By Mark Rasdall
In more than forty five years of supporting Leeds United I cannot remember a time when we had such a choice of quality players in every position on the field.
Yes David O'Leary had a large, well-paid squad but I'm not sure the quality was there in such depth and injuries to one or two key players were felt more keenly. Even in the glory days I used to groan when star players were injured as Yorath, Ellam and Bates were fine squad players and did their jobs well for Don Revie when called-upon, but I don't think there were enough of them able to step up and neither were they, unsurprisingly, able to fill the quality gaps.
One criticism of Don (and Norman infers this in his autobiography) was that he overplayed some of the stars but then who could blame him with such riches in his midst? Coupled with fixture congestion - encouraged rather than alleviated by League and FA - this meant though that too often our tired team simply could not climb those final hurdles.
Reading reports about last night's Develepment Squad win against Doncaster reminded me again of the strength in depth we now enjoy. Adryan, Del Fabro and Montenegro of the new arrivals all made their marks as did Chris Dawson and Zac Thompson of the 'home-grown' lads among others.
The fusion of artistry and youth is already there to see in the LUFC first team with Mowatt, Cook and Byram alongside the likes of Bianchi, Bellusci and Antenucci. Just having those kinds of choices alongside the likes of Sharp and Austin and Morison and, yes, Noel Hunt, who played really well last night, as well as injured players like Walters and White and those who are knocking on the door such as Ajose must be incredible as a coach.
There are signs that we are beginning to create more chances, are more aggressive in the final third and more compact under Darko Milanic but surely the most important aspect to this is being able to coach such a rich squad of hungry players into winning teams that can do so by playing fast, passing football? It really is a different game these days - a squad game - and players have to be athletic like never before with corresponding recovery periods required. How refreshing on Saturday that Cook was rested after such a tremendous contribution in recent matches!
And yet, the doubters continue to find fault with the manager, the players and the selections. As paying fans they have every right to do so but, in contrast, I do always try to see the positives (after so many years of ups and downs that hasn't always been easy either!) until there can be absolutely no doubt in my mind that things need to change. I welcomed Neil Warnock and Brian McDermott and even David Hockaday until it became obvious that things were not going to work out and change was needed.
Throughout all of this I have been worried that Neil Redfearn might leave but if he and Milanic can work together with their shared coaching experiences here and abroad, coupled with the squad we have, I do believe we have the platform now to go on and achieve great things again. I don't think it will be this season, and the odds of 14/1 with Paddy Power for us to achieve promotion prove we are still a little way away, but I am very confident for next. I know it could all go wrong in the Spaghetti Western surrounding the club and that many players are on loans etc etc, but I am keeping the faith as I have done for so long.
Until they absolutely drive me mad I shall stand behind every player who pulls on the white shirt and scream my support for the team. We have to be patient and believe in Leeds United. How can we expect any coach or player to do so otherwise?
By Russ Vernon
Brian Montenegro scored a brace as United U21s breeze into next round of Dev Squad League Cup with a 6-0 win over Doncaster.
Montenegro opened the scoring on 10 minutes after a good cross from defender Luke Booker and Montenegro scored a perfect header to put United infront.
Zac Thompson added a the 2nd for United following net build-up play between Adryan and Montenegro before he scored a ferocious drive from outside the box.
Adryan then put the Whites 3-0 infront after he raced through on goal to complete a composed finished in first half stoppage time.
Noel Hunt added a fourth goal for United on 49 minutes after curling home from the edge of the box after being found by Adryan.
Scorer of the United's 2nd goal Thompson turned provider on 59 minutes as he played in Captain for the night Chris Dawson to score with a smart finish.
Brian Montenegro who started the scoring completed the scoring after he tapped home at the back post after some good work by Hunt as Montenegro scored the 6th and final goal.
Sub Tyla Bell almost got in on the act after Montenegro's low cross which Iveson managed to cut out.
Neil Redfearn's side march on to Round 3 of Dev Squad League Cup.
United 6-0 Doncaster (Montenegro 10', 62', Thompson 28', Adryan 45+1', Hunt 49', Dawson 59')
United: Alex Cairns, Luke Booker, Ross Killock, Dario Del Fabro, Tyler Denton; Zac Thompson (Tyla Bell 79'), Kalvin Phillips (Alex Purver 60'), Chris Dawson (c), Adryan, Brian Montenegro, Noel Hunt (Luke Parkin 72'). Unused subs: Eric Grimes, Jake Skelton.
