By Andy Gregory
Neil Redfearn yesterday kicked off his 3rd stint as Leeds United's caretaker-manager/ head coach with a win and much improved performance over a struggling Bolton side.
When Redders has previously held the fort at Elland Road he has always done a good job of steadying the ship and keep things going, but has always shied away from taking the job on a permanent basis. He yesterday refused to rule himself out of the running and now could be the perfect time for him to step up and take on the new head coach role, allowing him to focus on coaching the team without all the off pitch distractions.
Appointing Redfearn could be a really shrewd move by Massimo as he has been around the club for some time now and has brought the likes of Mowatt, Cook, Dawson and Taylor through the academy, knows them well and judging by yesterday's game, has faith in them and is willing to blend youth with our current crop of players.
I know many fans are understandably calling for an experienced manager to be appointed at the club and would be dead against this suggestion, but I'm not so sure. The likes of Steve Clark would surely be welcomed by the faithful, but for more stability at the club and immediate knowledge of our current squad, especially our home grown players, surely Redfearn would be ideal. Experienced men aren't always the answer, think Warnock, Venables, Reid......
We played much better yesterday and actually looked like a team for the first time this season, passing the ball to our own player and moving forward with intent. He knows the club and players well, is obviously respected by the them and clearly isn't afraid to put his stamp on the team. Yesterday's display was such a stark contrast from the games the Hock was in charge and left us all feeling overall more positive.
So I ask you.... Why not give Redfearn the chance to step up and be the man to steer the good ship Leeds United onwards and upwards? MOT
By Andrew Butterwick
The ongoing pantomime that is Leeds United played out another excruciating chapter this week in the full glare of the football world. Mr Cellino saw sense and admitted his appointment of an inexperienced, unknown and untried Head Coach at Championship level just wasn't going to work and dispatched Mr Hockaday to sleep with the fishes. This after giving him a stay of execution only three days before! It's got that bad now that even rival fans are feeling sorry for us! Our mad Italian owner is now searching for a replacement who can not only mould the 12 new arrivals at Elland Road into a decent team but cope with a trigger happy boss who has a penchant for micro management. Not for the first time in the last decade the loyal Leeds fanbase are left scratching their collective heads wondering which way the good ship SS Leeds United will lurch to next.
In the meantime Neil Redfearn steps into the breach, as he's done before, to take charge for the relegation 6 pointer against Bolton Wanderers. How would the team react? Who's actually available for the match after all the sendings off and injuries? Will Beckford score a sneaky own goal? These questions and many more were debated as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One, Brother Chris and yours truly made our way to LS11 for another dose of Leeds United.
Redfearn certainly didn't hold back when he announced the team. Mowatt, Cook, Sloth came into the side as Silvestri replaced Taylor in goals. Antenucci ousted Smith up front whilst Bellusci got the nod in front of Cooper. Wootton remained at right back with Benedicci, Dawson and Taylor all on the bench. Wow! With so many changes that had Redfearn's mark all over them the concept that Cellino was picking the team and tactics suddenly looked pie in the sky. We took our seats with an extra spring in our step hoping that Redfearn's mix of the foreign legion and the academy's finest would blend together seamlessly?
The game kicked off in bright sunshine as Leeds immediately started the way they intended to go on with the ball zipping along the floor between Leeds players fuelled by a Lewis Cook inspired midfield. This was lots better. It was Bolton who had the first chances though as first Danns threatened before Spearing threaded a slide rule ball for Joe Mason to test Silvestri with a stinging shot the keeper thankfully turned onto the bar. The home fans in a crowd of just short of 22,000 liked what they saw and soon lifted the decibel level in the old stadium. Leeds were still playing a version of the ill fated diamond but now there was a structure to it and in Bianchi, Sloth, Cook and Mowatt we had 4 players who not only could pass the ball to each other but actually demanded the ball off their colleagues. Bliss!
Sloth in particular had made a good start with his first touch a lovely flick and turn that left his marker for dead. "Steady on son you won't get very far at Leeds with those sort of tricks" an ironic punter shouted. On 15 minutes he further enhanced his standing by going past three defenders before shooting over the top, something fans are just not used to seeing. Things were looking good and they were about to get a whole lot better.
