By Mike Courtney
It has been an eventful summer at Elland Road and with the season opening defeat at Millwall followed by the home win in the Capital One Cup it looks like this could be a very eventful season for us Leeds supporters.
The signings of Liam Cooper, Billy Sharp and Giuseppe Bellusci this week have bolstered what was looking like a threadbare squad and talks of Kieran Agard's impending arrival will add much needed firepower as Mr Hockaday endeavours to replace the goalscoring exploits of the departed Ross McCormack.
With the Sky cameras due to arrive for our first home league match on Saturday against a fancied Middlesbrough side who have just secured the signature of ex whites midfielder Adam Clayton, it will be interesting to see how the new arrivals fit into the managers plans. Tommasso Bianchi will also be available having missed the opener against Millwall through suspension and his ability to pick a pass could be vital as the season progresses.
As always we seem to find talent in our youth squad, Byram two seasons ago, Mowatt last year and this years find looks like it could be Lewis Cook. He impressed when coming on at the Den and was involved in the second goal against Accrington Stanley and looks like he could have a huge part to play this term. Nicky Ajose was probably our most potent threat against the lions and with Souleymane (Soulman) Doukara opening his goal account with a brace against Accrington 'who the hell are they' Stanley in midweek, his second in particular showing that he could be a 20 goal a season man, there is a bit of hope that we won't miss RossMc as much as we thought.
I'm looking forward to seeing how "Soulman" links up with Billy Sharp in what could be a potent pairing. In fact we are looking particularly strong in the attacking end of the field and I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of players departing, possibly Hunt and Morison, especially if Agard signs.
At the start of the season there were many pundits predicting that Leeds would be candidates for relegation and on the evidence of the first 45 minutes against Millwall many wouldn't have backed against them. There was some improvement in the second period and if we had taken the chances that came our way we could have snatched a point. Milwall hasn't been a happy hunting ground for us since we fell from grace so a defeat there wasn't much of a surprise. Getting over the potential banana skin in midweek will have given the team and particularly the new lads a bit of confidence ahead of the visit of Boro and believe you me it was badly needed.
The manager's first competitive win was very welcome indeed and it sets us up nicely for the league opener at Elland Road. Speaking after training today, Hockaday says he has his team in mind for Saturday's game and with the 3 new signings training at Thorpe Arch today it looks like they will all be included in the match day squad.
I expect the manager to make some changes from midweek with Silvestri coming back in along with Byram,who will replace the suspended Berardi who was impressive until his late Kung Fu tackle against Stanley. Captain Pearce will play and will probably be partnered by one of the new centre backs, Cooper or Bellusci. I expect Warnock to play at left back. In midfield I think the manager will go for Austin, Murphy, Bianchi and either Cook or Tonge with Sharp and Doukara playing up front. I think this eleven looks solid at the back and with the creativity of Murphy and Bianchi feeding the front two there are goals in the side. If things aren't going to plan there is always the option of Big Matt Smith or the unpredictability of Poleon and Ajose to call on. I think there is enough in that side to give the fans something to cheer about come 2pm Saturday and show those watching on Sky that we are not candidates for relegation as many had predicted at the start of the season. A winning start at home is key for the squad going forward and making Elland Road a fortress again will be one step closer.
The expectations of many were not high during the summer and this could be a blessing in disguise as it gives the new manager and the influx of new signings time to bed in without the added pressure that promotion candidates usually have. If we can stay within touching distance of the top six up until Christmas then I am confident that Cellino will invest in the necessary quality to push us towards that elusive playoff spot. That push begins on Saturday and I think we will start our home campaign with a nervy 2-1 win. Then as the squad settles into what will be a hectic few weeks we will see if we have the strength in depth to challenge this season. Hope is always close at hand when it comes to the Mighty Leeds.
Onwards and upwards, MOT Leeds Leeds Leeds