By Andrew Butterwick
The new found optimism that has accompanied recent Leeds games was once again in evidence as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly boarded the London bound train for the clash with the mighty Brentford. After Redfearn's excellent job in steadying a sinking ship the focus now shifts to Mr Milanic to see if he can build on the 4 match unbeaten run that has pumped new belief into both the team and the fans. It wouldn't be a normal week on Planet Leeds though if there wasn't another batch of off the field "issues" to discuss on the journey with today's specialist subjects including the sacking of Mr Bean and yet more speculation surrounding Cellino's suitability to run the football club.
Outside Griffin Park the clamour for spare tickets from Leeds fans was substantial as kick off time approached. Luckily we had acquired some tickets albeit in the Brentford end so with our best cockney accents we took our places behind the goal on the Brentford terrace. This was going to be an interesting exercise in self control! Milanic had made two changes to the team bringing Byram in for the suspended Berardi and Mowatt in for Sloth. Murphy, Tonge, Wootton and Morison were all on the bench but no place for Billy Sharp or Adryan?
The opening exchanges were frenetic as both sides kept the ball on the floor and pressed looking for an early advantage. Austin carved out Leeds first shot on 8 minutes whilst Pritchard, Gray and Jota all had chances for the home side. The fluency that saw off Huddersfield was missing though and it was the Bees who looked the most dangerous with ex Leeds midfielder, Jonny Douglas, enjoying far too much possession for my liking. Shots were now raining in on the excellent Silvestri in the Leeds goal as Jota, Odubajo and Judge were all allowed chances to snatch the opener. His double save from Judge's free kick and then Odubajo's follow up was worth a much higher stage than the Championship.
The momentum was with the home side and the pressure finally told in the 26th minute as a desperate lunge from Pearce gave the Bees a deserved penalty and me an awkward moment as I had my head in my hands whilst the fans around me celebrated. I was the perfect diplomat when Tarkowski blasted the spot kick over the bar though unlike a certain Mr Cellino who was ejected from the main stand for celebrating the penalty miss. His cult hero status raised a couple of notches as the stewards led him to the Leeds end together with Salerno to join the bemused away fans in a chorus of Marching on Together!
Silvestri was soon in action again as he brilliantly turned a Douglas header round the post. Leeds were struggling to keep possession as the home side pressed hard. The lack of penetration when they did have the ball was all too evident as the ball went square and backwards time and again. Warnock and Byram were the main attacking threats as they made space down the flanks but too often the final ball was disappointing. A disappointing half for Leeds got a whole lot worse bang on half time as Jota finished off a smart move again instigated by Douglas to give the Bees a deserved half time lead. Our non celebration amongst the happy home fans didn't go unnoticed but neither a number of other conspicuous non celebrators. Somehow I think we weren't the only "new" Brentford members on the terrace. Half time 1.0.
It was interesting to hear the opposing fans views at half time. "Worst team we've seen here this year" one lag commented whilst another thought "we should have been three up" Mmmm couldn't really disagree. Thank god for Silvestri. The Leeds midfield hadn't got out of 2nd gear and if we were going to get back into this game there would need to be a dramatic 2nd half improvement.
There was an early sign of change just 5 minutes into the 2nd period as Pearce's header was well saved by the home keeper but it wasn't long before Silvestri was working overtime to keep the score down to one. Saves from Jota, twice, Gray and a header from Odubajo all contributed to that old familiar sinking feeling that I get when Leeds are taking a battering. Sloth replaced Mowatt on 66 minutes but the inevitable 2nd goal for Brentford came just 10 minutes later as McCormack (no not that one) pounced on a loose ball and steered it past Silvestri assisted by Douglas. The home fans celebrated around us as our body language stood out like a sore thumb. I couldn't see any way back from this but Milanic had a last throw of the dice as he replaced Bianchi and Cook with Tonge and Murphy. Mmmm not exactly a game changing duo I'm afraid but interestingly Milanic had now replaced three of his starting midfielder's. Clearly he wasn't impressed and it was easy to see why.
The fresh legs on for Leeds didn't spark anything different in the Leeds play and the game finished in a disappointing 2.0 defeat. Brentford fully deserved the victory with Douglas pulling the strings in midfield despite his ageing limbs. Not a good start for Darko. After last week's euphoria today was a reminder that this team and club are still in significant transition. Undoubtedly there will be a lot of fans asking why Redfearn wasn't given the job full time but Milanic is here now and he will need time to adjust.