A lovely flowing move from Leeds fired by the young guns Cook and Mowatt found Sharp on the edge of box. He rolled the ball out to the marauding Warnock who casually side footed the ball towards the 6 yard box for the on rushing Sharp and Antenucci but a slight deflection took the ball past Bogdan and into the corner of the net. Get innnnnnnnnnnn. 1.0 Leeds and all of a sudden the horrible start to the season began to fade in the memory. Leeds continued to spray the ball about with confidence driven by the axis of youth in the centre of midfield. Bolton did threaten to upset the party though with Davies, Danns and Mason all testing Silvestri in the home goal but all to no avail. At the other end Sharp and Antenucci were working hard against a tough Bolton defence. Sharp fired a shot just over as half time approached. The referee, who had a remarkable resemblance to Brian Glover's character in Kes, blew for half time with Leeds still leading by 1.0. Bellusci and Davies had an "in depth discussion" as they left the field before Andy Hughes broke them up.
The urinal philosophers were understandably on fine form. "What a difference without Hockaday" one fan commented. "We're passing ball and to our own men! It's f****** fantastic" another beamed. "The young lads are brilliant" another shouted. For once there wasn't an ounce of negativity in the half time gents debate. Unbelievable Jeff! In truth Cook looked like the archetypal old head on very young shoulders as he strode about the park ably assisted by Mowatt, Sloth and Bianchi.
The 2nd half got under way but now it was Bolton who were looking the more incisive team as Craig Davies headed a Mason cross wide with their first attack. Warnock's sterling efforts at left back came to an end after 55 minutes with an injury to his foot. Another of Redfearn's young guns, Charlie Taylor, replaced him. Leeds were now digging deep to defend their lead as Bolton tested Silvestri with a number of shots from outside the box and searching crosses into the box but the new Leeds keeper was as solid as a rock endearing himself to the home fans with numerous Ankergen type flops on the ball as he caught the ball.
Although under pressure Leeds were a lot more measured when they were in possession than of late and Cook took advantage of another good move when he hit a vicious right foot from 25 yards that deflected away for a corner. Benedicic replaced Sloth on 77 minutes at the same time ex Leeds hero Beckford joined the fray for the visitors. As ever he got an enthusiastic reception from the home fans as memories of Jan 3rd flooded back into the minds of many. Benedicic's first touch was a shot on goal as he drove a free kick just wide of Bogdan's goal. Ten minutes to go now and Bolton piled on the pressure. Leeds were hanging on. Antenucci nearly killed the game when he found space on the corner of the box but his shot fizzed wide.
It was all hands to the pumps at the back as Bolton surged forward for one last push. Spearing and Danns fired dangerous shots that sent the blood pressure of the desperate Leeds fans high before Silvestri pulled off an amazing double save from first Beckford and then Mason deep into injury time. Eventually Brian Glover blew his whistle to signal a precious 3 points for the mighty whites. The team got a thunderous well deserved reception at the end with a chorus of Marching on together to boot. The majority of the 22,000 fans in the ground had fallen back in love with football again.
Lewis Cook was my man of the match for the way controlled the deep midfield area closely followed by Mowatt but there were encouraging performances all over the pitch from Sloth, Bellusci, Sharp, Antenucci and in particular Silvestri. Wootton took some stick but let's not forget right back is not his position and he is only filling in their until Byram or Beradi returns. Smiles were on the home fans faces as we streamed away from the ground something that has been missing from the matchday experience this season.
Will Redfearn be given the job permanently? Will the young guns still be in the team when we go to Birmingham? Would Andy Hughes fit the bill as the new Leeds coach? Lots to ponder over the international break. Roll on Birmingham away.
By Russ Vernon
Leeds United have opened talks with former West Brom head coach Steve Clarke according to Phil Hay from the Yorkshire Evening Post.
Hay tweeted the following: "Quite cloak-and-dagger on the head coach front but we're told that there's already been dialogue between Leeds and Steve Clarke. Clarke is said to be receptive to the idea of coaching Leeds. Long, long way from shaking hands though."
Clarke had a fourteen-year spell as an assistant manager at Newcastle, Chelsea, West Ham United and Liverpool before he became head coach at the Baggies.
During his first season at the Hawthornes Clarke guided WBA to an 8th place finish in the EPL.
West Brom got rid of Clarke following a run of four straight defeats and Clarke is yet to return to work.
