By Andy Gregory
Tom Lees has completed a move to Sheffield Wednesday today, ending his long association with the club since being signed as an eight year old. The defender has joined the Owls on a three year contract after we have appeared to let him leave for nothing, despite having two years left on his contract.
The club have stated that he has left for an undisclosed fee, but it has been previously claimed by Wednesday's manager that Lees would be joining on a free transfer.
I have to admit I am disappointed with his departure, I've always been a fan of his and it's never good to see a local lad from our academy leave the club... Especially if it's for nothing and as of yet with no replacement. Fare enough he didn't have a great time of it last season, but that could be said for the majority of the squad, and it could be argued that he didn't have a chance with the midfield (or lack of it) in front of him. At the age of 23 and with an improved team I believe he still had something to offer our club and was probably still one of the best defenders currently at our disposal.
All we can hope is that Cellino and the Hock have a plan up their sleeve and that we will be quickly adding some quality additions to our squad. At least one (maybe two) centre backs now high up on the list. That added to our now customary need for wingers and another striker to bolster our front line. Time is of the essence as we are now very close to the start of the season, and really need to be ready for our opening games..
Stuart Gray may well have done a great piece of business for Wednesday, securing a young and talented defender for peanuts (if anything).
Anyway all the best Tom, and good luck for the future as the Whites go marching on. MOT.
By Keith Ingham
It seems as though I've been doing blogs on weallloveleeds for a while now, some might even say I should stop but I won't, as long as there's a site and a story I'll do my best to inform, invite debate and give my views on it. So this season I'm trying something different, each month I'll be doing my look on the month just past. So here's my look on what has happened since the end of the season.
We knew that as soon as Massimo Cellino arrived this would be a roller coaster that might take us anywhere, he's that type of man. Never before has Leeds 11 seen the likes of him in the boardroom. He is enigmatic and never does an interview without raising a point that should be discussed. In his last he said the club was virtually debt free after Bates and twelve months of carnage done by Haigh, Patel and the rest. I'd love to see the figures with a accountant as I think Cellino still talks a good game but only time and the clubs accounts will show if this is true.
He also said that the money we acquired for our number 44 would be spent before November on getting the ground back from whoever owns it, with a separate amount, rumoured to be fifteen million pounds put aside for this transfer window but as I write only five players have arrived, two keepers Silvestri and Taylor and Bianchi, Doukara and Berardi the outfield ones. The main problem I see still is who within the squad will get the goals. Smith, Morison and Poleon are the only fit strikers and one of those seems uninterested with playing for the club. The main priority must be a recognised goalscorer and those cost. Whether Cellino is prepared to pay a large amount for one is still to be seen, if his Calgari days are to go by I doubt he will and that would be his second mistake, his first in my opinion was appointing Hockaday.
I've tried as hard as possible to like or even understand our new coach David Hockaday but alas I can't. The early signs were a little positive with the group coming back from Italy in a upbeat mood, this has changed since arrival back in Leeds. The squad I remind everybody has lost quite a few players due to players leaving at the end of their contracts. Paul Green to Rotherham and Luke Varney making his loan move permanent at Blackburn, just two who are finding pastures new away from Elland Road. Paddy Kenny has also been 'frozen' out of the squad, due to him having either the wrong birthday number or the simple fact he returned pre-season overweight.
This left Hockaday with the bulk of last seasons team to select teams from for the games versus Guiseley, Mansfield and Chesterfield. In these games none have filled the supporters watching with a lot of hope for the season. A win, a miserable performance and a lucky draw is pretty poor even if these games are 'run outs'. The players selected seem out of sorts and the problem of conceding sloppy goals is still there. You would think that the first priority of a coach would be to stop this and build from the back. Yes he can only work with what he has but surely it's not that hard to teach a player to mark a man in a game.
His interviews after have also raised more than a few eyebrows, as he sees the squad well on course for the first fixture versus Millwall. He said that the team picked versus Chesterfield was about the best he could select at the moment but only one of the signings bought this summer started, the others came on as second half substitutes. He comes across as somebody who is making it up as he goes along and I'm still wondering if his assistant has got a voice. There seems a growing unease of the 'coach' and his methods seem very non league, I'm not knocking people who operate in this league but the Championship is a world away from that standard of coaching.
