Onwards to Beeston, where Leeds United were once more offering all and sundry the opportunity pay one more visit to the Elland Road ‘last chance saloon’. A proposition to indulge on over-priced refreshments of negligible quality whilst watching the Leeds United dancing girls performing for your pleasure on the vast green stage.
In recent weeks, so many fixtures have fallen into ‘last chance saloon’ category that the club could’ve probably opened up a network of branches; plans are already afoot for a Reading franchise, although supporter interest is understood to be now on the wane. It’s as if the club has become the footballing equivalent of the Little Chef, marketing games as the one more opportunity, another little pit stop at which to treat yourself on the collective journey to destination Premier League.
However, like those stung by the Little Chef experience, many Leeds fans have seen it all too often before, they feel no longer more tempted to pay upwards of £30 to witness the depressing spectacle of 11 journeymen struggle to make any sort of headway against another collective of allegedly inferior journeymen. Indeed, even the brief rush of joy and nominal nutritional value to be derived from a Little Chef breakfast often compares very favourably with the produce to be had in LS11.
And so it showed in the attendance, the shadow of the Forest nightmare loomed large in too many minds as only 21,766 bought into the onward rolling of the play-off bandwagon rhetoric. Today marked a resounding victory for the pragmatists, the realists and the naysayers; their collective barrier of pessimism, shielding them from the spirit sapping spectacle that was barely able to occupy the minds of those who’d thought otherwise.
Leeds started the game as they intended to go on, in a lackadaisical fashion that as time passed, sought to redefine the meaning of the word ‘apathetic’. Inside 6 minutes they trailed and deservedly so as Paul Robinson attempted a fancy flick – later to be charitably described by Warnock as “criminal” – which only served to free Troy Deeney down the right; Bruce backed off, and off, and then off again, before deciding to stop being such an irritant and to just get out of the way; a confused Lees was torn between following his man or the ball and did neither as Iwelumo was played through… 1-0.
If there was a response, I must have missed it, maybe between blinks; a couple of ineffective Alex Bruce headers and a palmed away Robert Snodgrass cross, the best of the first half-highlights to be shown on the big screen. After the interval it was barely better, the hopelessly ineffective White replaced by the barely involved Webber. Apart from one awful miss from Snodgrass and a brief flicker of promise from Nunez in a sub cameo, Leeds offered nothing.
Arguably the most compelling debate was the area of pitch that offered most cause for concern. Becchio, obviously targeted as a key man by Watford was strongly marshalled by 2 or 3 players at any one time, the all-action grafter of previous weeks, reduced to impersonating a draught excluder. That was Plan A down the toilet, so what about Plan B? Sadly, any alternative course of action demanded a little more bravery on the ball, some thought and creativity…seemingly a step too far for our midfield.
Then there was our back four, bless those crazy guys – they never lose the ability to surprise! Have we really fallen so low that Darren O’Dea’s absence should be felt quite so keenly? Lees and Bruce were up against Troy Deeney and Chris Iwelumo, the former, a man who averages a goal every seven goals, his senior partner, one in five; yet the pair resembled Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba in their prime – it was like men against boys, John Parkin and Preston North End, all over again. In fact, all over the pitch Watford dominated the physical battles.
Lees in particular looked a broken man; his confidence shot to pieces in the aftermath of the Forest game. There was a strong argument for him to be withdrawn at half-time, the case was only made more convincing as he pathetically surrendered the ball to Deeney who really should have added a second. Not to worry, the clincher was shortly to follow and it was every bit as bad as the opener; Shaun Murray going unchallenged in the box, despite a first touch that took the ball 5 yards away from him, Deeney’s shot parried by Lonergan straight into the path of Iwelumo… Lees gave up and having waited since October for a goal, Iwelumo now had a second.
Even Paul Connolly’s late dismissal couldn’t come to our aid; though his impending absence and the reaction his stupid challenge drew from Warnock who deemed it “irresponsible” and a sign he “obviously doesn’t want to play at Reading…that’s how I saw it!” provided at least one crumb of comfort.
Warnock indeed had a lot to say at the end; all of which rang true and was very close to the bone. He was quick to push Eddie Gray aside from his fence-sitting to label the performance as “drivel”, providing a telling assessment of the playing staff:
“What we haven’t got is enough of everything…haven’t got enough guts, haven’t got enough quality, haven’t got enough desire – you name it, we haven’t got it!”
He then went on to talk of the major surgery required as Eddie flapped, desperately trying to cut short the interview before manager could voice crazy notions like spending sprees that’d be liable to give his employer heart failure.
I loved his plain talking. We were clueless, our ‘characters’ on the pitch did go AWOL, and yes we were only playing Watford! Watford for f**ks sake, a team managed by a man with a voice better suited for a kinky premium rate phoneline, and a club that couldn’t even manage to incorporate a stag into their club badge (that’s a moose!)…never mind the fact they regard Luton Town as credible rivals!!!
They’re shit! And yet they beat us…comfortably! Where does that leave Leeds? Warnock can plan, coach and get in players’ faces all he wants – fact is, we have nothing like the personnel we require to prosper. Sound management can prove enough to win some games, too often though it isn’t.
Anchorman was on TV later in the evening and as Paul Rudd unveiled his Sex Panther cologne, he boasted, “They’ve done studies you know. 60% of the time it works all of the time.”
The Bates propaganda machine might want to use that line in the next programme notes…