By Alton Harewood
SPOTLIGHT ON: Billy Sharp
DOB: Feb 5, 1986
POB: Sheffield, England
Height: 1.75m (5ft 9in)
Billy Sharp’s name is not new to Leeds fans. When news of his transfer first hit the rumour mills several fans posted comments attributed to him from a previous transfer encounter. This time though, the rumours were real and the 28-year old joined Leeds during a flurry of transfer activity in mid-August. An established striker he was a welcome arrival.
Though he was contracted to Southampton, Billy has been playing on loan for Nottingham Forest, Reading and Doncaster. He appears to have had a fitness challenge not quite making it into the Premier League’s first team. Fortunately, there is a big gap between Premier League and Championship fitness expectations and upon his arrival he was immediately inserted into the Leeds squad as number 8. Billy scored late in his opening game against Middlesbrough to help Leeds secure three much needed points early in the season.
A great deal is on Billy’s shoulders as a key striker for the team and he will rely greatly on the midfield to provide good service as he makes his runs. His goal off a rebound from a Tonge shot was typical of his poaching capability and exactly the opportunist goalscoring needed in what will be a difficult year for a vastly changed Leeds United.
Off the field Billy and his partner Jade created The Luey Jacob Sharp Foundation @foundationljs, a charity raising money for research into the cause of gastroschisis, the cause of his first son’s death at just two-days old in October 2011. Luey was born in Leeds. Billy & Jade’s second child Leo is 18 months old.
Billy leaves his heart on the field and fans will love his passion as demonstrated in his tweet after the first goal:
"So happy right now,feel very proud to be a Leeds utd player,great 3 points hard thought win and a debut goal that I will never forget "
Good to see too that he’s already got Leo kitted up!
Welcome to Leeds Billy MOT!
By Keith Ingham
Football, like love can and sometimes is a bit of a let down. All excited for the first of many things to come but usually ending up in tears. Supporting my beloved Leeds is akin to waiting for a certain girl when I was at school, she was beautiful but I thought I'd chance my arm and ended up with wilted flowers and a bruised ego.
Leeds United have done this to me too many times, the promise of a new dawn swiftly gone in a matter of matches. This season I had limited expectations anyway, with a new sheriff who had a questionable past and his deputy, who's last club kicked him out of town but I bought into the idea and bought the shirt and paid for my tickets to see them. I realise now and it hurts to say it that as a team we are no better than a below average Championship team but with an incredibly loyal following.
Cellino has without doubt saved the club from going into Administration as a business so badly run that there are still 'skeletons' climbing out of the Elland Road brickwork, but last weeks revelation of him meeting our nemesis Ken Bates will have done his reputation with the fans some harm. If it was to sort out the mess GFH made by sacking bates why not come out and bloody say so?! It seems the commentary rights are the 'bone' Cellino is willing to offer to stop a lengthy and costly court case. If so, be honest Mr President we've had enough 'cloak and dagger' from the ones before.
It also seems his patience is running low on said deputy, Hockaday has won only two of the five games played and in both cases fortune favoured us. The other games played we have been outplayed and out thought by other coaches. His preoccupation with playing a diamond formation with players so out of confidence they are struggling in nearly every game we play. His post match comments also are becoming a bad joke as he tries to pull wool over eyes that have seen bull droppings before.
There is an old saying that in life you get what you pay for and football is no different, Cellino brought a coach at the equivalent of shopping at a low price supermarket and the result is plain for all to see. The joke just might be on the President now!.
There is hope in this fifty year fan but only if a realisation comes from within us all and the club. Give the youth of Leeds an opportunity to show they can or can't do it and stop the ceaseless incomings of players from the Italian B division. It's worth a try and at least you'll know that the effort so lacking in this fledgling season will be there in abundance in the likes of Lewis Cook and Chris Dawson to name just a couple.
We had far too many 'dates' that turned into tears, let's hope Massino Cellino sees his folly and understands that although he pulls the purse strings he can't be captain of everything. Some jobs like running the team on the field need to be in the hands of somebody qualified to do it in the Championship. He should be 'humble' too, he preaches it enough.