Nobody who has seen the team play can be confident as it stands, we seem short of a centre back, one or even two wingers and somebody to be a playmaker in midfield. I've already mentioned the need for a proven goalscorer. I'm concerned without these recruits the season could be a long one. I just don't think the current squad is good enough to even better the last two seasons league place and could indeed struggle.
The fans are waiting Mr Cellino please don't be another that let's them down.
See you next month
On On On.
Say it quietly, but there is a feeling of genuine pre-season optimism around Leeds United for probably the first time in getting on for a decade.
As every Leeds fan knows, it has been a troublesome period for the club since the failure to get back into the Premier League in 2006 in the play-off final defeat to Watford in Cardiff.
However, slowly, things seem to be getting better following Massimo Cellino’s takeover. No-one is getting carried away, of course, and there are likely to be more peaks and troughs (probably more troughs if we’re being honest) to come but fans appear to finally be approaching a new season with a bit of excitement and a cautious optimism as to what the campaign could hold.
The disappointing departure of last season’s top-scorer Ross McCormack to Fulham has been tempered by the arrivals of several new players in the past few weeks. A lot of them are unproven in England but they come with some pedigree (mostly in Italy) and it is hoped they will be up for the fight in the Championship in the new campaign.
Midfielder Tommaso Bianchi and striker Souleymane Doukara are expected to add depth to the first-team squad, while Switzerland international defender Gaetano Berardi’s move from Sampdoria on a two-year deal has been widely welcomed. Goalkeeper Marco Silvestri, who has joined from Italian club Chievo, also looks like a good purchase with the former Italy Under-21 international long tipped to have a bright future in the game.
Cellino has said there will be further new signings ahead of the return of domestic football in early August – in fact it could be the busiest summer in years in terms of arrivals – with up to 10 new players tipped to be in the first-team squad come the big kick off. Exciting Roma prospect Federico Viviani is another name in the frame for a move to Elland Road, while experienced Napoli defender Alessandro Gamberini, who is 32 and has eight Italy caps, is believed to be weighing up an offer from the Whites.
A lot of fans are, quite rightly, questioning the wisdom of bringing in so many players from Italy but the deals so far come as no surprise as it is the market Cellino clearly knows best. It would be beneficial to add some proven Championship players into the mix as well and that could happen in the weeks to come before the new season gets underway.
There remain question marks, however, not least in the strange naming of relative unknown coach Dave Hockaday, who left minnows Forest Green Rovers last autumn following a run of poor results, as manager.
To some, he appears to be a deliberate low-key appointment and someone who will almost work under Cellino, with the Italian businessman taking a very hands-on approach at Elland Road so far. Critics say Hockaday will be merely a ‘yes man’ to Cellino but he has vast coaching experience at Leicester, Watford, Southampton and Cheltenham and has apparently made a good impression on players so far.
There has been far too much doom and gloom around the club in recent years but, finally, under Cellino things seem to be, tentatively at least, going in the right direction, even if a look at the latest football betting markets in the Championship have Leeds among the outsiders for a return to the Premier League next year.
Time will tell if the summer optimism is misplaced, but at least some fans are daring to dream again.
By Keith Ingham
Everybody who has read my blogs of late will find it not a surprise that doubts are still in my mind about the merits of our first team 'coach' David Hockaday and his assistant Junior Lewis. The pre-season so far has given glimpses of the man that was surprisingly given the job by Massimo Cellino, or the 'President' as David calls him. Probably in private it's more like 'Sir' as we all know who's calling the shots in Leeds 11.
First, even myself was slightly pleased that everybody within the squad would be given a chance to prove themselves to the new regime and the 'feel good' factor was mentioned by the BBC's Leeds United commentator Adam Pope, Noel Hunt, Steve Morison and David Norris some of the players mentioned by fans in Italy as improving their chances of first team action with improved attitudes to training. We even beat a 'team' 16-0 during our stay in Italy and a Leeds 'Golds' beat Leeds 'Whites' 3-1, Morison among the goals in both games. The game played amongst the squad because the opposition failed to turn up at the fixture.
