Tag Archives: The Championship

Could Leeds Have a World Star on Debut at Leicester Tonight?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Kun Temenuzhkov

Kun Temenuzhkov appearing in the colours of Barcelona

Tonight’s Carabao Cup Tie at recent champions Leicester City could just see the first involvement in a senior Leeds United line up of a young international star who already enjoys global acclaim. 

Named as one of The Guardian’s top 60 young talents in the world, teenage sensation Kun Temenuzhkov has made several appearances for United’s under-23s this season after signing for the Whites in summer from Barcelona. It may be that the club see the Carabao Cup as the ideal situation to provide experience at first team level for such a hot prospect. Temenuzhkov’s absence from yesterday’s second-string match at Huddersfield has had fans speculating that his first team squad chance might be imminent. 

Whether the youngster would actually appear in the team, enabling Leeds to rest a regular striker for Friday’s summit meeting with Sheffield Utd has to be open to some doubt. But even travelling with the squad would be a sign of progress for the Bulgarian youth cap, and a mark of the esteem in which such a young player is held. 

It will be interesting to see what tonight’s team news reveals, with Leeds quite possibly looking to prioritise the sharing out of first team involvement. With a lad like Kun on the books, so highly regarded on the world stage in his age group, it might make sense to take a chance on broadening his experience. 

Two games in a few days will always test the club’s playing resources, and cup ties are increasingly seen as testing grounds for untried talent. An away clash at last season’s Champions League quarter-finalists would be a case of “in at the deep end” for Temenzhukov but, as the old saying goes, if they’re good enough, they’re old enough. 

Tonight might just be the first opportunity for Leeds fans to judge whether the latest wonderkid could actually have what it takes to succeed at Elland Road

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Shock for Leeds United Fans: We’re Not Top, We’re THIRD   –   by Rob Atkinson


Yesterday appeared to be a day of triumph for the Whites, as they beat Ipswich Town before a packed and rapt Elland Road to maintain their lofty position atop the Championship. Leeds United, leading the way, a promotion charge gathering momentum, the lads are in form and all’s right with the world. What could be better?

Except, it ain’t necessarily so. You see, those sporting geniuses at Paddy Power have decided, in their wisdom (and not for any sordid commercial reasons or wanting to weasel out of a bet, nosirreebob) that Leeds United didn’t win on Saturday. So we’re not top of the league, we’re only third. Because – and mark this well – own goals don’t count. As the hapless Ipswich goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski was officially credited with Leeds’ third and ultimately decisive goal, Paddy Power have airily ruled it out; Leeds didn’t win after all, the match was drawn. 

How utterly stupid, I hear you say – and you’re right. But it’s not only stupid, it’s bent, perverse, grubby and laughably self-serving. For a bookie to throw an attitude like that, simply to avoid paying out on a bet won fair and square, is utter lunacy. What credibility do they have left in the wake of such a crass decision? None; not a shred. 

As things stand, punters who bet on Leeds to win and Lasogga to score anytime are out of pocket in a totally inexcusable and scandalous manner. Lasogga undeniably scored. No arguments there. And Leeds undeniably won – yet Paddy Power denies it, for their own tawdry reasons. 

I hope that sanity prevails and that those frustrated and outraged punters get their winnings after all. But I also hope that Paddy Power’s business takes a massive hit over this – who in their right mind will place a bet with such a very unscrupulous firm? Not me, for one. And I bet all sensible punters feel the same.

Let us not forget, this is the firm that offered odds on the assassination of Barack Obama, amongst other tasteless actions. They even took bets on Ugo Ehiogu becoming manager of Birmingham City, after the former Leeds defender’s tragic death. I feel safe in saying that this is not a reputable firm.

Yesterday’s shameful decision not to honour bets on a Leeds victory disgracefully confirms that verdict. Paddy Power: pay up, shut up – and then get lost.

Oh – and we did win. And we’re still top. In the real world that is – not the murky and crooked view of a dodgy bookie. 