A week is a long time in football and with games against Reading and Sheff Wednesday this week I suspect Darko Milanic's induction onto Planet Leeds is going to be a rocky one. What team will he put out on Wednesday? Will Cellino relocate to the South Stand? What about Billy Sharp? Looking forward to it already!
By Keith Ingham
Massimo Cellino's message that 'you never know what's in a watermelon until you open it' about the new head coach of Leeds United was also mentioned by Cellino at the last press conference to announce the appointment of sacked coach David Hockaday. It is hoped that Darko Milanic, the forty six year old coach with a enormous amount of managerial experience and the trophies he collected on the way is given the proper means to do the job, that in my opinion never happened for Hockaday. He (Milanic) has a pedigree that excites this particular Leeds fan.
He was a no nonsense centre half at Partizan Belgrade who's career was cut short by injury in 2000 and went into coaching at his home tome town club MNK Inzola and by 2006/07 he was assistant to Franco Foda at his former club Sturm Graz. This appointment lasted only a season and he went to little known Gorcia, he led them to third in the league and qualification to the UEFA cup.
In 2008 he joined Maribor and enjoyed the most productive and successful of his managerial career so far. Within a year he had won the Slovenian Championship, the next season the cup was won. Milanic became the first coach to win all the domestic trophies in Slovenian football, quite a achievement considering his short time in the job. In 2012 he won the lot and was rightly voted manager of the year. He took them into Europe where they were defeated in the opening round but had the consolation of the Europa League group stages after the defeat. They won their 11th title and cup in 2013. The forth double in their history. In all nine trophies were won while Darko Milanic was in charge. Pretty impressive.
After his fantastic career at Maribor he returned to 'his' team in 2013. He had served them impressively for eight years, playing 190 times and he couldn't turn down the chance of returning as Head Coach. During his first season they finished fifth and were knocked out of the Europa league in the qualifying rounds.
In his press conference in Leeds he said that Leeds were rated as still a top club and he was looking forward to the challenge of his first job in England. He has watched recent games and is impressed by the players he has inherited.
This was the recruitment that had to be correct and without doubt the quiet spoken Slovenian will listen to advice from Neil Redfearn but as he said he is his own man and the team will play his way. In the past he's a 4-4-2 man but has also been known to go with a 4-2-3-1. Either way he likes to entertain but is known for his work with his defenders, tight in defence and sparkling up front will impress the locals in the Theatre of Hope.
I wish Darko Milanic and his assistant all the best and hope he continues where Neil Redfearn left off, it's certainly been a lot better recently, than it was under Hockaday's short reign.
This Darko side could lead to a brighter future.
On On On
By Keith Ingham
By Keith Ingham
Thursday tea time tucking into my rice and curry sauce I received a message from Andy Gregory who runs this great site I've been proud to say I contribute to a couple of years. He asked if I was attending the game on Saturday, I replied "yes" and was then told by Andy that he had intended to go but unfortunately had to change his plans as he had a family holiday to attend. The point of this is the tickets he had he offered to me and my son, Ryan. They were in the Sky Bet suite in the cream clad East Stand, what followed I'll never forget for the rest of my life. I'd like to share my day with the site and it's readers.
My son, Ryan was to accompany me, he's a budding journalist and has had a article printed in this months 'Squareball'. Of course I told everybody who'd listen that Saturday was going to be a special day, we were on a roll and the small dogs looked ready to be beat easily. It was a local derby so sometimes the form book goes out of the window. What made it doubly special is we were doing something normal fans only dream of, a chance to see the other side of football where business is normally alined with the match. The corporate side of the game is building links to businesses both locally and nationally. We were met at the desk by a lovely blonde lady who gave me our tickets and informed us we were on the forth floor in the Sky Bet suite, I also met the lovely Laura Coates, who is part of the commercial team at Elland Road and I've spoken to on a few occasions, mostly about the release date of the forthcoming seasons new shirt. By the way she never gave the exact date of release, she's very professional.
It's a maze of corridors and as we made our way to our suite we passed Terry Yorath, ex Leeds player in the 70's. There is a large room where most of the occupants were enjoying the fare on offer. Mixing with them was Peter Lorimer, another of the legendary Don Revie squad. Then in the middle table was non other than Captain Picard, actor Patrick Stewart. It was a bit surreal and took a few minutes to take it all in. The Sky Bet room led to a balcony and a unbelievable view of the ground, it looked amazing if empty at the time. Dave was our host who asked if we would like a drink, we agreed not surprisingly !. With us were Rob and his wife, he regularly contributes to weallloveleeds and I enjoy his musings. I'm sorry to the others but most of the other people there I forgot their names. Really nice people who like me had very rarely done something like this.
