Tag Archives: promotion

Can Celtic’s Tom Rogic Make the Step Up to Succeed With Leeds United? – by Rob Atkinson

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Rogic – Elland Road bound?

If Celtic’s Tom Rogic is indeed fed up with coming first in a one-horse race, as the Bhoys continue to dominate their pitifully substandard league, then he could do a lot worse than throw in his lot with a massive, but massively underachieving club in the far more competitive environment of the English Championship. Swapping Celtic for Leeds United would make perfect sense for a dissatisfied player seeking legend status and an enormous challenge.

Rogic is a good player, there’s no doubt about that. With 35 caps for the Australian national team, his credentials are beyond doubt. But creditable performers from north of the border have trodden the path southwards to Elland Road many a time before, and it’s a sad fact that relatively few of these imports have flourished on Yorkshire soil. It’s a step up in terms of the ferocity of competition and also bearing in mind the pressure that comes with playing for a club like Leeds.

Rogic, though, is the type of player United should be looking to sign ahead of what will be a crucial season next time around. The campaign now fizzling out started in a veritable blaze of glory as Leeds stormed to the top of the table, and things looked extremely promising. But a combination of a lack of timely investment and a severe loss of form saw Yorkshire‘s top club plummet from that early high, and the sad fact is that we’ve witnessed another wasted season of crushing disappointment. The owners will know that it’s not been good enough, and a marker must now be put down ahead of the resumption of hostilities in August. The one undoubted high spot this term has been the fantastic support Leeds have enjoyed, if not exactly deserved. Crowds averaging well over 30,000 have been served up some dreadfully bleak fare, and the powers that be at Elland Road must surely be sharply aware that the fans’ patience, always thin, must be on the point of wearing out.

The club’s production line of young talent appears to be in solid working order again, with the likes of Tom Pearce and Bailey Peacock-Farrell staking their claims lately. More is to come from the youth levels of the club, with the likes of Jack Clarke likely to be pushing for recognition sooner rather than later. A few quality signings of the Rogic ilk, together with players like Yosuke Ideguchi and Tyler Roberts fit and raring to go – added to a few judiciously selected departures – would give the squad a leaner, hungrier look for what needs to be a determined tilt at promotion, via the play offs at the very least.

Of course, it’s all been said before, with disappointment ensuing as night follows day. But we have to maintain the hope that, next time, things just might be different. A statement of intent on the part of the club’s board will be required early in the summer transfer window. A player like Tom Rogic might just be the sort of signing that would make that positive intent amply clear.

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Lasogga and Saiz the key to Leeds United promotion push

With Leeds sitting just outside of the top half of the Championship, it’ll take a big push to get the fans dreaming of promotion to the Premier League.

Nine teams are vying for the four slots in the end of season lottery, although Aston Villa and Derby would appear to have two sewn up. That leaves two from seven; Leeds United being one of those seven.

Paul Heckingbottom might have his work cut out in achieving Leeds fans’ dreams, but being unbeaten in the last three matches is a great basis for a late surge. The recent 1-0 win against Brentford was a huge morale boost, given the Bees are close rivals in the play off hunt.

Despite defender Liam Cooper scoring the only goal of the game, it was the partnership of Samu Saiz and Pierre-Michel Lasogga that really got fans pulses racing. In that combination lies Leeds’ best hope of putting together some end of season form and maybe, just maybe stealing sixth spot from under rivals’ noses.

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Pierre-Michel Lasogga By Amy.Leonie – Eigenes Foto; aufgenommen beim Training von Hertha BSC Berlin, CC BY 3.0,

Lasogga is on loan from Hamburger SV and currently has ten goals to his name. It’s not been a great season by his own high standards; spells injured and on the bench have disrupted his momentum. What could he have achieved though if he’d stayed fit and in Thomas Christiansen’s plans?

Lasogga had five goals from seven matches going into March, a run of form that will be crucial to any lingering hopes of promotion.

