By Adam Walker
One of the few things that is predictable about Leeds United is the stuffy lethargy of the summer months. More generally, the pattern of resigned, defeatist behaviour the Club have shown in transfer window after transfer window, turning us into a pushover and laughing stock in the eyes of no-marks from East Anglia.
Typically, the last fixture ends; 'kicking on next season' is the talk of the manager's office; the players, agents, managers and tea ladies apparently render the entire sport comatose by taking a two-week holiday; the players return and pictures are taken of them hard at work on the training pitch in their psychedelic (psychopathic?) Macron gear; subsequently players with real potential are sold with a shrug of the shoulders, and dead-end journeymen are brought in to replace them, Shaun Harvey likely cooing about how he's 'maximised resources in an effective fashion to secure future income streams for the Club'.
But the current board at United cannot sustain their dying grip on those resources for much longer. For seven years, they have chopped, changed, whinged, planned, constructed, made excuses, litigated, whinged some more and, ultimately, failed to deliver progress on the football pitch. Supporters Trust Chairman Gary Cooper's suggestion that the Snodgrass sale is partly their doing is a very worrying sign indeed. How many more outward transfers can they still influence? How soon before they are willing to sign the papers which confirm their departure so Sheikh Abdulrahman and his merry men can finally be ushered in?
Aside from that easily-detected worry, though, is a deeper-seated threat. When Neil Warnock rolled into Elland Road, a giddy excitement gripped the fanbase. Gone were the apparently wishy-washy tactics of the Grayson days, and in would come solid defending and... more solid defending. The fact of the matter is that Warnock's team failed to score enough goals last season, and we regressed on Grayson's hard-fought position three points from the playoffs (incidentally, the same distance we'd reached in a season where Gradel, Johnson, Howson and Kilkenny had populated our midfield before they were snatched away). When Warnock arrived, we went from an attacking extreme to a defensive extreme. Foolishly, I suggest, because the midfield was severely weakened.
Is it being strengthed now as a matter of priority? Signings are being made there, but to me, it's a step too far to say that Rodolph Austin and Paul Green count as a strengthening. Paul Green is by all accounts the Yorkshire-born equivalent of Danny Pugh, and Austin, while he leaves Bergen with rave reviews, is still unproven in a truly competitive division and is middle-aged for a footballer. David Norris is another midfielder we have signed to bolster our midfield to give Neil Warnock more options.The common link between these players is that they're known as try-hards who can look after themselves.
I love the idea and legend of Dirty Leeds as much as anyone. You don't have to have watched the Revie side to know it's still a tradition strongly associated with the club - the persistent topping of the fouling charts by Lee Bowyer at the turn of the Millennium; the bottom and penultimate placing of Leeds in the fair play table over the last two seasons under Simon Grayson; the iconic status of Paddy Kisnorbo sporting the bloodied headband; the tackle from Michael Brown which put an end to the fragile Jacob Butterfield's season on that dreadful January day at Oakwell; Paul Connolly stating how he thrived on the atmosphere after his and Paul Robinson's 'smashing' of opposition players.
But Dirty Leeds aren't just dirty. There's more to it than that. Norman Hunter won Football Writers' Player of the Year award. Johnny Giles was a revered talent around the globe. Bowyer played in a team full of talent, with playmakers like Olivier Dacourt and Harry Kewell (spit), the wily Viduka, the cultured Harte and the pin-point tackling of Radebe. Kisnorbo played alongside Beckford, an undoubted talent when he can find his way to the ball. Brown played alongside Snodgrass - the Championship's second-top assistant last season, and Adam Clayton, a touch of class for much of the season before he was unwisely elected as the resident holding-role enforcer. Rodolph Austin could have been excellent foil for a dynamic pass-merchant like Clayton to work his magic and drive the five-man midfield forwards. And it's with Snodgrass and Clayton's exits that the threat of Warnockism once again sets off the mental alarm bells.
In the BBC's Leeds United - The Glory Years, probably the video which was responsible for drawing many younger fans' attention further than just the contemporary Leeds side and into the truly rich history of our club, John Motson hails 'Leeds United's footballing A,B, C: Arrogance, Belligerence, and Confidence'. Neil Warnock will provide the first two, there's no doubting that, but a tripod without its third leg cannot stand.
The departure of Snodgrass and Clayton and their respective replacements - Varney, and Green/Norris - does not represent progress. Unless this essential void of creative talent and true potential is filled, the class of the Leeds fanbase will not have been truly rewarded in kind with class on the pitch. It doesn't need to be spelt out how Leeds fans will react if they feel they've been fleeced. Another season of mediocre, defensive drudgery will simply not do. The playoffs are the minimum expectation of one of Europe's great all-time clubs, and rightly so. And they can only be achieved with a proper balance between defence and attack - a balance which must be present in the core of midfield, the beating heart of any good football team. This is how the final rung of that footballing ladder - Confidence - will be scaled.
Announce the new owners and their statements of intent, sign at least three genuinely talented players who can drive Leeds to promotion and beyond, and listen to the fans' proposals via the excellent representatives we have at LUST. Three simple steps which would truly enrichen the Club if they decided to act. The choice is theirs.
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