Carlsberg don’t make Wednesday evenings, but if they did…
Victories don’t come much sweeter than a triumph over the Cup holders, with the decided bonus of a home defeat for the champions thrown in. Like it or not (and I’m aware to my bafflement that taking pleasure from a Man U defeat is scorned by some of my more joyless fellow Leeds fans) – any Leeds win is a heightened pleasure when it’s accompanied by a defeat for Them. When they lose at home, to their new manager’s and “star” striker’s former team, to the misery of their legion of armchair fans from Torquay to Singapore and back to Milton Keynes, then it’s several shades of sweet. So slag me off all you like, you puritanical killjoys, I couldn’t care less. I was in a fine mood at United’s victory over Wigan – historic in its own right as we shall see – but news of a defeat for The Greatest Club in the Universe™ at the Theatre of Hollow Myths itself – that was the cherry on the icing on the cake.
Back to Leeds’ own fine win, and several “firsts” came along all at once tonight at Elland Road. Our first league goal against Wigan Athletic, scored by – who else? – Ross McCormack. The first time we’ve avoided defeat against the FA Cup winners, having lost our only two previous league meetings to nil. And obviously, our first league win against the lancastrians, ending a 26 year wait for a victory of any sort since goals from Micky Adams and John Stiles (now, as then, a comedian) gave United a 2-0 win at the dilapidated old Springfield Park on the way to the 1987 FA Cup semi-final.
So, it was a great night at Elland Road, the fifth home win on the trot as United seek to make Elland Road the fortress it will have to be if we’re to challenge seriously this season. It had been a worrying midweek thus far, a trend being established of clubs who have just sacked their managers achieving unlikely wins. Wigan of course had just dispensed with the services of Owen Coyle. Could they, wondered the football world hopefully, maintain the pattern and win at Leeds?
In the event, Leeds won decisively, before a decent midweek crowd of 25,888, although not without having to deal with a fair amount of pressure from visitors who had more than a fair share of possession. But they didn’t have a Ross McCormack and that was the difference. One goal in the first half and at the very least an assist for the winner after the break, and McCormack continues to demonstrate just how vital he is to this Leeds team. One priority in January has to be the recruitment of an alternative source of goals – just in case disaster should strike and our major threat should be unavailable, whether through injury or suspension. As for the possibility of losing Rossco in that transfer window – well, it just doesn’t bear thinking about. His recent form will have seen his price rocket skywards, but it might be a price some are prepared to pay.
But enough of such paranoid gibberings. McCormack must know he has the chance to write himself into the Leeds United history books as the natural successor to Jermaine Beckford, architect-in-chief of our last promotion. And now – in stark contrast to earlier in the season – the league table demonstrates quite clearly that it’s all up for grabs for Leeds, only a whisker outside the play offs and, with 28 games to go, a mere nine points off the very top of the league. Whatever the doom-and-gloom pessimists might say, that is not an unbridgeable gap, and there will be a few anxious glances being cast back over shoulders by the top few clubs as they hear the sound of Leeds United on the charge from the rear of the field.
After the “blip” at Blackburn, this win was as badly needed as it was efficiently executed. Now, attentions must switch almost immediately to a Watford side who have lacked this season the con brio approach they showed last, when they were operating as the Italian B side in the English second tier – only to suffer the play-off disappointment so familiar to us Whites. Beat Watford, and we’ll be looking well set. This group of players is showing all the signs of togetherness and good team spirit and, all of a sudden, Elland Road may be seen as the place to be for good players looking for a good move in January. That promises to be a very interesting month, but the priority now must be to make sure that December continues in the way it has started.
Whisper it softly – Leeds United are on the promotion path. This could yet be a memorable and historic season.