By George and Tom Chellis
Despite former boss Neil Warnock describing it as ‘a cancer in the club’, it is without doubt that the Academy set up at Leeds United is becoming an increasingly important tool in rebuilding the infrastructure of the club. The Academy, fronted by the passionate and likeable Neil Redfearn, is achieving some very pleasing results including first place for the U18s and third for the Development Squad in their respective leagues. With this in mind, we thought that it was worth praising the set up that was so publicly condemned by our former boss, highlighting the success of the Academy coaches as a group as well as illustrating their various successes in developing the individuals who have gone on to perform well under the intense scrutiny of Championship football.
The surprise package of last season, Sam Byram’s unprecedented success took the Championship by storm. Byram quickly became a prized asset in the first team set up, making 53 appearances in League and Cup, whilst finding the net on 4 occasions. Much like Lees, Byram is incredibly versatile, showing strength going forward as well as adept defensive positioning, and it seems that both the player and the club are unaware of his best position. With the hunt for a wide player still ongoing, it is possible that Byram could be fielded as a winger this season, making the ‘Bale-like’ transition from full back to winger. Byram’s flawless first season in the first team earned him the accolades he deserved, winning the Player of the Year Award, Young Player of the Year Award, Player’s Player of the Year Award and the Supporters Club Player of the Year Award - a staggering feat. His recognition was not limited to internal honours as he also highlighted as one of the Sky Sports Football League Players to Watch, a notable achievement. As perhaps his greatest achievement to date however, Byram was selected in the England U20 World Cup squad, only to be forced to pull out through injury. The aforementioned injury greatly restricted Byram’s pre-season preparation, having only just returned to play 90 minutes at first team level in the spirited 2-0 defeat at the hands of Newcastle in the Cup this week. Should he stay fit, Byram is crucial to the promotion hunt, and another massive season is expected by the fans.
Turning professional in 2009, Lees has proven to be one of the academy’s biggest triumphs in recent seasons. His flexibility makes him a valuable asset to the club, and his ability to play at right back as well as his preferred centre back has attracted attention from the international set-up. The now former England U21 boss Stuart Pearce made no secret of his admiration for Lees, selecting him for the U21 European Championship squad as well as publicly praising his work ethic and professionalism. As for this season, the arrival of Scott Wootton has provided a healthy competitive element at centre back, which will only contribute to his development. Between himself, Wootton and the resurgence in form of Jason Pearce, it is nice to see such strength in depth at centre back. Furthermore, at only 22, Lees can expect another ten years of high level competitions at the top levels of English football. A bright future is in store.
After playing youth football at Chelsea and Southend, Poleon swapped the bright lights of London for Leeds United in 2010. After 2 years developing in the academy alongside our other prospects, Poleon signed his first professional contract in July 2012. An extremely promising pre-season followed and many expected Poleon to burst on the scene at Leeds in his first competitive season. Warnock, however, saw him surplus to requirements after a couple of appearances and sent him out on loan to Bury and Sheffield United. This proved to be highly beneficial, and Poleon was able to raise his game thanks to regular first team football, eventually resulting in being recalled. Scoring in the final game of the season in controversial fashion against Watford to help deny them automatic promotion, Brian McDermott clearly sees something in the Newham-born striker. Poleon adds that much needed element of pace in the forward line, and he is only continuing to get better. With goals seeming to be a rare commodity at Leeds this season, there is a real opportunity for Poleon to make his mark and secure a regular spot in the starting eleven this season.
Following regular scouting excursions to watch him play for his local team Bentley Tigers, Mowatt was recruited into the Leeds academy set up aged 9. Progressing through the ranks with relative ease, Mowatt was given the captain’s armband at U18 level, guiding them to the title in the 2012/13 season. Impressing throughout the campaign, Mowatt signed a professional contract and he has continued to impress in Neil Redfearn’s development squad. This season brought about his debut at first team level, shining in the Carling Cup victory away at boyhood club Doncaster Rovers. He also continued to show his class and potential in last week’s defeat at St James’ Park, a performance which will do him no harm in helping him to achieve the ultimate aim of breaking into the first team squad on a permanent basis. There is no denying the talents of this young man, and if he continues to develop at this rate, there is no question that he will be a prominent face in the Leeds United starting XI in seasons to come.