This coming Friday 10th October our brilliant supporters club are hosting a fund raising night at Beeston Hill Social Club, 130 Beeston Road, LS11 8BB starting at 7.30pm. The night is all about fun and to raise much needed funds to help us finance our season; a season which so far has succeeded all expectations in so many ways.
Off the pitch as we began our pre-season weeks behind every other club in our division we looked to attract the players and the coaching staff to join us rebuilding a Leeds Ladies team from the ashes left over from the disbandment of Leeds United Ladies and the group that came together have been an inspiration to me and our supporters as they have worked so very hard to get themselves not only up to the required levels of fitness but also to ensure that as a team they have gelled. Jak Oldroyd and assistant manager/player Carey Huegett have worked wonders with a very new squad that has an amazing blend of youth and experience but one that is also full of talent and potential. The girls themselves have been superb, performance after performance win lose and draw they have not let themselves and each other down. They have been a pleasure to watch and support.
Behind the scenes my fellow committee members and I working with our great friends at the supporters club have put in countless hours making sure the administration of the club and the finances needed are in place and that we are able to report on our progress on the social media keeping our sponsors, supporters and all interested parties informed. The phoenix truly is rising.
The event this Friday plays an important part in raising funds but also in bringing together players, fans and management in a social setting away from game day to relax and enjoy a drink and each other’s company, a chance to take pictures and get autographs and find out just how much Leeds Ladies FC means to everyone involved.
On the agenda is music from amazing local band ‘The Detail’ covering everything from Paul Weller to The Kaiser Chief’s, the much awaited raffle draw of our Inbetweeners replica car (raffle tickets still available, email email@example.com for details) and an auction of lots of Leeds Ladies FC and LUFC products, merchandise and memorabilia. Tickets are just £5 and can be bought in advice or at the door on the night. All are welcome so please bring your friends and family and enjoy an evening with us all and help Leeds Ladies Supporters Club raise money that will help the club. All of the proceeds go directly to Leeds Ladies FC.
By Andrew Butterwick
The early kick off meant a dash from London for yours truly but thanks to East Coast mainline I arrived in LS11 just in time for latest Yorkshire derby with Sheff Wed. Once again Darko's team selection raised a few eyebrows amongst the home fans in a crowd of 24,000. Berardi in for Cooper at left back and Austin in for Cook were the changes from Wednesday's starting eleven. Warnock must have really pissed Cellino off if the right footed red card liability Berardi is in front of him in the current pecking order for the left back berth. Sharp remained on the bench.
Tom Lees had recovered from his injury to start for the visitors as the game got underway in front of an expectant and boisterous crowd if not a rather disappointing number of away fans. I suppose Sheffield is a long way away though?
The new central midfield pairing of Mowatt and Austin were soon to the fore as Leeds looked to take an early advantage. Crisp passing through the middle released Antenuci who was too illusive for the the Wednesday back four as they resorted to a body check to stop him. Mowatt hit the free kick over Westwood's bar. This was a more positive Leeds team than the one that stuttered against Reading as first Mowatt and then Doukara broke the visitors back line with diagonal runs into the box but neither could finish. Austin who was revelling his central role then stunned Westwood with a rasping 30 yard shot that the agile keeper acrobatically tipped over the bar. This was the type of attacking play the home fans were yearning for as the decibel level rose another notch. Silvetsri was relatively quiet but was pleased to see a header from Nuhiu miss when the Wednesday player should have hit the target.
Chances continued to come Leeds way with the excellent Bianchi at the heart of most of the good moves but a combination of Antenucci being offside and the impressive Westwood in the Wednesday goal kept the score goalless as the game approached half time. Steve May so nearly made Leeds pay for their generosity in front of goal when he rose to steer a superb cross inches wide of Silvestri's post. Antenucci did have the ball in the net before the half finished but inevitably he was flagged for offside. HT 0.0.
