Tag Archives: Championship

Is New Leeds United Recruit Nicola Salerno the Real Deal-Maker? – by Rob Atkinson

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Salerno – wheels and deals

Hold on a minute – just one cotton-picking minute. What’s all this then? The transfer window has suddenly become vibrant, even interesting – even for Leeds United. So what’s all that about? We all know, as Leeds United fans, that transfer windows are supposed to be bleak exercises in dashed hopes and futility – but all of a sudden, things are actually happening.  Good things. To Leeds. Blimey. It doesn’t seem quite real.

Today has brought a sudden flurry of news, almost all of it good – or at least, not as disastrous as the tidings we are more used to receiving. OK, our badge-kissing, self-justification-tweeting skipper, Mr Ross McCormack has departed. Amazingly, given the fact that he was our top scorer – in fact the league’s top scorer last season – this not entirely unexpected news has been greeted in a largely positive and realistic fashion, give or take the odd hopeless case who’s always going to whinge because it’s their default setting.

Ross has gone – and whither is he heading?  Why, to just any club, of course – just the very thing he said he wouldn’t do, preferring to stick it out at Leeds and win promotion, even above “just any Premier League club”. So he’s ended up at just any Championship outfit, smaller than Leeds United in every imaginable respect but the financial one.  What, I wonder, could possibly have been his motivation??  All the best, Ross – and don’t let counting your wedge put you off those goal-scoring exploits and, of course, your Twitter outbursts.  You may well end up being the least-missed top scorer in Leeds United history.

Strange as it may seem, Leeds United’s most important capture of the close season may already have taken place with the recruitment from Massimo Cellino’s former possession Cagliari of Nicola Salerno, whose speciality is apparently the sniffing-out of players for his boss to introduce into the team, nurture and then sell on – at a profit.  In this way, stability might arise out of long-term penury and crisis, with transfer net profits being re-invested into more recruitment, and so on.  It sounds good – and it worked well enough at Cagliari to keep an unfashionable and comparatively tiny club in Serie A for extended periods, including forays into Europe, with the development of several fine players from fairly low-profile raw recruits. On the same day that McCormack exited the back door at Leeds United, two such low-profile (to us) Italian players were entering via the front.  So, it seems, the process has begun; sell high, buy low, develop the talent, rinse and repeat.

So can this model work at Leeds United?  There is a glass ceiling easily detectable if we look far enough ahead into the possible future of the club; the time would come when significant investment would be needed simply to keep the club in the Premier League after promotion is secured within Salerno’s three year – ideally two year – time frame. But in the meantime, this Cellino/Salerno plan might well be the way in which we can start to make some headway again – after far too long of, at best, treading water.

Rarely have I seen the sale of arguably our best player received with such positivity and enthusiasm – even outbreaks of common sense. Probably that has a lot to do with the frankly ludicrous fee we appear to have blagged out of Fulham – more mugs them. I suspect that McCormack will not be pulling up quite such huge trees down there as he did with Leeds last season – but we will see.  The fact remains that – given the choice of a sulky striker and serial Twitter-whinger, or 11 million lovely sponds, ripe for the reinvesting – there’s little doubt that we’re better off with the latter.

Yes, folks, I’m feeling positive.  I’m expecting more deadwood to be cut away from the club, no more high-profile departures (unless, as with Ross, it’s undeniably for the good of the club) – and quite a few more arrivals. Net result; a leaner, fitter Leeds United – a Leeds United who can start to make some serious progress.

A last thought.  McCormack has said one reason behind his move (as opposed to all of those crisp, bankable, paper reasons) is that “it’s not the Leeds United I fell in love with”.  But is that a bad thing, from our point of view?  Cast your mind back.  What was the Leeds United that McCormack fell in love with?  It was a club under the jackboot of Ken Bates, wasn’t it?  A club that the fans were almost ashamed to own up to, a club in the process of decay, as that horrible Papa Smurf had decreed back in 1984 when certain freelance Yorkshire demolition contractors sorted out his Stamford Bridge scoreboard for him. Mr McCormack might wistfully pine for those days, but forgive us if we fans don’t. Perhaps Ross might not recognise or appreciate it, but the club he fell in love with is in a much better place now.  Or so I believe.