Leeds United Looking to Bounce Back After Millwall Loss – by Rob Atkinson

Klich

                    Hadi Sacko and Mateusz Klich 

NB: This article also appears in Saturday’s edition of the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Leeds United’s first loss of the season, viewed in the context of what is shaping up to be a momentous campaign, was less painful than might have been expected. The defeat was narrow and yet decisive; United were blown away by the sheer desire and commitment of a Millwall side whose performances against Leeds rarely seem to lack those qualities. In the event, the home side deserved their success, having had an early strike ruled out for a debatable offside call. Even then, there was a hint of offside about the eventual winner, but justice was probably done on the day.

Fortunately for those United fans who felt themselves to have returned to Earth with a bump, there was a chance for redemption at Burnley in the midweek Carabao Cup tie. Sure enough, Leeds dusted themselves down and revealed their gritty side to match higher league opposition, despite nine changes from last weekend. There was a grim satisfaction in ejecting the Clarets from the competition, especially as United were up against two erstwhile heroes in Chris Wood and Charlie Taylor, both of whom saw a brighter, or at any rate, more lucrative future across the Pennines at Turf Moor. Any lingering resentment over those deals was largely dissipated when Stuart Dallas’s decisive shoot-out penalty hit the back of the Burnley net and, with hindsight, the cup tie turned out to be more about current Leeds heroes than it was about Messrs. Wood and Taylor.

The biggest revelation of Tuesday night, for me, was Mateusz Klich, a Polish midfielder who had not been pulling up many trees this season so far – but he certainly seized his chance at Burnley. Klich seemed to be everywhere, closing down, making interceptions, putting in the hard yards with driving forward runs and generally giving as complete a midfield performance as we’ve seen so far this season. On that form, Klich will have given head coach Thomas Christiansen another welcome selection headache going forward; Leeds are particularly well-served in the middle of the park, but it will be difficult to overlook the case for Klich if he maintains the level of performance he showed against the Clarets. The ice-cool and languid penalty he dispatched during the shoot-out topped off his night’s work perfectly; it looks as if United can expect much more from Mateusz.

The other particularly bright spark on Tuesday was Hadi Sacko, who had up until this match been a mercurial and frustrating, hit-and-miss performer – but again, you could see the work going on at Thorp Arch beginning to pay off in terms of the Christiansen ethos sinking in all the way through this squad. Sacko it was who made the initial breakthrough for Leeds, finishing well after bursting onto a Pablo Hernandez pass that found him in space vacated by a badly-positioned Charlie Taylor. A very sweet moment, that. Sacko showed menace every time Leeds got forward after his introduction as substitute and, again, if he can keep that up, there’s another useful iron in United’s attacking fire.

So we move on to Ipswich Town at a sold-out Elland Road today, where Christiansen’s troops will be up against no-nonsense Barnsley lad (and boyhood Leeds fan) Mick McCarthy as Town boss, assisted by former United striker Terry Connor. These two will put aside their Leeds affiliations for the day and their team will provide stern and well-organised opposition. Still, Elland Road will be rocking again and this Leeds squad provides so many options and permutations that you have to fancy United to find a way of dealing with the Tractor Boys. With some difficult games ahead, three points today would be very welcome, consolidating United’s heady occupation of Championship top spot.

These are interesting and exciting times for United fans, who will now be optimistic about seeing the Whites put that Millwall slip-up firmly behind them.

-o0o-

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Burnley’s Sean Dyche Embarrasses Himself After Defeat to Leeds Utd – by Rob Atkinson

sean_dyche_manager_of_burnley_looks_on_during_the_premier_league_546102

Burnley boss Sean Dyche – seemingly unsure as to the relative locations of arse and elbow

This blog is not usually in the habit of upbraiding opposition managers and coaches for their post-match comments, particularly in the wake of a defeat. It’s an edgy and sensitive time, feelings run high and the vocal cords are occasionally allowed to twang more freely than perhaps they should. But, after Burnley‘s exit last night from the Carabao Cup at the hands of Leeds United, Clarets boss Sean Dyche came out with a couple of real whoppers that really cannot be allowed to pass unremarked upon.

Firstly, and most surprisingly, Mr. Dyche – perhaps casting about for some excuse as to why his Premier League beauties had failed to beat a Championship side showing nine changes from its nominal first XI – ventured to criticise referee Darren Bond‘s decision to award United a penalty kick deep into injury time of the 90 minutes (and shortly after he’d made a similar decision at the other end). Demonstrating what can only be called an appalling ignorance of the laws of the game, Dyche said “They get a penalty, which I think is a real soft one. He (Tarkowski) does pull his shirt but the ball is seven feet above his head. It’s impossible that it’s impeded him from actually scoring a goal,” he added.