By Mike Courtney
The last few weeks have not been good for Leeds United. Defeats at Reading, Newcastle, Millwall and at home to Burnley have left us feeling a tad disillusioned. It's not just the defeats themselves but the manner of them, with Saturday's setback at The Den possibly the worst performance by a Leeds side in 2013, and that's saying something. Bmac even alluded to this in his post match press conference saying that the performance in the second half wasn't good enough. I know the players we have aren't world beaters and some of them aren't good enough even for this level but the least we expect as fans is a bit of fight and heart and commitment but that was absent in the second half at Millwall.
When McDermott came in toward the end of last season we did see a slight improvement in our style of play and he managed to get the results required to keep us in the division. The required improvement in the squad over the summer for me didn't set the world on fire. I know we are working on a tight budget but the signings of Smith and Hunt didn't fill me with confidence at the time and 9 games into the new campaign (12 if you count the League Cup), my views haven't changed with just 2 goals between them, Smith has scored twice even though he has been mainly used off the bench and Hunt has yet to get off the mark despite starting most of the League matches. Our other major signings, Murphy and Wootton, have fared a bit better but still have plenty of room for improvement.
It is really our lack of goals that is losing us games. I know that's stating the obvious but 7 goals in 9 games is just not good enough. Defensively we haven't done too bad with only 5 teams in the division conceding less than us. If you look at the league table, Leicester, Watford, Forest and Blackpool, all teams vying for the playoff places, have all conceded the same amount of goals as Leeds but have scored considerably more. So it's clear to see where the problem lies. I know it's easy to blame the strikers, after all its their job to put the ball in the net, but when you are being overrun in midfield and have no pace and creativity out wide then the chances that fall are few and far between.
So where do we go from here?. Its obvious to everyone connected with the club that the funds aren't there to make wholesale changes to the squad. Bringing in a couple of loan signings to try and strengthen our attacking options is a must and even BMac has to see this. I know he has spoken about his reluctance to bring in loanees but he has to see that what we have isn't good enough. He has tried tinkering with the formation in search of that elusive goal but to no avail. As it stands we are already looking over our shoulders at the relegation places as a gap emerges between the top 7 and the rest. In order for us to bridge that gap to the top the loan market has to be utilised. We have already missed out on some available strikers, Fryatt, Sharp and Lingard. I'm not saying they were the answer to our problems but other teams have taken a punt on them and they couldn't do any worse then what we already have.
BMac did say he made an inquiry about the availability of one striker but was rebuffed, so I know he is looking. It's not quite crisis time yet but a couple of more games without a win and a healthy return of goals may see the fans turn and if the team loses the fans, who have been brilliant, then we are in big trouble. There have been strong rumours of the return of Luciano Becchio and this has divided many fans. The player himself would favour a return to Elland Road over other Championship clubs. His goal scoring record for us is second only to Beckford in the modern era so for me he is worth a punt. I'm sure if he started banging in the goals like the Becchio of old it wouldn't take long for the doubters to start singing his name again. We would still need someone with pace out wide and maybe a more creative midfielder but a proven goalscorer at this level would be a start so get Becchio back before he is snapped up by someone else.
