By Mike Courtney
Following on from our latest reversal at Rotherham now is as good a time as any to assess the season so far and to look ahead to what might be in the weeks and months ahead. With 12 games gone the season so far can be easily broken down into 3 parts; let's call them Hockadays, Redders days and Darko days.
I think its safe to say that we were all surprised with the appointment of Hockaday during the summer. Few if any Leeds fans had heard of him and few if any will ever forget his short stay at Elland Road. In fairness to him he was on a hiding to nothing and with just one win in his 4 league games in charge, a 1-0 victory at home to Middlesbrough, he was always destined for the chop. The loss to Bradford in the Capital One Cup was the final straw, whereas many would have said the 4-1 battering by Watford the previous weekend should have sealed his fate. With stats of 2 goals for and 8 against and just those 3 points to show for his 4 games at the helm I think its fair to say that The Hockadays were not very successful ones and few were sorry to see the back of him. He tried his best but his best was far from good enough. A nice man, but then so am I and I couldn't manage Leeds United and sadly neither could he. In modern parlance "Epic Fail".
Neil Redfern took over caretaker duties and started with a bang and a 1-0 win at home to Bolton following Stephen Warnock's strike, was a welcome sight for the Elland Road Faithful. This was followed up with a 1-1 draw at Birmingham in a game we could have won. This match also saw the welcome return to form of Alex Mowatt, who was overlooked by Hockaday, and he duly obliged with the equaliser. The reformation under Redfearn continued on the following Tuesday, yes a Tuesday win, when we came from behind away at Bournmouth with goals from Doukara, Bellusci's wonder free kick and Antennucci got the goals in the last 20 minutes. A 3-0 thumping of our Noisy Neighbours Huddersfield the following Saturday had the Leeds faithful dreaming of good times ahead. Redders was doing great as Caretaker with 10 points in his four games in charge, 8 goals for and just 2 against, the polar opposite of Hockadays stats, and some fans were calling for his full time appointment, though others felt he was too valuable to the Academy; a view I totally disagreed with. Unfortunately Mr Cellino sided with the "Too Important to the Academy Brigade" and Redders Days, for now, were over. He left Leeds in a good position though for the incoming manager.
I must admit I didn't know much about Darko Milanic prior to his name been mentioned as a possible manager at Leeds. My knowledge of Austrian and Slovenian football is not what it should be. His record seemed good though and he won a lot of trophies at Maribor and Sturm Graz so with the positivity that had been set in place I was expecting good things under his stewardship. An 2-0 away defeat at newly promoted Brentford was not the start we were hoping for but as it was his first game in charge most fans let it slide, especially as we had two home games to come to get back to winning ways. A scoreless draw with Reading and a 1-1 draw with The Wendies was not what the doctor ordered but there were some signs there that we weren't far away. In fairness if it wasn't for Kieran Westwood we would have beaten The Wendies. The International break came at a good time as it gave Milanic plenty of time to get to know his players and to get them playing his way. There was a positive mood amongst Leeds fans that the short trip to Rotherham would finally see Mr Milanic get his first win as Leeds manager. The first half display didn't quash that belief as we led through a very good Antenucci stike and possibly could have been ahead by more. What folllowed in the 2nd half was dismal to say the least. We were out fought and out thought as we conceded 2 softish goals to let the 3 points slip away. There was one positive in that 2nd half, the short cameo of little Adryan showed he could and should have a big impact this term. Darko's stats for his 4 games read 2 points, 2 goals for and 5 against. A worse points tally than Hockaday.
So what lies ahead for the future? Will Darko survive Cellino's wrath? Will he be given the time to do so? I certainly don't know. There is an improvement in our style of play from the Hockadays, but our goalscoring stats are not good and we are not creating enough chances. All 3 bosses seem to like the Diamond Formation, I'm not a fan of it but who am I to argue. We need more width to create chances for Antenucci, Doukara and Sharp and the Diamond doesn't give us that.
The next 4 games could define our season. Away trips to Norwich and Cardiff won't be easy and home matches against Wolves and Charlton are no gimmies either. Where will Darko get his first win? I would love to say Tuesday Night at Carrow Road but I wouldn't be putting money on it. I'd take a point there and hope to keep the Wolves at bay next Saturday for our 1st win under Milanic. We'd have a week then to get ready for Cardiff, who are not going well and wouldn't it be great to get an away win against a team that have been our nemesis of late. All going well we will be in a confident frame of mind for the visit of Charlton and could snatch another win. That is the best case scenario. I always look at things with a glass half full mentality and 10 points from those games would be amazing. At this stage I'd bite your hand off for 7 points from those fixtures.
Whatever the outcomes I'm sure there will be many twists and turns as the season unfolds. Who will be our manager at the end of the season? Well I know it won't be Hockaday, I wouldn't bet the house on Milanic either. It could yet be Redders back at the helm. With Cellino you never know.
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