If him hitting form wasn’t enough, Samu Saiz is also back in the starting line up after a horrible start to 2018. His dismissal in the FA Cup defeat against Newport might have been controversial, but Christiansen cites it as one of the reasons he was dismissed. The Spaniard might be unpredictable, but on his game he’s unplayable. Saiz has five goals and five assists this season, the second highest number of assists in the squad after Pablo Hernandez, having played six matches fewer.

The odds are not in Leeds’ favour, they’re a long way down the list for promotion, priced as 50/1 for a long-awaited return to the top table, well behind next best bets Brentford and Preston on 14s and 20s respectively.

It might still be worth looking at the bet £10 get £30 888sport betting offer, though, as Lasogga can be found at a generous price to finish as the league’s highest scorer. He’s seven behind in the charts at the moment, but with Saiz providing the bullets he might be a long-shot to storm up the table.

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Pablo Hernandez By Juan Fernández – flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0,

It is looking increasingly like another year in the second tier for Leeds United, something fans will lament with one breath and praise in the other. After the torrid Cellino years, any sort of stability should be welcomed and, although Paul Heckingbottom isn’t a manager to set pulses races, one or two of his stars are. Lasogga is due back at Hamburger SV in May, but Saiz remains contracted to the club beyond this season. The former will likely not be back next season, so replacing him will be incredibly important, but Samu Saiz should be retained because, in him, Leeds have a player that can change a game in a instant.

Who knows, with a little bit of luck and hard work, it might just happen as early as this season. Miracles do happen every day in football and Leeds United are undoubtedly due one soon

Liam Cooper Emerges from Leeds Undergrowth to Earn Win Over Brentford – by Rob Atkinson

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Hecky settling in nicely at Elland Road

Dean Smith, Brentford’s Head Coach, was not a happy man after his side’s defeat to Paul Heckingbottom’s increasingly resolute Leeds United at Elland Road yesterday. Careless of “sour grapes” accusations, he complained on several fronts: the grass was too long, the goal was offside and the referee and assistants were in thrall to the Elland Road crowd. In truth, criticism of the officials was justified, but you’d have needed to stagger past Specsavers and into a lamppost to be dazed enough for a claim that they favoured Leeds. It was that kind of press conference though. Fortunately, Mr. Grumpy was followed by Mr. Happy.

Paul Heckingbottom breezed into the room as you’d expect with a man basking in the afterglow of his first win in the job. The fact that he’d also got his first clean sheet – something that had looked highly improbable during most of the first half – served to put an even broader smile on the face of a coach who appears to be settling in nicely and feeling at home. He dealt briskly and good-humouredly with the gripes of his Brentford counterpart: the grass was too long? It played better than on Sunday against Bristol, it were too short after t’rugby. Offside for the goal? I’ve only seen it on the small monitor, we’ll take it apart and look at it later. But (twinkly grin) I don’t care. And the referee? Another grin – and Paul states that he doesn’t talk about referees – “After a few weeks, you’ll probably stop asking me about them”.

All in all, it was a post-match conference of two halves, but Smith had lost and Hecky had won, so perhaps that’s understandable. What did come across, as it increasingly does with every passing game into the Leeds job, is Heckingbottom’s self-assurance and confidence, together with a no-nonsense yet engaging style of explaining his take on matters relating to the task he’s taken on. He seems very comfortable in his own skin, and you get the feeling that this is an air that will instil confidence into players who had, perhaps, begun to lack that valuable commodity. And that could be half the battle; so much of the professional game, with its fine margins between success and failure, is about confidence.

Asked about the prospects of the play-offs, Hecky said he was taking the remainder of the season one game at a time, and see where that gets us. But he added that he’d be happy if people were still asking him that question for a good while – it’d mean we were still in with a shout, just maybe. And you can see that’s the case. Courtesy of Cardiff‘s late win over Bristol City, we’re just five points off. Win at Boro on Friday night, at a venue that Leeds have found quite amenable over the years, and things could be getting quite interesting.

