‘Goals Pay the Rent’ and Leeds United Are Well in Arrears   –   by Rob Atkinson


Doukara Bristol

Doukara scores against Bristol City – one of four Leeds goals this year

The New Year of 2016 dawned with that familiar feeling for Leeds United fans of high hopes that we more than half expected to be dashed. December had been OK, and we had been promised an active January transfer window to add some quality to the squad. So, despite that dash of caution and reserve which comes with having been lied to so often before, many United fans felt something approaching optimism as the old year took its last feeble gasps.

Needless to say, it turned out that the caution, reserve – even cynicism – was fully justified, and that any apparent cause for optimism was just another mirage; all promise and no substance. Additions were made to the squad, and one big departure occurred, as is almost traditional for Leeds at this time of year. The new recruits look decent, which might be expected with a manager who, unlike certain of his predecessors, seems to have an eye for a good player. There were two loans and one actual bought-and-paid-for signing but, crucially, we missed out on any real injection of quality in the creative areas of the team. For it is goals, the making and scoring thereof, that have long been a thorny problem for this Leeds United team.

A glance at the time since that half-decent December shows starkly the level of poverty the team and the fans are struggling through in terms of that goalden currency you earn by hitting the back of the net. Those of a delicate disposition might wish to look away, as we squeamishly examine the team’s league output since the start of January. It’s a worthwhile exercise, though, nevertheless. As David Coleman memorably remarked when Kevin Keegan scored during Liverpool’s 1974 Cup Final demolition of Newcastle United, “Goals pay the rent“. Leeds won the League title that year, beating the Merseysiders into second place. There were no rent arrears for the Whites back then, in what was a season of glory for Yorkshire and England’s premier team. But Coleman’s pearl of wisdom is as true today as it was 42 years ago.

And how those famous words resonate for us now. In the seven league games since the turn of the year, four at home and three away, Leeds United have scored a grand total of four goals, one a bizarre last-minute own-goal to secure a home draw against MK Dons. Souleymane Doukara scored early against Ipswich before Leeds slipped to a 2-1 defeat and he scored again at Elland Road to beat Bristol City. And Mustapha Carayol notched one to hold Brentford to a draw at Griffin Park. And that was it, the sum total of the Leeds offensive output since this year began. The last two home games have yielded zero goals in over three hours of playing time. In a goalless draw with Middlesbrough that didn’t entirely lack merit, Leeds mustered two shots on target. In the previous home game, a 0-1 defeat to Nottingham Forest, Leeds did twice as well in terms of shots on goal, but still failed, as they say, to trouble the scorers. That’s quite frankly not good enough; it’s a record that screams out for corrective surgery to the squad. 

This is why the January window was so disappointing and represents so much of a missed opportunity. With injuries to key personnel up front and the loss of Sam Byram‘s considerable potential to create and convert chances, it was obvious to any observer with any football knowledge at all that attacking reinforcements were needed. And it wasn’t just a matter of a late push for the play-offs. Relegation cannot yet be entirely ruled out – and there is also the small matter of allowing the manager to recruit and “bed-in” his own players over the remainder of this season, with the aim of hitting the ground running for pre-season 2016-17. The fact that January was all about lying to us, and then trying to let us down gently, is a savage indictment of the man who holds the purse strings at Elland Road. And, whatever Steve Evans might say with his diplomatic head on, he was clearly champing at the bit to add to his squad – and he’s obviously a disappointed man now that even the loan window looks like bearing no fruit.

I wrote a month ago that Cellino deserved to be judged on his commitment to improving the squad during the January window. Now I say that he palpably failed that test. Leeds United fans must make up their own minds about the likelihood or otherwise of sufficient investment in quality during the summer to come. This blog fears that it may yet be just another window of opportunity wasted in “managing our expectations” – which is the euphemism of choice for lying to us a bit more.