On On On
By Andrew Butterwick
The sun had got it's best Bank Holiday hat on as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly gunned the car south towards Watford. We joined the West Yorkshire exodus on the M1 as fans of Cas Tigers and the Rhinos filled the road with colour and infectious anticipation. After Tuesday's aberration against Brighton though the mood inside our car wasn't exactly dripping with overwhelming anticipation of a victory against the Hornets. Despite the signing of numerous new players and a decent showing against Boro the legacy of the last 10 years of pain and heartache following Leeds still tempered any thoughts of turning the illusive corner towards having a team good enough to climb back up the slippery Football League ladder.
So instead of worrying about which team Hockaday would pick and which page of his tactical manuals he would be consulting, we basked in the dewy eyed memories of Tony Yeboah's goals after the previous evening's piece on the Match of the Day 50th birthday celebrations. Bliss.
Once we got to Watford the usual pre match optimism started to slowly kick in with the assistance of Mr Smith and Mr Foster. Hockaday's selection saw debuts for Bellusci at centre back in place of Cooper and Antenucci up front in place of Smith. The 2,000 travelling fans were in good voice as the battle commenced. Watford started well with Deeney and Forestieri to the fore in their early attacks. Bellusci set about organising the Leeds back four and showed his immediate authority as he berated Silvestri with typical Italian flamboyance for failing to come and collect a dangerous through ball.
Deeney headed a dangerous cross wide and Tozser fired a stinging shot goalwards as the home side looked to gain an early advantage. Leeds were battling well though and on 15 minutes created a couple of half chance that first Tonge then Austin failed to trouble the goalie with. Leeds were just beginning to settle and get their passing game going when they conceded the opening goal after 19 minutes. An intricate pass and go on the edge of the box freed Forestieri whose shot Silvestri initially saved but could do nothing about his follow up header. 1.0 Watford. Leeds responded well and within 10 minutes were level courtesy of a vicious deflection from a Billy Sharp cross that left Gomes stranded in the home goal. 1.1 and the travelling support sensed we could dispel the pre match negativity and get something from the game.
Leeds were keeping possession well but finding it difficult to break down the home defence. Antenucci showed some nice touches up front and Bellusci revelled in his role at the heart of the Leeds defence. This could be a good day after all? The warning signs were there though for Leeds as the break approached first Hoban spurned a free header from 8 yards before Warnock made a last ditch interception to prevent a certain goal. HT 1.1 and the Leeds team trooped off to thunderous applause from their long suffering fans. There were definite signs of encouragement from Leeds if we could just create a few more chances?
The 2nd half started positively for Leeds with no indication of the disaster that was about to hit. Murphy wriggled free from his marker to win a free kick 35 yards out. He swung a lovely ball into the box only for Pearce to head high wide and handsome. Leeds then stamped on the self destruct button with a vengeance. Bellusci, who had looked like coolness personified up to then, made a complete hash of a simple clearance allowing Forestieri a free run on goal. He compounded the mistake by bringing the Italian under 21 international down in the box conceding a penalty and earning himself a straight red card. Deeney converted the penalty to give Watford a 2.1 lead. Hockaday then replaced Billy Sharp with Cooper when the majority of Leeds expected a midfield player to be sacrificed? Bile and venom poured from the away fans in the direction of the Leeds Head coach as choruses of "you don't know what you're doing" rang round Vicarage Road.
Leeds were stung by the double whammy of conceding the penalty and going down to 10 men. Watford ceased their chance and attacked their wounded prey with relish. Forestieri danced through the Leeds defence to make it 3.1 on 67 minutes before Hockaday decided he did need two up front after all by bringing Poleon on for Tonge with 15 minutes to play. The same crowd that gave the team a standing ovation at half time were now in open revolt as Watford attacked Leeds at will. "You're getting sacked in the morning" sang the away support to Hockaday. Tozser added a 4th in added time with a free kick from the edge of the box before Byram got a straight red for an altercation with a Watford player. We were already heading for the car though. Final score 4.1 Watford.
Leeds capitulated spectacularly after the first sending off. Up to then they had competed well with a good Watford side. Bellusci and Antenucci both looked good and Leeds were passing the ball well. The only problem was there was very little penetration in their play with a grand total of 0 shots on target at the end of the match telling a sorry tale. Hockaday felt the wrath of most of the away fans but is it really his fault? He was offered a job he was never going to refuse but he is way out of his depth at this level. His substitutions were baffling at best and clueless at worst. Cellino has made some good changes to the football club but his key choice of head coach is looking more and more like a massive own goal as each match goes by.
