By Mark Rasdall
It has been a momentous few months, even by Leeds United's standards hasn't it?
When I started following the club in the late 1960's everything was about the team. Pre or post-match interviews with Don Revie were about the team selection, tactics, performances and results. That was all that mattered. I think I've only ever felt that way since then during Howard's time as manager. Headlines were less important than headers; verbal abuse described his unhappiness in the dressing room when players hadn't executed his well-researched plans...
There is no point (nor time or space) for me to go through all of the recent changes here. We all know what they are and we are where we are. I stood by Brian McDermott for as long as I possibly could until it became apparent that things were just not going to improve during his tenure. Even with the extra cash and new players I do not think that he was tactically good enough or a good enough coach to mould them into a single unit and I really lost patience with his team selections and insistence on playing his 'favourites' in the hope that they would come good. They didn't and he didn't and that is history now.
I have no problem with David Hockaday coming in or the management model being changed. We have failed for so long now that there is little to risk by taking a risk. Yes we could get relegated but that is no different to last season or the season before that. I know a lot of fans have had it in for Hockaday since he first joined because they felt that we should somehow have a big name to match our big club; they are now voicing their displeasure, if not downright nastiness, after two defeats out of three in the league. Incredibly they are also sharpening their knives for Cellino who, in my humble view, is a football man who is also putting his money where his passion is.
I do worry about some of the players who are selected but when I expressed this two seasons ago about the likes of Luke Varney I was hounded into silence. He was never good enough to play for our club and look what a character he turned out to be! I know that Rodolph Austin had a better game against Brighton last night but abrasion is only one part of the modern game. 'Dirty Leeds' also knew how to hold on to the ball and to pass it effectively and hurt other teams in other ways. Reckless tackles may look 'hard' but they have no place in a Championship winning team and would certainly let the team down big time in the Premier League. I'm sorry but he really isn't good enough. Luke Murphy needs to do a lot better as well. I was hoping that the emergence of more young players as well as the imports might inspire him to raise his game but not as yet. Seeing a midfield of Tonge, Austin and Murphy - with Norris on the bench - feels less like a new model than a patched up old banger.
We also have to get out of the habit of conceding early goals. This is not a new thing - it is a bad habit we have got into over the last season and a half. In the mid 'Nineties we had a terrible run of conceding late goals and that was eventually erased. Hockaday's coaching is not responsible for it but I am hoping he can coach the new and old defenders out of it.
I am concerned about this and lack of width and also that McDermott's favouritism may not have completely gone away, but this really is a work-in-progress. I believe that we do already have better quality players and a coach who relies on those players on the field to play according to the plan. I am pretty sure that he gets as furious as Howard did when they don't and I want to see that anger rather than McDermott's soft cooing or Warnock's 'I thought we had a right good go' apologies.
I think there will be many games like those against Middlesbrough and also Brighton to come. We are trying to not only build a new team but also a different way of playing - quality, passing football. I would have gone with Poleon or Ajose from the start last night and always think Smith is better coming on during a game when defences think they have seen us off. The temptation to go long will always be there, in my view, and, in any case, one shot on target and 33% possession proves the point.
But I am just a Leeds United fan. I am an optimistic fan and I have faith in David Hockaday's coaching abilities which I do not possess. I am sure that he does understand the tactics required and selects the players who will understand and carry out his football strategies. If they don't then he has to change things accordingly. I want him to play the best players and drop those who do not perform - that is why we have a bigger, better squad - thanks to Cellino.
I am more than happy for it take a season to get it right. After the summer we have had, anything more than this would be unreasonable in my view. We will know when we have progressed because all of the talk will be about goals and performances rather than coaches and presidents. If we do not give the new teams - on and off the pitch - time to make it work we will just remain a talking shop where bile and hatred substitute for understanding and faith.
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