Either way, Hecky will most likely be content with his lot, happy to take anything that might come along this season, but equally prepared to play a longer game and put his stamp on the club in time for next time around. I’ve had Barnsley-supporting mates tell me that we’ve bought ourselves a pup, but, from what I’ve seen so far, I can’t help being impressed with the new guy. There’s just an air of “I’ve got this” about him. He clearly sees Leeds United as a massive opportunity, one he’s determined to make the most of. Daft considerations like who he supported and who he hated as a kid don’t come into it, as all of us should be grown-up enough to figure out for ourselves. Paul Heckingbottom is Leeds now, and he’ll be just as set on restoring the club to its rightful place as any Leeds-fan-since-birth you could name.

Can he, will he succeed at Elland Road, where so many others have failed before him? By Heck, it feels like a risky thing to say, but you know what? He just might. 

 

Lasogga and Ekuban Would Give Leeds New Attacking Dimension – by Rob Atkinson

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Caleb Ekuban – ideal strike partner for Pierre-Michel Lasogga?

If I can be a little upbeat, without offending the Leonard Cohen drones and clones that infest the LUFC Twitter hashtag, I have to say I saw more positives in one slightly unlucky defeat at Sheffield United than I have in perhaps half a dozen victories we’ve eked out this turbulent season. There just seemed to be that little bit extra about some of the players, a bit of desire and composure, especially in the second half, that has been lacking since the earliest part of this Championship campaign. It wasn’t enough, after a disastrous start at Bramall Lane, to get any tangible reward from the clash of the two Uniteds – but, in the final analysis, Leeds were maybe a couple of highly debatable decisions away from getting Paul Heckingbottom‘s tenure as Head Coach off to the best possible start.

Still, that’s history now, and we’re left seeking to take what encouragement we can from an improved display, albeit in defeat, from Leeds United. One noticeable element fairly late on was the introduction of Caleb Ekuban, who was lively and threatening up front as he worked away, making his runs and contesting every ball. One thing this blogger would love to see over the rest of the season is a good run of games where Leeds play with a front two. It would take a better tactician than me to suggest the ideal formation behind a twin strike-force, but I do feel that Pierre-Michel Lasogga, despite his fairly impressive goal-scoring record, has not been used to the team’s best advantage when asked to fulfil a lone striker role. It doesn’t seem to me that this solitary workhorse thing  is his forte, and yet, on the occasions when he’s had some support in attack – usually in a crisis, such as 0-2 down to Millwall at Elland Road – Lasogga has suddenly looked full of menace. Ekuban, such a willing worker, appears to be the ideal foil for the big German, probably more so than the misfiring Kemar Roofe – and it’s surely only a matter of time before he, too, chips in with the goals. It would be well deserved; Ekuban’s current drought is not for the want of effort in his rare appearances between injuries so far.

Any input from the team shape experts out there would be genuinely welcome. 3-5-2? A diamond in midfield with Samu Saiz (when available) at the front of it, operating just behind Pierre and Caleb? It was a very wise man who once said that attack is the best form of defence, and I’m sure I’m not alone in my desire to see United go fully onto the offensive, making opponents too busy trying to stem our attacking tide, even to consider mounting a threat of their own. Yep, that would be nice.

So, what do others think? Do we have the personnel to play two up front? What’s the best balance for the team in that situation? Let’s have a heated debate. The play-offs pressure is largely off, now – unless the team suddenly gets its act together and moves up towards the top six. And, I’d venture to suggest, if that were to happen, it’d most likely be as a result of just such an attacking change of policy as I’ve suggested here.

Am I simply deluded? Do let me know.

Aggression, Consistency & Intensity: Heckingbottom’s Ethos is Leeds Through & Through – by Rob Atkinson

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Paul Heckingbottom: happy and honoured to be here

Paul Heckingbottom‘s performance as Head Coach in the first few days since his whirlwind move from Barnsley to Leeds United could hardly have gone better. Of course he’s only been talking the talk so far; the serious stuff, the walking of the walk, starts on Saturday, High Noon at Bramall Lane, with a Yorkshire Derby against Sheffield United. Still, in advance of that baptism of fire, the new Leeds boss has excelled as he set out his stall to players, press and fans, hammering home his message to great effect.

