By Mark Rasdall
Some of you may remember Reg Varney as his most well-known character, Stan Butler, in 'On the Buses.' Reg was loyal and hard working but never had much luck or ever looked like being more than what he was.
I have read reports on yesterday's Leeds United away match at Peterborough United from Thomas Hill and Andrew Butterwick. Between them they cover what it was like to be a Leeds fan on an away day. I loved every bit of it too, from walking expectantly down to the game to marching away from the ground afterwards and, of course, the non-stop singing from our fantastic support of 4,000 fans throughout.
Peterborough were anything but Posh yesterday. They were ragged: devoid of ideas or effort. It was quite the worst Peterborough team I think I have ever seen. The 6,000 of their fans who made up the rest of the crowd must have feared the worst when we went 1.0 up and then 2.0 early in the second half. Another defensive error let them in briefly but it would have been an absolute travesty if we hadn't have won.
As a team we were much more up for it. As in the first two games we worked really hard and looked much more organised than last season if not actually controlling the game at any point. Defensively we looked pretty solid, apart from their goal, and Becchio and McCormack worked their socks off this time and Luciano took his goals well - especially the header for the second one.
In midfield we were big and quite tough but also went missing too often and this is where I think we'll have problems. As poor as Peterborough were yesterday they too often found themselves with time and space to set up attacks. Better sides than them with heart and imagination will capitalise on that and we'll be tested much, much more severely.
I know the situation with size of squad and very early days for new players. I also want to give everyone a chance as obviously does Neil. Diouf worked hard but is not really effective on the right and we lack a player of real creativity in midfield. If we were somehow to get a real playmaker in there, I think we could mount a promotion challenge. Poleon did well when he came on and it was fantastic to see Andy Gray in a Leeds shirt again, having not seen him since that dreadful day 16 years ago at Wembley against Aston Villa.
My biggest worry, though, is Luke Varney. I wanted to see for myself whether he was better than I initially thought. I'm afraid he was worse. He sticks quite well to his position and heads the ball effectively. However he has a dreadful touch and clearly has no real flair, preferring to argue with everyone around him just a little too much. Worse than this, though, he goes missing voluntarily. I watched him several times when we had set pieces or throw-ins in the second half. He doesn't look at the player kicking or throwing, or even go on intelligent decoy runs. He hides. He doesn't want the ball. He's obviously frightened of making a mistake or exposed for just not being that good.
I want to watch players like Luciano - not just because of the goals - but because they never stop running and want (demand) the ball whenever possible. Luke Varney doesn't. If he runs, it's like he wants to be seen to be putting in a shift (presumably to keep him in the team in these sparse times) but he never really engages unless he has to. I actually got the impression that he was a bit arrogant and thought he was deserving of a higher league, and is just doing us a favour by gifting his services to us - almost out of pity for our plight (perhaps he still thinks he's a Portsmouth player?).
I assume we'll give some players a rest against Oxford but Varney should play. He doesn't deserve a break and certainly hasn't earned the right to wear the shirt yet. Let him play against a lower league team and prove that he has a lot more to give - I for one would be delighted if this happened - otherwise we should offload him to somewhere like Peterborough where neither the players nor fans seem to care.
Reg Varney was funny but we're going to need much more than bus drivers when we hit the congestion of the winter months ahead.