The next couple of weeks should be exciting and eventful ones for Leeds fans. We might not be signing big names, but we can hope for young, hungry, talented players who will breathe new life into what had seemed a moribund outfit.  I’ll take that, just as happily as I’d have taken Fulham’s eleven million, had it been up to me.  For a new start and some players with the appetite for the fight and an eye on success, I’d snatch your hands off.

The future starts here.  Goodbye, Ross – you are now irrelevant. It’s onwards and upwards for Leeds, our owner, our deal-fixer and a coach who sorted us out good and proper when we came up against him at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in 2006. That’s a good place from which to start Marching On Together again.  On and on and on.

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Millwall Sell Out Hospitality Boxes for Leeds United “Cup Final” Opener – by Rob Atkinson

Millwall hospitality boxes - both SOLD OUT for the visit of Leeds United

Millwall hospitality boxes – both SOLD OUT for the visit of Leeds United

World Cup fever may be abating around the country with England’s dismal performances and early exit – but in one small and unregarded part of Sarf-east London, the bunting still flutters bravely, the excitement still builds and the atmosphere is abuzz with more than just the usual stench of unwashed bodies. Bermondsey is rocking with fevered anticipation, because Leeds United are on a journey from far-away civilisation into the Lions’ New Den.  The name of the Yorkshire giants is on the lips of every local resident who can “tawk pwopah” and those who can read are eagerly assimilating the preview articles in that giant of the local press, the “News Shopper” – a paper which rejoices in its description of being to local reporting what Julian Clary is to Rugby League. Excitement could hardly be any higher; there is a carnival atmosphere abroad on the narrow and dirty streets.  The biggest game of the season is first up – it’ll all be downhill from there.

Such is the level of interest in the Cup Final event that Millwall have actually sold out their hospitality boxes – the last word in Bermondsey executive luxury (pictured above) – almost two months ahead of the game. The boxes, constructed out of the finest Lidl-surplus cardboard and each furnished with a crate of White Lightening cider, a barrel of jellied eels and the latest in high-capacity, low-odour commodes, went on sale shortly after the opening fixture against Leeds was announced – and within 3 days, both boxes had completely sold out.  For two groups of up to three Millwall fans each to show such dedication and faith this far ahead of the season is as unprecedented as it is impressive.  The boxes cost a mind-boggling £17.49 each for the Leeds game, as opposed to a more reasonable £9.99 for an ordinary match – but even that’s still four times the average weekly wage for the fans of the Lions.  The fact that around half a dozen fanatics have made such a heavy investment is a mark of their faith in their relegation-cert favourites – and also, of course, of the attractiveness of a match with such famous opponents.

All that remains now is for the Lions to produce their normal enhanced level of effort for what they acknowledge is the biggest game in their calendar, with a view to replicating last season’s fluke result.  If that unlikely outcome could be made a reality, then it’ll be a case of Knees Up Muvver Brown all the way to Valentines Day, when upwards of a dozen intrepid souls will venture norf for the return fixture at Elland Road.

Yes, folks – World Cup or no World Cup, football fever is well under way in the noisome back-alleys of Bermondsey – as the countdown continues to the first of the Lions’ two glimpses of the big time next season.  Don’t miss out!  Both state-of-the-art hospitality boxes have gone, but your place in the stands is still up for grabs – so dig out those Turkish shirts, tool up, get some dutch courage dahn yer Gregory Peck – and it’s orf to the Den on August the 9th – Cup Final day!!

See yer dahn there, me old china plates…

Derby Back at Elland Road Next Season After QPR Sucker Punch – by Rob Atkinson

Derby 0, QPR 1    HA!!!