Let’s be in no doubt: for a Royston lad who grew up as a Barnsley fan hating Leeds United, Paul gets what our club is all about. His emphasis on qualities such as consistency, aggression and intensity could be taken from Page One of any United fanatic’s Leeds-supporting handbook. These are the ideals we hold dear, the characteristics we love and expect to be hated for. Without these principles, forged through blood, sweat and tears, there would be no modern Leeds United. They’re written into the DNA of the club – and now we have a man who appears to have the same list of attributes carved upon his heart.

It’s no mealy-mouthed recitation of what he knows we want to hear, either. The qualities espoused by Heckingbottom don’t fall from his mouth like lazy platitudes, but as the solid structure behind his footballing philosophy. Aggression with and without the ball. Consistency being the golden key to league success. Intensity, the way to the fans’ collective heart. These are the principles that can lead to success for what is a talented squad. How long it will take to establish such a pattern is another matter entirely.

For the time being, though, the task of showing us all exactly what we’ve got in Heckingbottom is well under way. Already, social media doubters and naysayers are swinging into line and declaring themselves won over. That’s not a bad start before a ball is kicked. The new Leeds boss has a disarming manner about him too, when asked about the pressure that goes with working at what is perceived as a sack-happy club, he gives us the anecdote of how he tells his kids not to worry about Dad getting the sack as, if he does, they’ll all be going on holiday. We even understand his childhood hatred of United; having seven shades kicked out of you in the field behind your Mam’s house by bigger, older Leeds fans is not calculated to endear a lad to that lot up the M1. But now, those same Leeds fans are ringing to wish him luck and success at Elland Road. It’s gone full circle, and – so far, at any rate – it feels right.

I’ve certainly not heard a better Leeds United philosophy since the early, heady days of Sergeant Wilko, who breezed into a troubled Elland Road from South Yorkshire thirty years ago, and did really quite well. As a precedent, the Wilko example is not a bad one for Paul Heckingbottom to emulate, though he appears happily to be very much his own man. But he has the same air of confidence and self-assurance about him; the same conviction that his way is the right way, hopefully with the same ability to carry others along on the path he treads.

It’s early days, and the sadness that accompanied the departure of Thomas Christiansen, a genuinely nice guy, has barely begun to dissipate. But in football, you always look forward, even when making comparisons with former Leeds legends. In Hecky, a coach who sets so much store by “getting on the grass” to work with his players, we might well have found at last a round peg for the round hole that is Elland Road. This is a bloke who was doing too much at Barnsley of what he didn’t really want to be doing – now he has the chance, in this Leeds United structure, of concentrating on what he does best.

It should work well; let’s all get behind the guy in the fervent hope that it will.

Max Gradel Signals Desire for Leeds United Return – by Rob Atkinson

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Mad Max Gradel wants to come home

Rule One of Social Media is that high profile sports stars say or do nothing without a reason – they don’t need to seek attention in their goldfish bowl existence; quite the contrary, if anything. So when, in the aftermath of the recent change of Head Coach at Leeds, former United attacking sensation Maxi Gradel comes out with a loved-up tweet about the Yorkshire giants, including the obligatory MOT hashtag, you can be tolerably sure that he’s not just passing the time of day. Max can see that Leeds United are about to buckle down and get serious about restoring elite status and, this blog believes, he wants to be a part of it.

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Max – still loves Leeds

Whether and when that might happen is a matter of conjecture, but it would be highly surprising if Gradel were not to be linked to an Elland Road return again in the summer. Given the current league position of the club, with a new coach feeling his way into the job and a brutal run of fixtures ahead, almost all of which are under the spotlight of live TV coverage, it seems more than likely that United will still be a Championship outfit next season. Should that be the case, then they will be looking for proven performers to displace some of their misfiring fringe players, and wide attack is one area that could stand some enhancement.

I believe that Leeds will be the likely destination for Ivory Coast international Gradel’s next career move; he has plenty left to offer, and still enjoys cult hero status among United fans. Moreover, it seems clear that he would relish a return to Elland Road – otherwise, why the pointed social media comments?

All in all, it seems that the prospect of Max back in the white yellow and blue of Leeds United next season could well morph into reality before too long, and most United fans will extend a warm welcome home to the talented forward. I’d give this one a good 8.5 out of 10 on the likeliness scale and, while some will say it’s merely wishful thinking, there are sound reasons on all sides to believe that a Gradel return to Leeds is going to happen.

