Tuesday, 16 August 2011

44 games until where?

I prefer to be optimistic than pessimistic when it comes to Leeds United and over the last few weeks and months we haven't had much to shout about, however we are in the most unpredictable league in the world and yet to spread our wings and fly.

Last season was a great learning experience for us as we came so close yet so far from a Play-off spot. Now we shouldn't waste a great chance to kick on from a superb platform generated last term. It's a huge club and our absence from the top flight hopefully won't be extended much longer. It does concern me that with players like Max Gradel and Robert Snodgrass catching the eye of many Premier League clubs it's only a matter of time until they feel they must fulfil their dreams elsewhere.

We face Hull today who like us have come up against two good sides in Blackpool and Ipswich. We enjoyed two quality games against the Tigers last season with them both finishing 2-2. United still without a point this season will have to try to overcome a dangerous Hull side who have their own promotion aspirations this season without Gradel and skipper Jonny Howson after two harsh red cards on Saturday.

Leeds welcome back Andy Keogh to the club who is expected to make his debut tonight. Also Mikael Forssell is training with the club along with other trialists as Simon Grayson looks to bring in more fresh faces to the club.

It will be interesting to see how Grayson approaches this game tactically. Whatever happens whether it be win, lose or draw we will be marching on together through good times and bad.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Homecoming for Keogh! Meanwhile, fans must improve

Leeds have signed Andy Keogh on loan until January. The Wolves marksman started his professional career at Elland Road as a product of the youth academy. Keogh joins up with his new team-mates in a current state of 'madness'. With the Whites without a point from the opening two league games and the fans divided over opinions of Ken Bates ownership it's fair to say the club is in disarray.

Keogh only made the one solitary appearance for Leeds during his first spell at the club and he is expected to go straight into the squad for the Tuesday night clash with Hull. This signing is to aid the injury void left by Davide Somma, Luciano Becchio and Billy Paynter who all find themselves on the treatment table.

This signing worries me a little, we were linked with a 'big name' striker from the Premier League last week and I feel this may have been a 'panic' signing from Grayson. It is public knowledge that we missed out on a forward last week and there has been a demand for squad improvement. Have we settled for Keogh? His scoring record isn't the best but hopefully he can find a new lease of life at Elland Road to pull us out of the growing pit we find ourselves in.

I will note the need for the fans to get behind the team on Tuesday instead of falling into a mob mentality against owner Ken Bates. He is doing the best for our club and at this present time it's the majority of fans that are the ones letting the club down. We've been unlucky in the market and things haven't gone our way but us as fans have one job, to support the team, let's stick to our job, set the example and hope the players and management follow suit! 

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Tensions flare at Elland Road

Is our beloved club starring once more into the abyss? What has always seemed as a good working relationship between Ken Bates and Simon Grayson is now under scrutiny from the fans and press. Frustration has been the summer mood for Leeds fans with the constant excuses for us missing out on players being; "ridiculous" wage demands, couldn't agree personal terms etc. I understand the need to remain within the budget and not to spend money we don't have however Bates is trying to dictate the price of players, in this modern day of football, supply and demand is huge! Therefore to get quality you must  be prepared to pay for it, it seems Leeds are the only club who aren't.

The latest story coming out now is that Grayson has been refused permission to sign Alex Mendy, one of the trialists that impressed during pre-season. This is a massive alarm bell, history shows when Chairmen get involved in transfers in ends miserably. We were poised to sign a "big name" striker on-loan until Christmas however negotiations broke down, Bates claimed his agent got greedy. I hope you'll forgive for referring back once again to the deal that saw fan favorite Kasper Schmeichel dpeart. Bates once again via Twitter criticised the agent for being unwilling to negotiate a new deal for the stopper, however Schmeichel came out and said he always wanted to stay at Leeds. So what is really going on at Elland Road? Is Bates taking the fans for a ride trying to get money in his pocket all the while leaving Simon Grayson to struggle by the way side of other Championship sides spending power.