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By Alton Harewood
SPOTLIGHT ON: Mirco Antenucci
DOB: Aug 9, 1984
POB: Termoli, Italy
Height: 1.78m (5ft 910n)
Position: Forward (Striker)
When 30 year old Mirco Antenucci arrived in England as the 9th of ten signings during this transfer window, of this international goal-scorer of mystery it had been said by Italian observers earlier this year that they just could not understand why he scored freely when on loan but when back at Catania he struggled to do so. (Source: tuttomercatoweb.com) In the same article they do add that 'goals are in his blood.' That is good news for a Leeds side that has been starved of goals so far this season! In fact, in his recent captaincy of Serie B side Ternana Calcio Mirco scored 19 goals in 40 games, well up with a certain number 44 that recently left Leeds. This is a feat Mirco had not achieved since his 24 for Ascoli on load during the 2009-2010 season.
Bringing 12 years of experience to the club, Mirco must be in the running for the captain armband at some point. His leadership skills are clear and his strengh as a poaching goal-scorer was well viewed on YouTube highlights that show him often breaking down offside traps to give himself time to finish and score. Some journalists have their doubts due to the number of clubs he has played for, but it should be remembered that he spent a good deal of time on loan when he was at Catania suggesting that he is probably well suited to second tier football.
By building a small band of Italian brotherhood from defence through midfield to attack, Cellino appears to be trying to work with what he knows from the Italian Serie divisions. He is also able to manage his budget bringing in players that have experience and can contribute quickly, if not immediately.
Time will tell if Mirco becomes a crowd favourite, if he puts them away like he did last year, there is little doubt that the Elland Road faithful will cheer him on.
Its down to you Mirco - benvenuto to Leeds!
By Keith Ingham
I remember the first time I heard the name David Hockaday being mentioned as the possible replacement for Brian McDermott. When I looked on the Wikipedia site it gave details of his career as a right back at several lower league teams and some of the posts he had held in coaching roles at Watford and Southampton. His only managerial role was at Forest Green Rovers and that ended badly. He got the sack.
Surely this man wasn't going to take the seat of one of the most expectant teams in football, in June we found out he was and the outburst of negativity in his appointment was never seen on social media. Imagine if Twitter has been going when Clough replaced the late great Don Revie another appointment that was made by the club against public opinion. Clough at least had a league championship winning team in his last job.
The owner Massimo Cellino had always said he'd do it his way and the press conference to announce the appointment of Hockaday and Lurch, sorry Lewis was more a PA vessel for Cellino as both Hock and Lewis sat nervously through it, occasionally smiling at the cameras and looking like children who had been lost at a supermarket. This is Massimo's way and to be certain we better get used to it. Captain of the ship and all that.
It started ok, in fact positive pre season but come the competitive games a lot of holes were shown in Hockaday's team. Beaten at Millwall, Watford and Bradford in the Capital One cup on their travels and a defeat at home to Brighton, the only two wins were Accrington Stanley in the cup and a late win versus Middlesborough. It may to outsiders seem that six games and seventy days is not a fair time to give anybody time to assess how they are doing, especially when the new players coming in have been picked by the President not by him.
I think the main thing against him was his lack of experience in one of the most competitive leagues in world football. There is no doubt in my mind that Cellino will have to relinquish control of the transfers into the club if he has any chance of recruiting a manager with that experience. I cannot see anybody in the English league that would allow the kind of control he had over Hockaday.
This season we really hoped that a move in the right direction could be achieved but it seems the club although financially on a better footing since GFH, the headlines are still dominated by off field events. Mr Massimo Cellino I urge you to engage fans in your choice of the next inhabitant of one of the hardest jobs in football. Let's all hope the choice of the President is a far better one that has just left.
Lastly, the most sorry thing about all this is that Hockaday will now be mentioned in articles on Leeds United managers. Whatever we say he is now in the list that contains legends like Don Revie, Billy Bremner and Howard Wilkinson and can look back at his track suit top and say I did that.
Over to you Massimo.
On On On
By Mike Courtney
So the inevitable happened. We all knew it was coming, I even wrote about it Wednesday before the Bradford match. I thought then that Hocks would get until after the Bolton game tomorrow but Cellino finally lost patience with the man he appointed 70 days ago and who many had not heard of prior to that.
In fairness to Mr Hockaday he tried his best but it just wasn't good enough. He will cite mitigating circumstances; a host of new signings, a host of red cards, injury to key players, but at the end of the day he just wasn't up to the task. I would have some sympathy with him in the defeat at Bradford. Murphy's red card was a game changer, we were all at sea for the 15 minutes after leading up to half time, but in the second half I thought that tactically we got it spot on pushing Sharp closer to Smith and defending with passion and determination. It was when we took the lead that Hock's tactical know how was again exposed. While the players were celebrating Smith's, who had one of his best games for us, excellent goal he should have had two defensive minded subs ready to come on before Bradford kicked off. Instead within three minutes we had conceded twice and Cellino's mind was made up. Smith's late late miss could have forced extra time and given Hockaday a temporary stay of execution but it wasn't to be and the search for a new manager/coach is on.
