Thales of Miletus was a savvy kinda guy; born back in 624 BC, he became the founding father of the Ionian school of physics, a movement that brought a new enlightened approach to the study of nature. He and his contemporaries were the first to rationalise that nature followed constant patterns that could be deciphered and as such, fundamental laws existed that could explain phenomena.
This new way of thinking set into motion the long process of dismissing the reign of the Gods as being the governing universal principle in cause and effect, but it took many, many years – over two millennia in fact. In the meantime, the views of Aristotle dominated scientific thought – the Greek philosopher was one who concerned himself little with the natural process, only the result; his physics was built upon principles that appealed to him, facts he found less alluring were suppressed and when any conclusions did prove to be at odds with his theories, he’d merely adjust his theories with, often unconvincing, ad hoc explanations.
Transpose Ionian thinking to contemporary football and within you’ll find the answer to yesterdays defeat. Cardiff won, not because of some supernatural intervention, but simply down to a more rational explanation – when it came to the key moments, they had better players. Better players and better managers inevitably, in the long term produce a greater degree of success, it’s a fundamental rule of team sport.
That’s not to say Leeds were not unfortunate to a degree yesterday; in terms of possession and the (few) chances of note created, they were the better side. However, the fact remains that while the players performed to a decent level against disappointing opposition, without creativity and pace in the midfield and forward areas, victories will remain difficult to come by. The Aristotlean post-match comments of Warnock, focused on a couple of refereeing decisions and a defensive slip, paying little acknowledgement to the 90 minutes of realtively unproductive process and the reasons why he had so little other points to pick up on in his hard luck story.
Maybe that’s why the attendance again slipped below the 20,000 mark? Admittedly, the ‘Category A’ did little to help so swiftly on the back of the Spurs game, but pricing alone doesn’t dictate crowds, the biggest single factor remains belief. Those who stay away do even more so because the excitement, anticipation and prospect of challenging remains as distant as ever; while GFH at least took one step forward this transfer window by securing a replacement following the seemingly inevitable ‘key player’ sale, the club needs an almighty ‘kick start’, statements of intent, an actual plan to buy into before many will invest their time and money once more.
For the now, the club continues to meander, alternating its swaying in the direction of the top 6 and then the bottom 6, and short of Habibou proving a revelation or miraculous incomings during the loan window, this again appears to be our season’s destiny.
Yesterday at least however did offer signs of improvement – on the league stage, at least – particularly during a first half where Leeds appeared much more relaxed with the concept of retaining possession (62% share over 90 minutes); the opportunities were still few and far between, but that could be said of Cardiff too as the new look back line continued to impress. Not everyone remained patient it must be said, most notably Rodolph Austin who was fortunate to remain on the pitch following a two-footed lunge…the sort of challenge I’d perhaps reserve for the tail end of thrashing on ‘FIFA 13’ as opposed to the realities of an actual game. That he chose to berate Mike Dean for such a lenient yellow bemused and amused in equal measure.
For Cardiff, the most notable loss of self-control came from Ben Marshall; the goalkeeper’s classic hissy fit, complete with an exaggerated kicking of the ball away, having collected a back pass from Aron Gunnarson earned him a yellow card and Leeds their first opportunity, though McCormack blasted the resultant free kick into the wall.
The chance of the half undoubtedly fell to Ross Barkley. Diouf’s free kick from the touchline was flicked on by Sam Byram, right into his path, but 8 yards out and unmarked, he sidefooted straight at the keeper. The loanee was also wasteful from 20 yards, screwing wide after Mark Hudson blocked an Austin attempt; long range shooting wasn’t to be a strength of the home side throughout. Cardiff for their part had the ball in the net just before half-time, but Bellamy was clearly a yard offside as he slotted past Kenny.
As Dean blew for half-time, there seemed to be a little uncertainty over how to react; the standard of play overall had been better, but still few chances – a ripple of applause and the odd dissenting “boo” was the outcome.
At the start of the second period, with Cardiff late to leave the dressing room, Warnock decided to stage an impromptu huddle and it seemed to work; Leeds began in the ascendancy. On 48 minutes, Michael Brown found himself with time and space to put Leeds ahead with a measured, curling shot from 25 yards…the final destination of the ball was closer to the North East Corner than the top corner. Warnock’s reaction was caught on the big screen, he exhibited the reaction of an anguished parent who’d just witnessed his cherished offspring spectacularly fail in his big moment – his distraught look away and a bowed head was worth a thousand words.
Barkley then fed a ball over the top for McCormack, the Scot, no match physically for Mark Hudson, resorted to a shirt tug and was penalised, but a sustained period of attacking intent was rousing the crowd. On the bench, Malky Mackay prepared to make a change, summoning Fraizer Campbell for his debut; the moment didn’t go unnoticed, but nervous mumblings were drown out with a chorus of ‘Marching on Together’. Leeds responded again, the ball dropped for Austin on the volley from 25 yards…THWACK!!…it looped up in the air and spun back towards his trusted right…THWACK!!!…the Jamaican somehow managed to hit it at a 90 degree angle again!! Then Varney, another volley, this time in the direction of the goal, but this time blocked!
Then enter Campbell, his orange boots and ‘Ayatollah’ performance, immediately hinting at what was to follow. It took a mere couple of minutes. Connolly broke on the right and sent over an overhit cross that fell at the feet of Byram – “PUT IT IN THE STAND OR HOOF IT UPFIELD!!!” Sam did neither, inexplicably hooking it infield to Bellamy on the edge of the box, the Welshman shot and Campbell nipped in to deftly redirect the ball past Kenny. Byram’s head was resting in his palms before the netting rippled…an awful mistake, but all things considered, one it’d outrageously harsh to crucify him for. On the bench, the cameras were poised again, Mackay, immediately away stifled his smug grin and re-engaged with the ‘cool and under control’ expression as he retreated to his dug-out domicile.
For the remainder of the game, Byram looked a little shaken by events, but like in the first half, he still managed to play a key role in teeing up Leeds’ major chance of the half, again flicking on a set piece delivery, this time into the path of Lees whose bullet header was clawed out by Marshall. In the melee that ensued, strong penalty claims were made as Hudson appeared to use his arm, but Dean was unmoved.
Despite concerted pressure in the dying minutes and the introduction of Habibou (he struggled to get into the game), Leeds failed to trouble Cardiff again. Warnock saw another strong penalty appeal denied – though I’m not sure anyone else noticed it – in the 93rd minute, but ultimately it all counted for nothing. A very good player, snapped up at a very reasonable price in the transfer window had proved the difference – as good players so often do. Upon leaving the stadium, it didn’t pass unnoticed either that Chris Burke had also notched a brace for Birmingham to secure them a victory over Forest.
If you want the crowds, if you want more victories, then you need to bring in the players.
Thales of Miletus could’ve told you that 26 centuries ago…