The team has a great chance to bounce back to winning ways at home to Bournemouth tomorrow night, a team that has conceded 20 goals already this season yet sit 2 points and 5 places above us in the table. This would have been seen as a banker before the season started but our lack of goals of late will have changed the mindset of most observers. I still think we can win it but there needs to be a few changes to the lineup and formation. I stated this in a previous article before the Burnley game and I think it could still work for our home games. We need to change to a 3-5-2 attacking formation. I would stick with Lees. Wootton and Pearce at the back, protected by Green and Austin in midfield. I would have Byram and White out wide with young Mowatt in the attacking midfield role. Rossco has to start as he is our main scoring threat and I would give Poleon a chance to stake his claim up front. This side would give us pace out wide with a strong backbone to the team and have our most dangerous players, Rossco and Poleon in attacking areas instead of dropping deep to pick up the ball. I think Mowatt deserves to start as he was our brightest player against Millwall and Murphy hasn't shown enough drive or creativity of late and looks lethargic.
I do think that BMac is the right man for the job and all is not lost yet for this season. If you recall Reading's title winning season under McDermott they were in the lower half of the table approaching Christmas and went on a run that brought them to the title and the promised land. This is the type of run we need to go on and with the home game tomorrow and a trip to Managerless Derby on Saturday, its as good a time as any to get the season back on track. Nothing less than 3 points tomorrow night will do and I back the boys to get back to winning ways with an emphatic win.
Dare to dream..... MOT Leeds Leeds Leeds.
By Andrew Butterwick
The day didn't start well for our latest away day adventure. The cancellation of the 10.05am Kings Cross train from Leeds meant a quick double back to York to squeeze on the next London bound train. The early panic was soon behind us though as we hurtled towards the capital and our game against the suddenly improving Millwall. After Wednesday's showing against Premier League Newcastle I was optimistic that for once our trip to South Bermondsey would be a successful one. The Happy Chocker was more cautious but still wagered a 3.1 win for the mighty whites on Skybet. All was set for another exciting day following the mighty whites. What could possibly go wrong?
Pre match refreshments were taken at the quaintly named "Barrowboy and Banker" Pub near London Bridge which was heaving with a mixture of football fans, the vast majority carrying the scars and weariness badges that come with following Leeds United. The Leeds anthems were soon reverberating around the traditional London pub. Brian McD had shuffled his pack and brought in Alex Mowatt for his championship debut in a 5 man midfield that included Ross Mac, Tonge, Austin and Murphy. Varney's was given a lone striking role and Peltier was preferred at full back to Byram.
The 2,000 travelling fans lifted the atmosphere inside the stadium as the game kicked off. The minority of Millwall fans obsessed with Istanbul struck up their usual taunts and gesticulating............I wonder if they realise how pathetic they look? The first half was instantly forgettable as a diet of very scrappy play was served up to the less than patient crowd with the ball suffering from air sickness for the majority of the time. Ross Mac went close for Leeds before he set up an excellent chance for Pearce who wastefully blazed over the bar. Millwall had a strong penalty shout turned down and also Waghorn rattled Kenny's post but neither goalie had much to do as the turgid game dragged through 45 minutes. Mowatt showed a couple of neat touches but the 5 man midfield struggled to put more than two passes together whilst Varney looked like a lost sheep up front. Millwall looked the more confident of quite frankly two poor sides. Surely the 2nd half had to be better?
The Leeds fans in my earshot were not very complimentary in their 1st half assessment with the words rubbish, shite and clueless trending amongst the away hordes. Leeds were now playing towards their ever so slightly disgruntled fans. Within a minute Leeds should have taken the lead as Mowatt arrowhead the ball into Ross Macs path but his glancing shot screwed millimetres wide. Symptomatic of our season so far I'm afraid. We just don't seem to be able to finish. The game wasn't much better in the 2nd period but the home team re starting look less awful than Leeds and pushed forward looking for a goal.
The opening goal came on 65 minutes after Leeds lost the ball in midfield. Millwall moved swiftly forward and with help of a couple of simple give and go passes orchestrated by Pontefract lad, Martyn Woolford, sliced the porous Leeds defence in two allowing him to finish sweetly. The Den erupted out of it's stupor and suddenly it was game on. 1.0 Millwall. What we wanted was a swift response from Leeds but what we got was more misplaced passes and hopeful balls as Millwall, buoyed by the goal, went for the kill. Leeds were rocking and visibly crumbling in the hostile South Bermondsey atmosphere. The 2nd goal was similar to the first.....Leeds lose possession Millwall move the ball quickly.........open up the creaking defence and Malone gave Kenny no chance with the shot. 2.0 Millwall and the South Londoners were in ecstasy. It seemed a long way back for Leeds from this.
