Tag Archives: promotion

Monk Nails Wagner for Lacking Class as Huddersfield Edge Out Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

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Wagner – a technical breach

When the prizes are handed out at the end of this Championship campaign, it may well be that this feisty – for want of a better word – encounter between Huddersfield and Leeds United will be the one to look back on and say “that’s when the season turned”. Not so much for the result – because I fully expect United to finish above Town despite the Terriers’ success today. The significant factors to come out of this game will be the effort and emotion that Town poured into edging the contest – and the bonding effect on Leeds United of the little contretemps that followed a fortuitous winner for the home side.

I feel that United will now kick on. Burning with irritation at their opponents’ classless triumphalism and a perceived lack of respect, the Leeds players and coaching team will find a new level of togetherness. The scenes towards the end of this derby showed a “cut one of us and we all bleed” attitude that has always served Leeds teams well. The players reacted like tigers when Town coach David Wagner topped off his ill-advised pitch invasion by encroaching on the Leeds technical area. Garry Monk stood his ground, and his players piled in. Great stuff. Its something to draw on for the rest of the season, and I fully expect that to happen. I’d give a lot to be a fly on the wall at Thorp Arch when the players reconvene this week. Feisty will be the least of it.

As for Town, they could well become victims of what I have in the past termed “post-Cup Final Syndrome”. It affected supposed big boys Newcastle in the aftermath of their Elland Road win, and one glance at Huddersfield’s next six fixtures shows that there is potential for the kind of falling-away that I’ve often noticed in smaller teams after managing to win against Leeds. If this sounds arrogant, then I’m sorry. It’s borne out by verifiable facts, so there you go.

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Classless, sick dog-botherers

The lack of class embodied by the Town coach was sadly not confined to the touchline. In the stands as well, Terriers fans, hyped beyond all taste and reason, flourished a Turkish flag in a deliberately gloating gesture designed to rankle with Leeds fans still haunted by the murders in Istanbul 17 years ago. On the taste scale it was way down towards the Millwall and man united end of things. You expect more of fellow Yorkshire clubs, but clearly Huddersfield, as we’ve long known deep down, is a taste-free zone. The media make nothing of this sort of thing, but it’s among the worst aspects of our game today – and one can only feel sympathy for the bereaved families when they see yet another example of idiots taking some sort of sick, perverted pleasure in the deaths of innocent football fans.

The upshot of this afternoon will turn out to be one result that doesn’t change much, and two off-field factors that could affect things greatly. Watch for Huddersfield to fade away and see how Leeds now pick up. There’s a long way to go, and much can yet happen. 

And should these two clubs chance to meet again in the play-offs, do you think that Leeds will now lack for incentive and motivation? Not a chance. Be afraid, Town. Be very afraid.

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Leeds CAN Secure Automatic Promotion as Rivals Falter – by Rob Atkinson

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Garry Monk – the man with the plan

We’ve had false dawns aplenty before at Elland Road. Many a time, a false dawn has appeared to be the only possible light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. But this time, things do feel different. There’s a momentum steadily gathering, a feeling that Leeds United are developing slowly into an unstoppable force. History tells us that, often in the past, the leaders of the chasing pack benefit from a sudden uncertainty and crumbling of long-time front-runners. That scenario is developing right now at the head of the Championship – and Leeds United, to our delighted surprise, is the form horse.

One of the characteristics of a successful team is that it can grind out a result when playing badly. Leeds demonstrated that strength against Blackburn Rovers last night at Ewood Park, in a game that could easily have slipped away, but which was decided by a late and thumping header from the talismanic Pontus Jansson.

Another sign of a team going places is the quality of being able to bounce back from the occasional lapse. That’s something that this Leeds United team has been able to do on several occasions this season, going on to compile unbeaten runs after reverses that would have sapped morale in other years under other managers.

