Opportunity Knocks for Leeds United After International Break – by Rob Atkinson


Forshaw hip injury

Adam Forshaw – hip trouble

There are no easy games in the Championship, as any windswept and cynical pundit will tell you; it’s a highly competitive, dog-eat-dog league, a marathon and not a sprint, a nine month war of attrition where every point is won only via the lavish expenditure of blood, sweat and tears. Add in the fact that the division’s undoubted aristocrats, Leeds United, bring out the very best in their opponents due to the fact that the Whites are every other team’s bi-seasonal Cup Final, and you can begin to comprehend why the men from Elland Road are not striding miles clear at the top of the league. Even so, United are right up there, only two points off the top and rightly ruing the three daft defeats so far this term that have stopped them turning their regular domination of games into an even healthier position in the table.

So far, so good then, as we head into yet another International break. It’s quite timely, really, as the injuries are starting to niggle a bit, with skipper Liam Cooper having to withdraw from the Scotland squad to nurse a troublesome groin. The two week hiatus in the league programme might also nudge the likes of Jamie Shackleton (hamstring), Adam Forshaw (hip) and Ezgjan Alioski (side) nearer to a first team return. And it’s a fortnight-long chunk out of Arsenal loanee Eddie Nketiah’s regrettable absence, as he recovers from what looks like a medium term abdominal muscle problem.

The United path to promotion never runs smooth; it’s in the DNA of the club to do things the hard way. But maybe, just maybe, there’s good reason to be cautiously optimistic about the Whites’ league programme in the period following this two week festival of representative football. The reason behind such an upbeat attitude is to be found in the fact that, so far this season, Leeds have faced mainly rival teams towards the top end of the league, still managing to remain in a challenging position. When league competition resumes, though, the picture changes slightly, with United facing four teams currently placed 21st, 17th, 22nd and 19th. Meanwhile, league leaders West Bromwich Albion have to face the sides currently 2nd, 4th, 7th and 8th – clearly there is the potential for Leeds to pick up points against notionally weaker sides while simultaneously the Baggies have to face some of the cream of the division, including Preston North End, who sit in second a mere one goal ahead of Leeds who are tied on the same points total.

Dog-eat-dog always means there will be losers; teams in the top four who have to play each other face the mathematical certainty that points will be dropped, and it’s likely that none of United’s rivals will be able to reap maximum rewards from a difficult run. So, if Leeds can take full advantage of their relatively less demanding quartet of games, then the prospect of creating a nice cushion at the summit of the table must be a realistic one.

Of course, this is Leeds United, which means things probably won’t work out according to such blatant wishful thinking. On paper, of course, there’s no reason why our heroes shouldn’t take full advantage of the unusually promising hand the fixture computer has dealt them. But sadly, football isn’t played on paper, and our old friend the Imp of the Perverse could well dash our top of the league aspirations, as he’s done so many times before. As ever, we just have to wait and hope, with fingers firmly crossed for an improved injury list and twelve lovely league points from those four “easier” games.

Marching On Together

6 responses to “Opportunity Knocks for Leeds United After International Break – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Rob, this is an excellent exploration of Elland Road anxiety: how can we play so well, create so many chances and not score? Why is it that when we have a corner we don’t expect to score yet when we have a corner awarded against us we expect to concede? What causes the ball to hit the post, bar, goalie, go wide, or be cleared off the line etc so often when we are in scoring positions? Was Don Revie right to believe in Gypsy curses? Is Shaun Harvey and the EFL part of that curse? Marcelo Beilsa is a brilliant, and honest, manager; a magician who rises above the ‘dog-eat-dog’ ethos of the Championship and, by dint of which, will exorcise the ghosts of anxieties past… but please, God grant Leeds automatic promotion in May!

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  2. Life is LUFC

    Sod’s law, if there is an easy way or a hard way guess which way Leeds will choose. There is no easy game/team they are all in it to win it, the match I mean, the league if possible.
    What really gets my goat is this promotion and relegation rule.
    Relegation, bottom three go down. Not the bottom two and then the four teams above play it out to see which will be the third team. Oh no it is those with the least number of points in the last three positions for that season.
    Promotion and this is regardless of who is up there – top two go up but three to six have to play it out to see who is third. At the end of the day those top three teams have accumulated the most points for that season. It is just complete nonsense….still at least it is one rule that applies to all not just Leeds.
    How are you Rob well I hope,,,, thought I had better lower the blood pressure.

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  3. Reality Cheque

    You have summed up the anxiety provoking unpredictability every genuine Leeds United supporter has endured since dropping out of the Premier League Rob
    As last season proved only too well, there are no “easier” games where Leeds United are concerned as we seem to struggle to get any points against teams who are on their worst run of results but manage to turn us over a la Birmingham (A), QPR (A), 10 man Wigan (H) etc., etc.,
    Hopefully, our next 4 fixtures will reverse the trend and send us into the festive fixture list in a confident mood

    Will Kiko be available for these fixtures or be found “guilty on the balance of probabilities” of using racist language, (purely on the basis of him being a “Dirty Leeds” employee)?

    Our CEO was absolutely correct to express the club’s concerns that Kiko’s fate will be determined “on the balance of probabilities” Hopefully his hitherto long unblemished character & career playing at the highest level in & against multi-racial opponents will “prove” that on the balance of probabilities Kiko is in no way whatsoever a racist. Racism of any degree does not belong in football or today’s society BUT the authorities must be absolutely certain that they do not destroy a player’s character and career by simply deciding that the player “probably did” use racist language in the absence of any concrete evidence. ALAW

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    • If he’d said “Mark the black bastard”, he’d be bang to rights – that would make the use of the word “black” part of a critical slur and therefore racist. But what he actually said was merely descriptive – as would have been “Mark the tall/blond/short/etc lad”. “Black” per se is neither an insult nor a racial slur. That’s my take on it.

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