Smith and Byram replaced Varney and Tonge as Leeds spluttered into a smidgen of life. Millwall nearly conceded an own goal after pressure from Leeds but a desperate lunge from a Millwall defender turned the ball onto the post and back into Fordes's hands in the home goal. Ross Mac set up Austin but Fordes smothered the chance. Warnock departed to make way for Green. There was no sense of a comeback though as Leeds sunk embarrassingly to a 2.0 defeat in a hugely disappointing whimper.
The muted reaction at the end from the usually vociferous away fans spoke volumes for their thoughts on the game. With 9 games completed we have all the signs of a bottom half of the table team rather than anything near the top six. We have now lost 5 from the last 6. None of players should be happy with their performances with the exception of young Mowatt. Austin has turned into a liability overnight, Warnock had one of his headless chicken games whilst not even the usually reliable Ross Mac will eat his Nandos with a clear conscience. As I trudged away from the Den I felt similar to the time we lost to Hereford...........difficult to see where we go from here.
Not a lot was said on the long trip home. At least the train wasn't cancelled. Brian McD has still got a lot of work to do with the team. The lack of goals is a real concern. We're are they going to come from? On the evidence so far not any of the players currently wearing a white shirt. Bournemouth and Derby will provide difficult tests this week especially as we haven't beaten Derby in 657 games. Hopefully Brian McD can find some magic formula to mould his team into a winning unit. If not we are in for a long hard winter. Roll on Bournemouth. We can't lose to them can we?
By Keith Ingham
After another defeat at the place that we never do well and are treated like animals by the locals, a thought crossed my mind, do the players really care that thousands regularly turn up home but more especially away when they play.
In the games from Reading in my estimation seventeen thousand fans have boarded trains, coaches and cars to see their beloved Leeds. Many will have
missed days at work and spent money and they must sometimes wonder why. I'm Leeds mad but because of work and money I can only dream of doing what these fantastic fans do week on week.
The point I'm trying to raise is that when the players arrive back at their home can they honestly look at themselves and say 'I've tried my best for those people who turned up today'. I'm afraid that if the second half is anything to go by, the answer is no and some recently have not for a while. These players are well paid and although have short years at even this level it is not hard to expect blood, sweat and tears for the cause.
They have a manager who I've already said has enlightened Elland Road with his honestly, all I'm asking is for the same who cross the white line on match days.
We are loyal but deserve your best efforts. Look hard.
On On On
By Rob Atkinson
Saturday would be a good day for Leeds United to get their act together, pull their fingers out, get themselves sorted and see all the pieces fall into place - or any other optimistic cliché you may wish to choose. Any day is a good day to win, but this Saturday a victory would be especially sweet. Millwall have been a thorn in our sides far too often - aided by the typical "chip on the shoulder" syndrome that affects so many smaller clubs for whom - another cliché - we are Their Cup Final. Being Millwall of course, they tend to be the type of nasty little thorn that could well turn septic and leave you feeling grotty for days afterwards.
If that depressing possibility is not to happen, then Leeds will need to take their chance-strewn display from the Burnley home game, omit the suicidal defending, and add some class and composure to their finishing so as to capitalise on the kind of gilt-edged opportunities so carelessly tossed away against the Lancastrians. We know the forwards can finish. We also now know that the team can create chances, despite our world-famous lack of width. Surely then, it's just a matter of putting it all together on the day. And what better day to start doing that than Saturday as our brave and gallant Daniels march into the Jackals' Den.