Most apart from somebody rumoured to be within the inner sanctums who kept letting little bits of 'gossip' find it's way on to Twitter seemed to be swaying into the Hockaday's way of thinking but two less than impressive friendly games against Guiseley and Mansfield Town, the later being a 2-0 defeat raised more than a few eyebrows. Yes, before it's said they are games that are meant to establish fitness first but anybody present must be concerned the lazy way Morison gifted them their first goal with a pass back from nearly the halfway line that Hearn seized on and was brought down by Silvestri to give a penalty away. It was nearly as bad for their second when Lees jumped under a ball to gift Hearn his second. It was a poor performance without doubt, even if it was a friendly.
The concerning thing for me was not just the performance and lack of effort put in by the players for just short of a thousand fans who paid good money to see them, it was the post match interview when Hockaday said it was Leeds who were the more positive team in the game and apart from 'individual' errors that cost us the goals, he was pleased with the side and they "we're on the right lines" as the season approached. From the reports I've read I'm not the only one that was concerned with his remarks to YEP journalist Phil Hay. I think even Mr Hay was surprised with them too.
It's a massive season in front of this once mighty club and some positive movement is a must as three seasons of mediocrity have tested even the most loyal of fans. It's a very expensive pleasure following Leeds United, indeed football in general and with people's pockets already stretched, another anonymous start to 2014/15 could show itself at the size of the club crowds.
This watcher from the North East corner of Elland Road, although excited as I always am coming up to August have grave reservations about the ability of Hockaday and Lewis to turn Leeds into anything close to resemble a team that can end more than a few poor seasons.
On On On.
To say the last few years at Elland Road have been chaotic would be to deal in understatement. In particular, the debacle since April during the Cellino era has brought despair to many Leeds fans. This was reflected in the way Leeds saw out last season. In short, it’s a pretty bleak picture. So maybe the only way is up now?
Certainly, the signings of two Italians demonstrate who is really making the managerial decisions at the club. Leeds have brought in Tommaso Bianchi on a permanent contract along with Souleymane Doukara for one season on a loan basis.
Bianchi, a 25 year-old midfielder joins us for a four-year contract from Serie-A team Sassuolo (though he’d spent the last season on loan with Serie B side Modena). Dave Hockaday has pronounced himself happy with the signing – but it may well be a fait-accompli! Meanwhile, the Senegalese striker Doukara, aged just 22, joins us from Italian club Serie-A club Catania. These two Italy-based players join keeper Marco Silvestri who came in from another Serie-A side Chievo – also on a four-year deal. The 23 year-old is an ex Under-21 international for Italy – though he was also on loan last season Serie-A club Cagliari, for whom he made just three appearances.
The trio of Italians come in as other players exit Elland Road – including utility man Danny Pugh who was out of contract – and, of course, Ross McCormack who has joined Championship newcomers courtesy of relegation from the Premier League ,Fulham. The details of this deal weren’t disclosed but the fee is thought to be around £11 million.
So where does all this leave us? Well the key question for most fans is who’s really going to be pulling the strings when it comes to team selection and tactics – and will we get a new man in to work alongside or over Dave Hockaday? This is the most important decision affecting the club but it seems likely that Cellino and Benito Carbone will want to see how things progress for a while first. Who knows – there may be other new (Italian…?) sounding names in before the end of August?
Let’s hope it all works out because the only way really is up from here – surely? The Whites are currently a tempting 12-1 to be promoted at the end of the season (i.e. including the third play-off winner’s promotion place). This may seem like forlorn hope, but stranger things have happened and we cannot deny there will be big changes – this year – whether for better or worse!
If you’re a glass half-full type, that 12-1 may be worth a punt. And there could be a way you could make it a free one. If you check out the bgo.com free online casino games you should be able to profit from a 200% bonus if you haven’t previously registered with the site.
If you then play through and retain as much of the free cash as you can – then a promotion punt might just keep your interest up to the end of the season. Of course, for those times when there isn’t a game on, you can always have a flutter on one of bgo’s virtual sports. The outcomes are based on a random number generator, so just like the real thing, you never really know what’s going to happen!
By Jason Batham
With only 3 weeks to go until the 2014/15 campaign gets underway with a tricky trip to London to face Milwall, excitement and optimism is building once again as Leeds United begin a new era under Massimo Cellino.
