“We can’t see a thing! We can’t see a thiii-iiing! We’re Leeds United; we can’t see a thing!”
That new addition to the LUFC arsenal of away day ditties rang out from the terrace at about 8.15pm last night, as the vertically poised element of the Leeds following passed collective observation on the difficulty on watching a football game while partially sighted, due to the trivial matter of the star that sustains life on Earth making its daily passage below the horizon.
Not ones to ponder the awe of nature or contemplate the relative futility of our comparative existences, the next move by some were to condemn; “The Sun’s a c**t! And so is Bates!”… well, I suppose a 50% hit rate isn’t all that bad – ask Billy Paynter. The more astute observations followed; the predominant theme being that the Sun may have inadvertently done us all a passing favour – they had a point. Last night wasn’t great.
As seems standard, the away following justified something rather better; around 2,000 Leeds supporters in a crowd of 3,127 was enough to ensure that the preceding record of outnumbering the home support at every ground was maintained. Most of those who travelled seemingly headed towards The Beech prior to the game; the 20-30 man queues at the door to get inside to the bar suggested so. It was also a pre-match location for the faithful ‘Bates Out’ banner that now appears to be gaining a celebrity status of its own; several people posing for photographs, basking in its reflective – if slightly soiled and stained – revolutionary glow.
The stadium like its surroundings is a strange juxtaposition of the old and new; the traditional and modern; heritage and ambition. Built in 2005, it shining outer modernity stands in stark contrast to the adjacent, dilapidated Pirelli plant that bequeathed it its name and inside the theme continues; while the club is (thankfully) another notch on the Pukka Pies outlet roster, for those rallying against the corporate face of football ground catering, there is reason to rejoice – faggots are on the menu…yes, you did read that correctly; while the stadium is very much 21st century, the menu is at least in part, rooted somewhere between the wars.
Move on to the terrace though and an even greater divergence; gaze to the left and there’s an impressive stand-long, row of corporate boxes, but gaze straight ahead, just to the right of goal and there it is, a hoarding that reads ‘Anvil Hire Ltd’ – what is this?! Is there really a market for hiring anvils in contemporary Britain? I can’t recall seeing anvils being given prominent listing space in the Jewson catalogue. What do these people do for a living? Are the suburban dwellings around the stadium just a façade and beyond the immediate surroundings, Burton is a medieval settlement…I probably gave this a little too much thought, but as I say, the game wasn’t all that great.
But there were positives to be taken; particularly in terms of possession; in the opening half hour, Burton probably had the sum total of about a minute in the Leeds defensive third; Varney’s close-range strike deserved on those grounds, if no other; indeed over the course of the night, Burton only really stretched Paddy Kenny a couple of times. There was also a small matter of a couple of debuts to consider and while Lee Peltier settled in with a degree of ease against modest opposition, albeit without showing much of his attacking menace, this was always going to be Rodolph’s night.
Mercifully Rodolph didn’t disappoint – hey, he probably considers such a concept alongside failure and Maroon 5 as an unfamiliar and very unwelcome bedfellow. His first notable touch was a cushioned pass that travelled at light speed into the advertising hoarding; we hadn’t exalted him on grounds of subtlety! However, the most enduring memory of his first start arrived shortly before the interval, as already grounded, he somehow conspired to make a raking challenge on an unsuspecting Burton player – his opponent stood and looked down, bewildered, as the referee employed the tried and trusted pre-season ‘have a quiet word, when a booking might otherwise be in order’ approach, the Leeds fans cheered… a legend was born.
That said, to only discuss our new Jamaican Juggernaut’s physicality would sell his first appearance a little short; he looked immediately comfortable in his new surroundings and very much up with the pace of the game; his passing was decent and in stark contrast to the archetypal Leeds player, he was composed when on the ball… and he saw plenty of it. I don’t know whether to put that down to the amount of ground he covered, the positions he took, or just a general fawning air of deference that obliged that ball to constantly gravitate towards him. In truth, I think it was most likely a case of the ‘New Cool Kid at School Syndrome’, where a new achingly popular boy (bonus points for previously residing abroad) arrives and everyone falls over themselves to find favour with him. “Santa’s number 1” indeed!
David Norris on the other hand seems to be suffering as a new kid on the block; he knows he has a position somewhere between midfield and attack, he just isn’t quite sure where yet – nor is anyone else. Mind you, he lacks Rodolph’s ‘aura of awesomeness’ and he’s come from down south, and from an impoverished background… it’s gonna be a harder transition. In fact it’s going be very tough up top, full stop. While Ross really must stay, he hasn’t the pace of say…a Max, and can’t beat people like him or Snoddy, dragging people out of position and making space for others, making runs from midfield like… you get the idea!
Sadly at the moment, going forward, Leeds possess the creativity and invention of a Money Supermarket commercial; until the arrival of a wide player and striker makes Neil feel “epic!”, scoring the goals needed to win games may be this season’s big problem.