Tag Archives: Brian McDermott

Huddersfield Suffer Cup Final Thrashing at Hands of Crisis Club Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

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Jimmy Kebe celebrates scoring for Leeds United

It was the worst of times – and then, suddenly it was the best of times.  The Friday night had been pain and humiliation for every Leeds United fan, in the pitiless glare of the Murdoch media before the eyes of a hostile world.  And yet, just a few hours later, everything had changed, unrecognisably for the better. The team started against Huddersfield looking understandably a little sorry for themselves.  But they rode their luck, applied themselves when they went behind – and emerged 5-1 winners.  And then we heard the manager was reinstated – in fact, contrary to the previous night’s version of reality, he was never sacked in the first place.  On a personal note, I’d sustained a Twitter barrage from jubilant Millwall fans on transfer deadline night, they’d been gleefully delighted to see their least favourite Leeds fan reeling under the sheer weight of bad news.  And yet on the Saturday they lost 0-3 to Reading and remain in and around the gutter of the relegation zone, where such vermin belong. Schadenfreude rarely felt so good – right, Ms Kate Murray, stroppy Miwwwaww tweeter?  I am using the word correctly, I hope…  And to put a tin lid on it, Man U got beaten at Stoke, despite a comical SEVEN minutes of stoppage time.  Where are those penalties from the S’ralex days, eh?

Talk about Friday Night and Saturday Morning – Sillitoe never wrote such a dystopian/utopian contrast.  It’s been said that a week is a long time in politics – clearly a day is the difference between epochs in the crazy world of football. These were not so much two different and contrasting days as two parallel universes.   The speed with which things have turned around has been enough to leave anyone dizzy. For Leeds fans, the afterglow of the Derby Day slaughter is an oasis of happiness, paid for in full with Friday night’s pain and wretched suffering. And, in a particularly sweet twist, the club on the receiving end of this almighty volte-face was Huddersfield Town, bearers of the biggest anti-Leeds United chip on the shoulder you’re ever likely to see outside of Barnsley. Early on, they’d bossed it at Elland Road, but they were profligate; to some extent the authors of their own downfall. Nevertheless, they’d forged ahead, and then our captain McCormack missed a half-chance for Leeds. The glee in the away end was unconfined – “Ross McCormack, he don’t wanna play” they sang, innocently unaware of the tidal wave of Ross that was to engulf them, leaving them very sad and silent little Terriers by the end of the game.

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Ross!!

For McCormack, it was a performance you just couldn’t have made up.  A hat-trick, the day after the Sky Sports hacks had been doing their best to flog him to Premier League relegation candidates Cardiff.  A tough game against determined derby opposition, for which the preparation had been as far away from ideal as it is possible to imagine, a fragmented miscellany of disasters large and small.  A match day that had started with bleak pessimism seeping throughout the club, some of the staff turning up for work in tears, McCormack’s mentor apparently sacked.  Seriously, who writes this talisman’s scripts?  One hat-trick later, and Ross was on the radio, re-emphasising his commitment to Leeds United.  Our captain and the top scorer in the league had stepped up to the plate and delivered, big time.  We couldn’t possibly have asked for more.

And then, best of all, we heard those glad tidings that Brian McDermott is still our man.  It’s true that there are still a lot of explanations needed for what has gone on in and around LS11 in that nightmare day or so – but for the time being, the warm fuzz of happiness is just too darned comfortable and I don’t want to shake it off. Leeds win, thrashing Huddersfield in what is always their Cup Final. Millwall gloated for a night and were then comically, karmically, abjectly beaten at home the next day.  Man U lost at Stoke with their ineffectual manager bleating about deflections and worldies.  My smile still feels as though it may require surgical removal.  It’s all so different from the Friday night, and from Friday night’s nightmares.  I woke up the next morning hoping I had just dreamed it all, only to realise despairingly that it was true.  Never had I anticipated a home game with less appetite or enthusiasm. My get up and go had got up and gone.

And now – well, that Friday night reality, which got match day off to such a glum start, is simply not true any more.  The team fought like lions (sorry, Millwall) for the badge, the shirts, the manager and the fans. Young Mowatt played beautifully and broke his goal-scoring duck. Stewart was tricky and creative out wide. Even fellow winger Jimmy Kebe played well and scored – these two are at last looking fit and sharp and promise to lend a whole new dimension to our play.  The embattled team took an early, shattering blow, but then lashed back in a startling fashion, savaging the cocky Terriers in what turned out to be an epic mauling.  So life is good, however temporarily.  Whether it’s now a case of Marching On Together, or Forza Leeds – or maybe both – we can at least be content for the minute.