If Max – currently on loan at Toulouse from Premier League AFC Bournemouthdoes come back, it’d be a massive step towards helping us hit the ground running for a promotion campaign next time around. He’d be that much of a shot in the arm for a club that has underachieved for too long now. Fingers crossed that Gradel’s social media output next season will reflect his contribution towards United’s return to the top.

Pointless Appealing: Leeds Must Accept O’Kane Red and Move On with Business – by Rob Atkinson

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Eunan O’Kane – bang to rights for sheer stupidity

One of the less controversial aspects of the defeat at Portman Road, where Leeds failed to make the most of an unremarkable Ipswich Town side pretty much there for the taking, was the straight red dismissal of Eunan O’Kane for violent conduct. The video evidence is incontrovertible; O’Kane, despite the inevitable protests, is bang to rights and was positively begging to be sent off; the referee, only yards from the incident, was always going to oblige.

What leaves a nastier than usual taste in the mouth is that this particular piece of lunacy, which went some way towards ensuring that his team-mates, employers and supporters would end up empty-handed, came hard on the heels of what now seems a rather sanctimonious tweet expressing disappointment over the equally stupid transgression of Samu Saiz a week earlier at Newport. People in glass houses shouldn’t thrown stones, we might reflect. To his credit, O’Kane himself left the field without protest; the expostulations have come from other quarters. Meanwhile, the whole sorry affair threatens to deflect us all from the more important issues arising out of this and other recent failures.

The uncomfortable fact is that, in the last three league games, Leeds United have failed to score one single solitary goal, That’s over 270 minutes of huffing and puffing to no effect, during which time they have contrived to lose to Birmingham, who were swatted aside 3-0 by Derby yesterday, and gain one point from a Nottingham Forest side who set out to stifle Leeds and comfortably managed it. Leaving aside the inglorious FA Cup episode at Newport, Leeds are suffering in the league, which is far, far more important. The loss of Saiz for six games deprives us of much of the limited cutting edge we’ve had and, without quality reinforcements during this window, the fear is that the season could be fizzling out rather early.

What appears to be happening, in line with the predictions of many much earlier in the campaign, is that the lack of depth in United’s squad is being exposed by a smattering of injuries and suspensions. These are occupational hazards of an attritional league programme, and will happen to any but the most fortunate of clubs – but the difference at the top end of the table will be the deeper resources of those who have invested sensibly in quality, providing competent back-up for most positions. United’s over-reliance on young, raw possibles, like Jay Roy Grot for instance, is ample proof that their recruitment at first team level has been – so far, at any rate – inadequate for the rigours of a Championship season.

One transfer move that has been completed, and for a player seemingly ready to step into the first team picture, too, is that of Yosuke Ideguchi, a highly-rated midfielder whose signing is seen as something of a coup for the Elland Road club. How strange it is then that, after a work permit was unexpectedly forthcoming, Ideguchi’s loan to Spanish side Cultural Leonesa has still gone ahead. One thing Leeds United really needs, to allow them maybe the luxury of playing two up top, is a combative box-to-box midfielder which might permit such a change of shape. On the bright side, the welcome signing of Laurens de Bock will provide options across the defensive line, with the versatility of Gaetano Berardi possibly allowing him to be more effective when freed from his unaccustomed left-back berth.

And it really is important to look on the bright side, after what has been a dismal January so far, especially on the field of play. The next two weeks, and this is no exaggeration, will define the rest of our season. The word from the club is that they are working hard to bring in players, with a striker high on the shopping list. As Leeds fans, we should perhaps avoid being distracted by pointless and futile appeals over daft red cards – and hope that the powers that be down LS11 way can see the urgency of the situation in and around the first team squad. The play-offs are still somehow a tantalising possibility, offering at least the chance of an exciting climax to the campaign. It’s down to the club now as to whether or not they have the ambition to seize the day and give us all a second half of this season to relish.

Really, after the start to 2018 Leeds United have provided, that’s the very least we deserve.