We ate, laughed and shared stories of our years of support of Leeds United, I did pinch myself on more than one occasion because it did seem to be a dream. The ground began to fill up and the team was announced, no Billy Sharp, dropped to the bench while Casper Sloth replaced him. It looked like a more 4-4-2 than the previous game's 4-3-3. We were joined by Sky's Jim White, here to promote the Sky Bet Transfer Fund in which fans can help their team to win a massive £250,000 to spend in the January transfer window and £5,000 for themselves, it's always great when celebrities are just really nice people. He was with his very pretty partner Katie, a Yorkshire lass from Bradford. Ross who had arranged the event was on hand to make sure there were lots of photographs of the event and that everybody was having a great time.
Leeds tore into their local rivals and were soon in front, Rudy Austin lashing a unstoppable shot past Smithies in the Huddersfield Town goal. The visitors had a couple of half chances and Lee Peltier was getting 'some stick' as per usual when a returning player is back at Elland Road. Their were some impressive performances on the field, Austin, Cook and Sloth dominating the midfield area. The second goal had to come and after Antenucci swapped passes with Bellusci, the centre half chipped one over Smithies but it hit the bar and bounced back to Antenucci who gleefully smacked home the rebound. 2-0 at the break and the best I'd seen Leeds play this season.
I'd met Terry Yorath at half time, he happily accepted my invitation to be in a photograph with me and I very sheepishly moved near Patrick Stewart's full table of guests to ask for a autograph. Resplendent in a smart suit with a Huddersfield Town tie he, after encouragement from a fellow guest signed my team sheet and gave me a proper 'man' handshake with a cheery smile. I walked back to my room content in meeting two heroes of mine.
The second half was a more even game but you felt that Leeds could up a gear to make the game completely safe. To be fair Town created a few half chances but when Rudy sent Doukara away, he clinically finished with a shot that beat Smithies easily. He celebrated, shirtless and got booked for doing so. We survived a sending off too, Berardi getting his second yellow card in a mild mannered local derby. 3-0 and Antenucci nearly made it four when he sprinted half the field, only to be foiled by Smithies glove and a post. A compressive win and all around us fans were in good voice.
The game had ended and we were in celebratory mood, the drinks kept coming and it seemed churlish to turn them down. Extremely good hosts were our men from Sky Bet. What happened next will stay with me for a long time, a few of the lads had noticed that Jim White was speaking to the President Massimo Cellino. We saw our chance and we proceeded over to them, to hopefully get a photograph with him. He was pleased to greet us and said "Leeds fans, crazy" and duly stayed until we all had a picture of him with us. He came across as a normal bloke who was enjoying the adjuration of his clubs fans.
That's it, a unbelievable day with some great people. Thank you all that made this possible.
On On On
By Martin "Badger" Chadwick
On yet another Beautiful sunny afternoon that was just perfect for football, Leeds Ladies FC lined up against Norton and Ancients FC for a very entertaining (albeit slightly delayed) league fixture. Due to extensive road works in and around Knaresborough the Ladies kit wasn’t at the ground on time and kick off had to be delayed by 20 mins, but a minor issue like no kit doesn’t faze the phoenix and Norton were soon to realise this.
To say Leeds took control of the match would be an understatement as they had a total of 7 attempts on target within the first 14 minutes of the game, the only thing keeping Norton in this fixture was their goalkeeper who continued to pull out top drawer saves with ever increasingly frustrating consistency.
Watching the girls play was sublime to say the least. Jemma White in central midfield battling for every ball, Lauren Griffths alongside her beating opposition in a way that could only be described as dancing. Bianca Ross with her trademark spins and turns, Shelby Morris and Hannah Campbell running their weekly marathons and Kez with her wonderful, cheeky game changing flicks. Beautiful simple triangular passing that had the crowd chanting “we have more triangles than a box of dairylea!” All that was missing was a goal, and after constant none stop pressure from Leeds and a seemingly unbeatable display of goalkeeping from the Norton keeper we were starting to think it just wasn’t our day. Then a dizzying spin and quick through ball from Bianca ross put Shelby Morris one on one with the keeper on the 38th min to finally make it a fully deserved 1-0 lead.