It’s hard to know where to start with that one. But let us state simply and clearly, for the avoidance of doubt and to emphasise the depth of Sean’s silliness, that a shirt pull by a defender on an attacker (which he acknowledges did happen) in the penalty area, is a foul and a penalty kick. It’s as simple as that, there are no ifs, buts or maybes, and there’s no caveat along the lines of “did it prevent a goal-scoring opportunity”. Such complexities are for decisions over cautions, not the award of a free kick or a penalty kick for an obvious foul. For a professional coach at Premier League level to suggest otherwise, and presume to criticise the referee in the process, is at best an insulting attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes. At worst, it amounts to a quite astounding ignorance of the laws of the game, and a lack of the basic knowledge needed by any football professional.

Dyche’s second ridiculous observation was targeted at an area outside the professional arena, so is perhaps more understandable, if not excusable. The Clarets boss professed himself bemused at the level of abuse aimed by the travelling Leeds support (who were quite phenomenal, as ever) at former Whites Charlie Taylor and Chris Wood. Dyche seemed to think that the Leeds fans should have done their sums, realised how much money United had raked in from the two transfers, and applauded the departed duo politely, as if this were a cricket match on the village green, with the church clock standing at ten to three, and honey still for tea. Again, you have to wonder at the Ginger One‘s knowledge and appreciation of football and football support. Remember, these two players had both committed the ultimate sin, in fans’ eyes, of refusing to play for their club in order to facilitate a transfer away from that club. There are very few lower depths to plumb than that.

Perhaps Sean was simply nettled and disappointed, on a night when his club had exited the Carabao Cup and had been trolled afterwards by one of their own sponsors. But in that case he’d have done far better to bite his tongue, purse his lips and keep his mouth firmly shut. In making the comments he made after last night’s game, he’s simply made a fool of himself – mainly by his bizarre interpretation of the laws surrounding penalty kicks, which are really not open to being seen as he appeared to wish.

It’s probably too much to suppose that a hurt and humiliated football coach will have second and better thoughts, leading him to withdraw the remarks highlighted here – but if Mr. Dyche did choose to go down that road, to admit that he was factually incorrect, in error of judgement and foolish to express such dubious views – well, possibly he would emerge as a bigger man and regain some respect. But, as things stand, someone who’s on record as having said such very daft and uncalled-for things as Dyche was guilty of, cannot really ask to be viewed with much respect at all.

And Sean – respect matters. Because, win, lose, or draw, Cup progress or Cup exit, and even with the local police seemingly firmly on your side – you won’t last much longer in football without that particular commodity.

silly sean

-o0o-

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Millwall Curse Strikes Again as Leeds are Edged Out at the New Den – by Rob Atkinson

ColdBlowLane10

Cold Blow Lane back in the day

My first experience of Millwall was in the mid-eighties at their old ground, the Den, which was a sort of damp and dank above-ground dungeon, only slightly less hospitable. It was also known by its postal address of Cold Blow Lane, as if to emphasise that this was not a place of entertainment; it was a place to get to, take care of business if possible, and then get away from as quickly as possible. On my only visit, the coach got its windows put through by means of a hail of half-bricks in lieu of welcoming ticker-tape and a brass band, and we put up an abject show, losing 3-1. It was a typical Leeds United day out in Bermondsey, a tradition of hostility and defeat that we have, by and large, maintained ever since.

That old name, though, Cold Blow Lane. How apt it was, and still seems now. Today, Leeds found the chill wind of Championship reality gusting around nether regions quivering under black shorts that, combined with white shirts and white socks, gave us a slight but deceptive resemblance to Germany’s national team. Perhaps they were trying to make Herr Lasogga feel at home – but nobody remotely civilised could ever feel cosily welcome in these parts, not even at the relatively shiny New Den.