Garry Monk has had his less than brilliant moments since taking charge of United, but overall has seemed determined, self-assured and unflappable. He survived early difficulties, avoiding the ever-poised axe in the hands of maverick owner Massimo Cellino. Indeed, one of the main achievements of his first season in the Leeds hot-seat has been to marginalise Cellino, quieting talk in the media of the owner picking the team and generally remaining his own man. Other factors may have helped push Cellino into the shadows, but it’s still the mark of a strong man to succeed at Leeds where so many others have failed.

On the whole, and despite the odd, inevitable blip, Leeds United are very well placed now for the last, crucial stage of the League campaign. Free of cup commitments, with the squad enhanced by quality additions and vital players returning from injury, the platform is there for a decisive surge between now and May. Much will depend on the durability or otherwise of the teams ahead – Brighton, Newcastle and, to a lesser extent, Reading. Huddersfield and the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Derby and even Barnsley, present a threat from behind. But Leeds have the resolve and the personnel to emerge from the pack and take advantage of any crack-ups from the top two. And there are definite signs of such frailty and vulnerability in both Brighton and Newcastle.

The top two seem concerned about each other, when they should perhaps be looking fearfully over their shoulders at the play-off pack. Usually, somebody comes with a late run, exploiting a loss of bottle above them to reach the tape ahead of the pace-setters. It’s a situation that could well work in favour of Leeds United.

This weekend is the first of many pivotal League rounds to come. Huddersfield and Brighton meet tonight, in a game where any result will have some advantage for Leeds. And United have that extra twenty-four hours recovery time before having to travel to Huddersfield on Sunday. It will be very interesting to see how the Championship top six looks on Sunday evening.

But whatever happens over the next few days, there are golden opportunities for Leeds to assert themselves over the remainder of the season – and both Newcastle and Brighton will be feeling the heat. That’s a situation a canny manager like Monk can and should exploit; this blog believes that he is willing and able to do just that.

Leeds United for automatic promotion this season? You’d better believe it.

Leeds’ Promotion Push Bolstered by £17m Worth of New Talent   –   by Rob Atkinson

Modou Barrow (left) and Alfonso Pedraza (right)

The Leeds United powers that be have thankfully shown a pleasing amount of last-minute transfer market acumen with the deadline day acquisition of two pacy, talented wide players whose effect will potentially be to enhance the attacking unit’s potency all the way across the forward line. 

With the “try before you buy” loan signings of Alfonso Pedraza from Villareal, with an option to buy in summer for £8.5m, and Modou Barrow (purchase option £9m rising to £11m) from manager Garry Monk‘s former club Swansea City, Leeds have not only added options out wide, they have made the whole offensive situation that much more fluid. Both new signings are able to play out wide or more centrally, but their addition to the squad frees up the likes of Roofe, Doukara and even Dallas, none of whom are natural touchline-huggers, to operate further infield in support of lone spearhead Chris Wood. The advantages of this increased flexibility could be considerable, both game-to-game and within games, to stir things up as may be necessary. And suddenly having two proper wingers could even reap a bonus in terms of increased effectiveness for the misfiring Marcus Antonsson, a good striker who has starved for lack of service on his rare appearances for the first team. 

The Leeds United Twitter timeline was a toxic place to be, though, up until the signing of Barrow, with much wailing, cursing, rending of clothes and gnashing of teeth. Even after the arrival of the Swansea man, there remained some truculence and discontent. But many more were quite happy in the end, with a window that had added two quality arrivals to a highly effective if hitherto slightly patchy squad. Among those satisfied, we can presumably count Monk himself, who had appeared somewhat tense and distrait as the transfer clock ticked down. He wanted two signings and that’s what he eventually got. We can surely assume that he has the plan to make best use of the squad now in place. 

So, attention now turns to Ewood Park on Wednesday, and the urgent necessity of dealing with Blackburn Rovers. The standard approach of concentrating on each three points up for grabs as they coma along will continue to serve Leeds well, and the club will be acutely conscious of the need to restore face after the embarrassment of Sutton United

Neither new signing is available for Wednesday’s encounter, but both will be up for consideration at Huddersfield on Sunday. Six points is a lot to ask from these two tricky fixtures, but the form of our play-off and promotion rivals makes it almost a necessity to secure a maximum return if at all possible. But, according to the Monk Mantra, it’s still one game at a time and steady as she goes. 