One thing that seems certain is that, if he is not given a fair shot in the transfer market, then Steve Evans is a dead man walking at Leeds. Some may welcome that – I think it’s rather a shame. There’s a decent manager there, working under the usual difficulties at Massimo Cellino‘s Leeds, and a man who seems a sound judge of the type of player needed to succeed at Elland Road. It’s to be hoped that Evans survives and is able to make a convincing case for substantial levels of investment.

Because another thing that seems certain is that – without significant improvement – our beloved club will face another long, bleak season of struggle next season, and with no guarantee of Championship survival. Whether the owner will be making yet another hollow promise about a “beautiful season ahead” or not is largely irrelevant. Most of us, after all, are attuned to Cellino’s lies and hollow promises.

We also know, deep down, that – depressing and difficult as this season has been – next time around might just be harder still. 

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13 responses to “‘Goals Pay the Rent’ and Leeds United Are Well in Arrears   –   by Rob Atkinson

  1. Rob, I agree we are toothless and I also agree with you about Steve Evans. Hand on heart, I think he is perfect for us, I genuinely think he is a ‘football man’ and he knows what promotion winning teams look like. The only problem is will he have the backing and freedom to put it into place? I fear not.

    Honestly, I rate every player Evans has brought in. Maybe, just maybe a stiker with the right ability and more importantly personality just wasn’t available in Jan, I agree with not spending for spendings sake. Especially if that money will be used in the summer to get the right personnel on board to make a serious challenge for once.

    My gut feeling is Evans will just pack his bags (or have them packed for him) and go to somewhere that shares his vision and they will sail on past us.

    Maybe we are keeping our cards close to our chests and see this year as a write off only to go large in the summer? Or have we been here before? Summer 2016 is make or break for us I think.

    MOT from NZ

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  2. Goals were a bit of a problem for the immediate post-promotion Revie team, as I recall. It took the recruitment first of Mick Jones and
    then of Sniffer to translate our domination of possession into goals. Fortunately the underrated Lorimer – can I say that ? – provided some compensation (sadly for all his fans, Jimmy Greenhoff was never really given a chance to shine in this regard). Of course our goals deficit is a more serious problem now, but we’re sure building a mean defence albeit sans a giraffe. I am reasonably confident that Evans – and Cellino if he’s allowed to stay – will at least address our goal scoring problems this summer; solving them will require a bit of luck – unless McCormack can be persuaded to take a pay cut !

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  3. What lies beneath (nothing to do with the Robert Zemeckis film) and not goals, or the lack of, is the problem at Leeds. When Cellino sacked Steve Thompson, just as Leeds was looking capable of promotion, the suspicion arose that The President was following a different agenda to that of Leeds’ supporters. Has Cellino discovered something in the club’s accounts that makes him want to keep Leeds out of the Premiership? Is this to do with the dodgy, KPMG arranged administration deal that enabled Bates to ‘buy’ Leeds? Is there more to pay back than has been disclosed if Leeds returns to the EPL before 2017? Pro and anti Cellino commentators accept that the man has a massive ego (Massivego Cellino) so why would a self-proclaimed football expert/rock star consider public failure at a club he described as a Ferrari? Summat’s not right! As regards Steve Evans, my opinion of him as a manager is in abeyance – I still think he doesn’t know the difference between a tactic and a breath mint!

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    • I suspect you are reading more than is warranted into Thompson’s sacking. At the time it looked like Antenucci’s contract was the issue and it still does look that way. More generally we can’t have it both ways with Cellino, calling him an irrational man in one breath, and then accusing him of being a Machiavellian schemer in the other.

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  4. patrick hogan

    Totally agree about the lack of goals. That tells it’s own story. If we hadn’t have stopped leaking goals consistently – the most recent and chronic complaint – we would be in dire trouble (albeit we still give silly goals away). And yet we seem capable of playing intelligent passing football (re: Middlesbrough game) admittedly without any real penetration.

    In that context a few quality players in the forward department (as you pointed out) might make a huge difference: i.e. instead of yet another flawed overhaul by a new manager playing the numbers game.

    I’m grasping at straws here looking for progress whilst despairing of the current owner and realising that yes: we have been lied to constantly.