This time last year, we had already captured the signature of Luke Murphy from Crewe Alexandra, pipping Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers to the highly rated 23 year old midfielder. Luke came through Crewe’s academy system and was their club captain before joining Leeds last July. Luke became the club’s first seven figure sum signing since Richard Cresswell joined the whites in 2005. With the £1 million price tag weighing heavily on his shoulders, all eyes were on Luke as the 2013/14 season kicked off at Elland Road and he didn’t disappoint the expectant fans as he netted an injury time winner to give Brian McDermott’s men all 3 points against Brighton and the Leeds faithful were expecting more of the same from the talented youngster. Unfortunately, he didn’t score again for over 8 months, yes 8 months, when he netted a brace at home to struggling Blackpool which proved to be the club’s first win under Cellino. It was revealed after the game that Cellino himself had asked Murphy to play in a more advanced role to try and get the best out of him and he ended up scoring in each half with 2 fantastic finishes. Coincidence? I think not.
Having travelled all over the country following the lads last season, disappointingly I only saw glimpses of the player who scored 9 goals, created 12 assists and was named in the PFA league 1 team of the year the previous season. His work rate was second to none every game but he didn’t fulfil his potential or improve as the disappointing season wore on. He is brilliant at breaking the play up, getting stuck in and playing the simple pass but I found it frustrating as we didn’t see much of the attacking side to his game, running with the ball, taking men on and scoring on a regular basis like he did during his time with Crewe including the 2011/12 season as they won promotion from league 2 via the play offs. You have to wonder what this was down to. Was it the lack of quality playing alongside him? The constant switching of formations? The pressure and expectancy? The step up from league 1 to the championship? The off field mayhem? Not getting paid on time?
The truth is that all of the above have contributed to a dreadful season for us which ultimately meant that we didn’t see the best of Luke Murphy. With Cellino’s decision to hire a coach, Dave Hockaday, the players rolling in with a transfer budget of £15 million including wages, Luke having adapted to the championship and all the off field problems and debt finally cleared, things are looking stable once again and I believe that he will fulfil his potential and remind us why we were so desperate to sign him last summer. With the correct coaching and tactics, we should see a much better player and have a positive season, I’m sure I said the same last year though! A consistent and confident Luke Murphy can only be a good thing for Leeds United.
For the first time in many years, I feel a genuine air of optimism, not one based on hype or the dreamy hope of all true, dedicated fans. Why? Here are four good reasons.
1) Massimo Cellino
There has been some serious changes at Elland Road. An owner who appears to love football more than money, who has some straight forward common sense and is willing to make tough business decisions. He may be eccentric, but its refreshing to have someone at the helm with a real personality. I like his no-nonsense talk and his honesty, a rare commodity in this day and age.
We may not be out of debt, but it would appear that the debt is now being managed properly and from what MC tells us, we are no longer losing silly amounts of money. I firmly believe that the success of our beloved club over the next few years has to be based on a strong financial performance. I am confident he can deliver this.
2) David Hockaday
Like most, I initially said Dave Hockawho? Never heard of him. Dave will be judged by his results, but succeed or fail, I like his approach. I recently watched the tennis at Wimbledon and saw athletes performing at their best for two to four hours at a time, and for the finalists, they did this seven times over a two week period. Why is it then that footballers cannot go ninety minutes, once a week? Answer - Fitness !!
A good work ethic is an essential part of the new regime, not just fitness, but a good team spirit, players working for each other, covering for each other, players willing to put in a hard days graft. Something that has been sadly lacking in recent years. It’s a back-to-basics approach which I believe is desperately needed. Let’s build again from the ground up. With Massimo dealing with the business side of the club and Dave been left to concentrate purely on training, we have the best opportunity to get this right. It may not be a model we are used to in this country but I believe its got great potential.
Once the basics are sorted then we can build the team’s skills, understanding and knowledge of the game. This isn’t going to happen overnight and I’m sure it’s going to take us a year or two to build this. I have no great expectations for the first game of the season, but expect us to gradually improve over the year. I will be disappointed if were not in the play-offs at the end of the season.