The urinal philosophers were a happy bunch at half time. "We're looking good" "It's only a matter of time before we score" were a couple of the positive comments emanating from the Gents mixed with one fan who was clearly frustrated with Antenucci's numerous runs into offside territory, "I bet that Antenuci is offside when he's having a shower" he moaned. All in all lots of positives from the half with Bellusci and Bianchi oozing confidence on the ball. Just a pity Westwood was in such good form.
Leeds started the 2nd half with a bang as Antenucci latched onto a poor pass back to lob Westwood only to see his goalbound shot cleared off the line. Minutes later he was denied again by Westwood as he smothered a searching through ball from Murphy, who had replaced Sloth at half time. I could feel a goal coming but whilst my premonition was correct it was at the wrong end of the pitch. Leeds lost the ball in midfield and suddenly were exposed at the back. Maghoma broke onto a through ball before turning back to Maguire on the edge of the box who drilled a perfect shot past Silvetsri into the bottom corner of the net. Leeds didn't deserve to be behind but they were. 1.0 Wednesday.
The Leeds response was swift though. Antenuci breached the Wednesday back four only to see Westwood pull off another brilliant save to deny the equaliser. Next the Leeds centre forward was wriggling into the box and shooting inches wide. It felt like it just wasn't going to be Antenuci's day. The home crowd stayed with the team though and urged them on for the equaliser. The big pairing of Madine and May nearly carved out a fatal 2nd goal for the South Yorkshire outfit but the shot crept inches wide. The game started to become very niggily as Wednesday fought literally to defend their lead which produced a flurry of yellow cards from the referee. Berardi and Bellusci typically responded in kind giving rise to lot's of predictions for a third red for our Swiss right cum left back.
Just when it looked as if Wednesday were going to complete the classic smash and grab victory the peerless Bellusci came to the West Yorkshire team's rescue. First he won yet another free kick as he glided forward and then expertly side footed the ball into the net through a melee of players from the free kick. Get innnnnnnnnnn! 1.1. Leeds were now surging forward. Morison joined Sharp in place of Doukara and Antenuci respectively as Darko's men looked for the winner. Despite 5 minutes of added time the game ended all square at 1.1. A cracking game though with Westwood gaining all the plaudits for an impressive display between the Wednesday sticks. For Leeds Bellusci was nothing short of brilliant as he gave an accomplished display of ball playing defending as you are likely to see this season. With a bit more luck in front of goal Leeds would have won comfortably but all credit to Westwood in the Wednesday goal.
Darko will have been pleased more with the performance than the result as he tries to mould the team into his style of play. The majority of fans streaming down Elland Road were pleased with what they'd seen. Alright we should have finished better in front of goal and there was the usual clamour for Adryan to have a run but there certainly weren't any complaints from this fan with the passing game that we are currently executing. Last year's hoof and hope strategy is a distant memory. If we carry on like this things can only get better on Planet Leeds.
The international break will give Darko a bit more time to work with the team before yet another derby this time against Rotherham United. A certain Leeds fan was today predicting that it won't be long before we give somebody a "reet good spanking" Be afraid Rotherham be very afraid it could be you!
By Martin 'Badger' Chadwick
Thursday night saw the first return fixture of the season for Leeds Ladies and with it the first chance for revenge as the Phoenix took on Guiseley vixens on their own ground. Now plenty has been said about us been a young team and having almost no pre season but its time to put that to bed now so this is the last time I shall mention it but the turn around in the team in a couple of months is nothing short of miraculous and just proves the fans are right for calling Jak Oldroyd the special one.
For those of you who have recently joined Leeds Ladies and their journey it was only on the 9th September that we played Guiseley in the league and lost 6-3 in a game we well and truly took control of in the last half hour and had Guiseley worried. That same attitude was prevalent from the start of this return fixture as Leeds Ladies brought the pressure and aggression from the very first whistle.
The game was an end to end passionate affair with Guiseley first chance of the game coming on 11 mins and Leeds first chance on the 12th when Shelby Morris played Kez through the defence for her to deliver a cheeky little flick across goal that Hannah Campbell came agonizingly close to connecting with.
The fast attacking end to end pace continued until the 28th min when Hannah Campbell (who took a rare day from scoring last weekend) pounced to break the deadlock and make it 1-0 and send the Phoenix fans to louder raptures than ever before. We were still chanting about Hannah’s earrings and chocolates when on the 31st min Emily Starkie lofted a wonderful ball into the area from the halfway line for Hannah Campbell to get the slightest of touches and make it 2-0!