The other side to the argument is that the once irresistible offer to play for Leeds is no longer that attractive. Do we have to get to terms that were no longer the club that can attract the big names? Or is it that simply the manager is not bringing in the right players, agents are greedy, were not playing well and the development of the East Stand was a must do!? Hell No.

There's something fishy going on at Elland Road and the fans, the people that make the club what it is are being kept in the dark. It is only a matter of time until the protests being and real questions start being asked. All that won't help the football. The Leeds faithful often act as a 12th man on a Saturday but one thing is clear we won't stand id-ally by while the club is run in the wrong way. We're clearly on top of the business and financial side of things, but the football (the most IMPORTANT thing) is being forgotten. A quick question before I move onto the football side of things, why have we developed the Upper East Stand when we use it maybe three times a season? Baffling...

There weren't a huge amount of positives to take from our Carling Cup 1st round victory against Bradford City. Obviously the first win of the season will be a huge boost for the players. I'll start with Ramon Nunez, a flair player, always looking to run at opponents and he's definitely got a hunger for goals. He looks a bright prospect and this season could be our super sub, he seems to have an ability to make stuff happen. Moving onto Tom Lees, I certainly didn't think I'd be writing about him today. After another poor showing from our defense Grayson turned to the youngster to replace Connolly at right-back, he gained his plaudits by delivering the perfect cross for Ross McCormack to head home the equalizer but also made some strong confident challenges. He in my mind must be in contention for starting place on Saturday against Middlesbrough.

My main piece of praise is for Man of the Match Adam Clayton, what an exciting player. As on Saturday he was once again probably our strongest player. His passing has zip and accuracy, he seems to have a combination of all the attributes our midfield trio had last year. I never once saw him stop running on Tuesday night, he fought for everything and put in some powerful challenges. He has a superb presence about him and I believe Grayson made a great decision sending him out on-loan, he's come back had a full pre-season and looks a different player. I have high hopes for Clayton and believe No.15 is perfect as he can replicate the impact that the predecessor of that number Fabien Delph had on the team.

Sadly I can't say the same about fellow midfielder Michael Brown, the 34 year old seemed like an spare part on Tuesday. He contributed nothing to the game which made Clayton and Howson work over time. Credit to him that he pulled off a full 90 minutes which many people raised questions about. On Saturday he made several silly fouls and Tuesday he couldn't make any fouls because he couldn't get to the player, he was that far off the pace. We have lacked strength and depth in midfield for a couple of seasons now, another signing is vital.

Mixed reviews have come out when long-term absentee Paddy Kisnorbo comes to the forefront. He's had a full pre-season since recovering from his horrific injury. However he still looks rusty, albeit being the best defender of a pretty poor bunch. One thing I did highlight on Tuesday was that when going to clearing the ball he seemed to go with the wrong foot on more than one occasion. He's been solid enough but what concerns me is the awkwardness of his defending.

All in all, until the power struggle between us and agents ends we're going to be stuck with the squad we've got, is it good enough to compete, although we haven't shown it in the two performances so far. It's Middlesbrough on Saturday, there's no hiding now, games coming thick and fast, sink or swim for the Leeds boys.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Unconvincing cup win

Simon Grayson's Leeds side hosted local rivals Bradford City at Elland Road after their dismal season opener. United were without wingers Robert Snodgrass and Max Gradel as they were called upon by their nations. Billy Paynter was also an absentee with a thigh injury he suffered on the south coast.

All the pressure was on the home side as City arrived with nothing to loose. But it was the Whites who had the best chance early on, Ramon Nunez should have put Leeds ahead after Adam Clayton broke down the right flank to deliver a perfectly weighted ball for the Honduran, only for Nunez to fire into row Z. The pressure was firmly on Leeds again when Compton put the visitors ahead on 31 minutes after Leeds' defense failed to deal with a surging Stewart run. The first half ran it's course with the fans seeing no real improvement from Saturday's disappointment.

