Tag Archives: Simon Grayson

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.

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Leeds Legends Grayson and Beckford to Oust Man U AGAIN?? – by Rob Atkinson

Jermaine scores at the Beckford End

Jermaine scores at the Beckford End

Ever since Simon Grayson‘s Preston North End sent the Blunts of Bramall Lane a-spinning out of the FA Cup last month, the question has been on every Leeds fan’s mind if not lips: could two Leeds United legends (and Neil Kilkenny) possibly do it again?? Because that Fourth Round replay set up a tasty if only partial rematch of an epic battle over five years ago (January 3rd, remember the date) between a lowly incarnation of The Damned United and – well – the club we just love to hate, as the song nearly has it. And tonight, at Deepdale, there is just a chance of that particularly fine piece of history repeating itself.

You may have noticed that we are occasionally fond of recalling this singular occasion at #LLUUE Towers – but anyway, here goes again. It was on January 3rd 2010 that third-tier Leeds United ventured to the home of the Champions of England and self-proclaimed “Greatest Club in the World”™ – lined up (so everybody outside of the Whites fraternity thought) for a ‘lambs to the slaughter’ bit part on the massive FA Cup Round Three national stage.

In the event, Leeds entered the Theatre of Hollow Myths as if determined to prove it was just that. There was zero respect for technically far superior foes, zero fear of the occasion and, vitally, zero awe of their surroundings for a team whose 9,000 strong following often made this feel like a home game, out-singing over six times that number of morose and disbelieving southern glory-hunters.

Leeds, set up to take the game to their hosts by manager Grayson – who may well also have made motivational use of a “minnows” jibe carelessly hurled by the ever-confident Man U – clinched this tie early in the first half. Johnny Howson‘s sublime long ball dropped like a dead bird into the path of predator extraordinaire Jermaine Beckford. The striker recovered from a slightly heavy first touch with a characteristic burst of pace, which allowed him to make a monkey out of Wes Brown and roll the ball, oh so exquisitely, into the far corner of the Pride of Devon net. The commentary of the moment deserves another airing for its sheer iconic beauty:

 “And this is Beckford, it’s just run away from him but he’ll still get a strike in on goal … and score at the Stretford End for Leeds United! And it doesn’t get any better than that for a Leeds United centre forward….. Jermaine Beckford gives Leeds the advantage at Old Trafford to the delight of their 9,000 travelling supporters!”

The way those words paint that picture, the one that every Leeds fan carries on the back of his eyelids to this day, still has the hair-raising, spine-tingling ability to thrill. It’s so graphic, so evocative of the joy of the moment, just so bloody wonderful. Leeds United’s eleven warriors on the pitch, together with their comrades in the dugout, were just about the only people of a Leeds persuasion not to get carried away with the emotion and wonder of it all. They, after all, still had a job to do.

How they set about that job, calmly, resolutely, professionally, is every bit as memorable and significant as the goal that won the tie. A third-tier team in the champs’ back yard might be forgiven for mounting a rearguard action, protecting – if they could – the advantage they’d gained. But not a bit of it. It was just too early for that. Leeds had threatened before the goal, and they continued to threaten, taking the game to the shocked Premiership outfit, playing with a swagger and effectiveness that belied the gulf in status. They had to sustain some pressure, they had to defend desperately at times. That was only to be expected. But they also continued to pose that nagging threat, right up to the end – Beckford was played through beautifully by Doyle in the second half and placed his shot a fraction wide at the Scoreboard End. Robert Snodgrass, fresh into the fray, stepped up to take a free-kick with that sublime left foot – and hammered it agonisingly to thud against the angle of far post and bar with the keeper nowhere near.

In the end, nails were bitten down to the elbows as the Man U desperation grew and the penalty appeals mounted up. Surely, as per the unwritten law, Mr Foy would give at least one? Meanwhile, Ferguson, the man with the schnoz of vintage purple, prowled about on his touchline, brandishing that yard-wide stopwatch, snarling at all and sundry when “only” five minutes of Fergie time were granted. Rooney, the thug, clattered into a Leeds player right in front of the away dugout, and then hurried away as the Whites backup team tried to get at him. It was frenetic, it was aggressive, it was committed – and it was simply marvellous.

And then, Leeds had done it. Memorably, the ball had gone out for a Whites corner as the final whistle blew with Leeds at the right end of the field. Old Trafford emptied in about thirty seconds flat, apart from the dancing, cheering 9,000 at that right end, with their songs and their glory, celebrating the most famous victory of all their wilderness years.

The personnel behind that wonderful performance and memorable triumph have all long gone from the club now. The real principals – Simon Grayson and Jermaine Beckford – are both at tonight’s potential giant-killers Preston; and you can guarantee that the memories will be flooding back for them, even now, as they contemplate a chance to have another go at the Masters of Hype. This is what will make the difference tonight between a mundane 5th Round Cup tie involving two ordinary Lancashire outfits – and a chance to relive history, perhaps to recreate it to some extent. League One Preston have the home advantage; let it pay off for them – and let Simon Grayson, Leeds fan and United legend, have another Cup day in the sun.

And… if Jermaine could possibly pop up with another winner – well, that would be as perfect as it could possibly get – short of him doing it all over again, wearing that famous white shirt and wheeling away in triumph once more… right in front of the Beckford End.

 

Can Brian McDermott Emulate Leeds Utd Hero Simon Grayson? – by Rob Atkinson

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Simon Grayson: became United manager 5 years ago

Being the realistic and fair-minded character he undoubtedly is, United manager Brian McDermott would doubtless acknowledge the task he faces in matching the achievements of his last-but-one predecessor at Elland Road, Simon Grayson.