The rest of the season beckons, with no Cup distractions. The opportunity is there for Leeds United, suitably bolstered by increased pace and width, to write another glorious page of their illustrious history. A promotion charge is a clear and present possibility, one glance at the table confirms that. In the race for the top-flight, fortune will surely favour the brave. Bring it on. 

Snodgrass: Ultimate Statement Signing for New Era Leeds   –   by Rob Atkinson

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Come back, Rob. You know it makes sense.

Every now and then a new story emerges from that part of the rumour mill labelled boldly “Too Good to be True”. Some you can dismiss out of hand as slightly less likely than Elvis appearing at the Batley Frontier Club. Diego Maradona to Division Two Leeds in the 80s would be an example of this. Others – well, you can’t help wondering. Sometimes, circumstances out of the ordinary can lend credence to whispers you normally wouldn’t even dare whisper.

The circumstances right now are out of the ordinary for Leeds United. Change is afoot, right at the top of the club and, not exactly coincidentally, things are going well on the field too. With new ownership a distinct probability, any incoming regime will be looking to stamp their mark on a slowly awakening giant of a club. The approved method is to make signings that materially improve first team options and, at the same time, send out an unmistakable message that these guys mean business. They’re called “statement signings” and they say, hey – look who we’ve got on board. This club is going places. Does the name Gordon Strachan ring a bell?

The news is that Rob Snodgrass, formerly of this parish but latterly plying his trade in the colours of a fishing village on the Humber, has turned down a new contract with his current club. This has been enough to set eyebrows twitching and tongues wagging around LS11 as well as further afield. What a signing he would be, if he could be persuaded to give Elland Road another try. And what a bold statement by the club’s new powers that be. As rumours go, this one is just so sexy you want to buy it dinner and then take it home to have your wicked way with it. Unlike some rumours, you might even find you still respect it in the morning. 

Could it happen? Well, almost anything could happen in the wake of our beloved Whites being freed from ownership that has ranked highly on the lunacy scale. If new chiefs wanted to come in and say to the United support: “Here you are. It’ll all be OK now” – then this would be one way of doing it. Manager Garry Monk would probably be quite pleased as well, adding an experienced head to his young group. 

This blog feels that some sort of transfer coup next month is more likely than not. A statement of intent needs to be made and a statement signing is an excellent way of making it. Snodgrass alone would not address all of the issues facing Monk and his squad – a backup striker is needed, for a start, and other areas call for attention. But Snodgrass, who embellished Leeds before, could do so again – he could be the X-Factor in a genuine promotion push as well as putting bright lights around a new owner’s name.

If Leeds United are to have a fresh start in 2017, then the recapture of Rob Snodgrass would be the ideal way to get it off the ground. 

Potency and Penetration Issues When Leeds United Haven’t Got Wood   –   by Rob Atkinson

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Cometh the hour, cometh the Kyle

Leeds United 1, Brentford 0

All’s well that ends well, as some Stratford bloke once said – and the throaty roar of joy mixed with heartfelt relief that lifted the roof off Elland Road in the 90th minute on Saturday was ample proof of the Bard’s ageless wisdom. Kyle Bartley‘s late, late header secured a hard-fought victory over troublesome Brentford that had looked for so long like being a frustrating stalemate, and the atmosphere at the end was worthy of far greater triumphs.