Whatever was said in both dressing rooms at half-time it seemed that Grayson won the war of words as Leeds equalized just 25 seconds into the restart. Lloyd Sam twisted and turned after a clever dummy from McCormack, before he laid it off to Clayton allowing him to set up Nunez to score a well taken finish from inside the box for his first Leeds goal.

Bradford reacted superbly, Syers seized on a heavy touch from Paul Connolly and struck a low shot which whistled past Lonergan's post. However it didn't take the League 2 side to get back in-front, an inch perfect pass found Flynn who took it down superbly and smashed it into Lonergan's top corner.

Fans started to voice their frustration with 'Bates Out' chants ringing around the ground. But the men in white had some fight in them, Grayson made a double sub bringing on Bromby and Lees for the less than impressive O'Brien and Connolly. It was Lees to make the impact, he swung in a sublime first touch cross to find the head of lone striker Ross McCormack who lost his marker, the scotsman headed home to put Leeds back on terms for the second time of the night.

Sadly for the Bantams there would be no shock exit at Elland Road tonight Sam's cross got a small deflection from a City defender which took the ball away from the keeper, letting Nunez help the ball home for his second of the night and to put United ahead for the first time in the tie. Leeds milked the final 15 minutes and booked themselves a spot in the 2nd round.

Att. 17,667
Leeds 3-2 Bradford

Compton 31 - Bradford
Nunez 46 - Leeds
Flynn 57 - Bradford
McCormack 69 - Leeds
Nunez 75 - Leeds

Monday, 8 August 2011

Mysterious 5th signing?

A fifth summer signing is imminent according to sources out of Elland Road. A deal has been agreed with another club which gives absolutely no clues to who may be the newest face seen in Leeds colours. Reports have linked Grayson with Chelsea full-back Ryan Bertrand as he is searching for first-team football. The rumours regarding a deal for former Leeds favourite Alan Smith have gone quiet but maybe that's a signal of business? Whoever the player the squad needs strengthening in all areas apart from in goal. When this deal is completed, it will please fans that we're improving the squad however given our recent track record in the transfer market only momentary happiness is expected. Let's hope the fifth ones a good one.

Nothing less than improvement

After Simon Grayson watched his Leeds side fall at the hands of Southampton on the opening day of the season negative thoughts have cascaded around about the clubs chances on going one better this term. There is such an expectancy not just from the Elland Road faithful but from fellow players and management to perform when you pull on that famous white shirt. Saturday marked a shocking start for the Whites as many players failed to perform which saw us come unstuck against a strong Saints side who fully deserved their 3-1 victory.

The main problem I've seen with the summer's recruitment drive is that we've failed to replace the outgoing players with equal or better quality, and even in some cases failed to replace. I barely have to remind people how the summer started with the expulsion of Kasper Schmeichel from the squad. After that sale Grayson & Bates had to replace Neil Kilkenny, Bradley Johnson and sure up a leaky defence. So far this season their response to this has been bringing in two new stoppers; Paul Rachubka and Andy Lonergan. Darren O'Dea was brought in late last week and played on Saturday, it's fair to say he didn't make the best first impression. Michael Brown the experienced x-Portsmouth midfielder has been the only acquisition in that department and fans are still crying out for more strength and depth.

Last season was plagued with injuries for many United players. Patrick Kisnorbo missed all but 12 minutes of last season as he recovered from an injury suffered when the club were still in League 1. Hopefully his presence will help us strive for bigger and better things this time out. Along with him there were many more who had injury setbacks including Lloyd Sam, Billy Paynter, Ben Parker and Paul Connolly. These injuries forced Grayson's hand in the loan-market something that proved unsuccessful bar Eric Lichaj the Aston Villa full-back. Unfortunately for Leeds the squad and most specifically the defence seems extremely average! It just isn't good enough to gain promotion, I feel terribly sorry for the goalkeeper as often he will be helpless to prevent the inevitable.