Derby 0, QPR 1 HA!!!

When it happened, it was as unexpected as it was funny.  Unexpected, because Derby had utterly dominated the play-off final at Wembley – even before QPR had Gary O’Neil sent off for a professional foul.  And funny, because – well, because it was Derby, one of those daft little Midlands teams that gets all excited and wets itself every time it has a result against our beloved Whites.  Derby had been on a long run of success against Leeds, and their fans grew cockier and more annoying with each one.  Now, they were sat in their devastated rows at Wembley as Bobby Zamora pounced in the last minute to snatch their dream away.  Some were open-mouthed with horror, some were angry, some were crying.  One kid was actually having a tantrum directly into his mother’s bosom.  It was richly comic and I enjoyed it very much.

So much for Derby – we’ll see them again next season when we’ll have two more chances to break a barren spell that’s gone on far too long against what used to be the ultimate rabbit team for Leeds United.  For QPR, today’s somewhat fortunate result might just have saved their profligate skins, as dire fiscal consequences were threatened over their breaching of FFP limits.  Even in the Premier League with all those Murdoch millions being flung in their direction, it may well be that the suits will be after them – with a view to clipping their financial wings to such an extent as to see them return quickly whence they came.  We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

For Leeds United though, this play-off result means more than mere malicious amusement.  It signifies that next season’s League line-up is almost complete; only one Championship spot remains to be filled.  We’ve now said goodbye to Leicester, Burnley, QPR, Barnsley (arf), Doncaster (arf) and Yeovil.  We will be hosting Cardiff (snigger), Norwich (snigger), Fulham, Wolves, Brentford and one of either Rotherham or Leyton Orient. Personally, I hope it’s Rotherham to complete the picture – for all I’ve had to say about smaller Yorkshire teams and their Cup Final chips on the shoulder.  Having said good riddance to two such daft little clubs, it’d be churlish not to welcome one, just to redress the balance a little.

Some may feel that parts of this article are unfeeling and a little callous – taking pleasure in the discomfiture of others.  And they’d be right – but I will temper the effect a little by saying I hold no ill-will against any professionals who tried, failed and are now suffering at Wembley Stadium, or on their miserable way home.  I respect their efforts – and I felt for Keogh of Derby who was unlucky enough to have made the error that led to Zamora’s excellently-taken goal.  Still – that’s football, but it’s not for a fan to glory in the pain of professionals (unless they play for or manage Man U).

My satisfaction is in the woe of rival fans who have, in their turn, taken immense satisfaction from the suffering of Leeds fans in our various crises. It’s the nature of football support, tit for tat.  I make no apology for delighting in the sorrow of fans of Derby, Norwich, Doncaster, Cardiff – or any other clubs’ fans where they have had the cause and opportunity to crow at the troubles of my beloved Leeds United.  As I’ve said before, it’s OK to hate rival fans. Positively healthy, in fact. You reap what you sow and – tragic though it all might appear to the more soft-hearted among us – tough.

Roll on next season then, when it all starts all over again – and this time next year we’ll either be celebrating or gritting our teeth – and doubtless we’ll be laughing at the fate of a few old rivals.  It’s such a great game, football.

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!

Bumper Crowd for Leeds’ Opener Shows Fans are On Board

We Are Leeds

We Are Leeds

It’s been a topsy-turvy summer for Leeds United and its long-suffering fans, following hard on the heels of a grievously disappointing Championship campaign in 2012/13.  The close season has produced rays of hope aplenty though, shining a beam of optimism through the murky sullenness that has hung over the support these last few years.  Chairman Bates had held our famous old club in his talons, doing seemingly as he pleased and dismissing all attempts to make him see sense and make Leeds United competitive again.  Now Bates has finally gone and all his acolytes with him; his mouthpiece in-house radio station has gone too, the new owners are finally meeting productively with fans’ groups – we’ve even spent a few bob in the transfer market.

