Time to Push the Panic Button for Leeds United? – by Rob Atkinson


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In a word, no.

True, the home defeat to Burnley – United’s second reverse at one-time fortress Elland Road already this season – was depressing, dispiriting, deeply disappointing.  Brian McDermott had no complaints about the merits of the visitors’ win, simply stating “They were the better side.”  What evidently stuck in the manager’s craw was sending out a side designed to get at their opponents from the off and seeing them getting, in his words, “beaten up” by a Burnley side that could have been ahead already by the time Scott Arfield rifled home an acute finish to give Leeds that sinking feeling again.

As at Reading in midweek though, the blow of going behind came hard on the heels of an excellent chance for Leeds to take the lead, Luke Varney fluffing his lines in front of goal. And Leeds continued to press and to make and spurn chances for the remainder of the first half, before shoddy defending left one-time Whites loanee Sam Vokes in ample space eventually to force the ball past Paddy Kenny.  0-2 and the damage was done. Things improved in the second period, but sub Matt Smith’s header with ten minutes to go allowed only a brief flicker of hope, extinguished by the lack of any real chance to secure a second that might have denied a deserving Burnley outfit.

The Elland Road faithful had not been pleased by the performance of referee Probert who had denied the home side a penalty after Sam Byram appeared to have been brought down in the box before the interval, but McDermott chose to focus on the lack of cutting edge that is costing Leeds a realistic return on chances created.  “We have to score more goals here”, said the United boss.  Indeed.

This campaign is starting to define itself now, and it’s a veritable model of the truism that speculation is usually the father of accumulation.  The rich are starting to pull clear at the top of the table while Leeds are roughly where they might be expected to be, with a patchy squad, an excellent manager, plenty of progress off the field and woefully inadequate investment on it.  Much was made of the signing of Luke Murphy in the window, for that magical million-pound figure, a bar that hadn’t been cleared by Leeds United since 2005. But the Championship is a big time division nowadays, and the clubs at the top end are investing big money to try to ensure their parachute payments don’t fade away before they’ve hoisted themselves back up into the League of Milk and Honey. Leeds, for the time being, are just not on the same financial plane as those eager sprinters QPR and the others who have shelled out on the potential to take the Championship by the scruff of its neck.

Some of the comparisons are yet more sobering. Yesterday, even penniless, potless Birmingham benefited from an enlightened recruitment policy, their loan signing Lingard from Man U blitzing the startled Sheffield Wednesday with four goals on his Blues debut. The story behind that performance is of a virtually unplayable Chris Burke – the winger deemed “too expensive” for Leeds at £600,000 – torturing Wednesday as he supplied the new forward with his chances.  So why weren’t Leeds in for either or both of these players who so ruthlessly put the Owls to the sword? The apparent short-sightedness of this policy, whereby Leeds will not shell out a chunk of money to give themselves a chance of reaping many times that with promotion, is a glaring flaw in the overall strategy.  That said, it’s a sign of the times that we must necessarily be talking about promotion in terms of financial reward anyway, in a game that – remember? – used to be about glory.

What is certain is that, the way things currently are at Leeds, there is no real expectation of promotion this year – the powers that be have said as much in so many words.  It follows that there is no need for actual panic in terms of results and that steady progress towards a more realistic challenge next time around would be acceptable – though whether such a pragmatic view will be forthcoming for the fans, who regularly empty their bank accounts into the Elland Road coffers, is another question.

For the time being, we have to glumly chew on the bitter pill of mediocrity that results from the paucity of playing resources in crucial areas of United’s squad.  We know we have a manager of the necessary pedigree and one moreover who has endeared himself to the notoriously hard-to-please home crowd.  McDermott is a diamond worthy of polishing and treasuring, but he’s being asked to rebuild a fortress with tools that are more suited to fashioning a sandcastle.  We have to understand that – keep the faith – and leave that panic button alone.