Friday was just plain horrible.  But Saturday, matchday?  It’s been bloody wonderful.

Exclusive: Definitive Leeds United Statement on Recent Events at the Club – by Rob Atkinson

No questions will be taken on this statement

No questions will be taken on this statement

Leeds Fans Know How You Feel Ross, But Now is the Time to Man Up – by Rob Atkinson

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More of this, please, Ross

It’s been a shocking and distressing day for all of us – many out here are thinking back to this morning when we were grumbling about another dull deadline day in prospect.  And now – we’re wishing we could turn the clock back.

The last couple of hours have been depressing and humiliating.  For God’s sake, even Gary bloody Neville feels sorry for us.  Brian McDermott, the voice of reason in the Elland Road asylum, has been sacked – although there isn’t the courtesy of a statement from the club to confirm this.  A couple of hours before this, the club turned down a bid from Cardiff for captain and top scorer Ross McCormack.  Ross then gave a statement to pisspoor TV station Sky Sports, saying he was happy at Leeds and looking forward to playing for McDermott. A tinge of alarm there, that solidified into an icicle of dread when the axe fell on poor Brian’s honest head.

The thing is – you don’t just play for the manager.  With all due respect, Ross, you play for the fans, for the shirt, for your team-mates, for the club. Managers come and go as we all know.  It’s sad – tragic, sometimes.  But it happens – and when it does, then the senior players are under a moral obligation to stand up and be counted.  That is what the Leeds fans out here now desperately need of the Ross McCormack they’ve watched scoring goals and kissing that badge this season.  Don’t take the easy road and opt out.  Don’t lose that fight and defiant professionalism that has marked you out as star man this season.  There’s a derby match tomorrow against Huddersfield, and as usual they will play it as a Cup Final.  For once – instead of succumbing to that smaller-club chip-on-the-shoulder motivation, the Leeds players need to respond in kind.  They will need their skipper and talismanic striker to lead them in this.  They will need YOU, Ross.  And the fans will need you, too.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.  They don’t come over all prima donna and let themselves be persuaded by the disgraceful Sky TV that the only option is to flounce in and demand a move.  It’s been such a horrible, horrible day – but Captain Ross McCormack and the rest of the lads in those shirts – shirts that any of us fans out here would give a year’s salary to wear – can start the fightback tomorrow.  That’s what the big players do.  That’s the professional thing to do.  You have a contract, guys, but what’s more than that – you have a duty of trust to the fans that have stuck by you through a decidedly average season.  They kept the faith after Rochdale and after Sheffield Wendies, and they cheered you to the rafters as you lost unluckily to Leicester.  Please don’t abandon them against Huddersfield.  Pride is at stake here, and it’s about much, much more than an individual player’s unhappiness.  Rise above it, fight and win, if at all possible.

The time to sit down and think things over is in the summer.  Things may be clearer by then.  Now, in the heat of the moment, is not the time to act in haste.  It’s not a time to forget the fans who worship you, and head off to the the very bottom of the Premier League, where Vincent Tan awaits.  Out of the frying pan, and into the fire?  Bite your lip, Ross, and roll those sleeves up.  You can be the hero we need in very dark times.

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Get that shirt on, go out and fight

Sky Disgrace Themselves Over McCormack Transfer Blast – by Rob Atkinson

Trash TV

Trash TV

It could only happen at Leeds. For the second time in recent history, the manager is sacked as the January transfer window closes. And, in a rare example of Murdoch’s tacky Sky Sports Transfer Deadline programme even recognising the existence of Leeds, the trashy satellite station were immediately all over Ross McCormack like a bad rash.

McCormack pronounced himself “happy to stay at Leeds and play for McDermott” only a couple of hours ago. Now, in the immediate aftermath of the brutal ending of The Strife of Brian, Ross was hauled onto the Sky airwaves, understandably gutted and shell-shocked. The presenters’ agenda was clear – could this transfer be revived? Could the knife be twisted in the Leeds United stab-in-the-back wound?