There are plenty of top notch managers available at the moment; Pulis, Sherwood, Clarke, Lennon and Mackay if you want to go down the home grown route. The big questions is though, could they work under Cellino? The most likely scenario would be a foreign coach. A few names are in the frame like Ronaldo Maran, Paolo Di Canio, Roberto Di Matteo and bookies favourite ex Brighton boss Oscar Garcia. Garcia would be my choice, he came within a whisker of getting Brighton promoted and overall has a good managerial CV and won't be phased by the challenge. Cellino has a big decision to make and needs a manager that he can work with for the long haul if he wants his vision for Leeds to be a success.
On the transfer front it seems that the long protracted signing of Adryan is finally going to be completed and it also looks like Montenegro could sign. There might even be a few more drafted in before the window closes. The new manager won't have any input into theses signings, but neither did Hockaday so what's new?
For us fans it's back to basics at home to Bolton. The last time we were managerless the players upped their game and we trounced Huddersfield. Wouldn't it be great if this set of players could do the same. Redfearn will have to make changes due to the suspension of Murphy and Byram and maybe he will have the balls to include some of the youngsters. Who knows, if he impresses Cellino he might even get the gig full time and that would be an appointment that would appease the fans. Ever the optimist I am going for a 2-1 win for Leeds.
Whatever happens it will be another interesting few weeks at Leeds. The new man should be in place before our visit to Birmingham. Whoever he is will get the backing of the fans, temporarily anyway. Let's hope it's the last such appointment for a few years.
MOT Leeds Leeds Leeds.
By Mike Courtney
One thing is for sure, supporting Leeds United is never dull. Of late it's like one big Soap Opera moment after the other. I fully expect to hear the Eastenders drum roll every time we are mentioned on Sky Sports HQ as they cut to a picture of Cellino or Hockaday. Last weekend was no different...
It started off ok and for an hour or so at Vicarage Road things were going alright. We were holding our own at 1-1 and, wait for it, our midfield were on top. Then a moment of madness by our debutant Centre Back Bellusci, my language is a little less flowery than what Cellino used, and suddenly all hell breaks loose. We end up losing 4-1 and finish the game with 9 men. Cue the release of hysterical fans on social media calling for the head of Hockaday. Rumours abound that he will be sacked within 24 hours. Emergency meeting called for Sunday lunchtime and it seemed like only a matter of time before we were looking for a new coach (I refuse to call him Manager as we all know he is not the man in charge). But before Sky Sports can even have the betting odds on a new manager put up on screen, Cellino does a u-turn, blames himself for what has happened and given Hockaday his backing, well for the time being anyway. It reminds me of events at the end of January when Cellino sacked McDermott only for him to be reinstated on the back of outcry from the players and fans. I don't think we would have had the same outcry if Hockaday had got his papers.
And so the Soap Opera continues. There is plenty of speculation regarding transfers as the window closure looms. Caspar Sloth has already signed up and it looks like the deal for Adryan is imminent. There is also talk about Argentinian winger Lucas Castro from Catania, who have already supplied us with Bellusci and Doukara from the relegated Italian side. We do need a wide player or two to provide the ammo for our strikers so Castro's signing would be welcome but I think most of us would prefer proven English based players. But Cellino's vision, not Hockaday's, seems to be to bring in a host of foreign imports and hope that they gel with the remnants of Warnock and McDermott's squad. This may prove to be successful in the long term and only time will tell but I don't think Hockaday has the luxury of that time. I'm sure Hockaday is a decent bloke and not a bad coach but as a number one at a club like Leeds or indeed any Championship club he is seriously out of his depth. Defeat at Bradford tonight and a bad performance at the weekend at home to Bolton could see his cards marked as the International break will be upon us and Cellino will have two weeks to find a replacement before we visit Birmingham and Bournemouth in the space of 4 days.
If that does happen and we are on the look out for our 3rd manager under Cellino the big question is, who will it be? Fans will be looking for the likes of Pulis, Holloway, Sherwood or those with Leeds connection like McAllister again or even O'Leary. For me I can't see any of them working under Cellino in the capacity that he would want them to. Former Brighton boss Oscar Garcia is being strongly linked with the job as he looks for a new post having quit Maccabi Haifa. Whether he would fit in with Cellino's philosophy is another thing. He would bring a fresh approach and he did a decent enough job at Brighton and has a better pedigree then Hockaday.