Not all is sweetness and light, however.  Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be Leeds United without a few under-currents about the place.  It would appear that money is still too tight to mention, despite recurrent rumours of major investment from the likes of Red Bull, or the ever-present spectre of a loaded Arab prince about to step in and buy a controlling stake.  These dreams it appears are just that – and meanwhile we have hard financial realities to face. Unless we can unload some of Colin’s deadwood, it’s difficult to see where manager Brian McDermott’s “priority signings” are going to come from.  Normally a summer of transfer impasse will have Leeds fans in a froth of negativity, but it’s slightly different this time around, simply because that dreadful weight of Bates’ brooding presence has been lifted from our shoulders.  The place feels cleaner somehow, some of the pride has returned.  It feels as though we have our Leeds United back again.

These are good foundations to build upon, and expectations appear to have been modified accordingly.  Ever since we have returned to the Championship, each season we’ve set out with promotion to the Premier League as the be-all and end-all.  Now we have David Haigh saying that promotion is a realistic objective “within two years” – and yet some are actually wondering if this isn’t putting too much pressure on Boss Brian.  That’s quite a change from the pressure heaped upon Simon Grayson’s narrow shoulders, and even the gnarled and battle-hardened Neil Warnock found the heat in the Elland Road kitchen too hard to stand.

Given the new-era atmosphere breathing fresh air into LS11, it’s arguable that a two year timetable is quite acceptable, particularly as the owners haven’t yet been able to fund transfer recruitment on the scale of a QPR, for instance.  But we should remember also that some of the clubs who bought big this time last year suffered and struggled all season long. Blackburn bought Jordan Rhodes from ‘Uddersfield for a cool £8m, and almost went down. Wolves, with a Premier League parachute payment to fund additions, did go down. Loadsamoney is no guarantee of Championship success; the trick seems rather to be a united and happy squad under an inspirational manager.  Those ingredients may just be to hand; that’s what Brian and the lads will have to demonstrate over the coming months.

The sudden optimism and the positive feelings about the club seem real enough though. Our new owners have certainly made their mark, phrases like “engaging with the fans” have been backed up by ticket price initiatives and a more generally positive (and less obviously exploitative) approach to marketing.  If proof of this healthier club/fan relationship is needed, look out for the attendance at Elland Road on Saturday against Brighton.  It seems certain to break the 30000 mark, and all that is needed then is a good performance by the team, a positive result ushering in a solid start to the season, and the Leeds United ball will be well and truly rolling again.

That’s not too much to ask, now is it?  Brian and the lads in White – it’s over to you.

Matt Mills £1m Leeds Target?

Mills:  Leeds-bound?

Mills: Leeds-bound?

The Swindon-born former Reading and Leicester defender has not been an outstanding success at Bolton Wanderers, his last start for them being against Huddersfield on December 8, when he injured a thigh and has managed only one substitute appearance since.  His time at Leicester City was hardly wonderful either, and Mills was a loan target for former United boss Neil Warnock early in his Elland Road tenure.  That failed to happen, and a rumoured £2m fee saw the defender link up with Bolton – but it seems likely his time there is now up, with an offer in the region of £1m being thought sufficient to secure his services.

The player himself – according to the familiar “sources close to…” – is keen on the chance to renew his working relationship with his old Reading boss Brian McDermott.  Central defence is on the list of positions needing to be strengthened at Elland Road, and it may just be that the Old Pals’ Act could secure a reliable performer for United. This optimistic assessment is certainly not based on recent form, but there have been many instances down the years of players in the doldrums being reinvigorated by a reunion with a former mentor.  McDermott’s success at the Madejski throws up a few names, some still at Reading, some that have since moved on – that could be identified as players who would relish another crack of the whip under an old boss at a club like Leeds – enough of a pull in its own right.

