Cardiff Revisited for Leeds as Whites Crash Out of Cup at Newport – by Rob Atkinson

South Wales

South Wales: Leeds United’s 21st Century FA Cup graveyard

An early lead in the FA Cup Third Round for Leeds United in an away tie in South Wales, live on TV. A sending off for our talismanic blond striker, then a late winner for opponents many places below us in the league ladder. A classic Cup shock, to the delight of the media and the nation as a whole. Yes – that was the fate of Leeds United 16 years and one day ago at Cardiff City. And today at Newport County, the same grisly circumstances played themselves out all over again as history eerily repeated itself to leave United stunned and “free to concentrate on the League”. For Alan Smith, read Samu Saíz. For Ninian Park, read Rodney Parade. The joyous celebrations in the media and around the nation remain identical.

On that previous occasion, United’s League position could not have been better – top of the Premier League pile with the Title in their sights. Today, the situation is of comparative poverty, with Leeds in and around the Championship play-off places after an inconsistent first half of the League campaign. Exiting the FA Cup is no tragedy, it’s happened once a year for the past 46 seasons. What we must hope is that the League slump, which followed United’s virtually identical Cup defeat 16 years ago, is not now replicated by Thomas Christiansen‘s troops. In that regard, it will clearly be seen that the sending-off of late and needless sub Saíz is far more potentially damaging to Leeds than an almost predictable Cup cock-up.

The really worrying thing was that, yet again, so many of the fringe players were found wanting when asked to step up and take their chances. We all know there’s a certain pressure that goes with the territory of playing for a club like Leeds, where expectations are always higher than attainments and the weight of history can be a heavy burden on young shoulders. But this fact has to inform player recruitment; it has to be a factor when targets are identified. Quality is essential, and will become ever more so as and when Leeds move upwards. But character and guts, with the ability to handle the goldfish-bowl environment and the glare of publicity – these are vital too, and it would seem that, in too many current squad members, those characteristics – epitomised today by lone warrior and scorer Gaetano Berardi – are sadly lacking.

Despite the uncanny similarity of the two South Wales FA Cup exits, 16 years apart, there’s no hiding the fact that the squad defeated at Cardiff was light years ahead of the current bunch in skill, character, attitude, desire – all the components of a successful football unit. That’s the gulf we have somehow to bridge over the next few years, if we’re to usher in our second century in a state befitting the history and global fame of this great club. On the evidence of the entire campaign so far – and in particular, based on the unpalatable offering we had to digest against Newport on Sunday lunchtime – there are light years still to travel, and this at a time when the clubs at the top of the game are streaking further away from the also-rans at an increasing speed.

By common consent, this squad – as a whole – is simply not good enough, and it will take more than boardroom platitudes to deal with that fact. The defeat at Cardiff was the start of a long and slippery slope for United. The best we can wish here and now is that the defeat at Newport might yet be part of the process whereby, slowly and painfully though it may be, Leeds United somehow contrive a return to something like their previous illustrious heights.

8 responses to “Cardiff Revisited for Leeds as Whites Crash Out of Cup at Newport – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Philip of Spain.

    So true,why is it that you just knew at the start of the second half that a least a draw was on the cards.Forget the skill part,(although it went missing in droves)what about,guts and graft?Can you see the likes of Norman,Billy,Dave Batty and co pulling out of tackles? What happened to desire?Why was Said on the pitch,butbif the accusations are true,absolutely NO sympathy,spitting,vile!!!


  2. Kevin Mcgarrigle

    One positive from a loss is to hammer home the fact that we are desperate for a pair of decent midfielders and above everything else how dire we are in attack with both lassogga and Grot not up to the job.
    How anyone can justify either of our attackers even getting a place on the bench or any bench mystifies me.


  3. Apart from new, quality players, perhaps what Leeds needs is a good sports psychologist (or several!) to get our existing players’ and msnanager’s heads in the right place…. Or a curse-lifting Gypsy!


  4. I recorded the game to watch later after a morning spent mostly losing golf balls. I tried to avoid the radio but inadvertently found out that Leeds were 1 up with about 25 mins to go. So I skipped through the the first hour of the game to watch the last part ‘ live’. Unbelievable ! Well,not really but you know what I mean. The equaliser was probably coming but surely we could hold on for a replay. Some hope. Then the one player of true quality we have gets sent off – for spitting !! This could mean a 5 match ban. Sutton repeated….and will continue to be repeated until we spend some money. Recording deleted and golf lessons booked.. MOT


  5. gerrycwmbran

    Don’t forget it was our manager that only yesterday said he was fielding a team that would win the match; that we don’t need to get in a centre forward as we have 4 already (what a laugh!).
    Today was an absolute and unforgivable disgrace, an abdication of any respect for the FA cup – and as far as I am concerned the manager should GO – TODAY. 9 changes and third choice players in some positions
    He is not up to the job, and neither was the shower on the pitch today BERARDI excepted.
    I am ASHAMED of the management (or lack of it) at my club.
    Gerry Cwmbran


  6. Let’s keep a degree of perspective on today’s latest cup “shock”
    When you make 9 changes to a team and create a team that has never played together as quite a few other teams did to their cost this weekend the outcome can’t come as any surprise against a well drilled outfit like Newport.
    We may as well have played the under 23s who play together and could have given a good account of themselves and also spare us the hogwash “we respect the FA Cup” which always gets rolled out on these occasions.
    Let’s be honest we are all far more interested in getting 3 or 4 decent Jan signings to sustain our top 6 bid and if my some miracle we got up via the play offs who would even remember this match.
    The only other concern now is the length of Saizs ban and how badly we will miss his one man mission to drive the team to victories. What a pointless substitution by TC that was and I wouldn’t have even had him in the squad.


  7. Grenvllle Hair

    I think most will agree – looking at the fixtures coming up and the Saiz disaster (in itself worse than going out) – that we will drift out of the playoff reckoning without significant squad strengthening this month. There is, sadly, limited evidence that AR is any more willing than his disastrous predecessor to part with significant sums for quality players, despite the inlux of cash for Wood and Taylor. The Qatari deal also adds to the suspicion that he may be more interested in using LUFC and its enviable profile as a trading platform to profit from player trading and arbitrage. I hope I’m wrong but look at the business he is in – sports rights. In any case, at least we’ll know this month the depth of his commitment – unlike previous owners, he can’t ‘just miss’ the window, can he?


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