player at the club and must be in contention for club player of the season. The defence has changed around him as he's not missed many games, always seems very focused during the game and even scored this season v Derby County and the winner v Middlesborough at Elland Road. A good season from JP. 8/10.
Tom Lees, one of the players that really disappointed this season. Tipped to really carry the club forward and a England international at under 21 level, he has been found wanting on many occasions and seems to have lost a lot of confidence after two poor managers (Warnock and McDermott) have handled him. Still young and I expect a better 2014/15 off the unsmiling Lees. 5/10.
Marius Žaliūkas, Came on a free from Hearts and started well but after he was guilty of mistakes that cost four goals v 'Wendys' lost all confidence and was left out for a long time. Still looked 'shaky' when he got back into the team. 5/10.
Sam Byram, missed the pre season and the start of the season. Lost some of his pace and only showed in a few games the form of the previous season. One that could leave the nest in the summer. 5/10.
Danny Pugh, came into the team after a long time out when McDermott tried the 3-5-2 system, did really well then his form dropped. Scored v Watford in the incredible 3-3 draw. Probably leave in the summer. Out of contract. 5/10.
Lee Peltier, started in place of Byram and made the right back position his own. Did well and scored his first goal for Leeds on Boxing Day v Blackpool. Struggled after Christmas and went to Nottingham Forest after a lengthy loan agreement was reached between the clubs. Hopefully will stay there. 5/10.
Stephen Warnock, the ex England international had a ok season and scored from just inside the Yeovil half with the wind assisted effort to give Leeds a 2-1 win there. 6/10.
Aidy White, went to Sheffield United on loan but came back due to injury. Played a couple of games then was dropped by McDermott. 4/10.
Scott Wootton, a transfer from the Salford Reds for an undisclosed fee. He started well but after being dropped lost confidence, played as a wing back in the later games of the season. Not a great acquisition. 4/10.
Adam Drury, warmed the bench a few times. Loaned to Bradford City Out of contract 2014. No Mark
Zac Thompson, one substitute appearance. Not in McDermott's plans. No Mark
Charlie Taylor, loaned out most of the season. Hopefully will get a chance next season if he gets another contract, his current one is due to run out. No Mark
Luke Murphy, the first million pound player since Richard Cresswell. Scored the winner in the first game of the season v Brighton in injury time and looked good in the early games. When Leeds struggled after Christmas so did he, scored two important goals v Blackpool when a win was needed. Plays better when in a advanced position. One definitely for the future and a favourite of mine. 7/10.
Rudy Austin, has gone backwards and sometimes looks like a Sunday League midfielder. Scored a great goal v Reading with a twenty five plus yard screamer. A very average player this season. 4/10.
Alex Mowatt, came into the side and played some decent games then his form dropped and was dropped. He's young and will learn from this season. A real look of Gary Speed, looks and how he plays. One for the future. 6/10.
Michael Brown, came in got booked but sometimes did ok. Bye Michael time to go. Out of contract. 5/10.
Michael Tonge, overlooked for most of the season then when McDermott struggled to find a player who could pass the ball turned to Tonge. Did well in some games others you hardly knew he was playing. Could be leaving. 5/10.
Jimmy Kebe, a waste of money. Left the club. 1/10
Cameron Stewart, came in the same week as Kebe but finds it hard to beat a man and deliver a decent cross. His best game was the Huddersfield game and when he scored a cracker when playing against us for Charlton at the Valley. 4/10.
El Hadji Diouf, spent most of the season travelling around the world or injured. Leaving in the summer. 0/10. Out of contract.
Gboly Ariyibi, only 18 and may have a future at the club. Loaned out after a substitute outing. 2/10.
David Norris, ignored or injured all season. Needs to leave in the summer. No Marks.
Paul Green. Started in front of the back four and did well then was moved forward to accommodate Austin, lost confidence and went out of the team, eventually went to Ipswich on loan. McCarthy rates him highly and wants to keep him. McDermott overlooked him when we were struggling. Not one of the managers favourites.
Chris Dawson, not used even though he is reported to becoming a very useful midfielder. No Marks.