The 40th min brought Nortons first chance on goal which was comfortably saved by Lauryn Colman and to be fair only warrants mentioning in order to emphasis just how much the Phoenix was dominating the game and battering the Norton goal until the first half came to a close.
Now its usually at this point in my match reports that I give you a quick insight into the deep tactical discussions and the strategic genius of the Leeds Ladies supporters but someone shouted from the club house “Get in here quick and laugh at scum” at which point we piled in en masse just in time to see Leicester awarded a penalty to go 5-3 up against Manchester united so the rest of half time was spent laughing and taking the mick if I’m been honest.
As the laughter and jokes subsided and the players took to the field for the second half we were shocked to see that Norton had subbed their keeper which was bewildering as she was really the only Norton player on the pitch that was keeping them in the game and it didn’t take long for Leeds Ladies to drive that point home as Kez rose above the Norton defence to double the lead on 50 mins.
Unfortunately momentary lapses in defence lead to Norton pulling a goal back on the 52nd to take the score to 2-1. It was Norton’s second chance of the game and gave them a goal they really didn’t deserve but lead to five minutes of football in which Norton began to dictate the pace of the game and start to get stuck in. no one felt this more than Emily Stark who got a fair few bruising tackles her way and took a far few hard hits. The fans could see her getting angry and frustrated and just has we were worried she might kick out at someone she decided to get her revenge by seeing the keeper of her line and shooting from the halfway line! It was a wonderful weighted ball that seemed to travel in slow motion until it beat the keeper and just hit the bar to go over. That cheeky if somewhat audacious attempt at goal served as a proverbial rallying cry for the Phoenix and Leeds began to take control of the game again. Consistently beating the Norton defence again and again to frustratingly miss that final touch or snatch and scuff at the shot.
Leeds were award a 77th min long range free kick and the supporters hearts were full of glee when Kez stepped up and told Bentz “this ones mine, you go to the back post”. Kez struck yet another sweet long range effort to make it 3-1 to Leeds Ladies. Although after the game Emma Bentley informed me she is claiming an assist for giving the keeper a cheeky nudge has the ball was heading goal wards.
Leeds continued to dominate the game and finally put it to bed on the 83rd min when Jodie Hartley finished off a mesmerising run by playing Hannah Campbell through on goal to make it 4-1. Hannah Campbell is still the clubs top scorer and has scored in every game except the season’s opener and seems to get hungrier with every goal she scores.
So all in all it was a 4-1 win that was not only deserved but a joy to watch. The score line in no way shows the confidence in this young team. Lauren dancing through midfield. Bianca Spinning in circles so much you get dizzy watching her. Shelby and Hannah and not seeing who can run the most in a game but starting to have a serious goal scoring competition. Kez with her game changing cheeky flicks and Starkie having a pop from halfway! All presided over super skipper Emma Bentley who constantly fights for every ball and shouts encouragement throughout the game. Next Sunday ids Liverpool Marshalls at our home in Knaresborough. Leeds Ladies are currently 4th in the league, 2 points behind Liverpool and 3 points from top. This really is going to be a game you don’t want to miss.
By Andrew Butterwick
The last time these two fierce West Yorkshire rivals met at Elland Road it was the height of the Leeds managerial Pantomime season. Brian McD had been sensationally sacked by Cellino who was then chased around LS11 in his taxi by irate fans. This time round round the managerial waters around Elland Road are a lot calmer with caretaker coach Redfearn steering Leeds on a mini unbeaten run whilst the Mad Italian searches for a permanent replacement. The positiveness that a decent run breeds was evident as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly made our way to the members bar for our pre match refreshment.
It made a nice change to quaff a pint of John Smiths with a healthy portion of pie and peas safe in the knowledge that if Leeds continued to play as they did against Bournemouth and Birmingham then Huddersfield were in for a torrid time given their dismal form. Redfearn had made one change to the system and personnel that dealt so clinically with Bournemouth. The 4-3-3 system was ditched in favour of a more conventional 4-4-2 with Sloth replacing Billy Sharp. Doukara and Antenucci started up front.