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  5. On the upside, with the emerging partnership if Diagouraga and Bridcut as well as the dramatic upturn in form of Bellusci we look like keeping things tight at the back for the first time in ages.
    A solid base for adding attacking quality

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  6. I think you are right that Steve Evans is a dead man walking. His contract expire in June and the half hearted backing in January makes me think Massimo has yet another manager change in mind.

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    • Probably. The man’s a lunatic.

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    • A much more likely explanation is that Cellino is not wiling to make a substantial investment unless or until he knows that he can continue being the owner. In short, our immediate future is in the hands of lawyers and the FA. In these circumstances, I am inclined to emphasise the positive recruitment work done by Evans and Cellino
      rather than focus on what is a difficult ask under any conditions, viz recruiting for a sensible price a goal scorer in the January window.

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  7. Bornawhite

    The lack of goals is without doubt due to a complete lack of creativity within the team. Personally, I don’t think we could have changed it much in January with what was available. I very much doubt the likes of Frazier Campbell or other suggested Premiership targets would have seen a move to us right now as a positive step.
    There are massive problems with our recruitment policy. Which is an entirely different topic.
    With regards to our current inability to score there are in my opinion some obvious reasons.
    Wooton is a whole hearted player but I would be confident in suggesting that 85 – 90% of the time when he receives the ball on the right wing it goes backwards or sideways.
    Whilst I fully appreciate this is not his natural portion his lack of pace and ability to carry the ball forwards usually means we lose attacking momentum. We need a right back with a similar style to Charlie Taylor. We will then pose a threat on both flanks and be able to stretch defences and create chances. Stifle Cook,Taylor and Dallas and we are akin to an asthmatic hippo when attacking. The reality is our play is too predictable. Add to that the less than prolific striking options and it is a dire situation.
    Personally I would give at least Coyle and Erwin a run in the side and consider Sloth ( not the best name for a Footballer)
    I fear Steve Evans is more concerned with keeping his job rather than planning for next year so he will pick sides more likely to eek out the odd goal win or a draw. To be honest you can’t blame him but it does nothing to inspire the younger players to sign extended contracts or help the team as a whole carry any momentum into next season.
    You are absolutely right in suggesting it will be more of the same if Cellino is still at the helm.

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  8. Something just does not add up. Cellino is a control freak OK, but he also craves glory and the limelight. The chance of becoming the owner of one of the greatest football clubs in the PREMIERE, basking in headlines of brilliant performances on a world stage, to him would be like being in heaven. So WHY is he doing this? Something is not right. He did not buy the club to drag it down and humiliate himself and everyone attached to it. It’s just crazy.

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  9. Andy Bentley

    Almost every attempt at goal is a shot from outside the box. For every shot that ends up a sensational goal, more than 90% end up in row Z, blocked or saved.
    We’ve seen strikers come and go who received very poor service. Long ball tactics and no wingers. We now have three wingers and no one in the six yard box that can get on the end of crosses. For everything the Wood brings to the team, for a big man, he isn’t prolific in the air and struggles to jump. This is most apparent in our percentage of converting corners. I don’t know the league average but I suspect we are probably the lowest or there about. In fact when we have a corner, I’m more concerned it will lead to a break away goal for the opposition!
    That said, I do think Evans is moving us in the right direction. Although the table and results look all too familiar, there have been no 6-0 thrashings and the defensive midfielders give a more solid platform.
    But we now have a major dilemma. I’m not a Cellino fan and would be a happier man if if would sell up and move on. However, his ego is taking a real beating from fans, the FL and the press. He has shown how he reacts in the past. Impetuous, vindictive, impulsive and vengeful. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him sell Cook, Mowatt, Taylor and any other emerging talent we have. He would sell them to the scum if he felt that was a worthy punishment for our disloyalty as he sees it. Certainly, I don’t see him coming up with the cash to fund a Troy Deeney, Jordan Rhodes or similar in the summer. Either Evans needs to find his own Vardy or hope next season is a break through one for Stokes, Erwin, Mulhern or Malik.

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