I don’t know how we’ve got here; how a week before the season begins, supporters are finding themselves writing off our season; how a club of the stature of Leeds United is being reduced to the status of Championship ‘also rans’, even by those most partisan. How a manager, sold on the promises of grand plans, has been reduced to desperately trying to sell on the unsellable, just so he can draft in players possessing skill sets as elementary as concentration, passing and pace.
I don’t why, when I surveyed the scene in Elland Road yesterday, the only new Macron shirt that resembled a Leeds kit was worn by Paddy Kenny. I don’t know why I keep trying to give Lee Peltier the benefit of the doubt when he gets caught out as he did in the concession of the second goal, then follows it up by attempting a hopeless back pass that should’ve resulted in a third.
I don’t know why I even get angry with Jason Pearce any more; he’s a fundamentally hopeless footballer whose lack of grace on the ball is only superseded by his inability to concentrate. I don’t know if Tom Lees can ever hope to progress as a player until he has a solid, senior partner to play with in the middle of the defence. I don’t know whether to be pleased that we have someone as proven and experienced at left back as Stephen Warnock, or annoyed that he’s not offering the team more.
I don’t know if Sam Byram’s ever coming back, nor how he’s seemingly further away from a comeback than he was in the week prior to the Slovenian tour, or whether he’d still be more effective now on a mobility scooter as a wide outlet than any of our other options.
I don’t know how Neil Warnock managed to assemble the worst Leeds United midfield in living memory, how almost every player in the middle of the park shares the same traits of immobility, ineffectiveness in the tackle, mediocre goalscoring returns and an inability to play out wide. I don’t know how Michael Brown and David Norris are even on the fringes on things…and what the hell Danny Pugh is still doing around.
I don’t know why people still see potential in Aidy White, even less so as a right sided midfielder; I don’t know how many more times I can listen to him being referred to as a winger before I question my seriously question my sanity.
I don’t know what Luke Murphy must think; I wonder whether he looks around at the green expanse that surrounds him and at those in (predominantly) white or gold/beige shirts and thinks he’s been sold a lie and that his abilities to pick a pass will be all but lost, playing for a side so lacking in the quickness of thought and pace needed to utilise his abilities.
I don’t know if I want to contemplate the thought that if you take Luke Varney out of the equation, Leeds haven’t scored a goal in seven hours of football. I don’t know how that’s going to change radically without an established, out and out, 20 goal a season striker arriving at the club – but then again, just as with the wingers and the new centre back, I don’t know where the money for that’s going to come from.
I don’t really know where Ross McCormack is supposed to be playing; I’m not sure that he does either. I don’t know whether Matt Smith is going to be used as he really should be at this stage, as a late substitute when the team needs a goal, or whether he’ll soon be figuring more prominently, because as much as Brian McDermott wants to make Leeds United one of the best passing teams in the league, I don’t know if we have the personnel capable of successfully adapting to that style.
I don’t know if like a generation ago, an influx of youth players can reinvigorate our squad, whether some of those players are ready to step up; but without investment, I don’t see any potential for taking great forward strides on the pitch coming from any other quarters.
But, on the positive side of things…
What I do know is that for the first time in almost a decade, we are finally starting a season following a club free from the rotund shadow of Ken Bates; a club now under the stewardship of a board, that despite many shortcomings are a least showing themselves to be responsive to some of the views and concerns of supporters and have a team managed by an intelligent, proven, committed man who intrinsically understands the stature and ethos of the club and fan base he works for.
But while Bates may be gone, his legacy still remains; while the impeccably timed (suspiciously so) revelations of his departure on the eve of the Nurnberg game constituted another PR triumph for David Haigh et al, GFH-C in disposing of Bates have now also forsaken the ‘comfort blanket’ of having a supporters’ ‘go to’ scapegoat whenever questions are asked in the future. The debts that continue to handicap the club going forward may be the doing of Bates, but with him no longer there on his President’s pedestal, there’ll be nobody else in the firing line to deflect the bullets from the board.
Goodwill, reinforced by the Bates announcement, is just about keeping the lid on the simmering discontent following another underwhelming summer of recruitment; six senior professionals were released at the end of last season, to be replaced by three and all the while David Haigh has spoken of backing his manager “to the hilt”. Cheaper ticket pricing, Radio Leeds radio coverage, social media accounts and now finally the opening of lines of communication with LUST – all of these have been welcome (and necessary) steps, but ultimately, like any manager, the success of any board will be defined by achievements on the pitch.
The honeymoon period is now over for GFH-C; a lot of work has been done to re-engage those supporters who’ve remained loyal to the club, but keeping fans on board and winning back those who’ve deserted Leeds can only be achieved by progress on the pitch. Judging the merits of the current squad using FC Nurnberg as a yardstick would be harsh, reflecting on them in the light of the pitiful showing at Walsall and for much of the Stevenage game, less so.
In Leeds United, GFH-C have acquired by far the biggest club outside the Premier League and in Brian McDermott, have secured one of the brightest young managers in the game. If they want to be truly regarded as trusted guardians of the club, they must find a way of giving their man a fighting chance of getting his team into at least the play-off positions, come next May.
Football is a fickle beast, and if come October, Leeds are again struggling in the bottom third and we’re still lamenting the same problems that exist today, criticism will be flying in at all parties from all angles. Brian McDermott MUST be given at least a fighting chance; after the leap of faith he made in coming to the club and hard work he’s put in thus far, they owe him at least that.
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