The pattern of the match was set from the start. I will predict here and now that Millwall will lose their next game, through a combination of fatigue and a feeling of “after the Lord Mayor’s show”. They’ll simply be knackered.  The home team could not have been more hyped-up and super-charged if they’d been playing in, well, a Cup Final. Taking to heart the rabid desire of the home crowd, they tore into Leeds at the first whistle, and they never let up. They could have been ahead early on, but a dodgy-looking offside decision saved Leeds and denied our former striker Steve Morison – yet Millwall were not discouraged. Every time a Leeds player got the ball in any kind of space, two or three Lions pounced hungrily, and a dispossessed United were under pressure again, every minute, all over the field. Getting to half-time on level terms was a notable achievement; getting a 0-0 draw was an expectation too far.

When the goal came, it felt strange – the sight of the ball in our net for a legitimate strike after so long a time since the opening day of the season. It was like the return of a half-forgotten childhood nightmare, and you had the feeling that, on the day, there was no way back. In the end, United tried manfully, having been swimming against a riptide of home pressure for the whole piece, but it was all effort and little penetration. We finished with ten on the park, all three subs having been used when Pontus had to limp out of the fray. It will be interesting (or maybe distressing) to see how many, if any, fit central defenders we have for Burnley in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday, and for Ipswich in the Championship at Elland Road next weekend.

But let us not be downhearted. We’re still top of the League, by virtue of our healthy goal difference – and I’d bet the tax due on Cellino’s yacht that we’d all have taken an impressive P8 W5 D2 L1 record after four home and four away games, if we’d been asked the question at the start of the season. A reminder that we are, after all, but mortal is not a bad thing at such an early stage of the season. There’s plenty of time and scope for us to pick up our heads again, and press on. This was the second “bogey ground” this season, so with the three points gained at Forest, we’re ahead of the game. And we’ll be ready for Millwall when they come to Leeds, with their dozen or so away followers.

Lessons will have been learned; the effect of application and effort on a hard but inferior team will have been noted. Hopefully, Leeds United will not be caught napping again for some little time – because that’s certainly what happened down Bermondsey way today.

Leeds Vibrant Attacking Brand Outshining Most of Premier League   –   by Rob Atkinson


One thing we often hear presented as fact, when it’s actually merely one of those little pieces of fiction so beloved of corporate marketing types, is the alleged “gulf in class” between the Championship league and the more glittery and relentlessly hyped English Premier League. As with most of these glib generalisations, there’s an element of truth in there but – as is so often the case – it just ain’t as simple as that. 

In reality, the top teams in the Championship in any given season will give the bulk of the Premiership a good game and a run for their money a fair chunk of the time. The real gulf in class is between the Premier League élite – an exclusive band of five or six major, moneyed giants of the game – and the rest of the top flight who simply can’t hold a candle to the brilliance of the billionaires. Between these Premier League also-rans and the major contenders at the top end of the Championship, the margins are far finer. 

This weekend just gone has been a case in point. After witnessing Leeds United’s virtuoso 5-0 demolition of Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion, I then sat through two televised Premier League games on Sunday, of quite mind-numbing boredom and ineptitude, where the standard of play was palpably inferior to the fare served up by Thomas Christiansen’s troops on Saturday. First Burnley edged out Crystal Palace through a Chris Wood gift goal, then Newcastle shaded a turgid contest at Swansea. Currently, I’m watching West Ham struggle against newly-promoted Huddersfield, in a game of barely better quality than the first two. It wasn’t a Super Sunday in the EPL, and so far it’s not exactly a Magic Monday either. Despite the propaganda of the EPL, this is anything but unusual. 

Of course, most fans will already be aware that talk of uniform excellence in the top flight is merely wishful thinking with a view to selling The Brand. A glance at the EPL odds on any given weekend will show that those in the know expect the Newcastles and Huddersfields of the Premier League to be soundly sorted out anytime they play one of the real big boys, or even some of the secondary pack such as Southampton or Everton. The Premier League is really two mismatched leagues in one, and it can be carnage when excellence meets mediocrity. The same is not true when Championship contenders play top flight strugglers. 

The essential truth that has emerged from the opening part of the season is that this year’s emerging Championship aristocrats, our own Leeds United, have produced football to surpass anything Sky has shown live these past few days. I looked at the two Sunday games in the warm afterglow of that scintillating Elland Road display, and I knew – I just knew – that United could have seen off any of those four teams. The same applies to tonight’s combatants, on the evidence of the first half. 