McCormack was badgered over whether McDermott’s dismissal changed things. He displayed enough ambivalence for the Sky hacks to scent blood. Cut down to Cardiff, where they collared a handy chav to plead for Ross to “come back”.

It was deeply un-classy stuff. It didn’t reflect too well on McCormack, but it showed Sky up for the tacky gutter station they are. At one point, McCormack’s distressed interview, full of shock and compassion for his ex-manager, was described as “the best thing for ages”. Such are the standards at the bottom of the journalism barrel.

I happen to believe that Brian’s dismissal means it’s more or less certain that Massimo Cellino is now calling the shots. There are strong rumours also of two players coming in on loan from Cagliari. It looks as though what amounts to more of a coup – and not a bloodless one – than a takeover is virtually done and dusted.

What next for Leeds? If we get to 11pm with our captain and top scorer still on the playing staff, I’ll be happily surprised. There’s not much else to be happy about. Leeds United are the laughing-stock of the football world tonight.

As for what might happen in the game against Huddersfield tomorrow, well who knows. The players’ state of mind can only be guessed at. As I write, Sky’s efforts to sell McCormack are redoubling. They report that his representatives have been contacted by SIX clubs since “our sensational interview”. They seem to be implicitly approving the tapping-up of our skipper. What a disgusting organisation they are.

Wake me up when it’s summer, someone – unless we’ve been relegated.

“Fit and Proper Test” Under Spotlight as Cellino Bids for Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Cellino - fit and proper?

Cellino – fit and proper?

Rumours have been gathering pace all day that Cagliari owner Massimo Cellino is on the brink of securing a majority holding in Leeds United AFC. The implications of such a development are manifold, not least the effect on manager Brian McDermott and his backroom team. One quote attributed to Cellino when asked about McDermott’s future was “I need a coach, not a manager”. It’s fair to say the things look bleak for Brian, should the Italian Job be completed.

One vital stage in any such completion would the Football League’s decision as to whether or not Cellino’s ownership of Leeds United should be sanctioned. This involves scrutiny of any potential new owner under what is known as the “Fit and Proper Person Test” (FAPP). On the face of it, Cellino would seem to face difficulties with this. He allegedly has a couple of fraud convictions and is awaiting trial on embezzlement charges. Not on this account alone could he be considered more of a villain than Ken Bates – but you’d have thought that the Football League, even in the rather dodgy guise of ex-United CEO Shaun Harvey, might not look kindly on a man with a rap sheet like Cellino’s. It may well be that this will be the most stringent test yet of the efficacy of the FAPP Test.

There is the merest suggestion that the club might be acquired by Cellino in the name of his son – a guy who is much given to Instagram sharing and who is not, presumably, saddled with a record for dodgy deal like Papa’s.

Whether or not the FAPP test can be satisfied, or perhaps merely circumvented, this looks like being a crucial decision in the context of the whole history of Leeds United. We’re looking at a man who changes managers, or coaches, considerably more frequently that Ken Bates changes his underwear. Cellino is not a man to be swayed by fan opinion either – it tends to be “my way or the highway”. Fan engagement has been a buzz-phrase around LS11 since GFH moved in – but those days might be ending for the foreseeable future.

It looks as though the ownership issue is coming to a head just as the transfer window slams shut on us yet again – so the question of whether or not Cellino is likely to be a heavy investor will probably – subject to any promises he might wish to make in the wake of sealing a deal for United – have to wait for another day. But it would appear that the Italian is very much “hands on” in terms of transfer deals, so it’s highly unlikely that we would see Brian wheeling and dealing as he did so successfully and to such devastating effect at Reading.

Whatever happens, we’re all going to feel as if we’ve sat through some combination of gothic horror, low farce, and pantomime. It has been a deeply unsettling time to be Leeds. We shall obviously have to do our best to keep Marching On Together, but it looks like it might not be easy. The Cellino regime would be terra incognita for Leeds United – we’d just have to wait and see how things pan out. For once, even with a derby in prospect – always a Cup Final for the opposition – football is the last thing on the minds of most United fans. McDermott won’t be drawn on whether this Huddersfield home match could be his last as Leeds manager, saying only that he plans “to enjoy it”. Valedictory words? Sadly, they may well be just that.

These are dark and troubling times at Elland Road – and whatever happens in the next day or so, it seems certain that we’re not out of the woods yet – not by a long chalk.