Mills has certainly waxed lyrical about his past service under McDermott and assistant Nigel Gibbs. “My first few months at Reading didn’t pan out as the move I expected and wanted, but that all changed when Brian got the job and Gibbo became assistant manager.” the ex-Royal has been quoted as saying. “They gave me a new lease of life, and the opportunity and coaching they gave me has honestly made me the player I am now.”  As fulsome tributes go, this is very much in “come and get me plea” territory, and it has been suggested that Mills is willing to reject overtures from elsewhere in favour of a switch to LS11.

My own view is that, at only 26, Mills has many miles left on the clock, and the class he has undoubtedly displayed in the past will not have deserted him permanently.  A happy player is more likely to be a top-performing player, and the fruitful coaching relationship between Brian, Gibbo and Matt at their former club seems to suggest that its a scenario which could unfold again, to the satisfaction of all parties.

Whether the powers that be are prepared to stump up £1million is of course another matter, and wages are always an issue as well.  But there is some pedigree here, and the chance to build on some good history too.  So I feel there may just be some legs in this rumour, and it’s a move I would love to see happen.  “Lees and Mills” could well be the central defensive partnership on everybody’s lips in the Championship next season.

Parachute Payments – Are They Really All That?

Saunders - Not Good Enough

Saunders – Not Good Enough

Every year, you hear the same thing about next season’s Championship division: “God, it’ll be tough to go up, look at the clubs coming down, all that money from Parachute Payments.”  Yeah, well.  Look at last year’s lot, Wolves, Blackburn and Bolton.  All dropped out of the top-flight and landed in the Championship with an almighty thump, weighed down by all that fools’ gold in their pockets.

In Wolves’ case, the fall was so heavy they’ve still not stopped, crashing through the floor of the Championship into the dank and unpleasant dungeon of League One.  This has been aided, it’s true, by spectacularly incompetent management right from the top.  The decision to get rid of Big Mick McCarthy – as a knee-jerk reaction to a derby-day thrashing by West Brom – is still haunting the Wanderers.  Terry Connor floundered in the deep end and sank without trace.  Dean Saunders has appeared to be clueless, his attempts at bluster unconvincing, even his saner moments lacking in any content or coherence.  McCarthy, meanwhile, prospers at Ipswich – a deeply impressive man and a highly competent manager at this level.

Blackburn, with management troubles and boardroom incompetence of their own, have been only a little better, but at least escaped a second successive relegation which appeared likely at one point.  Early in the season they spent £8 million on Jordan Rhodes, but then started messing about with the management structure and suffered accordingly.  Their failure has been at a price way beyond what the likes of Leeds could afford, and they will be looking ahead with some nervousness as Rhodes wonders whether his move was a wise one for a fledgling Scottish international.

Bolton too have flattered to deceive, failing to capitalise on a reasonable start, and pulling up no trees in a division with hardly a truly outstanding team, despite the seeming ease of Cardiff’s promotion.  The Trotters were still in with a chance of making the play-offs on the final day, but blew it by only drawing at home to Blackpool and thus letting in Crystal Palace at the last gasp – and the Bolton Premier League exile will last at least another year.

So what should we have to fear from next year’s lot?  QPR will need a radical overhaul after failing to recover from the cack-handed management of Mark Hughes, a man with one big fan he can see any time he likes in any handy mirror.  Reading could be a force, but they suffer from ownership who seem to feel that they have some football knowledge; usually a fatal ingredient.  There are rumours that some of Brian McDermott’s promotion-winning Class of ’12 would not be averse to a reunion with their old boss at Elland Road.

It remains to be seen who joins these two in the death-spiral downwards; the most likely is Wigan, who really do baffle me.  They are capable of wonderful football and will grace a Cup Final against Manchester City whatever the outcome of that occasion.  If the Latics could hang on to Roberto Martinez, they’d have to be regarded as challengers at the top end of next year’s Championship – assuming they do end up coming down.  Newcastle, Sunderland and Norwich will be nervously waiting to see if Wigan can pull off yet another last-ditch escape, as seems to be their perennial habit.