It was a victory wrought out of adversity, though – the cracks are beginning to show in a threadbare squad and the few precious days between now and a Boxing Day date at Preston are welcome indeed. Apart from Bartley’s golden last-gasp winner, one of the better bits of news after the Brentford game was that Chris Wood, much-maligned in various quarters but much-missed against the Bees, has a chance of being involved at Deepdale. The fact is, whatever his detractors might say, Wood is vital to this Leeds United team. Without him, the attack lacks something important. Wood is able to hold the ball up, securing a beachhead for any attack to be reinforced by runners from midfield. His unselfish work appears to pass a section of the support by; the welcome fact that he’s received less criticism this year is probably down to his admirable goal return. But Wood is more than just a goalscorer and, without him, Leeds offered much less in the attacking third and looked more laboured all over the park.

Manager Garry Monk looked as much relaxed as relieved after the match, and he has the air of a man whose plans are in place and who knows they will probably be carried through. The wind of change has been blowing around Elland Road for a while now, and January may well be a very exciting and productive time for the club. One priority publicly acknowledged is the acquisition of another striker – in placing so much reliance on Wood, United simply have too many eggs in one basket. Despite the efforts of Souleymane Doukara lately, and partly due to the relative ineffectiveness of Marcus Antonsson, Leeds are light up front. This will have to be addressed if the promotion challenge is to be maintained and Monk has been quite explicit in confirming his intentions.

For now, though, as the manager says, it’s about fighting for each batch of three points and doing what we can. Ahead of the Liverpool EFL Cup tie, I said I’d be happy with an honourable exit from that competition, plus between 6 and 7 points from the following three tricky-looking fixtures against Villa, Brighton and Reading. Well, we went out with richly-deserved accolades and got six out of nine points, topped up nicely by the three from Brentford, so this is a happy blog. If we can secure four points from away matches at Preston and Villa, then that happiness will grow into something more like ecstasy. And then, lo and behold, it’ll be January and – hopefully – game on.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! MOT.

Timely Reality Check for Leeds as Newcastle Cruise to Win   –   by Rob Atkinson

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Leeds United 0, Newcastle United 2

We saw this game coming from a long way off, thanks to the international break that followed the last-gasp win at Norwich. From that high point, it seemed reasonable to look forward to scaling even greater peaks. A win over the Geordies would have seen Leeds United at a dizzy fourth in the league, well into nosebleed territory. As it is, a defeat means we remain seventh; probably a realistic benchmark for this Leeds side’s place in the Championship scheme of things.

So, after a good run, we’ve had our reality check and been put in our place – yet Leeds were by no means disgraced and, for large parts of the game, they gave pretty nearly as good as they got. In the important areas of the pitch, though, Newcastle were superior – and they plainly knew it. The confidence with which they approached the game, the relative ease with which they kept Leeds at arm’s length – all of this told us that here was a side well aware they weren’t top without reason. For all that, it took a goalkeeping howler and one moment of top flight class to make the difference on the field show in the scoreline. Leeds had their moments at the other end, but there can be no doubt that Newcastle fully merited this victory. 

Leeds will take plenty from this moving forward. There were lessons for youngsters like Vieira and Phillips as well as some of the older heads in the team. The glaring truth of the matter is that Newcastle had a sub on the bench who, at £30m, cost several times the price of the entire Whites squad. As a work in progress, Leeds are several laps behind a Newcastle outfit that must still be hanging its head in shame to be in this league at all. Benitez arrived too late to save the club from its own mistakes last season, but arguably the wrong north-eastern club got relegated. Now, under proper management and a revamped squad, the Geordies are a Premier League force in all but name.

A week to regroup now, and Leeds must be ready for a trip to Rotherham, armed with a determination to embark on another run of success. They will be without the talismanic Pontus Jansson, whose intemperate outburst to the ref tipped him over the suspension threshold. That’s a pity, but nevertheless, United have to get their act together for a battle against the lowly Millers, who will be keen to rub salt in this week’s wounds.

It was a chastening experience today, but no real surprise. Newcastle are the real deal, and they showed it – not in any shimmering brilliance, apart from that one decisive moment, but in their confident approach and efficient game management. But Leeds did OK in defeat; they will play worse this season and win – indeed, they already have. There’s still a long way to go, and United can still look ahead confidently. After all, you don’t meet a team like Newcastle every week.