Addendum – the Fit & Proper Test as it applies to Cellino. Grateful thanks to Max for his research and interpretation – much appreciated.

Rob, I had a look at the rules here:
http://www.football-league.co.uk/regulations/20130704/appendix-3_2293633_2128209

And also key is the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/53/enacted), which the rules use to decide whether a conviction is “spent” or “unspent” (even if outside the UK). “Spent” means they come off your criminal record (if you have one) for most purposes.

Cellino’s convictions are banned by the rules, if unspent, so you then look at the act to decide whether or not they are spent. Sentences of >2.5 years (including, obviously, life sentences) are never spent. It’s not clear what happens with suspended sentences, I would assume they are treated the same.

Cellino had a 14 month suspended sentence in 1996 and a 15 month one in 2001. For a sentence of 6 to 30 months, the time for rehabilitation, or for the convictions to be “spent”, is 10 years. So by my reading he is in the clear.

The embezzlement charges don’t count unless he’s convicted. If convicted, even if the sentence is under 6 months, he’d be disqualified for 3 years (by applying the table in the 1974 Act) from being a football director and would have to resign.

But right now – and I may have missed something, of course – by my reading he would pass the test. In 2010, when he tried to take over WHU, the convictions wouldn’t have spent, assuming the rules applied (the PL rules may be different in this respect, I don’t know)

Leeds Boss McDermott a Welcome Beacon in the Fans’ Gloom – by Rob Atkinson

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Brian McDermott looking for the best for Leeds United – with or without him

There’s a video clip doing the rounds today – it could easily be entitled “Strife of Brian”, but this is no Pythonesque spoof.  This is tragedy, pure and simple – it’s got all the necessary ingredients.  We have an embattled hero, dark and inimical forces grappling away in the background, mystery and intrigue – and most of all, the grim prospect of a very unhappy ending.  And all in a mere 2 minutes and 38 seconds.  For all its brevity, no-one could fail to be moved by the passion and courage, the honesty and unselfishness that shine through in this isolated bubble of truth and openness in the gathering murk surrounding Elland Road.  The hero is, of course, Brian McDermott and he has earned that title by his struggles to carry on in circumstances that would have seen a lesser man give up and head for the hills.

In this blog’s opinion, McDermott has also earned the respect, trust and unstinting support of everyone out here who would claim to be a Leeds United fan.  Brian has stuck his head above the parapet with the contents of that interview, not in his own best interests, but in those of the club – which he clearly equates with the fans.  He stands out in these dark and dismal times as the one real ray of light – along with maybe one or two of the playing staff.  His anger, his passion and his determination to see right done by Leeds United and its legions of supporters are an apt counterpoint to the anodyne platitudes which are all we occasionally get from the suits behind the scenes, those grey little men who argue about pounds and pence while the club slides ever backwards.  It would be hard to imagine more of a contrast than the one which distinguishes Hero Brian from the corporate clowns humiliating us as they squabble behind the scenes.

I saw a tweet today which sums up perfectly the Strife of Brian.  It invited us to imagine the situation of a man facing a tennis match against a Grand Slam champion, but having to face this virtuoso without a racquet – and with his hands tied behind his back.  This is how hamstrung our Brian has been, for pretty much all of his tenure as Leeds United boss.  Just as we’ve been made promises and have been let down, so has he – and when he is let down it’s more than just a personal disappointment – it’s his professional reputation on the line.  Matters appear to have come to a head in these last few days, as we approach the final week of a transfer window where so much was promised, so much was expected.  Brian talked of getting business done early – but he’s been betrayed in his trust.  It was all lies, yet again.  The carpet has been yanked from beneath his feet, and ours.