Obviously any relegated club will have the much-vaunted splodge of parachute wonga to cushion their fall, but they’d do well to look at the fate of last year’s Premier League jettison, and not assume that the ill-gotten gains will automatically ease their path back. Relegation can be habit-forming.  Just ask Wolves about that.

McDermott’s LUFC Promotion Formula

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Brian has said it himself: promotion next season is the expectation – nothing less will be good enough.  So how should he set about realising this desirable outcome?

Recruitment with a view to moulding a competitive and combative squad goes without saying.  We will all have our ideas about who needs to come in – from those who wish to see us reclaim our lost boys from the likes of Norwich and Leicester to the more forward-looking who would prefer hungry players, new to Leeds but maybe familiar to McDermott, your le Fondres and your Robson-Kanus and so on.

How else can Brian make a difference?  What have the problems been in the past?  One major drawback for a less-than-excellent United squad has been the difficulty of coping with the massive anti-Leeds chip on the collective shoulder of our rivals: the so-called “46 Cup Finals Syndrome”.  This is a crucial factor, but it is one that can be exploited by a real leader.  A certain charmless Scottish git over the Pennines in Salford is well-known for his preference for fostering what is known as a “siege complex” among the various teams he’s had There over the years.  He’s generally had a squad to compare with the best anyway, but there’s been that undeniable edge provided by the attitude of “They all hate us, lads, so let’s get stuck in and ram it back down their throats”.  The fact that Brian appears to be a mild and likeable guy, as opposed to the bile-choked monster in charge at the Theatre of Hollow Myths, is no impediment to the fostering of a “them against us” mindset.  It’s just good psychology, good man-management, and most of all, good for cohesion and team spirit.  There hasn’t been enough of that at Elland Road lately.

The hate comes mainly from opposition fans, particularly in Yorkshire where we will again play quite a few “Derbies” next season after Huddersfield’s and Barnsley’s mutually-collusive escape from relegation.  This fever of hate, eclipsing all other emotions, was adequately demonstrated when the cameras focused on a rabble of Barnsley fans in the very moment of relief after their last-ditch reprieve.  Were they applauding their team, or proclaiming their barely-salvaged Championship status?  No, their tiny, obsessed minds could find no room for anything but a tuneless chorus of “We All Hate Leeds Scum”, with the similarly brainless Huddersfield fans happily joining in. Clearly, fellow Whites, we are not famous any more.  If Brian does choose to utilise the hate of Leeds for positive gains in terms of team bonding and incentive to win, he will not find it in short supply.

Beyond this, we the fans have a massively important part to play.  But Leeds have usually been helped by terrific support; given the least encouragement, the fans will be like a 12th man out there.  We know from awed testimony in the past that playing at Elland Road can be an intimidating experience for the very best.  McDermott’s fostering of an atmosphere and team ethic comparable to that at Reading last season, where a squad not over-packed with stars pulled back an 18 point deficit to pip Southampton for the Championship Title, would not go amiss.  The fans would respond to the effort and togetherness of such a team, there is a parallel there with Wilko’s promotion side of 1990, who used to set about the opposition with voracious hunger and would usually wear them down before over-running them.  That kind of thing would certainly do; I remember Wilko’s Warriors very fondly, and they’re just the kind of team we all love down in LS11.

Once the business of Summer is done – and you sense that Brian wants to do his shopping early so that he can put his print on a super-fit squad – then the fine-tuning can start towards next season.  We hear that improvements are afoot at Thorp Arch – training pitches to match Elland Road dimensions, with equivalent watering systems; squad-numbered reserved parking spaces for the players.  Small enough improvements, but brought about in the name of increased professionalism.  It’s all good.

Give Brian the squad he wants, and let him turn them into lean, mean, motivated machines, ready to feed on hate and use it as fuel for a tank of a team which will grind the opposition into the turf, and we could be all set for a memorable season with the reward we all crave waiting at the end of it.