Cellino Supporters: Big Improvement On Last Season’s Leeds 1, Huddersfield 4 – by Rob Atkinson

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Cellino – 0-1 better than 1-4, yes?

Supporters of embattled Leeds United supremo Massimo Cellino were jubilant this evening as they celebrated a “massive improvement” over last season’s performance at Elland Road against Huddersfield Town. A mere one goal defeat has left United mired in the relegation zone, but fans of Cellino point out that, in the equivalent fixture last year, Leeds were zonked out of sight by a score of 4-1. Furthermore, as one grinning Cellinophile exulted, this defeat was against the table-topping team unbeaten all season. “Really, when you fink about it, it’s an ace result and we should all be proud. We wouldn’t of got a result like this without Massimo”, our man burbled happily.

Evidence for the unique nature of Cellino’s tenure at Leeds continues to mount. Having let a manager go in Steve Evans, who exceeded his brief last season, released one of the more prolific of last term’s strikers in Mirco Antenucci, released the club captain Sol Bamba the day after the transfer window shut without signing a replacement central defender, Cellino also failed to sign another striker and has left Leeds with three senior central defenders, two of whom are loanees. It’s probably fair to say that it’s a performance unparalleled elsewhere in professional football.

Whether Cellino will be in control much longer, so as to make us all marvel anew at his incredible grasp of how to run a football club, has to be open to question. Rumour is rife that a deal is all but done to sell a majority stake in the club to a group of Far East investors. For Cellino fans, drunk on the achievement of holding Huddersfield to a mere one goal victory, this will probably come as a tragedy. But, to those Leeds United fans not suffering from cataclysmic delusions and a stubborn determination to ignore reality, a change of ownership could hardly be more welcome.

Meanwhile, the Cellinophiles will tenaciously be frolicking away as the club takes another step towards plummeting through the League One trapdoor. At the end of the day, it’s the simple things in life that appeal most to the simpler people in life. They say that ignorance is bliss. So at least, unlike most Leeds United fans, the supporters of Massimo Cellino will remain blissfully happy – until and unless their hero is replaced by someone who has a clue what he’s about.

Cellino OUT. Let it be.

 

GFH Exit Sees Cellino Move Into Leeds United Departure Lounge   –   by Rob Atkinson

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Cellino – beginning of the end of the road?

Leeds United versus Huddersfield Town doesn’t kick off until 3:00 pm on Saturday – but already, many Leeds United fans are proclaiming the most significant victory of the season. It’s a result that owes nothing to last-ditch defending, brilliant midfield play or clinical finishing. This vital win has been fashioned, not on the hallowed turf of Elland Road, but in the more subdued atmosphere of a boardroom or lawyer’s office. Because at last, or so it certainly seems, Leeds United is back under 100% ownership, instead of being shared, argued about and fought over by unequal partners. Minority holders GFH, it appears, have relinquished their stake in United, leaving Massimo Cellino as sole owner of the whole shooting match.

The reason this is so significant has more to do with future possibilities than current ownership. Some Leeds fans will be glad to see Cellino in outright control – others would prefer to see him 100% uninvolved, with a new Sheriff in town. But the fact remains that, with the minority partners off the scene, everything now looks a lot more neat and tidy as interested parties consider bids for the football club. Up to now, the continuing presence of GFH has been a complicating factor that has made any successful takeover bid – or even majority investment – much less likely actually to succeed. For this reason alone, farewell and good riddance, GFH.

So the eventual impact of Cellino’s total ownership of Leeds might be to see in new owners, rather than simply cementing the controversial Italian’s position as Leeds United supremo. And many, particularly among certain hard-bitten ex-pros who actually wore the famous white shirt, would see that as a good thing – if it could bring to an end the dizzying turnover of coaches at Leeds, as well as securing some actual net investment.