It seems odd then, that – with so many deserving targets for their anger and disappointment to be justly poured out – some Leeds fans are actually choosing to have a go at the man who represents our best hope of forcing some kind of breakthrough in this tiresomely endless impasse.  Some fans are absolutely calling for Brian’s head, citing tactics, transfer policy, substitutions – even his gloriously bald pate.  They portray him as an egg  or as a thumb, and they seem to think it’s funny.  Yet this is the man who is speaking out and calling for an end to all the uncertainty, all the fruitless quibbling in the boardroom, all the selfish machinations between opposing interests – and he’s doing it with dignity and professionalism.  Brian wants it sorted, and for us to start moving onwards and upwards – and isn’t that what we all want, all of us helpless and impotent bystanders out here?  Plenty of managers would refrain from comment, knowing that being too outspoken would land them a swift P45.  Plenty more would walk, leaving us to suffer without any leadership.  Still others would seek to follow a party line, cravenly hoping they’d backed the right horse.  But not Brian.  He’s stuck his neck out, to lay his head defiantly on the block.  He seems to be half-resigned to being a casualty of whatever change might finally occur – but he’s saying it’s not about his own interests.  He’s asking for a swift resolution to the takeover saga, for the club and for the fans.  Greater love hath no man…

For those who are preoccupied with details of his team selections, or substitutions, or certain of his transfer acquisitions, I would say – forget it.  We know nothing of his working conditions and the promises made and broken, except for the broad hints in that direction contained in this alarmingly frank and angry interview.  It’s impossible for us to judge the man – he’s been trying to build a house without tools, and with bricks of straw.  All we can say of him is that he’s there for us, the fans, and for the club we all love.  How can we currently ask more of him than that?  For the moment, tactics, substitutions and transfers  are irrelevant.  Football is irrelevant.  The season is a dead duck – it’s the very future of our club which is at issue here.  That’s what McDermott is telling us, and we need to listen.  In a crisis on stormy seas, the last thing you do is tip your friends overboard – and right now, Brian is the only friend we have.

Against Huddersfield at the weekend, all of the Leeds fans should be bellowing their support for this man.  We should be sending the clearest possible message to all the factions currently wrangling over our club; we should be making sure that they’re aware we have heard Brian’s message loud and clear and that we have taken it to heart.

In any conflict, it’s of the first importance to know your enemy.  We should be utterly clear on this – Brian McDermott is not the enemy here.  He speaks for us, because he cares and because he has the courage and resolve – along with the insider’s knowledge – to speak with the voice of a man who knows that what’s happening is not good for the club.  We have Brian to thank for the fact that we now know that too.  Let’s not be blind enough, naïve enough, to ignore it.  We must show our support for Brian McDermott, loud and proud – because quite frankly, he’s the only chance we’ve got.

Could Glenn Hoddle be the Man for Leeds United? – by Rob Atkinson

Hoddle for Leeds?

Hoddle for Leeds?

These are confusing times – even distressing, perhaps – for Leeds United fans.  Results have been poor of late, to say the least.  We have arrived at a point where, after deeply humiliating defeats at Rochdale and Sheffield Wendies, a late and narrow loss to league leaders Leicester has been hailed in some quarters as a triumph of sorts, restoring some pride if not yet belief.  The display against the Foxes was certainly much-improved – but when the best source of comfort and encouragement is a defeat cherished for its battling qualities and narrow margin, then you know that expectations have sunk to an unacceptable low for a club with the history and tradition of Leeds United.

It’s not as if all the misery is on the park, either.  TOMA II is starting to assume the epic proportions of its humongous forebear, TOMA I – echoing swathes of silence are punctuated with a few hollow-sounding reassurances about dots and crosses for neglected letters of the alphabet, but the days drag by and nothing of note has happened, other than the club’s 999th and 1000th loan signings of this depressing century – or at least, that’s how it feels.  This current transfer window, just like the several preceding it, was talked-up as THE window in which we’d be flexing those big-club muscles and getting that squad strengthened as we’ve all known for ages it needs to be.  As January wanes towards February, it’s starting to feel like the old, old story – but we’re still being promised good news, so you never really know.  It’s just that it always seems the same at Leeds United – there’ll be pie in the sky, by and by.  Yet it always seems to turn out to be humble pie, and we’ve swallowed plenty of that this past decade or so.

It wouldn’t be Leeds United, either, if there were no speculation over the manager’s position – even though our Brian hasn’t been in that uncomfortably perilous hot-seat for a twelvemonth yet.  This blog is on record as stressing it’s firmly behind Mr McDermott, steadfast in the belief that all the guy needs is time and backing of the munificent fiscal variety (we’ve had all the platitudes, thanks).  But with TOMA II dragging on, and on, and on – pending approval from some higher authority that seems determined to sit on its arse and prevaricate until our transfer options have disappeared completely – what real chance does BMcD have to get things sorted as he doubtless wishes to do?  Instead, he’s reduced to the soundbites we’ve heard before from other managers – McAllister, Grayson, Warnock – whose one common factor is that they’ve all ended up sacked.