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12 responses to “Time to Push the Panic Button for Leeds United? – by Rob Atkinson

  1. ‘This campaign is starting to define itself now’…yep its no different to the last 2 or 3!! I said at the time it was a bad call from McDermott (or more’s the truth GFH) about Chris Burke. His excuse, that he’s nearly 30, so 600k is expensive when he’ll be available for free at the end of the season, sounded pitiful. He will be available but I guarantee he’ll get a better offer from elsewhere.

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    • There are differences to the last 2/3 years – but only in the big picture. The fine detail of what goes on on the field of play is depressingly familiar.

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      • ALEC FERGUSON

        sorry but cnt see any played 8 games and nearly 50percent lost ,play thae animals next sat and will not be any different ,he has to hit the loan market before it is to late because there will be nobody in on jan and you can be sure 1or more OUT

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      • and that is all that matters at he end of the day

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  2. Hey Rob…definitely not panicking…I wasn’t sure what to expect this year anyway. But you hit the nail on the head when you say “he’s being asked to rebuild a fortress with tools that are more suited to fashioning a sandcastle.” But just keep in mind…good players want to go to teams that are willing to spend money on players (besides themselves) so they have a chance to win…and good COACHES want the same too. So, if you or me or any other Leeds fans think that McDermott is our new guardian angel, then we better hope that our new owners see it that way too. Because otherwise, the next time a ‘Northern Ireland’ comes a callin’…he may just say yes!

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  3. I have not been to many recent home games and was looking forward to yesterday. I realised we were short of quality transfers but I expected to see progress. With the transfer activity I never expected propmotion but after yesterday I feel even with what we have as a squad we should do better. I was really surprised more by the tactics. I feel that if we approached the game differently we could have competed. Why did our keeper kick long all the second half when we had small forwards and Burnley won every header. We only won the long ball when Smith came on. Why did we continually miss out midfield, ok Austin played terribly but we did look better with the ball on the ground. Why do we not start with Smith and Poleon. Height and pace are worth having and we need something to change a game. If we are relying on crosses and chips which we seem to in the first half I would rather have Smith. Poleon has the pace to go to the by-line and could feed Smith.
    I like McDermott and support him but I left feeling unsure what we are trying to achieve this season and if we play in that way at home then panic will overtake us.

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  4. I still believe that there is a deliberate strategy to keep Leeds United in the Championship for the next two seasons. There will be no investment, just empty promises as in the Bates years. Building slowly, may be, but the fans still have to fork out their hard earned money to watch crap! Will they continue to put up with it. What is the point in soaking up all of the disappointment week in week out and throwing good money after bad. The life long supporters will continue to attend games come what may, but many others will again turn their back of the fiasco.

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  5. I dont recall being told ‘expect medicracy and we have no chance of promotion’ when I bought my season ticket.

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  6. football is about momentum so another 2 years out the top flight wont do us any good…….our best players will leave and every season out of the top flight reduces leeds lustre and pulling power

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  7. Wasn’t at the game yesterday, I don’t think it is time to panic but I share comments for the need to bring in some loanees now!
    – other championship clubs have started to hit the loan market and have reaped rewards from taking that option now, (Brum)
    – McDermott knows what and likely who needs to come in and he will have made board aware time & time again
    – for me it is down to GFH needing to listen to fans, manager, and others with football savvy to present manager with required funds to do the job

    I am impressed with Brian and the owners, thinks around ER and the dressing room are much better now bates era has been eroded.
    We weren’t over run by Burnley yesterday and IMO we have been out of our depth in any game this season so far. It’s been fine margins where we have been undone by the odd goal by three very good teams in this division and if GFH were to show more commitment we would have the 2-3 final parts of the jigsaw in place which would portray Leeds as a serious top six contender.

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  8. put lees and peltier back at c h keep white at lb mac and smith up top keep austin varney out all will be rosey get neil danns on loan

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