As ever, it will be an occasion to expect and resist provocation. The usual neolithic grunting will be apparent among the sparse but vocal home support; there may well be primitive forms of life parading about in those obscene yellow and red shirts, calculated to give us painful reminders of tragedy past. We must simply rise above it all as fans, and hope that our team can deliver a sharp rebuke on the field.
It will be interesting to see the make-up of the team this weekend. Brian McDermott will want to assess the fitness of recently-returned Sam Byram, with fit-again Lee Peltier an option. Luke Varney, too, might be recalled having been rested with a slight thigh problem for the Newcastle cup-tie in midweek. Tom Lees (calf) should also be available. McDermott has admitted that he is in the mood at the moment to tweak the system here and there, with a view to a more positive product up front - and there may well be another change to the system for the challenge of Millwall. Young Alex Mowatt did plenty to earn himself another chance against the Geordies, but his continued presence will depend on the overall team shape. Whether any changes will include a new striker seems less and less likely as the match draws closer, despite publicity earlier in the week. We continue to watch this space for news there.
Millwall, meanwhile, have experienced a mini-revival in the last week or so, beating Blackpool and Charlton after an awful 5-1 thumping at home by Derby. They will be hoping to continue the improvement against a club in United that tends to bring out the best and the worst in them. The Londoners will be missing ex-Leeds man Shane Lowry who serves the last match of a suspension, fellow defender Mark Beevers who has knee ligament problems and loan striker Steve Morison who is ineligible to play against his parent club. What is certain though is that any eleven men Millwall field will be in no doubt about the desperation of their fans to win this one. But Leeds should be used to this factor by now and they have to step up to the plate and cope with it.
There seems to be a feeling abroad, which I share although it may be mere foolish optimism, that United may well pick up a win in South Bermondsey on Saturday. After a respectable showing in Newcastle the other night, there is just that flavour of positivity. That being the case, I will go for a 3-1 away win and, sticking my neck out even further, I will back Noel Hunt (if selected) to break his season-long duck. Now that WOULD get this show on the road!
By Andrew Butterwick
After a hectic dash from work I found myself on a packed train heading to Toonland in the hope of witnessing another cup shock for the mighty whites. Last season saw Premier League Southampton, Everton and Spurs all fall to Leeds United in the cup so why couldn't we do it again at the notoriously inconsistent Bar Codes? Well ignoring our most recent form, a Newcastle side that's worth about 70 times our current transfer budget and a spluttering strike force there's nothing to stop us progressing to the next round! The Happy Chocker, Quiet One and Brother Chris were amongst the hopeful 6,000 away fans who had made the trek north to the home of the Geordies intent on raising the decibel levels to the max. I do enjoy a good cup adventure. Question was would it last longer than tonight?
Not surprisingly both teams had made changes from their weekend starting elevens as is the case nowadays. Brian McD had brought Warnock back at left back and given Mowatt a starting slot in midfield. Smith and Poleon started up front. Alan Pardew had shown the championship side the respect of selecting a strong side from his squad of premiership players.
St James Park is an impressive stadium and has all the trappings of a Premier League club. Coming to a game like this reminds me of just what we are missing week in week out. The trek to the away section on level 7 of the stadium was interesting...........I'm sure I passed a Nepalese Sherpa on level 5....... and by the time I reached the top I joined the majority of fans gasping for breath in the rarefied atmosphere of the Newcastle stratosphere. Any fan with vertigo was going to struggle as I peered down onto the pitch where the players looked like subbutteo figures. I do hope nobody kneels on Paddy Kenny!
The game kicked off with the vociferous Leeds fans raising the roof with the first of many choruses of MOT. Leeds started well with some neat possession football on the perfectly manicured large pitch. Scott Wooton had to be on his toes to keep out a Cisse shot in the opening minutes but it was Ross Mac who so nearly brought the house down with Leeds' first chance. He broke away from the midfield melee before looking up and chipping the helpless Krul in the Toon goal only to see his shot hit the bar. The decibel levels lifted as Leeds dared to test their aristocratic opponents. On 11 minutes Gary Speed's name boomed into the Tyneside air as the away fans started an 11 minute tribute to the popular player.