Ross McCormack, Captain Fantastic has scored goals and without him Leeds would have been relegated without doubt. A brilliant season for the Scottish striker who netted all four goals in the away win at Charlton and a Hat trick versus Huddersfield Town at Elland Road. Many words have been written about his exploits this season so I won't add many more but for to say if we had five players at least of his ilk we would be far higher than the miserable position we find ourselves this May. Quite simply the best player to wear a Leeds shirt this season. Could leave this summer if the money offered is too much to turn down. Needs to practise his penalty taking!. 9/10.
Steve Morison, on loan at Millwall. Should stay there permanently. No Marks.
Luke Varney, important early season goals but fell out of favour with McDermott and was rumoured to have refused to play in a game when negotiating a loan move away from Leeds. Went to Blackburn Rovers and can stay there for me.
5 / 10 (For his early season goals)
Dominic Poleon, given a few starts and netted v Chesterfield in the Carling Cup and Bournemouth at home in the Championship. Needs to be given a run in the side as a winger, he's not a striker. Next season is a make or break one for him.
Noel Hunt, no goals at all in his appearances and one of the players McDermott really wanted. Gives effort but a striker is in the team to score goals and it's just not happened for him during his first season with the club. If he stays he needs to improve drastically his goals output. 5/10.
Matt Smith, came in the summer and although he was in and out of the side he still managed to get into double figures and was second top scorer at the club. Did very well and will improve next season. One of Brian's better purchases. 7/10.
Connor Wickham, came on loan from Sunderland and supported Ross McCormack to good effect until moved on the wing by the manager. Two assists by the striker before he returned prematurely to Sunderland. He scored goals at Manchester City, Chelsea and home to Cardiff to show just how wrong McDermott was in playing him out of position on the wing. I ask you! 5/10.
Lewis Walters, a substitute appearance and one who is the latest to show promise in Neil Redfearn's young guns. Shows promise. No Mark.
Brian McDermott, If you've used as many players as McDermott has used and not found your best eleven it's very worrying and whether he makes it to August is debatable. A nice man, probably far too nice with the under performing, highly paid players he had at his disposal. His tactics and formations confused both fans and players. Maybe it could have been better if the original decision to sack him in February would have stood. His team went backwards after Christmas and there must be a reason for this. The prolonged takeover can't be blamed for all the clubs ills, although the situation GFH created didn't help anyone. 5/10
Nigel Gibbs, two games, two wins. Enough said. 7/10.
GFH, the worst thing to happen to Leeds United FC ever! 0/10.
Another season that ended worse than the previous one. A step backwards in a troubled time in Leeds 11. It is hoped the under Massimo Cellino the club can go forward with him albeit carefully. It is to be seen if McDermott's performance as the manager will keep him in a job after 21 defeats in forty six games in the Championship. What is certain is that another season of 'dross' will not be tolerated by the Elland Road faithful. Hope needs to be be instilled in back Leeds 11. Thanks to Andrew, 'The Happy Chocker' and the 'Quiet One' for making the end of season one to remember.
On On On.
By Rob Atkinson
As another grimly disappointing Leeds United season draws, unlamented, to a close, our heroes face opponents on this final day who sum-up our precipitate decline over the past decade or so.
Derby County - the club which used to be our ultimate "rabbit", an opponent we just couldn't help beating out of sight - has become instead a school bully of a team. Every time they see us, they give us a good duffing-up and stroll off, laughing, with their mates. They flick us with wet towels in the showers and trip us up when we're just minding our own business.
The change from hapless victims to unmerciful persecutors took place, as can be seen from this head-to-head record, around mid-way through the noughties, at a time when Leeds United was commencing its long slide into near-oblivion. In other words, Derby have merely taken advantage of our almost terminal attack of financial and moral ill-health in order to thrash us at every possible opportunity. It's just that they've done this rather more effectively than just about anyone else you can name. And now we meet them at former Fortress Elland Road, in the new dawn of the Cellino takeover, with County preparing for a play-off campaign and nothing for them to gain or lose in terms of League position. Is this a chance, then, to stop the Derby rot?