As is the opinion with most fans, one defeat and we're in a relegation fight. That's overreacting we have some very talented players but then again who can gain success through two or three players, you need a well rounded squad and most importantly a rock solid defence. Last season our attacking prowess saved us somewhat, however alarms bells are already ringing with both Luciano Becchio and Davide Somma facing lengthy spells out. Which only leaves Paynter and McCormack to lead the line for us however with those two having only bagged three goals between them in around 50 appearances, it is hardly inspiring. This adds pressure to United's big three of Howson, Snodgrass and Gradel.

It's not all doom and gloom, we have players who are trying to break through now after learning their trait out on loan. Adam Clayton is the stand out player for me. The x-Man City youngster was signed by Grayson and then was shipped out on-loan to both MK Dons and promoted side Peterborough. Adam was another who made the starting eleven on Saturday, he put in a sold performance on only his third appearance for the club after an eye-catching pre-season from the young midfielder. Ramon Nunez is the other, he went out on loan to Scunthorpe at the back end of last season grabbing his first goals in English football. Again he had an impressive pre-season and looks a real spark on the ball.

This Leeds side needs work and tomorrow night is a chance to right a wrong against Bradford City in the Carling Cup. I'm desperate for the squad to be strengthened further, any fan would love to see a household name join the squad, something slightly different. So far Grayson has failed to impress with some of his signings, however the manager needs the support and given the lack of money we've spent it raises eyebrows to whether he is getting it. The pressure is on for everybody at the club to deliver an improvement on last season, let's just hope tomorrow night can be a confidence boost for a big test against Middlesbrough at Elland Road on Saturday.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Kick-off is close

It gives me great pleasure in writing my first match preview of the season as the mighty Whites march down south to take on newly promoted Southampton. Last night saw the Championship season begin with Blackpool beating Hull 1-0.

The Saints will go into the game with plenty of momentum from last season hoping they can make their mark on the division early. Leeds on the other hand will be striving to improve on last season's 7th place as they agonisingly missed out on the Play-offs.

Simon Grayson will have to decide on who starts in goal for United as Andy Lonergan and Paul Rachubka have both stated their claims for the starting place. With Luciano Becchio and Davide Somma both facing lengthy spells on the sidelines it should be a straight fight between Ross McCormack and Billy Paynter for that lone-striking role. United will be looking to improve on their start from last term when they were defeated by Derby 2-1, prior to that game Leeds had not been beaten in a season opener for 21 years.

What a season we have in store, it all starts today, all the preparation counts for nothing if you can't make it count in 90minutes, let the games begin!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

O'Dea set to sign

News is coming out that Simon Grayson is swooping to sign Darren O'Dea on a season-long loan from Celtic. O'Dea is a defender who spent his last season on loan to fellow Championship side Ipswich Town. The 24 year old centre back from Republic of Ireland is versatile as he can adapt himself to play at left-back.

He has had a full pre-season at Celtic but now will be coming south of the border to become United's 4th summer signing, if the deal does go through, it should help sure up last terms leaking Leeds back-line. This deal shows more intent from Grayson and we can hopefully expect one or two more signings. The only issue I see with this transfer is the loan aspect, given our recent track record in the loan market it could be cause for concern, although O'Dea's credentials size up and fans could expect to see him making his debut at Southampton on Saturday, but an appearance against Bradford in the Carling Cup seems more likely.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Howson is Captain

Jonny Howson has been named Leeds United's captain for the 2011/2012 season. It was the popular choice with the 23 year old Leeds lad wearing the armband for the majority of last season in the absence of Richard Naylor. The only ever present player for the Whites last term starting all 50 of United's games, that is an amazing feat for the midfielder who thrived on the extra responsibility as well as improving as a player capturing the eye of Stuart Pearce securing his England U21's debut.

He'll now lead Leeds out against Southampton on the 6th August full of confidence after finishing their unbeaten pre-season with a 3-2 victory against Premier League outfit Newcastle. Simon Grayson's squad still appears pretty slim. Fans are expecting more movement in the market from the boss however with rumours drying up like a drought the question is will we have a fresh face for the season opener? I believe it's a patient waiting game for managers as the clock is ticking down for the Premier League teams to name their 25 man squad.