Newcastle were starting to flex their muscles though. Coloccini flicked his curly locks at the ball from a corner and Smith rescued Leeds with a clearance off the line. Next Gouffran failed to convert a simple header from 7 yards out. Still a cacophony of noise tumbled down from the Leeds fans in the gods that nearly turned into delerium when Smith headed the ball at Krul from 6 yards out. The game was opening up though and when Ameobi took advantage of a defence splitting pass down the Leeds right he hit a perfect cross onto the advancing Cisse's head. 1.0 Newcastle. Leeds were just about holding their own though. Mowatt was showing some good touches in midfield whilst Ross Mac found space in behind the front two. The scot so nearly equalised just before the break as Smith laid a superb header into his path but his shot scraped agonisingly wide. HT 1.0 Newcastle.
A man with a fridge on his back made up the half time entertainment. They're a strange lot in Newcastle! Although he had raised a lot of money for charity so fair play to him but why a fridge?
Newcastle had shown their superior class in the first 45 minutes but Leeds were hanging on. Next goal would be the killer. Leeds were now playing towards their fans high in the stands. A least we could see the players this half. Smith had two headers that Krul dealt with well as the mighty whites looked for the right ingredient to unlock the miserly home defence. White and Diouf replaced Tonge and Poleon as Brian McD sort to pull a goal back but within 5 minutes of their introduction Newcastle got the all important 2nd goal and what a goal. Gouffran seemed to be going nowhere when he received the ball on the edge of the box but he jinked and rifled in an unstoppable shot past the flailing Kenny. 2.0 Newcastle.
It was along way back for Leeds and gradually the Toon squeezed the life out of the game. They nearly got a third when Austin gifted the ball to Obertan before Pearce made a last gasp clearance. By then my eyes were watering from the smoke from two flares stupidly let off in the Leeds end. Wait until bonfire night if you want fireworks don't let them off when I'm watching a match.
I'd like to say that Leeds mounted a stirring comeback in true Cup tradition but they didn't. Newcastle were just too good for them. Leeds gave a good account of them selves and had a decent penalty shout when Smith went down but there was a sad inevitability about the closing minutes. FT 2.0 Newcastle.
As we streamed away from the ground all the talk was about how superb the Leeds fans had been singing from start to finish and they were.............I just wish for once everyone was talking about the team in the same manner. Leeds tried and won't be too disappointed with their performance but the gaping chasm between the have's of the Premier League and the have nots of the Championship was there for everyone to see. We were left to ponder that as my mind began to wander to the prospects for Saturday's trip to our friends in South Bermondsey. That'll be a slightly different atmosphere than tonight me thinks
By Mark Rasdall
So tonight some 6,000 Leeds United fans will travel to St James Park for the Capital One Cup tie against Newcastle United. It's a game I'm sure all LUFC fans are looking forward to - another opportunity to test ourselves against a Premier League club, following recent seasons' encounters with both Manchester, Liverpool and North London clubs, oh, and Southampton.
It's also a no-win situation in many ways. If we do well it's another league cup fixture to fit in whereas if we get thumped we'll worry about the shaky recent confidence of the team being badly affected. How many times have we worried about cup runs ruining our league campaigns? We are not in the position yet to be able to accommodate both and it not have a negative net effect. However, this is a real opportunity for Brian McDermott to try out some new ideas and I hope some of the younger players in the first-team squad do get opportunities. We no longer seem to be under the Bates/Warnock cosh to earn cash wherever and whenever possible and I hope our longer-term approach to the club these days enables both Brian and the players to 'express themselves' tonight.
Newcastle are, of course, coming off of the back of a poor performance against Hull City at the weekend. Normally, I'd have expected them to be resting some of their more experienced players (or shielding them from more bad experiences?) but, given their stuttering league form, I think they will put out a strong side with the belief that a cup run for them could be exactly what they need to breathe the heart back into the Toon Army.