Grayson moved into the United hot-seat just before Christmas of 2008 after an acrimonious parting of ways with his former employers Blackpool – coincidentally United’s next opponents on Boxing Day.  His record at Bloomfield Road had been one of success, attaining promotion to the second tier for a famous old club which had been in the doldrums for far too long.  If that sounds familiar, it’s because the description could just as easily have been of Leeds United, and Grayson was destined to repeat his promotion feat at Elland Road, dragging comatose giants Leeds out of their humiliating third division berth in his first full season – despite having to work under the strictures imposed by a certain Master Bates.

There are some who seek now to belittle the scale of Grayson’s achievements, preferring to point at the lows of life in the Championship where Leeds had started so brightly.  But they haemorrhaged talent, failed to strengthen and fell rapidly by the wayside over the next couple of seasons, amid a welter of huge defeats.  That looks bad on any manager’s CV – but account has to be taken of the way in which Simon Grayson’s hands were tied in terms of his ability to improve the squad.   His career after Leeds has encompassed a third promotion from the third level of English football as he took Huddersfield up at the first time of asking.  Currently, he looks to be on course for a fourth such success, his current charges Preston North End lodged comfortably in the play-off zone despite a heavy loss to rivals Brentford at the weekend.

But it is for his success in reviving a moribund Leeds United, despite the Bates factor, for which Simon Grayson remains best-known.  To turn around a situation of seemingly terminal decline – after a succession of managers had failed to impose a big-club resilience on a lowly league – is the jewel in the crown of Grayson’s coaching career, especially as his promotion success was gilded with the fantasy-football type achievement of dismissing the champions from the FA Cup, at their own ground, in the third round.  For this alone, he would merit a prominent place in Leeds United’s turbulent but occasionally glorious history.

Simon Grayson lifted Leeds out of League One, elevating us to the Championship, in only his first full season.  It’s the only promotion he’s achieved outside of play-off football (note to Messrs Haigh and McDermott: Leeds United just don’t do play-offs) – and it’s clearly something still very close to his heart.  To win promotion with your boyhood favourites as well as slaying that club’s most despised dragon in its own lair – that’s the stuff of Boys’ Own fiction, made reality by a man as modest and dedicated as any we’ve been lucky enough to have associated with Leeds United AFC.

If Brian McDermott is to emulate Grayson’s first-full-season achievement, then it would have to be this season.  That. perhaps, would be unrealistic – given the fact that Brian has had his own problems of ownership and finances to deal with since moving in at United last April.  Clearly, whenever McDermott manages to guide Leeds back into the top flight, he will be hailed a hero and rightly so.  Until that happens, Simon Grayson remains, for me anyway, the third-greatest Boss at Elland Road behind the unassailable Don and his nearest rival Sergeant Wilko.  Some will disagree with that assessment – but really, the job of hoisting Leeds back from their lowest ebb was so massively important to us all that the person who managed it deserves appropriate recognition.

As Brian McDermott heads towards his first anniversary as Leeds boss in April, he might reflect that by then he’ll have a very good idea of what is possible in this current campaign.  A lot will depend on the currently-mooted takeover being approved by the Football League in time for Leeds to strengthen ahead of the run-in.  If they do that, and if the admirable “McDermott effect” continues to guide the club’s progress, then maybe – just maybe – he pull off a promotion that would see him elevated into the company of United’s greatest managers: Revie, Wilkinson – and Simon Grayson.

Happy 44th Birthday to Leeds Legend Simon Grayson – by Rob Atkinson

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Simon Grayson – Leeds United legend

The happiest of happy birthdays today to Simon Grayson, the man who stands third in the ranks of all-time great United managers, surpassed only by longer-serving luminaries who brought the League Title itself to Elland Road.

Coming as he did to a once-great club at the very lowest ebb of its historical fortunes, Simon was the driving force behind the start of a Leeds revival that is still, slowly but surely, heading us back to the top-flight pastures we used to graze with such relish and assurance.  The fact that we’ve had those dark League One days will, when we are back, make success taste all the sweeter.  Simon Grayson is the figure in United’s history who will forever be remembered as kick-starting that process – and delivering us a rare and treasured win at the Theatre of Hollow Myths into the bargain.  To go to the home of the Champions as a third division side, to outplay them and out-fight them, to win by a goal that could so easily have stretched to a margin of three and to dismiss the Pride of Devon from the FA Cup – these are achievements that will write Grayson’s name indelibly into Leeds United folklore.

Click here:  Celebrating United’s promotion – BBC interview

It must be remembered also that Grayson achieved all of this against a background of almost a decade of decline, with a demoralised support and a chairman who could charitably be described as “less than supportive”.  In an entertaining forum the other night, Simon and some of his colleagues from his time at Elland Road – well, let’s say that they “lifted the lid” a little on his time as United manager, and on his relationship with the Chairman and various of Bates’ cronies and dressing-room spies.  The natural conclusion is that Grayson has finally received his financial entitlement from Leeds United and no longer feels confined by any “gagging order”.  I do hope that’s the case.  Simon was treated shabbily by the Bates-regime Leeds United, both in his tenure and in the manner of his departure.  His is a dismissal I can’t think of without regret – although it clearly has to be said that we have the right man for our times now.

Simon Grayson, 44 years old today and with a long managerial career still ahead of him, already has three League One promotions to his credit, and appears to be working on a fourth at Preston.  Leeds fans should wish him nothing but well, may success crown his efforts at Deepdale, the home of a fine old club and a great name in English football.  Should his path lead him back to the away dugout at Elland Road in the future, Simon Grayson should be assured of a warm welcome as befits a United legend.

Oh, and it’s Dennis Wise’s birthday too, 47 he is.  Yeah.  Happy birthday, Wisey.