Tag Archives: confidence

Noel Hunt Scores to Leave Leeds Boo-Boys Red-Faced – by Rob Atkinson

Ipswich Hero Noel - not good enough for 15th placed Leeds

Ipswich Hero Noel – not good enough for 15th placed Leeds

Really, you had a feeling it might happen. After a barren spell at Leeds United, Noel Hunt has made the loan switch to high-flying Ipswich Town – and has become an instant Tractor Boys hero with a last-gasp winner at Charlton Athletic.

No Tractor Boys at Elland Road – but boo-boys aplenty. Sadly, ’twas ever thus. I go back as far as Terry Yorath, who was routinely slaughtered by those on the terraces with size 12 gobs to accommodate their size 12 bovver boots – and with a size zero brain ostensibly directing things from somewhere in the pelvic region.

Yorath was a Welsh international who went on to have a fine career with Coventry and then Spurs. He was just one of too many players chased out of LS11, confidence in tatters, by the hard-of-thinking masses whose idea of motivational support amounts, it seems, to monosyllabic, visceral abuse. Great way to back the lads, lads.

Two of Cloughie’s imports in the autumn of ’74, John McGovern and John O’Hare, suffered ignorant abuse and were likewise sent packing from Leeds, doubtless grateful to get away. Instead of pining for what might have been in the White shirt, they settled for an English Champions medal, two European Cups, sundry Wembley triumphs and a bucketload of glory down Nottingham way. The bright lads on the Gelderd, unabashed, continued to hold that they were “roobish. Not good enough for Leeds, like”. Our talent as fans for shooting ourselves in the collective foot was honed as sharp as a knife in the back, even then.

This level of expertise as assessors of footballing talent is still manifesting itself among the Leeds United faithful. A small but loud minority will concede nothing to the pros in terms of their ability to label a player as “crap”. Even in the immediate aftermath of Hunt’s late winner at Charlton, there were many rather defensive tweets in the ether, insisting that Noel is “still crap”. After all, what does his manager know? Or his fellow pros??

Several United players down the years have been unable to give of their best with this sort of “support” ringing in their ears. Unaccountably, a goodly proportion of these hopeless, useless articles have gone on to do well elsewhere – at clubs whose fans embrace old-fashioned and out-dated practices, like cheering on whoever wears the shirt. That’s far too naïve and unsophisticated position for the bright sparks in the Leeds crowd, though. Of course it is. We’re Leeds and we know best – right?

It could be that Noel Hunt might still have a future at Elland Road. It’s hardly unknown for a player, his confidence holed below the water line, to be buoyed up by the experience of a run in some other club’s side, a chance to play his way back into form. Perhaps Hunt will be an example of that kind of renaissance. But equally, he may prefer to pursue his career elsewhere. You could hardly blame him.

Players are a valuable asset for any club. Those assets may appreciate over time, given success and the adoration of the fans. But some may sink without a trace and feel no option but to start again elsewhere, if anyone will take a punt on them. Ipswich boss and Leeds United fan Mick McCarthy must be pleased right now that he took a punt on Hunt.

Leeds fans are as self-congratulatory a mob as you’d find anywhere in football. They are prone to applauding themselves as the best supporters around. Taking an army of 7,000 to Blackburn as well as frequently following Leeds in numbers for midweek games away on the south coast – this speaks volumes for the fanaticism of the United support. But support is about more than just turning up in numbers, and sadly Leeds fans in my experience are frequently lacking in the aspect of support that involves actually being supportive. And that’s a significant fault that can have real consequences for players’ careers and, by extension, the club’s prospects of success.

Good luck to Noel Hunt in his loan spell at Ipswich, and beyond – wherever that might be. It’s difficult to envisage him back at Leeds, but I for one would be delighted to see him return, confidence restored. But confidence is a fragile flower, easily blown away by the scorching wind of spectator scorn in a white-hot cauldron like Elland Road with its mad up. The question Hunt might be asking himself in January, with a successful loan at Portman Road behind him, is: “Do I really need that??

The answer to that question might well result in Noel Hunt bearing down on the Leeds goal in some other team’s shirt in the not-too-distant future, to score against us and condemn the Whites to a possibly costly defeat. It’s happened before, it’ll almost certainly happen again. And you know what? We’ll bloody deserve it.

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Leeds United: Mixed Messages and Fading Ambition. What IS Going on at Elland Road? – by Rob Atkinson

a shirt

These are strange days at Leeds United.  The football club is well-managed; by common consent we have the right man in Brian McDermott.  The people that matter certainly think so, for the most part. Let’s all hope the Board still agree.

We have a half-decent team and lately the emergence of another highly promising youngster in Alex Mowatt has been a real boost, offering the possibility of allowing Ross McCormack to play as a striker where he’s most comfortable.  More on that later.

We even have a personable and likeable chairman in Salah Nooruddin, who has lately been trying to issue comforting noises about investment and the further enhancement of the squad.  Salah has a couple of very important things going for him: he has a nice, friendly smile – and he’s Not Ken Bates.  This latter one really sums up his appeal for most Leeds fans after the last few years – but does Mr. Nooruddin have more positive attributes to offer even than the quality of Not Being Ken?

Well, we can but hope so.  But when he’s been a bit more vocal, as lately – coinciding with a run of four defeats – Salah’s tended to send out some pretty mixed messages. That’s worrying enough in a businessman/banker type who should really worship at the twin altars of “Inspiring Confidence in the Marketplace” and a “Having a Strategic Plan”.

The trouble is, Salah’s got recent form for appearing to heap pressure on the manager after a couple of losses – tweeting that the “existing squad” should be winning – and now he’s been and gone and said that promotion would be “a very harsh target” for this season, which some have read as a hasty attempt to take that perceived pressure back off.