We're in a bit of a striking desert at the moment aren't we? I feel for the five strikers at the club who read the news, as we all do, and know that we are looking for the elusive 'golden striker' to come in and make everything better. At the same time, I think we all have to stay behind them and the Leeds United coaches in getting past what we all hope are short-term blips. I can't help thinking that Becchio was the one we relied on so much at times like this when his colleagues were misfiring but he's lost in a desert of his agent's own making in Norfolk...
Thinking about golden strikers and games against Newcastle it was interesting to see the piece on the official Leeds United site this morning when we last played them in the league cup in a two-legged affair in 1982. I remember this match well, especially as we lost a goal at St James's so early to go 2.0 down on aggregate. Coming back to win 4.1 on the night - and Terry Connor applying the finishing touch - was just fantastic.
However, when I think of games up there I always remember the game ten years earlier in September, 1972. We lost 3.2 but it was an amazing match as described on the Mighty Whites site, with one of the goals of the season scored by Allan Clarke - a true golden striker if ever there was on. He shot delicately past Ian McFaul but the wind helped the swerve so that it appeared he was hitting it way outside the post and it just curled back in. I watched it again and again on the opening credits of Match of the Day that season and, of course, tried to recreate it endlessly in the garden but an apple tree kept getting in the way. Malcolm Macdonald scored the winner that day but beauty was in the eye of the beholder and the season was far more ours than theirs.
Will history repeat itself? Who knows. It's still a beautiful game and we're still in love with Leeds.
By Rob Atkinson
Leeds head north tonight to face a cup-tie take on one of those fixtures we really miss from our top-flight days, a proper club in Newcastle United - with proper fans in a proper stadium and a properly long-suffering record of under-achievement to surpass even our own.
It's one of those occasional holidays from league business, a rest from the pressure of picking up points towards success in the long marathon of the Championship campaign. The pressure is off; we have little to lose and much to gain in terms of confidence and momentum. It's a game in which, ideally, the players and fans alike should be able to enjoy the evening as long as the result isn't too lop-sided.
Curiously, the last time the two teams met at St James Park in this competition, the result was quite lop-sided - and in favour of the underdogs too. Second division Leeds had lost the first leg of the second round tie 1-0 at Elland Road, and then trailed in the away leg to give themselves a two-goal deficit to claw back. Claw it back they did, rattling in four goals in the remainder of the tie including extra time, to progress on a 4-2 aggregate. That type of result would obviously do very nicely tonight - but this Cup is really not a priority for the Whites.
We're taking a second-tier team north this evening and we probably have a second-tier chance of success - but the following that will back their Leeds heroes promises to be strictly world-class. Over 6,000 will back the lads, a truly awesome away following as we have come to expect. A scan of preview articles emanating from Geordieland reveals that they expect to be shown up off the field by a vocal support that will drown out the locals, depressed as they are by how their season is unfolding, with last weekend's home defeat to Hull City the latest calamity.
Leeds manager Brian McDermott has told us to expect "not too many changes" from our own disappointing home reverse at the hands of Burnley. Byram and Peltier will be assessed for match fitness, with Stephen Warnock available again after suspension. Matt Smith is pushing for a starting role up front. Newcastle will be missing Cabaye, Shola Ameobi and Gutierrez through injury. Midfielder Cheick Tiote will return for the Toon, with Sammy Ameobi and full-back Paul Drummet also expected to start.
This away tie has the feel of a bridge too far for a Leeds side in poor and unproductive form lately, the efficient win at Bolton apart. Despite last season's heroics against Everton and Southampton - both home ties - I would expect this season's League Cup run to end tonight with a respectable defeat to Newcastle who are capable of easing past Leeds with a two-goal comfort margin. As ever though with Leeds, and especially in cup games, you just never know.
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