For the first time in many years, I feel a genuine air of optimism, not one based on hype or the dreamy hope of all true, dedicated fans. Why? Here are four good reasons.
1) Massimo Cellino
There has been some serious changes at Elland Road. An owner who appears to love football more than money, who has some straight forward common sense and is willing to make tough business decisions. He may be eccentric, but its refreshing to have someone at the helm with a real personality. I like his no-nonsense talk and his honesty, a rare commodity in this day and age.
We may not be out of debt, but it would appear that the debt is now being managed properly and from what MC tells us, we are no longer losing silly amounts of money. I firmly believe that the success of our beloved club over the next few years has to be based on a strong financial performance. I am confident he can deliver this.
2) David Hockaday
Like most, I initially said Dave Hockawho? Never heard of him. Dave will be judged by his results, but succeed or fail, I like his approach. I recently watched the tennis at Wimbledon and saw athletes performing at their best for two to four hours at a time, and for the finalists, they did this seven times over a two week period. Why is it then that footballers cannot go ninety minutes, once a week? Answer - Fitness !!
A good work ethic is an essential part of the new regime, not just fitness, but a good team spirit, players working for each other, covering for each other, players willing to put in a hard days graft. Something that has been sadly lacking in recent years. It’s a back-to-basics approach which I believe is desperately needed. Let’s build again from the ground up. With Massimo dealing with the business side of the club and Dave been left to concentrate purely on training, we have the best opportunity to get this right. It may not be a model we are used to in this country but I believe its got great potential.
Once the basics are sorted then we can build the team’s skills, understanding and knowledge of the game. This isn’t going to happen overnight and I’m sure it’s going to take us a year or two to build this. I have no great expectations for the first game of the season, but expect us to gradually improve over the year. I will be disappointed if were not in the play-offs at the end of the season.
3) New Team
Put simply, the team has been a mess over recent years. I have not seen any cohesive approach to new players or any long term strategy to developing a team fit for the future. This is not surprising. When you have owners who are more interested in making money and have no real passion for the game or the club they are not going to invest. There have been some dubious decisions with regards to both players and managers. The result was a team of players who quite frankly had no great desire to play for Leeds, who just wanted to pick up a wage at the end of the month. They either saw it as extending their career by another year or two to top up their pensions or used it as a launch pad to move onto other clubs.
Don’t get me wrong, we did have some good players, but not many. Good players always perform better when they have other good players around them, when they have a good team, which we have not had for a long time. Hats off to Massimo for getting rid of the rubbish. Ok, McCormack was a damn good player, one of the best we’ve had in a long time, but if his heart isn’t in the club then he can go. Let him kiss someone else's badge for a year or two, especially if we can get £11m for him. We still have a handful of good players that want to play for us. Those that have stuck with us through the fiasco of last season, still want to play for Leeds and have the enthusiasm to do better have my respect.
Massimo and Dave appear to be working hard to bring in fresh talent. I cannot say that I am familiar with most of them, I am not an expert on the Italian game. But from what I have read about them, they seem to be younger players with lots of potential, some of them having played for their national side at U21 level. Massimo knows the Italian game far better than most of us, so I bow to his greater knowledge.
Silvistri is a highly rated goalkeeper by those that know him, as is the midfielder Bianchi. Doukara is a solid forward. Berardi appears to be on the verge of signing, although nominally a right back, I am told he can also play on the left side of defence. Massimo has said he is looking for another five or six players. If he chooses the right ones then this should give us a good core team, something that Dave can work on.
Most of the players he is looking at seem to be in their early twenties, maybe not yet proven players but ones with both hunger for the game and potential. This is great for the future plans for the club but we need to ensure we get some balance between youth an experience. We also need to look at some home grown players who know the English game.
Leeds have had a great youth academy since the days of Wilko. It’s also good to see a number of the youth academy getting rewarded with professional contracts with the club.
For the first time in years our new signings are exciting.
4) Elland Road
The sale of Elland Road is a reminder of the start of the Dark Ages for Leeds United. Psychologically, owning our own ground is very important. Financially, owning our own ground is very important. Massimo has always stated his intention to buy it back and has recently confirmed that he has the funds. Due to the contract, it makes sense to wait until November to do so. I look forward to the day it happens.