There are conflicting messages emanating from the United support where Brian’s own prospects are concerned.  A vociferous if less than convincing minority seem to want him gone, and will argue that the recent run of results is sufficiently bad to have seen most men out of the Elland Road revolving door.  What I see as wiser counsel argues for patience, continuity, stability – basically to write this season off in terms of promotion ambitions, get the takeover sorted – and then attack the squad re-shaping job in the summer.  Because surely, one day we’ll have a transfer window that doesn’t end up as a bleak disappointment?  Even last summer’s was no great shakes, the major high points being the signing of Luke Murphy (ahem) – and the getting-rid of Ken Bates.

Brian's our man

Brian’s our man

I ran a poll a few days back, and it’s evident already, as can be seen from the illustration here, that the vast majority of the contributors to that, when asked the straightforward question of “Keep Brian or get rid?”, are opting for the stability and security option.  A massive 90% want to hang on to Brian, dwarfing the measly 10% who would have a change less than a year after appointing him.  If this is representative of the support as a whole, then the owners – whoever they are – should feel secure enough in their choice to keep their faith in McDermott.  But it’s notoriously the case that patience runs short very quickly in football and that, especially when new owners come in, they frequently bring with them a new broom to sweep clean.

All of which laborious preamble brings me to the point of this article.  Remember – I support Brian, I think he deserves time and backing to do the job he so clearly and passionately wants to do.  But if the powers that be DID decide to get rid, then I feel it would be time to think big in an effort to restore some faith in the way the club is being run.  I watched the Chelsea v Man U match the other day and a studio guest was one Glenn Hoddle.  I have to say, I was impressed by his evident deep knowledge and understanding of the game as he dissected the mistakes the Man U defence had made.  His is an impressive CV blotted by one unfortunate episode of nuttiness.  A little nuttiness is surely not a factor that should debar any candidate from the Leeds job – we’ve had Clough and Warnock in the past, and I’ve even heard some call for di Canio.   And deep down, if the worst came to the worst, I just feel that Glenn Hoddle might be the man for Leeds – and Leeds might just be the challenge to tempt back a high-class coach who is still young enough to make a renewed mark on the game.

Madness?  Perhaps.  Remember please, my first option is to keep Brian McDermott.  But IF he’s dismissed – and history tells us that for any manager the sack is just a few crap results away – then why not Hoddle?  Wouldn’t we enjoy his style of football?  Might he not be the man to reinvent Leeds as a classy footballing machine motoring back towards the top?  What do people think?  I await your opinions, however derisive, with interest.

Wounded Leeds to be Mauled by Foxes? – by Rob Atkinson

Ross the Boss

Ross the Boss

The Foxes are on the prowl in Leeds this weekend, looking for easy prey, slavering and snapping at the tell-tale scent of blood which betrays the presence of a wounded and defenceless beast – or at least of some hapless chickens come home to roost. The potential victim of choice is Leeds United, mortally savaged last weekend when a soft underbelly was ruthlessly exposed as they rolled over and surrendered at Hillsborough. Slinking away to lick their wounds, Leeds have spent the week since trying to marshall spent energies for a last-ditch defence of their territory, readying themselves for an attack from the top pack out there. Sadly, it promises to be an unequal battle.

But now we’ll leave behind us this already over-stretched “battle of nature” metaphor, before it gets too gory and messy for the requirements of good taste. We all know we’re up against it this weekend, and that if things go anywhere near as spectacularly wrong as they did in darkest Sheffield last week, it could be bloody carnage in LS11. And yet there is hope springing from out of the mists of time, and the one thing above all that any beleaguered team or manager needs is a little hope.

That historical glimmer of light shining wanly through the gloom takes us back to the last time we let in half a dozen at Wednesday. On that pre-Christmas 1995 occasion, having capitulated 6-2, Leeds were required to bounce back swiftly as Man U rolled into town seeking to take advantage of our reduced state. Well, we won 3-1 (see here) on that memorable Christmas Eve, with tomorrow’s opposition keeper’s dad in goal and with our strike-force serving us well, so who’s to say we can’t spring a comparable shock just over 18 years later? Alright, common-sense and the formbook are two that spring to mind, but let’s not abandon ALL hope – not just yet.