The fact that current manager Garry Monk is widely seen as being “under pressure to save his job” just a few games into his United tenure is symptomatic of the less than stable situation at Elland Road. Yet another transfer window without spending more than player sales brought in is one more sign that squad development is not an upward trend. Leeds sold Lewis Cook to Bournemouth for £6m plus add-ons – and replaced him with a man in Eunan O’Kane ousted by Cook from the Bournemouth first team. And for the usual “undisclosed fee”, too. The critics would tell you that this does not represent investment in the team, and it’s a point of view hard to dispute.

The case for a new regime at Elland Road, with a much-needed injection of capital, has long seemed quite convincing. Now, with the departure of GFH meaning a much less complex scenario for would-be buyers, it may be that things really will start to happen – off the field, at least. Which is why so many United fans are singing victory songs well in advance of a ball being kicked this coming weekend.

Now, all we have to do is beat unlikely League leaders Huddersfield Town on Saturday, to confirm the natural West Yorkshire pecking order and get this second chunk of the season off to the ideal start. And then, with three derby-day points under our belts, we’d be savouring the taste of home victory for the first time this campaign as we try to re-establish Fortress Elland Road. Could things really be brightening up for Leeds, at long last?

Leeds United In Double Swoop on Free Agent Market – by Rob Atkinson

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Essaid Belkalem – bargain?

Now that the option of emergency loans after the transfer window closure is no longer available, Leeds United will have to look elsewhere to make up for their shortcomings in the regular market. The squad as it stands is neither strong nor deep enough to inspire confidence in the club’s ability to be competitive towards the top end of the Championship between now and the January transfer window – so, without the option of loaning contracted players, United will be forced to scrape the very bottom of the barrel: those players that, up until now, have been unable for whatever reason to secure a professional playing contract for this season.

Leeds have been accused often enough in the past of shopping at Lidl instead of Waitrose, looking to spend as little as possible whilst capitalising on their own home-produced young talent. It’s an accusation that stands up quite well to an examination of the evidence; of all the current Championship clubs, the Whites have been the most niggardly net spenders over the greater part of this century. But it seems that things are getting worse; having failed to secure even a bargain buy in areas where the team needs strengthening (I submit attack AND defence, m’Lud), United somehow contrived to release their club captain Sol Bamba the day after the transfer market closed down. Bamba had been in appalling form, and personal reasons were cited; still, it seems rather careless when you consider that our senior central defensive section now comprises Liam Cooper and two loanees.

Obviously, we did sign one player on deadline day – Eunan O’Kane from Bournemouth was welcomed to the club, where he becomes our 17th or 18th central midfielder – frankly, I’ve lost count. The club also failed to offload any deadwood in that engine room part of the squad – you might say that we now possess an embarrassment of poverty there.

So now, we’re reduced to looking among the players nobody else wants. From shopping at Harrods around the turn of the century, we’ve lowered our sights continually, down through Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, the basic own-brand of Asda, the bargain aisles of Aldi, right down to the dubious delights of Lidl. And now – well, it has to be the rubbish bins behind B&M and Home Bargains, doesn’t it? How very depressing.

Then again, it’s quite surprising what you might find when rummaging about in this professional footballer detritus. The name of Kieran Richardson has cropped up, released at the end of last season by Aston Villa, and with some half-decent clubs on his CV, as well as manchester united. I’ve put the case myself for giving Luciano Becchio a crack at being striker cover in case Marcus Antonsson gets injured or Chris Wood grinds to a complete halt. And the wild card among current rumours has to be Essaid Belkalem, late of Trabzonspor in the Turkish league among others. Belkalem is an Algerian international who was on Watford‘s books last season, and he’s said to be looking for regular football to push his claims for further representative honours.

Something clearly has to be done, though, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a couple of deals being sealed in the not too distant future, with Richardson and Belkalem the likely names on the contracts. That would shore up the defence somewhat – but we’d still be short, in this blog’s opinion, of sufficient strength in depth up front. Then again – you can’t have everything.