3) New Team
Put simply, the team has been a mess over recent years. I have not seen any cohesive approach to new players or any long term strategy to developing a team fit for the future. This is not surprising. When you have owners who are more interested in making money and have no real passion for the game or the club they are not going to invest. There have been some dubious decisions with regards to both players and managers. The result was a team of players who quite frankly had no great desire to play for Leeds, who just wanted to pick up a wage at the end of the month. They either saw it as extending their career by another year or two to top up their pensions or used it as a launch pad to move onto other clubs.
Don’t get me wrong, we did have some good players, but not many. Good players always perform better when they have other good players around them, when they have a good team, which we have not had for a long time. Hats off to Massimo for getting rid of the rubbish. Ok, McCormack was a damn good player, one of the best we’ve had in a long time, but if his heart isn’t in the club then he can go. Let him kiss someone else's badge for a year or two, especially if we can get £11m for him. We still have a handful of good players that want to play for us. Those that have stuck with us through the fiasco of last season, still want to play for Leeds and have the enthusiasm to do better have my respect.
Massimo and Dave appear to be working hard to bring in fresh talent. I cannot say that I am familiar with most of them, I am not an expert on the Italian game. But from what I have read about them, they seem to be younger players with lots of potential, some of them having played for their national side at U21 level. Massimo knows the Italian game far better than most of us, so I bow to his greater knowledge.
Silvistri is a highly rated goalkeeper by those that know him, as is the midfielder Bianchi. Doukara is a solid forward. Berardi appears to be on the verge of signing, although nominally a right back, I am told he can also play on the left side of defence. Massimo has said he is looking for another five or six players. If he chooses the right ones then this should give us a good core team, something that Dave can work on.
Most of the players he is looking at seem to be in their early twenties, maybe not yet proven players but ones with both hunger for the game and potential. This is great for the future plans for the club but we need to ensure we get some balance between youth an experience. We also need to look at some home grown players who know the English game.
Leeds have had a great youth academy since the days of Wilko. It’s also good to see a number of the youth academy getting rewarded with professional contracts with the club.
For the first time in years our new signings are exciting.
4) Elland Road
The sale of Elland Road is a reminder of the start of the Dark Ages for Leeds United. Psychologically, owning our own ground is very important. Financially, owning our own ground is very important. Massimo has always stated his intention to buy it back and has recently confirmed that he has the funds. Due to the contract, it makes sense to wait until November to do so. I look forward to the day it happens.
By Keith Ingham
From the beginning of his start of owning Leeds United I had misgivings on Massimo Cellino, I still have even after the excellent article by the Yorkshire Evening Post's Leeds United writer Phil Hay. Cellino in it regards himself as the new sheriff of Leeds 11, a bold and confident man by his own admission seems to be heading Leeds in the right direction.
You must remember I'm from the era when football was different, cotton shirts and shorts and a ball that didn't fly about like a beach ball. Leeds United in those days were owned by local business men, Cussins followed by Leslie Silver who ran the good ship Leeds well enough to recoup two League Championships, a FA Cup, League Cup, Fairs Cup and countless near misses for the club. I'm trying to say it was invested in when needed and it had all the right people in the right places. A well run club and even without the massive wages a place where players wanted to come to learn under Don Revie.
Move forward forty years and it's become more news worthy off the pitch than on it. Over spending, living the dream then the nightmare that followed it. Administration and eight years of Kenneth Bates had ruined the club I fell so in love with back in the days of cotton. It's been written about before so I won't bore you with facts and figures already put in print on the cyber space we use now.
I thought that Ken's tenure was bad but the ones, GFH that followed him simply hadn't a idea of running a football club but they knew it's name would fill their business's bank account and indeed their own. If these 'cowboys' would have been left in charge the 'Sheriff' wouldn't have had a place to look after !.
In reading Mr Cellino's article he assures us that the club is run in a far better state now than it was, nearly debt free and with working capital to ensure Head Coach David Hockaday will have new players at his disposal in the near future. Although without doubt these players will come from outside England, Cellino is confident that they will adapt to the British game and make the club stronger on the playing side. What is apparent is that Massimo is in this to take Leeds United into the Premiership but as a well oiled machine with less 'baggage' than previously. He wants us to believe in what he is doing and that he's Leeds, Leeds, Leeds.
I may myself have reservations on the man and his methods but I can't and won't discard his passion. That is certainly what this great club needs from top to bottom.
On On On