Whatever happens I have no doubt there will be plenty of drama, plenty of speculation and plenty of interesting weeks ahead at Elland Road as Cellino tries to fulfill his and us fans dreams of making Leeds United great again. We all want Leeds back at the top table of English Football and only then can we dream of European football and the Champions League. Hockaday's statement that he wants to be part of the Journey that brings us to the Champions League is admirable but deluded. His journey will end sooner rather then later. For us fans the journey will be a long one but when you support Leeds United you do so through the good times and bad and no matter how long that journey take we will be there at the finish. Let the Soap Opera continue, We Are Leeds, We Are Leeds, We Are Leeds.
MOT Leeds Leeds Leeds
By Mark Rasdall
Leeds United's owner and 'President' has given coach David Hockaday his vote of confidence after two months of a two year contract. He then completely undermined the gesture by admitting that after the defeat at Watford on Saturday, he had decided to sack him.
None of us loyal LUFC fans will know or understand what went through his mind after that other than that he decided to give it 24 hours before executing his plan- something he has 'learned to do.' I also have learned to bite my tongue over the years and (because of my positive, 'cup half full' nature) tried to seek out the positive. I have also been guilty of sending out memos and then emails and texts too quickly without giving them the overnight test that important sentiments should demand. As a writer I have been appalled the next day at the poor grammar and spelling mistakes my passion had conjured up!
And I am passionate. All Leeds United fans are. I was described as an 'older, armchair fan' last week and yet I still go to as many games as I can and am as keen for success this season as any other. Saturday defeats ruin the evenings for both my family and I as they did when I was just a small boy. However, I have become wiser and know that major developments take time. A number of Watford fans wrote on various Leeds forums after the game on Saturday to sympathise with the general frustration we all feel but also to give us salutary reminders of the situation they too faced after their Italian takeover. It took time for that club to be turned round and we are a bigger ship than they ever were.
Fans who felt disrespected by an unknown coach taking over our club have poured out their venom and disgust as we knew they would. They feel vindicated and they are entitled to their views. The bottom line is that anger often comes from fear that more permanent damage is being done to the club above and below the watermark. Certainly that midfield of Tonge, Murphy and Austin (with Norris on the bench) is never going to provide the dribbling, ingenuity or speed to get past players that Hockaday says we need. We have no width but also do not want him to panic as McDermott did by buying two average to awful wingers to address a longstanding problem - probably since Gradel and Snodgrass left, to be honest. We do not want hoofball up to Smith and mindless, reckless tackles will ultimately sink us.
We also want intelligent substitutions to match the situations in hand. On Saturday it did appear that Hockaday did not know what he was doing once Bellusci was sent off.. And yet I am sure he does. All coaches know what to do and which direction to go in (apart from an unfortunate Wallace Arnold experience I had in Manchester some years ago...) but how can you plan for the Bellusci incident? Maybe surprise or panic set in before he recovered his poise? The haters will say that this just proves that we need more experience and that he is out of his depth. Maybe we should allow him to find his feet too and learn how to do better. Each and every one of us can do better if we really try and are given the time to do it. I believe he is trying his best and - regardless of Cellino's vote of confidence - hope he really does get more time.
Contrary to the sensationalist media, Bradford is not a huge game. Yes we want to win it and no we don't want that West Yorkshire cloud over us but it is a Carling Cup tie! It is an opportunity to try things and improve areas where there are problems. I don't mind losing if the team plays well and there are real signs of progress which we can take into the next meaningful game against Bolton.
We actually played pretty well against Watford for large periods, just lacking the creativity to make our passing and possession count. Of course it all went badly wrong - and nobody is going to remember the good stuff - but how some people think a Tony Pulis, fresh from his latest conflict with owners over player transfers, would fit into the Leeds United model is beyond me. Similarly with Gary McAllister who was up there with some of the best midfielders but could, would and should never be a 'yes' man to anybody.
We are hurting but how do you think David Hockaday and his family are feeling? How are the vicious comments or double-edged statements possibly going to help him to prepare our team for Wednesday night? Ultimately he is dispensable and our loyalty remains with Leeds United but let's not forget that sooner or later we are going to have to bite the bullets and 'give peace a chance' or we will remain in the same no-hopers cell as Mark Chapman for at least as many years to come.