By Mark Rasdall
In my last post I queried whether Brian McDermott's tenure at Leeds United was coming to an end. Like many LUFC fans I still really hope that he is the one to galvanise owners, fans and players and re-build our great club that we have been so passionately following for so many years. Brian is still there - perhaps it is because of the takeover not happening yet?
Today, after a ten day break which had given the team chance to 'recover' and with the promise of quick, attacking football on the 'front foot' and with 'lots of crosses into the box' more than three thousand faithful Leeds United fans went to the edge of the Tees with a true goal fest in mind. In the event the team were ponderous, at best pedestrian and always predictable - perhaps it is because of the takeover not happening yet?
Jack Butland was and is a fantastic prospect but, in true Leeds United style, we will let him return to the Midlands because we won't be prepared to pay for a player that Roy might yet take to the World Cup in Brazil in the summer - perhaps it is because of the takeover not happening yet?
Pearce and Murphy played their hearts out. Murphy may not yet be displaying the ingenuity we hoped of him but he tries so hard as does Ross McCormack. The problem is that, starved of any kind of service, McCormack comes so deep that his threat is diminished because of it - perhaps it is because of the takeover not happening yet?
Brian McDermott tells us that the side are now playing in the formation he favours. Surely that does not mean though that he cannot see when it is not working? Noel Hunt is also trying really hard and I absolutely applaud that, but what chance did he have against giant defenders such as Woodgate and Friend (and make no mistake, If there is one Championship fixture Jonathan Woodgate will be up for every season it is this one)? Perhaps it is because of the takeover not happening yet?
Brian may once have seen that our wingers had 'pace to burn' but none of us have yet. Maybe they are still unfit or just frightened to play for Leeds United? Maybe they need more time and good pre-seasons behind them? Or maybe, as with Peltier at Leicester, Reading and Palace and Hull have all bitten Brian's hand off in offloading players that they could see would not be good enough to play for their teams? Or, perhaps it is because of the takeover not happening yet?
Austin was truly woeful today and he is a player who either seems to be on it or absolutely off his game. Why can Brian not see this and make changes? Why does he not see when energy levels have fallen and introduce fresh legs? Smith got eight minutes today and yet made a real impact. OK it was like watching Stoke City play but it was the only period in the match when we really looked like scoring. Maybe we really just don't have the quality players we need or perhaps it is because of the takeover not happening yet?
Brian was impressed with us producing a clean sheet today against a team that have less chance of scoring than a one-legged hooker. Maybe we should watch the clothes in the washing machine go round instead then? At least we'd have more movement and see different shapes at play. Or perhaps it is because of the takeover not happening yet?
You see the takeover I am talking about is not the club takeover that a belligerent and unsupportive Football League may still block. It is the one that Brian and his coaching team should have completed by now. Yes he inherited the pension fund pressure of Neil Warnock but we had no shots on target today (remember Hull and Barnsley away last season?). Yes he had to turn things around to avoid relegation at the end of last season and professed his faith in the amazing aerial ability of Luke Varney who then refused to play for him. Yes, his hands have been tied in terms of who to bring into the club but he has brought players in that he either sticks to like glue or simply lets them slide off of the bench and into obscurity.
Brian has to take over the minds of players and convince them that they are good enough to play for Leeds United because whereas too many were lazy under Warnock too many now look frightened under McDermott: frightened to take players on; to try something different; to actually make penetrating passes; to take risks. Maybe Brian needs someone at the club to convince him that he is really good enough and tactically astute enough to manage a club like Leeds United? It hasn't been easy and we loyal fans may not be easy to live with but football is not about an easy life unless you are Wayne Rooney.
Brown for Austin and Poleon for Kebe might have been wise replacements in the second half today but they never came. We used to hammer Warnock for his lack of technical nous and being behind the times. I still think Brian is on the way up and has much to learn himself. Everyone needs time to do that. I think he should blood younger players in our remaining games now that the Play-Offs are well and truly beyond us and if he really believes in 'taking the handbrake off' then convince the players - not us - that he really means it.
Perhaps it is because of the club takeover not happening yet that it is still too early to judge Brian but I hope we see a lot more evidence of his own tactical and motivational makeover if not takeover before the end of this season.