Bradford City await on Wednesday at Valley Parade or what ever it's called now. I'd be surprised if Hockaday is still in charge by then. Once again these are dark days at Leeds United and it's difficult to see where this will all end up. The Bantams will be rubbing their hands as we prepare for another potentially humiliating defeat in the cup......................and some people think we follow Leeds for the fun and excitement it brings? Will the Hock survive? Can we keep 11 players on the pitch? Will Adryan be the white knight that saves us or will we have rely on a Sloth? Time will tell.
By Russ Vernon
Leeds United head coach Dave Hockaday is set to be sacked, Yorkshire Evening Post's Phil Hay Reports.
United won one of the opening four league games of the new campaign and are currently sitting in 21st place of the Sky Bet Championship table following this afternoon's 4-1 defeat to Watford.
Hockaday, appointed by club owner/president Massimo Cellino on 19th June 2014 was the former Forest Green Rovers manager and was sacked after almost taking them down from the Conference.
The 4-1 defeat appears to have angred Cellino and during/after the game fans vented their fustration by chanting for Hockaday to be sacked by the Italian owner and this evening it appears Cellino has listened to the fans.
United's next game is against Bradford City on Wednesday Evening in the Capital One Cup 2nd Round and people's thoughts is if Hockaday does get sacked, who will Cellino have in charge of the game on Wednesday?
By Keith Ingham
I've been lucky enough to get the chance to watch a few games in the company of LUTV commentator Thom Kirwin and Leeds United legend Eddie Gray, it is quite an experience and the view 'up there in the gods' is incredible. Unfortunately I've never seen them win when I'm in my lofty perch and am beginning to think it might be down to me. You see I am quite superstitious on going to football matches, I always wear the same shirt if previously we've won, on Tuesday it was the new home shirt and on my way I gave Billy Bremner's knee a tap and asked him to bring luck to his old team. Alas it wasn't much good as the wearers of the said new shirt performed shockingly awful this Tuesday and a very handy Brighton team deservedly took three points off us, ending our home record early after two successive wins against Accrington and Middlesborough.
They say a lot can happen in football in a week, well in a few days things that seemed good totally went left of centre, alas I do put a certain blame at the door of myself. Let me please explain as I boarded the 17:32 train to Leeds I pulled out my iPhone and picked what I thought was a good enough team to beat Brighton. Matt Smith replaced Doukara at centre forward and Michael Tonge came in at the expense of Nicky Ajose, my reasoning was that it seemed 'Sully' would not shake off the ankle injury he sustained in the victory over Boro' and I thought Tonge did enough in his substitute appearance to warrant his inclusion into the eleven. Whether the 'coach' follows my Tweets or it was just blind luck Hockaday picked the same eleven in the favoured diamond formation he seems to prefer. It looked good on paper but little did we know it would be crap on grass!.
After a walk around to the club shop to try on a new blue away top on, lads and lasses I warn you now they are smaller than the home shirt and it didn't leave not a lot to the imagination if you purchase a shirt that's too small. I've never really been one to get players name on my shirt but in celebration of Billy Sharp's weekend winner I sought to get said player on the back of my free members gold shirt. With shirt printed It was either a quick pint or the option of making my way to West Stand, collect my pass and join the assembled press to drink a pot of tea, I choose the latter had a photo sat behind the desk Mr Hockaday sits when he does his weekly press gatherings.
When you get to the 'gantry' as it's called you realise what a great ground we luckily have, yes it's old but it is a stunning sight even after over forty years of following the club. Up on the 'gantry' there are different stations where the media set up to report on games, the LUTV station sits directly across from the half way line and is a just big enough for three people. Thom, a Leeds United fan before he got the job is aided by Michael and both have always made me feel welcome on these special nights. Eddie Gray, player and manager of the club is a gentleman and his knowledge of football is up there with the best. A really good group that do their level best to entertain, inform and produce a coverage by fans for fans.
The match itself was a massive disappointment as Brighton in a luminous orange shirt seem to dazzle the lads in white so much that it seemed they had an extra couple of players as Leeds chased shadows for the complete first forty five minutes. Brighton went ahead early on as Liverpool loanee Teixeria beat the Leeds back line after a impressive build up. Leeds were just second best and even Stockdale in the Brighton goal had time and space to play the ball out as casual as you like. The boos at half time might not be what people like to hear but the showing deserved no better. The second half Hockaday replaced Smith with Ajose to inject hopefully some pace into attack, Leeds improved slightly with a lovely move that gave Tonge a great chance but he hit it wildly wide. Lua Lua got another from a free kick that the Leeds wall jumped over, final score 2-0 Brighton. This was another Tuesday night to forget and if many more like this are served up the 'bromance' between Cellino and Hockaday will be a short lived one. Myself I feel he is just not up to the job.