Just short of 30,000 expectant fans were packed into the Theatre of Italian Dreams as the match kicked off. The atmosphere was tingling with local pride as Leeds started on the front foot against a hesitant Town side. The passing game that improves each game was soon on show as the team in white pinged the ball confidently to each other trying to stretch the visitors. Antenucci nearly benefited from the early pressure as he fired a goalbound shot into the body of a desperate Town defender. It was Town who created the first real chance though as Peltier got to the bye line but Nahki Wells was high wide and handsome as he tried to convert the cross. Town's new coach, Chris Powell, had been vocal in the lead up to the game in saying his first priority was to stop his new side leaking goals. It was easy to see why as their back four was chaos personified whenever Leeds applied the slightest bit of pressure.
The decibel levels had been steadily rising for the first twenty minutes as the home fans gorged themselves on a Leeds team playing good confident football. The roof was about to come off the old stadium though. The impressive Antenucci chased a ball into the corner with Joel Lynch. The Town defender panicked and blasted the ball against the Italian only to see the ball balloon onto the edge of the box where Mr Austin was the first to react. Rudy didn't waste any time and just smashed an absolute screamer past the helpless Smithies. 1.0 Leeds and all of a sudden the pre match confidence looked absolutely spot on.
The goal sparked Town into life as they upped their game in search of an equaliser. Harry Bunn was causing some irritation to Berardi down the flanks and it wasn't long before the Leeds full back picked up a yellow card for an ill advised lunge on the Town winger. Bellusci soon followed him into Mr Foy's notebook. Fears of more red cards for Leeds started to worry me.
The game was heading for half time with Leeds regaining some control of the match when suddenly Leeds broke quickly out of defence and Antenucci was hurtling towards the Town goal with only two Town men anywhere near him.................he slipped a sublime ball to Bellusci (where the hell did he come from?) who clipped a perfect wedge shot over the oncoming Smithies only to see the ball rattle off the underside of the bar for Antenucci to pounce first and drive the ball into the open net. Get in! 2.0 Leeds and Antenucci was celebrating his 2nd goal in a week. He'll enjoy his pint in Spencers tonight!
The Urinal philosophers in the half time debate were in a strange mood. They were all smiling. Not one peep of negativity could be heard as the pre match refreshment was discarded. Very, very strange! "He can't replace Redders now" one fan commented reflecting the views of the majority of his peers.
Town tried to get some momentum as the 2nd half got under way but they had yet to trouble Silvestri with a shot on goal. Leeds on the other hand were almost strolling through the game with Austin, Cook and Bianchi totally dominating the midfield area as they passed there way out of trouble and onto attack on numerous occasions. This was good to watch and the home fans were lapping it up. The Town defence looked as weak as a newly born puppy whenever Antenucci, Doukara or Austin ran at them and not surprisingly it was this combination who were their final undoing.
First Doukara was caught just offside from an Austin pass but on 68 minutes Town were not that lucky. Austin slotted the big striker through with a peach of a ball which he converted sweetly to give Leeds an unassailable 3.0 lead. Doukara got a yellow card for his celebration, ridiculous, but he didn't care. Leeds were now cruising. Even Berardi's 2nd yellow and dismissal couldn't throw them off track as they toyed with their poor West Yorkshire neighbours. "We're taking the piss, We're Leeds United we're taking the piss" the home fans gleefully sang. Town's miserable afternoon was complete when Stead blazed over from 7 yards on 83 minutes. Antenucci was denied a fourth Leeds goal on 85 minutes by a finger tip save by Smithies as he sped away from his marker.
Both Austin and Doukara were replaced before the end to receive thunderous ovations from the home crowd. Mr Foy blew his whistle to signal the end of the game and a comfortable 3.0 win to Leeds. As we left the ground those strange smiles were all over the fans faces as they headed for home. Redfearn has moulded the impressive imports with the cream of the academy into a very useful unit. Cook was again outstanding for such a young lad ably supported by the rejuvenated Austin and the steadily improving Bianchi. Doukara and Antenucci looked sharp and mobile up front causing the creaking Town defence problems all afternoon. Pearce and Bellusci looked solid at the back whilst Warnock had another storming game. Silvestri didn't have a shot to save all afternoon. My man of the match went to Austin who was a revelation driving at the heart of the Town defence. He must have nuclear powered lungs?
That's 4 games unbeaten under Redfearn. Hopefully he will be allowed to continue by Cellino? Suddenly we are looking like a real team something a lot of fans are finding it difficult to relate to after the years of pure dross we have fed on. We are still work in progress though but if we carry on like this we'll be glancing at the league table and mentioning words like top six and even promotion. Steady on chaps its still early days.
Next week sees us at Brentford a match where we will allegedly be watching from the home terraces. A crash course in cockney needed then before our trip to London me thinks?