Guiseley were well and truly rattled at this point and used two subs in fairly quick succession. A fact that didn’t go unnoticed by the Leeds fans that had once again out sang any opposition support and jumped on this instantly.
The Leeds fans had been singing since the first whistle and just like the girls on the pitch they were putting in their best performance of the season to date and the girls were rewarding them for it. There is a wonderful symbiotic relationship between the fans and the players at Leeds ladies, the fans are crazy (http://thecitytalking.com// Dan Chapman favourite chant this week was “the fireworks are Leeds fans, the fireworks are Leeds fans nana nana”) and keep the players laughing and encourage them to continue when the game gets tough and in return the players fight to the last drop for the badge and the fans.
I strongly believe the fans were instrumental in helping the ladies hang on to the 2-0 lead as Guiseley threw everything at Leeds for the last 10 minutes of the first half but we went into the break deservedly 2-0 up at the atmosphere was bouncing. The mood at halftime was electric as everyone spoke hurriedly to each other as voices were already starting to go.
Leeds came out for the second half hungry to kill the game off and almost did when Emma Bentley rose to meet a Shelby Morris corner on the 52nd min and narrowly miss connecting with the header. Controversy entered the game on the 64th min when the referee judged a Guiseley player to have been brought down in the area when in fact it was just a step outside. Guiseley converted the penalty kick to make it 2-1, robbing Lauren Coleman of a well deserved clean sheet and undeservedly bringing Guiseley back into the game.
If Guiseley thought they were back in this and could take something from it they were very very much mistaken as only three minutes later a 67th min free kick from Kez was deflected for a corner. The resulting corner kick was met by a mass of white shirts climbing high above the Guiseley defence to make it 3-1. There is some confusion as to who actually put it in the net but it’s been claimed by Captain Emma Bentley as she was “dead close to it”.
Guiseley were well and truly beaten at this point as Leeds Ladies continued to attack relentlessly been spurred on by such chants as “ 4-1 and we sing for Jak” and “4-1 and we're on the pitch” which lead to a great bit of banter between the supporters and the linesman.
As the game reached the 85th min Leeds decided to give Guiseley a break from been constantly under pressure and were happy to play the game out in the corner but unfortunately the referee wanted the headlines for himself and played a ridiculous 12 mins of extra time! No one knows where that amount of stoppage time came from even the linesman was questioning if the referee knew what he was doing!
After 100 minutes of fast paced, brutally physical end to end football the players were shattered and tempers were frayed and unfortunately this resulted in a bit of an on pitch tussle between Vicky Fytche and a Guiseley player that resulted in Vicky been sent off. There was no need for so much injury time and the blame lies solely with the referee for an incident that should never have happened.
With a final score of 3-1 to Leeds Ladies, a whole host of supporters without voices and sat third in the league its fair to say that the phoenix has risen and is soaring high. We witnessed a strong, talented and dedicated football team with a team spirit that is unmatched by anyone walk away extremely comfortable winners against one of the best teams in the league.
Captain Emma Bentley sums it up best in the post match interview on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLf606fC2l4 ) when she says “we made a great team look average today”. Leeds ladies have declared themselves a force to be reckoned with in this league and Morecambe have got to be worried about visiting us on Sunday.
By Alton Harewood
SPOTLIGHT ON: Gaetano Berardi
DOB: August 21st, 1988
POB: Sorengo, Switzerland
Height: 1.79m (5ft 101/2in)
Position: RB - RWB
Well-entrenched in our Italian theme we come to our "bad-boy" transfer-in for a two-year contract, with the possibility of an extension, Gaetano Berardi. If Leeds fans were surprised at his two red cards in four games they need only look back on his recent history with Sampdoria of the Italian Serie A, in the 2013-14 season, to see that in 4 games with them he had two yellows and the writing was on the wall. He is therefore a player who may be just a little too loose with his tackles or, perhaps a touch off the pace of the game, requiring him to commit into heavier tackles that will often be late or penalized. It does not look like his fitness is off, just his pace.
