By Mike Courtney
Well here we are, less than a week to go before the big Kick Off and it's time to assess our chances for the up coming season. With Ken Bates finally gone from our beloved club, it is a time to look forward to a brighter future and not to dwell on the past, so from now on I will never mention his name again in the same breath as Leeds United.
So back to the new campaign. First things first; our transfer dealings have not been as successful as most of us were expecting. True we did spend a million on Luke Murphy and also acquired the services of strikers Matt Smith and Noel Hunt, but in my humble opinion I still feel we haven't addressed the main areas which required improvement namely centre back and pace out wide. I know B-Mac was actively pursuing Matt Mills and this may still come to fruition, but the search for a wide creative player appears nowhere nearer then it was under Bates, oops wasn't supposed to mention him again. I really do feel that if we are to mount a serious challenge for promotion this year we do need a creative wide player to feed the likes of Smith, Hunt, McCormack, Poleon and Varney. I think we have a good enough squad with what we have in other areas but improving the centre of defence and out wide is imperative.
A good start to the campaign is also a must beginning with the home game against Brighton. When you look at August we have five League games; home to Brighton, Wednesday and QPR and away at Leicester and Ipswich. No easy game there. It is vital that we make Elland Road a fortress again and we definitely have to improve our away form if we are to mount a serious challenge. With a crowd in excess of 30k expected on Saturday I do feel we will get off to a winning start if the large crowd get behind the team. Going to the Walker's stadium is never easy and with the TV cameras watching I would take a draw. A Yorkshire Derby is always a battle but with home advantage I again think we will get a big crowd in and a win against Wednesday. We haven't won at Ipswich since we dropped out of the Premier League and have lost there for the last three seasons, so that won't be easy but if we have the momentum going from a good start then breaking that cycle could be on the cards. Then we will have the visit of relegated QPR to finish the month and again a near full house should be expected and maintaining our home form could inspire us to another three points against Harry's charges, though a draw is a more realistic outcome. Getting anywhere between 10-12 points from those five games would be a very good start and though difficult, is achievable.
Next lets look at the bigger picture, the full campaign and who will be challenging for promotion. You always have to favour the relegated teams; QPR, Reading and Wigan, with Premier League players and parachute payments to extend their squads. Having said that, this League isn't easy to adapt to and the attitude of these teams early doors will dictate their season. Reading and QPR have been here more recently and for me will pose a bigger threat then Wigan, who are under new management and may not take to the hustle and bustle of two games every week and also the added distraction of a European campaign. I don't rate any of the three promoted teams, Donny, Bournmouth or Yeovil and can't see them make a realistic push for promotion. They will cause teams problems though and shouldn't be treated lightly. Of the teams that missed out on promotion I think Watford, Forest and Blackburn could be there or there about this season. Add to that Bolton, Derby, Birmingham and Millwall and you can see how difficult a task it is to get out of this division.
B-Mac certainly has his work cut out to get us to maintain a realistic challenge for promotion. A Playoff place is attainable but we do need a few more signings to complete the jigsaw. I really am looking forward to a positive campaign and as with all the Leeds United Faithful remain optimistic and supportive of our management and players. Can't wait for Three O'Clock next Saturday.
Predictions for August:
Leeds 2 Brighton 0
Leicester 1 Leeds 1
Leeds 3 Wednesday 1
Ipswich 1 Leeds 2
Leeds 2 QPR 2
MOT Leeds Leeds Leeds