Particularly not when you’re rooting through the refuse bins at the bargain end of the market.

Mixed Start to the Season for Leeds as Defensive Woes Cost Dear – by Rob Atkinson

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Whichever way you look at it – and there are a few differing options – Leeds United‘s season has started rather worryingly. A lack of truly meaningful match practice pre-season, combined with the loss of midfield starlet Lewis Cook, saw the Whites starting the campaign with huge question marks looming over their prospects for success.

True, some real promise has been recruited, in particular the exciting potential of former Oxford hotshot Kemar Roofe. But the sale of Cook to AFC Bournemouth leaves a gap that has not yet been filled. In defence, too, things look less than settled. Kyle Bartley has been recruited from manager Garry Monk’s old club Swansea, but Sol Bamba remains club captain despite some deeply ordinary form. And another young star in left-back Charlie Taylor has apparently expressed a desire to leave. It’s really difficult to describe the net effect of Leeds’ transfer business (so far) as positive.

And then, when the talking had to stop and the football began for real, came a performance at QPR in the season opener that was by turns pallid and chaotic. Comical defending cost United a goal after just four minutes, and it was largely downhill from there. By the time Tjaronn Chery cracked home the Rangers clincher from an acute angle in the closing stages, Leeds were a very well-beaten team.

On the optimistic side, all three of the Championship’s supposed big guns lost away from home on that opening day. Newcastle and Aston Villa joined Leeds in defeat, and likewise failed to trouble the scorers. But the Toon and the Villans were both edged out only 0-1; a rather better showing than United’s 0-3 tonking at Loftus Road.

Still, as things stand, we’ve only lost once all season and we’re just three points off the top. In spite of what the readers of this blog might think from some of the stuff I write, it is important to take a glass half-full view as a Leeds fan, knowing as we do that only relentless optimism is likely to save us from despair. And, still looking on that bright side, even after losing first time up – perhaps we could now make early progress in the EFL Cup on Wednesday at Fleetwood, and banish the memories of the thrashing QPR had handed out. That would be quite sweet, actually, particularly as ALL of Yorkshire’s other sides had surrendered meekly the night before, going out of the Cup along with several high-profile Championship casualties.

In the event, Leeds did manage to progress as Yorkshire’s sole representatives. It has to be said, though, they were more than a little fortunate against a Fleetwood side that was a goal to the good early on, and held that advantage until the last minute of normal time. But then new signing Marcus Antonsson, a Swedish striker of whom much is expected, produced a brilliant turn and shot to level for Leeds at the last gasp. And it was substitute Antonsson who was then fouled in the box early in extra time to give the hitherto ineffective Chris Wood the chance to make it 2-1 from the spot. It remained only for Leeds to chuck away their hard-won advantage in typical fashion, allowing time and room for Fleetwood to fashion an equaliser – and we were facing the dreaded penalty shoot-out.

So it came to pass that veteran ‘keeper Rob Green, at fault for the first goal against QPR the previous weekend, went from zero to become the campaign’s first Leeds hero. After United had scored all of their penalties, Green produced a smart save off Fleetwood’s fifth and final spot kick – and Leeds were narrowly, edgily, through to the second round. Pride of Yorkshire? Most definitely!

Now we will meet Luton Town of League Two, 3-1 conquerors of once-mighty Aston Villa, at Kenilworth Road in Round Two. It’s a tie that will quite likely be televised and a very definite potential banana skin for Yorkshire’s most famous club. But if Leeds can negotiate that hurdle, and perhaps pick up a bit over the next few Championship matches, it may well be that we’ll look back on that Rob Green penalty shoot-out save and realise it was an early-season turning point.

Things can only get better, so they say. It’s a dangerous line to take where Leeds are concerned; they always seem to find new depths to plumb. But you never know. Maybe, after a slow start, and with a few more quality signings, we can pick up and embark on a successful season of real achievement. Maybe, even, we’ll beat the Blues tomorrow. Stranger things have happened, after all. Just ask Leicester City…