Whatever recent form or historical precedent might tell us, there’s little doubt that Leeds United are the underdogs this weekend – and perhaps, after failing against nominal inferiors last time out, this is just what they need. There is also the small matter of a change of leadership on the field – or, as some would bitterly point out, the introduction of some leadership, a quality notable by its absence in the last two craven performances.

Ross McCormack has long been identifiable as a man who carries the club in his heart and wears that heart on his sleeve. Striker or no, there can be no better candidate among the current crop for a captain’s role – and there may even be a bonus in the shape of a return to form for Rudy Austin, freed to concentrate simply on playing. If Austin could produce a performance comparable to his single-handed subduing of Birmingham City a while back, then all bets are off. Rudy was almost unplayable that day, as the rest of the team benefited from his industry and commitment. So the change of skipper could be a double-edged and beneficial sword – and we may look also for the galvanising effect of a “clear the air” meeting in the wake of humiliation.

A change of formation could also be on the cards, now that we have two wingers to (we hope) create havoc down both flanks. The downside to that is the loss of battering-ram Matt Smith, who is suspended after an appeal against his red card last week was, unsurprisingly to anyone who has followed United’s run-ins with authority, summarily dismissed. So Smith is out, and there is a vacancy in attack alongside Captain Ross if we ARE to go 4-4-2. Whispers are abroad that the mystery transfer target Brian McDermott was having a chat with today might just be a certain Argentinean who left us to become Becchio the Benchwarmer of Carrow Road – and that would certainly solve a problem or two, though it’s a little late in the day now for new blood to be available for the Leicester test.

There is, on the other hand, new blood in the Leicester City ranks – though that new blood is of the distinctly old variety as veteran Kevin Phillips arrives from Crystal Palace to threaten Leeds’ wobbly defence. It is this factor that worries me above all; Phillips is the kind of man who you suspect will make an instant impact, even if it’s off the bench. Elland Road before the TV cameras is a scenario made in heaven for the lethal finisher, and you wouldn’t bet against him harming our heroes at some point. Recent form is as good for Leicester as it is bad for Leeds, with the Foxes having slain the Rams last week, City beating Derby by a convincing four goals to one.

So, there are many reasons to worry about this home fixture – though we should bear in mind that we already have a point in the bag from Leicester in an early-season stalemate that we could even have won near the end. You suspect that all of a Whites persuasion would be happy to see another point tomorrow; it’s an outcome some optimistic urge in me is tempted to forecast. But taking everything into account, with a determined Son of Schmeichel in goal for the Foxes and prepared to throw himself at everything to avenge his dad’s defeat in that Christmas Eve win over Man U; with the X-Factor of Finisher Phillips in the mix and with all of the trauma currently surrounding Leeds United – I will reluctantly go for a routine away win as the Whites battle hard but are undone by a frankly better squad.

0-2 for me, a goal at some point for Old Man Kevin, fresh from the Palace – and some honour in defeat to be garnered from what I confidently expect to be a much-improved performance. Now come on, Leeds – you proved me wrong with last week’s result prediction. Get those sleeves rolled up, fight for the shirts and prove me wrong again!

Leeds United Manager’s Position: Stick or Twist? Have Your Say Now – by Rob Atkinson

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Leeds boss Brian McDermott – Yea or Nay?

Several recent articles on this blog have attracted a gratifying level of comment, with the usual mix of intelligent insight, passionate opinion and a smattering of the frankly bizarre.  These are the contributions that survived moderation, you understand – I do receive a lot of material from people who evidently hate everything about this blog and yet paradoxically cannot resist reading every syllable and then sending an abusive rant which they must know will never see the light of day.  Well, it takes all sorts…

One of the more recent themes has been a small but significant number of people who would clearly be glad to see Brian McDermott replaced.  This category of contributor appears disillusioned with BMac’s tactics, substitutions, recruitment policy – one irate individual even had a crack at his specs.  The recent availability of Malky Mackay, following his idiotic sacking by Cardiff City despot Vincent Tan, has also clearly had an unsettling effect.  Some would evidently be in favour of shipping Brian out to tempt Mackay in, which I suppose is a predictable reaction given the success the Scot enjoyed at Cardiff, before that club went mad.