Berardi took a pay drop to come to Leeds, again a good and bad thing. Good in that he wants to play but bad in that he was definitely not getting first team action at Sampdoria, very likely due to his liability on the field. As a player with a solid RB able to take his place, Berardi cannot really afford the red cards he has claimed early in the season, that will not be any good for the club, other than giving Sam Byram more starts, or for him personally, particularly as Darko Milanic takes the reins and expects greater discipline on the field.
With his international days behind him after appearing for the Swiss U-21 team back in 2011, its clear that Berardi needs to make his stay a success at Leeds. Having won promotion to the Serie A twice for two teams he is well acquainted with the pressure of being in the "league below" though lacking in lengthy game time.
Welcome to Leeds Gaetano, try to stay on the field! MOT!
Benvenido a Leeds Gaetano, cerca di rimanere in campo! MOT!
By Andrew Butterwick
Unusually balmy weather greeted us as we made our way down Elland Road for the midweek evening clash with the Royals. The brief flirtation with real pre-match confidence courtesy of a Redfearn inspired four match unbeaten run had been well and truly trashed after Saturday's sobering trip to Brentford for Darko's first game in charge. The Happy Chocker was not on his own in thinking Redfearn should have been given the job full time so even though this was only Darko's 2nd game in charge there was plenty of pressure building from worried and impatient fans.
Reading arrive in LS11 with a similar inconsistent record to Leeds and on the back of a 6 goal thriller against early pacesetters, Wolves, on Sunday. This was going to be a stern test for the fledgling Leeds side so after discussing which stand our mad Italian owner would choose to sit in tonight we eagerly awaited Darko's team selection. When it was announced it conformed the pre match rumour mill's view that Warnock was for the chop after Cellino was heard berating him in the away end at Brentford. Strange as Warnock has been our most consistent performer this season? Darko also replaced Austin with Sloth and Liam Cooper slotting in at left back in place of the bemused Warnock. Mmmm an interesting selection to say the least!
Leeds started brightly forcing two corners in the first 5 minutes as Sloth and Mowatt looked to snatch an early goal for the mighty whites but it was Silvestri who was soon in action at the other end tipping over a decent drive from Blackman on 10 minutes. It was a very open start to the game with both sides seeking to play the ball on the floor to find a way through the opposition defence. Mowatt found some space and screwed a curling shot just wide after the generous Reading defence gave the ball away. Things were starting to look good for the men in white as the majority of the 20,000 crowd got behind Darko's charges.
The pattern of the game was set with each team cancelling each other out with similar styles. "It's like a bloody game of chess" one fan commented who was clearly struggling to get to grips with Leeds new style. Blackman was causing Leeds problems together with Murray but the back four repelled most of the Royal's attacks. Leeds sought to play through the Reading midfield with Cook and Mowatt to the fore as they tried to clip crisp balls around but all too often the end result was a disappointing or mis-placed pass. The crowd's frustration grew as the game headed for half time compounded by Bellusci wasting a good chance from a free kick blasting high and wide into the South Stand. Half Time 0.0.
It wasn't the most exciting half of football I've ever witnessed at Elland Road but at least the team were trying to play football rather than just kick and rush. Leeds fans are notoriously hard to please and there were plenty of dissenting voices amongst the Urinal philosophers. "I can't do with this tippy tappy stuff they need to get the ball in the mixer" one coach commented whilst another thought "This passing games ok but there's never any end result" He had a point. This is certainly a team in transition with a new style, new coach and new players.
The 2nd half started with promise for Leeds as Mowatt cleverly slipped past two Reading defenders before getting his shot away on the edge of the box. The ball deflected for a corner but the attack ended yet again with no shot on goal. Reading started to take control as they sensed that Leeds had run out of ideas. Norwood, Blackman, Hector and Murray were starting to dominate as Leeds looked more vulnerable the longer the game went on. Surely Darko would be reaching for the subs board sooner rather than later? Sloth was struggling to make any impression in midfield and he was the obvious choice for the hook. "What the f*** is Murphy warming up for"? the Happy Chocker observed...................."No chance of him coming" I confidently predicted...............wrongly as it transpired as our £1m man replaced Cook shortly followed by Austin on for Mowatt. In one fell sweep the pinch of creativity we had in midfield were now sat watching from the bench?