After the game, Eddie Gray had his usual post match chat with Hockaday while I watched on and listened to the coach's comments about the game. His (Hock) interviews are usually full of little clichés as he reacts to the game. Very sure of himself and he thought Leeds were 'brave' in the second half. Eddie is generous tonight not too many hard hitters, myself I would have loved a chance to ask a question or two about what I had witnessed.
A long wait at the bus stop was curtailed when two charitable fans shared a taxi to Leeds City centre so I could get my train back home, one a Geordie lad who was best mates with one of the Brighton players Lua Lua. It is a fantastic experience and was only spoiled by what I witnessed out on the pitch but there's nothing I could do about that. Let's hope Massimo Cellino sees, in my view his mistake and rectifies it quick with a more experienced coach.
Thank you Thom, Eddie and Michael.
On On On
By Kim Bjerregaard
When I started supporting Leeds in the early 90’s we had a wonderful number 11, his name was Gary Speed. He was oddly enough sold and a new number 11 naturally arrived, he’s name was Lee Bowyer. Gary Speed is a Leeds legend, may he rest in peace, but in my humble opinion Lee Bowyer was an even better player, granted he also played for a longer period in a better team, despite Speed winning more medals then Bowyer.
Before those two the number 11 shirt has been worn by among others the legendary Eddie Gray, undoubtedly one of our finest ever players.
Lee Bowyer left the club after his court cases, contract issues and other off field trouble the number 11 lost its "magic" – I struggle to find a single great number 11 since Bowyer. First up after him was Raul Bravo, you remember him, didn’t think so, hardly anyone does. The closest we’ve been must be Eddie Lewis, and to be honest he didn’t really set the world on fire did he? And after him we’ve had so many players in the shirt that I struggle to remember more than a few.
Currently the number 11 is worn by Aidy White, a player so far away from the team in recent years that everyone, me included, was sure he was history in this great club of ours.
We have had a few chances to get a great number 11 and break the curse though, we could have given it to either Snodgrass or Maxi Gradel, but they would probably have become awful over night due to the cursed number. So whats next for this, once majestic number, in Leeds United history? A few years on the back of Aidy White and then when we are promoted to the Premier League we will sign a great player to wear it and restore it to its pride?
I hope so, because 11 is my favorite number and every football team should have a great number 11.
So who is your least favorite number 11 in Leeds United history?
I think I’ll go with the before mentioned Raul Bravo, partly because he was an awful player after we had experienced such a high and partly because he replaced one of my favourite ever players in Lee Bowyer.
By Mike Courtney
The euphoria which surrounded last weekend's win against Boro was short lived as Leeds were brought swiftly back down to earth Tuesday night, as they were turned over fairly easily at Elland Road by a Brighton team that were goalless and pointless coming into the match.
The performance by Leeds was so far removed from the battling win against Boro that it was hard to believe it was the same set of players, with just a couple of changes. Hockaday stated today in his press conference that there was a virus going through the squad and this might go someway to explaining the flatness of the performance in front of the home fans. A bit like in the Millwall game the goals came early and late and what went on in between was not pretty. There is a hint of Deja Vu about the whole thing really as Leeds again failed to win midweek and have also failed to score in the first half of any League game so far. I know we are only 3 games in but 1 goal scored and four conceded doesn't make good reading. I wouldn't mind if we were creating the chances but that's not the case as Dave Stockdale had very little to trouble him on Tuesday.
The signing of Mirca Antenucci late yesterday evening will, we all hope, go someway to addressing the lack of firepower. He comes into a squad littered with strikers, I make that 7 front men in the first team squad and I'm not counting Ajose in that. We will be without Doukara for the next 4-5 weeks so one would hope that Antenucci's International clearence will be through before we visit Watford on Saturday. But strikers need service and this is where the problem lies. I'm not a big fan of the Diamond Formation that Hockaday appears to favour. I've always struggled to find any positives in it to be honest, remember Venables tried this too when he came in 2002. There is very little width in this system and with midfielders who can't seem to be able to keep hold of the ball we are not creating anything going forward. Like Tueday night we are being overrun in the middle of the park, our full backs are getting isolated and our attackers are not being provided with any opportunities. Matt Smith was sacrificed at half time on Tuesday and he was far from the worst player on the park.