All well and good, but this papering over the cracks approach just leads to more trouble, because those who are paying through the nose do want a definite idea of where the club is heading; so when people blow hot and cold like this – well, it’s disconcerting…

Any football club’s fans surely want to believe that their hard-earned cash is being used to fuel ambition, Leeds fans perhaps more than most.  So what do they think – what do WE think – when the chairman states that we can pretty much forget about promotion for the time being?  What message does it send out to the existing squad?  To potential signings who may, even now, be weighing up the club’s potential and – that word again – ambition? It’s all quite perplexing to us mere turnstile fodder – so how does it appear to a professional making a hard-nosed decision about which shop window he wishes to be displayed in as a result of any move on loan?

As I’ve said elsewhere, it might be that bit less confusing if the football people spoke on football matters, and the businessmen dealt with business.  When Nooruddin says that “promotion is a harsh target”, is he speaking from a business or a football point of view? If the former, then all well and good – get on with sorting out that investment “to take us to the next level”, which is allegedly so close.  If he’s speaking from a football point of view though, the only possible question is “Why?”  He’s not remotely qualified, after all.

If Brian McDermott feels that promotion may be a harsh target, then presumably he’s saying that in the full knowledge of exactly how much he has to play with in the transfer market.  Presumably also, he’s some idea of when any further investment might reasonably be expected.  Brian is taking his time in the market, having apparently been mandated to recruit loanees – but again, that may be because other options have presented themselves from within the club.  Ross McCormack played up front the other night and he’s been vocal since in saying that’s where he’s best deployed.  If McDermott feels he can now do that because of the emergence of young midfield prodigies from the Academy, then fine.  It would be nice to know these things, and from the horse’s mouth. We’ll listen to a football man talk football all day long.

But that’s the point – let people work to their strengths.  Let Nooruddin and Co seek to improve the financial infrastructure.  Let Brian get on with managing the team and making pronouncements about their prospects based on his professional knowledge.  Let RossCo get on with scoring some goals instead of trying to be something he’s not.  Let all that happen – and maybe the messages wouldn’t be as mixed; maybe we wouldn’t now be all a-twitter – and we ARE, many of us – about what seems like a club about to give up on the season.  That is such a terrible message to send out when people are having to scrimp and save for expensive tickets, travel, programmes and all the related shelling-out that goes on each match-day.

It’s just been such a mess in the media this week, and the win over Bournemouth has almost disappeared in the middle of it.  It shouldn’t have to be this way.  These people are professionals, all of them.  The least they can do is to try and sing from the same hymn-sheet (with due respect to the representatives of different religions involved).  But you get my meaning.  Let’s have a unified message, something we can all understand.  “We are Leeds” would be a good start.  “Onwards and upwards” is encouraging too.  But it all needs to be underpinned by the best rallying-call of all.

Marching on Together“.

Come on, Leeds!

Leeds Fans Pinning Hopes on Luke Varney – Are Things That Bad?

Super Luke Varney

Super Luke Varney

Leeds United’s pre-season programme hit a real low point at Walsall, the 1-0 defeat seemingly the least of the problems on a night when the team’s performance levels were a world away from what will be needed in the nitty-gritty of the Championship marathon to be run over the next nine months. It was the pallid nature of the Leeds side’s display which had the supporters tearing out their hair by the roots. As this is an option denied to our smooth-domed manager, the disappointed and frustrated Brian McDermott settled instead for dubbing the match his “worst day as Leeds manager”.

Happily, in the next outing at Stevenage, both performance and result were immeasurably better. A 3-0 stroll away from home is always a decent result, whatever the opposition. Stevenage may not be the stiffest possible test, but at home they have slain many a higher-grade opponent as Newcastle could testify. The stand-out role on the night was filled byLuke Varney, last season’s pariah-in-chief, a man who has been described as having all the popularity and appeal of a fart in a spacesuit. It could take a miracle to redeem a reputation like that, and a nine-minute second-half hat trick might just qualify considering Varney’s utter failure to pull up trees in a Leeds shirt last season, the odd flash of promise notwithstanding. Such was the vitriol aimed at the ex-Pompey hitman last time around that you might wonder if even such a lethally-effective performance might help his cause. But wonder of wonders, the Leeds fans appear to have taken note, and appear disposed to look much more favourably upon Mr Varney.

On the face of it, this is a little strange. Leeds fans are not noted for their tendency to re-appraise players once they have initially passed judgement. Dating back to the hapless Terry Yorath, it’s usually been clear that once this crowd takes against you, you need to start thinking about moving on, even if it’s to Coventry. That the fans now seem willing to give Varney the benefit of the doubt might say more about the increasing sense of pessimism out there, as the transfer window drags on with no further quality signings, than it does about any new-found tolerance on the part of the Leeds support. In short, if they’re bigging Varney up, then things must be bad – doubtless an impression confirmed in some measure by McDermott’s recent gloomy demeanour.

Perhaps, though, a new investor may be found shortly – to give us wingers? Perhaps the hangdog expression on Brian’s face is just a front as he toils behind the scenes to bring us some late but great additions to our humdrum squad? Who knows? But it seems clear enough that pinning our hopes on last year’s flop is not exactly a statement of optimism for how things might go this time around. It could just be that – if things do pick up on the transfer front, and if early results are favourable with Mr Varney confined to the bench – the vociferous United support will go back to having a go at the poor lad, and urging him to ply his trade elsewhere. It’s not a happy thought for our hat-trick hero, and it’s also possible of course that he might show himself to be true Leeds United material and bang in 15 goals before Christmas. It’s to be hoped he does. But just for the moment, this new adulation says more about the general pessimism of the fans than it does about Super Luke Varney.