The next 10 minutes were chaotic as Leeds seemed to be falling apart with a Reading goal imminent. Silvestri saved the day with his leg keeping out a point blank header as the Royals pushed for the winner. Leeds wasted a free kick on the edge of the Reading box before Austin summed up the complete lack of penetration from the home side as he lamely tried to lob the keeper from 50 yards. As the clocked ticked past 80 minutes both teams seemed intent on going for the winner and what undoubtedly was a very average and frustrating stalemate suddenly came alive. Billy Sharp replaced Antenucci and suddenly Leeds looked a threat up front. Sharp soon hit the home side's first shot on target with just 6 minutes left. There was a frantic last hurrah from both sides. Leeds had a big shout for a handball penalty but the ref turned it down as he had with two for Reading earlier in the game. The game finished in a goalless stalemate.
Frustrated was a word used by lots of fans as we streamed away from the ground along with plenty complaining about the new passing style. We didn't like hoofball now we don't like tippy tappy? You can't win sometimes. Bellusci had a decent game at the back for Leeds but I think Darko took off two of the better players on the night in Cook and Mowatt. Murphy showed all the attributes that make him the target of significant discontent from the majority of Leeds fans, in my opinion he is just not good enough for the championship. Leeds lost there way in the 2nd half and lacked any real penetration for most of the game mostly because of lots of poor final balls but in the end we kept a clean sheet against a team that stuck 3 past Wolves on Sunday so we should be thankful for small mercies.
Sheff Wed will be a much sterner challenge than Reading I suspect. A rip roaring derby in prospect for Saturday lunchtime but will Darko see the light and pick the right combination to clip the Owls wings? Time will tell.
By Brendan Devereux
Leeds Ladies hosted Liverpool Marshalls in a top of the table clash this past Sunday, the sun was shining & as always the fans were in fine voice (much to the oppositions chagrin). As seen in recent matches Leeds got straight out of the blocks and hit the ground running. It was plain to see early on that the front four were going to cause Liverpool no end of problems. Leeds hard work paid off after 11 minutes as Hannah Campbell broke free only to see her shot saved but the rebound fell to Carey 'Kez' Huegett who showed her Le Tissier like quality and hit it on the half volley to give Leeds the lead. This was unfortunately short lived as Liverpool hit Leeds on the break and a handball missed by the officials gave the Marshalls the equaliser.
In another bizarre incident missed by the referee Shelbey Morris was put in a headlock that Bret 'The Hitman' Hart would have been proud of. Leeds were dealt another blow shortly after when Jemma White was forced off with an injury. Leeds strength in depth was evident as both Erin White and Vicky Fytche were warming up as a replacement for those of you unaware that's like seeing David Batty injured while Vinnie Jones & Billy Bremner are on the bench. Leeds were unlucky not to go in to the break in front as once again Hannah Campbell broke free while her shot beat the keeper it agonisingly just went centimetres wide of the post.
As the second half had barely got underway when Leeds were hit with another injury & Shelbey Morris was forced to leave the field to be replaced by Vicky Fytche. The game tightened up as both teams pushed forward trying to take the lead at halftime Emma Bentley must have been watching the Leeds United vs Bournemouth goals as on several occasions she made box to box runs trying to outdo Bellusci & get on the score sheet. With Leeds lacking pace since the departure of Shelbey Morris the goal threats seemed to come from Kez who had the keeper sprawling with long range efforts on numerous occasions and one had the keeper beat only to thunder back off the crossbar.
Just as it seemed as a draw was the most likely outcome Liverpool threw everything they had at Leeds and as a cross came in it fell to a Liverpool player who saw her shot deflected heartbreakingly past Lauryn Colman. This was clearly a big scalp for Liverpool as they celebrated like winning the cup final with one player even giving the Leeds fans a bit of grief.
Despite the loss Leeds can take pride in the performance with player of the match Bridie Hannon looking like she has been centre back her whole life, Lauren Griffiths dominating the midfield and the sheer class of Kez when she has the ball you always feel a goal is imminent. Attention now turns to 2 games in 4 days as local rivalry is renewed when Leeds travel to Guiseley on Thursday evening before hosting Morecambe on Sunday this result is merely turbulence in the rise of the Phoenix.