“Completely Lacking Spirit and Passion”: Leeds Owner Radrizzani Issues Stern Rebuke – by Rob Atkinson

In a complete departure from his usual urbanely diplomatic stance, Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani has taken to Twitter and bemoaned the “lowest moment for me since I joined” in what are, for him, harshly critical terms.

Normally, Radrizzani confines himself to what amounts to a supportive and broadly positive stance, preferring to exhort the fans to greater heights of support rather than issue any direct criticism. This tweet, though, utterly abandons any such diplomacy, and instead hits hard – striking right to the heart of any football professional‘s self-image. In accusing the players of lacking spirit and passion, he is levelling about the most serious charge imaginable. Let nobody doubt the anger and frustration behind such frank and revealing words.

It may be that Andrea has been rattled by the spitting storm that threatens to engulf the club, depriving Leeds of their best attacking player Samu Saíz for maybe up to six games – if the charge is proven. That would be enough to unsettle the most sanguine of club owners but, even so, Radrizzani’s words are pointed in the extreme. Tweeted to the entire Leeds United Universe, the criticism is scathing, devastating. Anybody on the Leeds United payroll will disregard this at their extreme peril.

It looks as though the owner is a long way short of happy. To an extent, the remedy is in Radrizzani’s own hands, with most of the January transfer window remaining available to him. It’s fair to surmise that, as the owner has seen fit to be so very publicly critical, and about areas of the game that form the basis of professional pride too, then much harsher words will be spoken in private behind the scenes at Elland Road. And what might come of that – well, it’s anyone’s guess. But the gloves are off now, the owner has broken cover and the game’s afoot.

There has, as yet, been no dreaded “vote of confidence”, for which small mercy Thomas Christiansen, our likeable Head Coach, may perhaps breathe a small sigh of relief. But a warning shot has definitely been fired across the bows of the Leeds staff, both playing and coaching. Once the top man identifies a deficiency in the Spirit and Passion Department, then something most definitely has to be done. The only one of the Holy Trinity of pro qualities not identified was “commitment” and, based on the Cup showing at Newport, that was most probably an oversight on Andrea’s part.

One way or another, the mood around the club has just been amply clarified in resoundingly emphatic terms; following momentous words like that, some sort of decisive action can usually be anticipated. It should be an interesting next few weeks down LS11 way.

Cardiff Revisited for Leeds as Whites Crash Out of Cup at Newport – by Rob Atkinson

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South Wales: Leeds United’s 21st Century FA Cup graveyard

An early lead in the FA Cup Third Round for Leeds United in an away tie in South Wales, live on TV. A sending off for our talismanic blond striker, then a late winner for opponents many places below us in the league ladder. A classic Cup shock, to the delight of the media and the nation as a whole. Yes – that was the fate of Leeds United 16 years and one day ago at Cardiff City. And today at Newport County, the same grisly circumstances played themselves out all over again as history eerily repeated itself to leave United stunned and “free to concentrate on the League”. For Alan Smith, read Samu Saíz. For Ninian Park, read Rodney Parade. The joyous celebrations in the media and around the nation remain identical.

On that previous occasion, United’s League position could not have been better – top of the Premier League pile with the Title in their sights. Today, the situation is of comparative poverty, with Leeds in and around the Championship play-off places after an inconsistent first half of the League campaign. Exiting the FA Cup is no tragedy, it’s happened once a year for the past 46 seasons. What we must hope is that the League slump, which followed United’s virtually identical Cup defeat 16 years ago, is not now replicated by Thomas Christiansen‘s troops. In that regard, it will clearly be seen that the sending-off of late and needless sub Saíz is far more potentially damaging to Leeds than an almost predictable Cup cock-up.

The really worrying thing was that, yet again, so many of the fringe players were found wanting when asked to step up and take their chances. We all know there’s a certain pressure that goes with the territory of playing for a club like Leeds, where expectations are always higher than attainments and the weight of history can be a heavy burden on young shoulders. But this fact has to inform player recruitment; it has to be a factor when targets are identified. Quality is essential, and will become ever more so as and when Leeds move upwards. But character and guts, with the ability to handle the goldfish-bowl environment and the glare of publicity – these are vital too, and it would seem that, in too many current squad members, those characteristics – epitomised today by lone warrior and scorer Gaetano Berardi – are sadly lacking.