This Leeds United season has followed the pattern of more than one recent campaign, in that it started optimistically, suffered a mid-life crisis that lacked any of the usual fringe benefits - and has since tailed off into a long and unpleasantly drawn-out demise that has seen us longing for the end for a good few weeks now. To be fair, there have lately been a few signs that the patient is not quite as moribund as they have appeared - but only against opponents even more dire than ourselves, and only after a restorative shot of wages arrears that produced a small spike of good health and improved attitude. For the most part though, and against any half-decent team for certain, our beloved Whites have lacked the guile, the ability and the fight to emerge victorious. It seems certain that a complete transfusion of talent and guts, the life blood of any team, will be needed in summer. Probably along with major surgery.
The forthcoming Derby County game, for the reasons mentioned above, evokes memories good and bad. The good ones are considerably older than the other sort, but no less vivid. Just look at the longer-ago portion of that head-to head record - all sorts of juicy recollections spring forward, begging to be relived. The comeback from 0-3 down at Elland Road, to a backing track of Chumbawamba's "Tubthumping", Lee Bowyer finishing the Rams off in the last minute with a sublime left-foot strike at the Kop End. The 5-0 walkover away from home later that season which almost caused Derby's Meccano stadium to be renamed from the misleading Pride Park. Two Cup victories at the Baseball Ground in the same season, the FA Cup tie being another comeback for Leeds, from 0-2 down to emerge 4-2 victors. Between 1987 and 2005, the Rams simply couldn't touch us as, time and time again, we used them as punch bags every time we met.
It was a situation to relish, so it's understandable that, now the boot is on the other foot, the Derby fans should relish their supremacy over the past decade in equal measure. They had more cause than most to hate the very name of Leeds United; the payback since September 2005, when we last beat them, must have been very sweet for each and every County fan. For Leeds, it's a reversal of fortune that rankles; we've never been exactly blessed with opponents that roll over and die for us, due a universal hate for the Damned United that leaves teams motivated to raise their game against us to Cup Final pitch, backed by hungry Leeds-hating fans who wish nothing more than to lower the colours of once-mighty United. Our loss of Derby as perennial whipping-boys has hurt us badly - could the tide possibly start to turn back in our favour this coming weekend?
It's unlikely on the face of it. Derby have been excellent this season under the quality leadership of ersatz Dutchman "Schteve" McClaren. The former England boss has hauled County up by their bootstraps since the dismissal of Cloughie's boy Nigel, after what had been an appalling start. He started off by inspiring them to a 4-4 draw against Ipswich when they had trailed 1-4 at half time. An interval team-talk did the trick that day and, in Derby's next game, they recorded a fine 3-1 win against - guess who? - Leeds United. At the end of his first month in charge, McClaren was Manager of the Month and he's hardly looked back since.
Derby County are a formidable outfit now and must be heading into the play-offs in fine and optimistic spirit. The recent 5-0 demolition of Nottingham Forest was an object lesson in how to dispatch a weak opponent - and there must be a danger that Leeds will be perceived as easy meat to be snaffled up in like manner. We can only hope that such an appearance is misleading and that there is some fight and spirit waiting to be shown in the United cause at Elland Road on Saturday.
Derby will wish to maintain their impressive momentum as the play-offs loom; on the other hand, there is no League table incentive at all, as they can move neither up nor down from their third place. With the most vital games of their season ahead of them, it must be possible that County will be content to play a tippy-tappy possession game, avoiding the more grisly challenges which might cost them dear in terms of lost personnel. If Leeds United themselves are up for the fight, they might even find that they are able to impose themselves on nominally superior opponents - and it's a fact also that Rossco requires just two more goals to reach that magical figure of 30 league strikes for a season; a notable achievement if he can do it.
On the whole, I tend towards the view that Derby will be there for the taking this Saturday, and that Leeds United have the opportunity - for many of the team probably the last opportunity in a United shirt - to go out with a bang. It remains for the team to show us that unquenchable spirit which has typified earlier Leeds teams, and to go for the jugular. If they do that then - Derby's quality and undoubted momentum notwithstanding - Leeds should be able to record what might appear to be an unlikely victory.
And if Ross McCormack, one of our few bright shining lights this term, can possibly snatch that last couple of goals to see him reach the thirty mark - then a season of bitter disappointment might, just possibly, end on a rare high note.