We have been saying this for years, under Warnock, McDermott and now Hockaday; we need a creative midfielder and some decent wide players to provide the ammo for Sharp and Co. It's not easy to get these types of players on the budget that is available. Not since Gradel and to a lesser extent Snodgrass, have we had a winger with genuine pace to frighten full backs and create chances for the strikers. I know Snoddy didn't have pace but he had the skill to create from out wide. This is what is lacking at the moment.
I think Hockaday needs to bite the bullet and abandon the Diamond midfield formation and try to create some width with the players he has until he can get a genuine winger into the squad. He will have to make changes for the Watford game and I expect Bellusci to come in to the back four possibly in place of Cooper, who hasn't done much wrong but I feel that the Italians experience will give him the edge. There needs to be changes to the formation for one and possibly the personnel. Ajose should come back in to the starting eleven. He showed some passion and desire to work having come off the bench on Tuesday. Austin and Murphy are underperforming and I expect one or both to make way. Bianchi should hold his place and Tonge is doing ok although at his age he may not have the legs to chase around when we don't have possession. Sharp should hold his place up top but he needs better service to get the most from his talents.
I think Hockaday needs to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Austin and Cook playing behind Ajose, Bianchi and either Tonge or Antenucci with Sharp up top. This will give the side a bit more balance and stability without the ball and it can revert to a 4-3-3 when in possession with Ajose and Antenucci pushing on to support Sharp. It may make us harder to break down and not get the run around from teams in the possession stakes.
Major surgery is needed to the squad and the tactics if we are to avoid the fight for survival. I know its a cliche but this league is a marathon not a sprint and every team is capable of beating everyone else. Fans can accept defeats, it's part and parcel of the game, but we can't accept the manner of a defeat like Tuesday's loss to Brighton. There was no passion, spirit or desire shown and this is either down to the tactics, the manager or the players or a combination of all three. Questions will be asked soon enough of the manager and his ability to coach at this level. One must wonder do the players have confidence in him and his systems?.. Time will tell.
We all know about Cellino's track record when it comes to managers and a few more defeats like Tuesday's could see Mr Hockaday join Mark Robins at the job centre. There is still time to do good business in the window and get in players that should be automatic first choices and not just add to the depth of the squad. I don't believe that the manager has a solid first 11 in mind when he goes to pick his side before each game. There are 3 or 4 places up for grabs and it will either be the young guns like Cook, Mowatt and Taylor that grab them or it will have to be new quality signings because what we have at the moment won't do.
I am not looking forward with much confidence to the Watford game. They are no world beaters that's for sure. I would hope that the starting 11 on Saturday will battle harder then what we saw Tuesday but we need to retain possession and create more if we are to get something out of the match. As it stands I can't see that happening and it could be a long journey home to Leeds for the travelling faithful. Watford to secure the 3 points with a 2-0 victory. I hope I'm wrong, like I was with my prediction for the Brighton match, but based on performances so far I can't see beyond a Watford win.
MOT Leeds Leeds Leeds
By Alton Harewood
SPOTLIGHT ON: Tommaso Bianchi
DOB: Nov 1, 1988
POB: Piombino, Italy
Height: 1.82m (5ft 11½in)
Position: Centre-Mid / Wing
Tommaso Bianchi is one of the growing band of Italian Serie players to join Leeds since Cellino and Nicola Salerno, his trusted advisor, started working on rebuilding a once great empire. This almost 6ft centre-mid player definitely carries weight within the Leeds midfield. He’s not afraid to have a strike on goal as demonstrated recently against Middlesbrough with his on-target effort being well held by the keeper (check out the highlights [link] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcrgfwFL4xQ&feature=youtu.be
Bianchi started in Serie B in 2006 and eventually arrived at another then Serie B team Sassuolo, taking part in the effort that saw them promoted to Serie A in 2013. You could say that Bianchi has solid experience working to get from second tier to first tier football. He spent his most recent Serie league time on loan with Serie B outfit Modena.
Arriving at Leeds in July, Bianchi won a three year deal and the number 14 shirt. Leeds fans were somewhat frustrated that his arrival was delayed by a carry-over red card suspension.
Leeds won the first two games in which Bianchi started.