This blog remains solidly behind Brian McDermott as boss, largely because the main things missing from our club over the past decade or so have been stability and continuity – some sort of consistent thread running through the shifting fabric of the club as it has experienced an era of volatility and change.  The change appears likely to carry on apace, which to my mind makes an even more persuasive case for retaining the services of this one man, identifiable with the team he is building and able to demonstrate a quiet sort of passion and determination to restore Leeds United to something more nearly approaching their natural level in the game.  Brian has been in the press himself in the last day or so, expressing his hope that he will be granted the time to undertake what is a massive task – and re-emphasising his own belief that he can deliver the goods, if properly backed with investment and patience.  In my view, he’s the best chance we have, and I do hope that the owners – whoever they end up being – will be able to resist the “new broom sweeps clean” approach and stick with the steady hand currently at the helm.

However, it is undeniable that many do not agree with this stance, so I would like to ask a simple question with only two possible answers: Stick with Brian, or look elsewhere?   

It would be all too easy to cite the case of a certain Glaswegian manager who took on the job of managing a certain club not too far from Manchester in the mid-eighties.  Although he eventually carried all before him, his first few years were uncomfortable to say the least, with that giant of a club finishing in the lower half of the table for three out of the first four seasons.  And yet I don’t think that case is analogous at all; the era of success eventually ushered in over on the wrong side of the Pennines had as much to do with the intimidating nature of the Glaswegian concerned as it did with his managerial ability or the time he was afforded.  The fact that an Australian tycoon bought the game and gift-wrapped it for this particular club had a lot to do with it too.  No, Brian’s case makes itself; he is of proven ability, he clearly wants to succeed and has a massive self-belief – and given the time and the budget, it would (in my opinion) be foolish to bet against him.  He’s the type of man who can rally support and inspire loyalty – but it’s undeniable that this past few weeks have been a very sticky time for him, and this dodgy patch has solidified a body of protest against the way he is doing his job.

So please, have your say – it’s just a matter of choosing one or other of two choices.  Any more detailed opinions can be submitted in the usual way – but I would ask contributors to this article to make sure that they have cast their vote in the poll below.  After a week or so, we’ll see what the numbers say, take a few of the more expressive comments on board – and maybe we can then have a more detailed debate about what’s best for the future of Leeds United.

I’ve made my opinion quite clear, but it’s all about diversity of opinion, so let’s have your agreement or disagreement registered.  Whatever anybody thinks, subject to the usual standards, their voice can be heard here; let’s see who feels strongly either way, without worrying too much about a party line, or what anybody else thinks.  We’re all entitled to have an opinion about what’s best for the club.  And – we’re all Leeds, aren’t we?

Many thanks

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Looks Like Today is Leeds United Takeover Day – by Rob Atkinson

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TOMA complete?

The protracted second takeover in a year of Leeds United looks as if it will be made official today, according to a story carried by Reuters.

According to the news agency, Bahrain-based investment firm Gulf Finance House (GFH) has agreed a partial sale of its stake in English football club Leeds United   The firm said in a statement on Wednesday that the sale was agreed with British investors, whose details the firm did not specify in a bourse statement. The investment firm did not provide details on the stake value or the size of the stake sold.

No confirmation was made of the necessary Football League approval, though it would be highly unusual for the above announcement to be made if that were not now a foregone conclusion, and further developments on this front might well be expected later today.

Leeds United meet Championship leaders Leicester City on Saturday, fresh from a dismal run of results after several poor performances.  The club has been linked heavily with Reading’s want-away striker Adam le Fondre this week, as well as free transfer prospect Luke Moore, formerly of Swansea and Aston Villa.

Despite securing the loan signings of Cameron Stewart and Jimmy Kebe last week, Leeds suffered an embarrassing 6-0 defeat to local rivals Sheffield Wednesday in a televised game on Saturday.  The TV cameras will again be present for the Leicester City clash.

It remains to be seen whether any completed takeover will loosen the Elland Road purse-strings for more team strengthening.  Boss Brian McDermott had ruled our further incomings ahead of the Foxes match, but that has not stopped intense speculation surrounding Moore and le Fondre.  It may well be that other names will now be put forward, but McDermott likes to have business completed before making any comment.

Leeds United stand 11th in the Championship, only a few points outside of the play-off zone.