Despite the uncanny similarity of the two South Wales FA Cup exits, 16 years apart, there’s no hiding the fact that the squad defeated at Cardiff was light years ahead of the current bunch in skill, character, attitude, desire – all the components of a successful football unit. That’s the gulf we have somehow to bridge over the next few years, if we’re to usher in our second century in a state befitting the history and global fame of this great club. On the evidence of the entire campaign so far – and in particular, based on the unpalatable offering we had to digest against Newport on Sunday lunchtime – there are light years still to travel, and this at a time when the clubs at the top of the game are streaking further away from the also-rans at an increasing speed.

By common consent, this squad – as a whole – is simply not good enough, and it will take more than boardroom platitudes to deal with that fact. The defeat at Cardiff was the start of a long and slippery slope for United. The best we can wish here and now is that the defeat at Newport might yet be part of the process whereby, slowly and painfully though it may be, Leeds United somehow contrive a return to something like their previous illustrious heights.

Grayson Haunted by Ghost of Wasted Leeds Transfer Windows Past – by Rob Atkinson

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Simon says: get the chequebook out if you want more promotion fizz

Simon Grayson is a man and a manager who knows a thing or two about getting clubs promoted from difficult leagues. As a lifelong Leeds fan and ex-United boss, he knows quite a bit about the Whites, too. One of the promotions on his CV came during his tenure as Leeds manager, and he was well-placed to achieve a second successive elevation after guiding his United team to second in the Championship halfway through that first season back up to that level. His verdict on that season is that investment needed to maintain a promotion challenge was not forthcoming, and thus Leeds fell away.

Looking back, few would argue with that assessment. So, when Sky Sports pundit Grayson stated, immediately after Leeds United‘s disappointing goalless draw with Nottingham Forest, that United are “a few players short” of kicking on, you really have to listen to such hard-won wisdom. It would seem he’s worried that history will repeat itself, that the failure to strengthen which eventually cost him the Leeds job may yet imperil current boss Thomas Christiansen.

Christiansen himself, when asked in the aftermath of defeat at Birmingham about team strengthening in the window just opened, merely stated “That is not a question for me”. It wasn’t the most ringing endorsement of January window boardroom caution (or complacency), and you suspect that, given his own way, Thomas would happily go shopping. His refusal to commit even to an opinion raises suspicions that the Elland Road chequebook may not see much of the light of day in the month to come.

Grayson, though, is under no obligation to keep his thoughts to himself, and he speaks from a position of expertise when he identifies deficiencies in the Leeds squad, up front most especially. To make up for that lack of cutting edge would cost serious money, but the old saw about speculating to accumulate rings as true at Leeds as it does anywhere else. The other side of that coin is that a failure to invest represents false economy, if the outcome is to miss out – yet again – on the crock of gold at the end of the promotion rainbow. That, in a nutshell, is the lesson of 2011.

Leeds are solvent enough to have their chances of the play-offs at least in their own hands. The money is there, beyond reasonable doubt, from the sales of Wood and Taylor to Burnley. Ironically, it’s a reliable striker and a specialist left-back we’re particularly short of right now, so there might even be a moral obligation, as well as a fiscal case, for investment to invigorate the squad for the rest of the season.

In my opinion, Christiansen’s refusal to comment on incoming transfers, beyond remarking that he will be talking to the board, speaks volumes. And what it might be saying is: give me the tools, and I’ll finish the job. His performance so far this season, given those two high-profile departures to Turf Moor, has been respectable to say the least – and he has unearthed a couple of diamonds in his summertime recruitment, aided, no doubt, by Victor Orta. Now, the opportunity is there to build on that fairly successful summer , as well as to make up for unavoidable losses in the outgoings market.

Watch this space. Leeds fans will be watching too, with a very close eye on what the club will or won’t do this month, and a characteristic readiness to draw conclusions about just how ambitious and hungry for promotion Leeds United really are.