And it’s not only this season, either. The overblown myth of Premier League superiority has been pierced and deflated on a few occasions in LS11 these past few years, by United sides with much less swagger than the current squad. Spurs, Gareth Bale and all, fell at Leeds in the FA Cup, the same season Everton were beaten in the League Cup. Lesser manifestations of Leeds than our heroes of Saturday have faced nominally higher-grade opposition, and have generally done OK. Other Championship clubs can report similar successes. It doesn’t fit in with the Premier League “we are da BEST” narrative, but it’s a fact nonetheless.

The proof of the pudding, of course, is in the eating – and my contention will be put to the test at Burnley in the Carabao Cup shortly. But I honestly expect us to give a good account of ourselves, due to my conviction that Leeds United’s football this term has been a cut above much of what we’ve seen from the middle and lower echelons of the so-called “élite”. 

We shall see. But, whenever you can bear to tear your eyes away from the spectacular style and verve of Leeds United’s current performance levels, take a look at some of the Premier League dross being shown live by satellite. I’m pretty sure any objective judge, as well as we blinkered Whites fanatics, would concede that I’ve got a point. 

                                       -o0o-

While you’re here – a gentle and polite reminder. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything depends on your donations to keep going. Please click HERE to donate what you can – even a quid or two makes a big difference. This blog will never hide behind a paywall, so it relies on your generosity for its continued existence. Thank you – MOT.

Leeds’ Radrizzani Revolution Summed Up in One Magical Afternoon – by Rob Atkinson

Lasogga

Lasogga – Viduka Mk. II?

We’ve heard the phrase “dare to dream” often enough around Elland Road these past few years or so. Perhaps too often – because, when we did dare, the promised dreams usually turned to grisly nightmares. But this morning, thousands of Leeds United fans will have woken up pinching themselves to make sure that yesterday’s picture-perfect display of attacking football, defensive solidity and, oh, just everything you could possibly want, was not, after all, just some figment of an over-active imagination. For the vast majority packing out the stadium, though, the dream was real alright. It was the dedicated band of Burton Albion fans with the nightmares, as their team was hopelessly outplayed, outgunned, out-thought and outclassed in what was a virtuoso performance by United. It was men against boys from minute one, and the best part has to be that, although a dominant display like this had been coming, there is surely much more to anticipate and expect from Leeds this season.

There’s no point in downplaying this performance because it was “only Burton”. Albion are a fellow Championship side who were coming off the back of a three match unbeaten run, yet Leeds made them look several leagues inferior. The gulf between the two sides was, as BBC commentator Barry Davies once said on the occasion of another famous Leeds thrashing of hapless opponents, “an almighty chasm”. One look at the face of Burton manager Nigel Clough afterwards was enough to realise that he was only too well aware of the magnitude of the thrashing handed out to his team. I had been polishing a question along the lines of “Nigel, you said in the run-up to this game that you’d spotted Leeds’ weak spot. Can you reveal it to us now?” The pain on the face of the pro persuaded me to hold my tongue.

Leeds won at the easiest of canters, managing to introduce a new striker in the burly form of Pierre-Michel Lasogga in a manner that might have had you thinking he’d been in the team for months. There is much to look forward to from Lasogga. A few people have commented on his resemblance to Mark Viduka, and he really could be that good. Early in the game, the Viduka comparison looked spot on, as he received the ball on the right of the box, turned smartly and then pirouetted back to supply Kemar Roofe with a chance that the Burton keeper (who actually had a good game) saved well. That pirouette was very reminiscent of the Duke’s hat-trick goal in that memorable 4-3 defeat of Liverpool just over 17 years ago. It showed that, just maybe, Lasogga might be looking to fill far more illustrious boots than those vacated by Chris Wood.

There were so many other highlights, too. The sight of Roofe at last scoring the kind of goal he was serving up routinely in his Oxford days a couple of years back. Another fine, left-footed finish from young Kal Phillips, who just keeps getting better and better. And the brilliance of Samu Sáiz, as he cleverly prompted Leeds’ attacking moves, one forward pass to Roofe in particular being the sort of thing you’d normally expect to see in la Liga, never mind the Championship. That Giles-esque, chipped pass set up Roofe on the byline to cross for Lasogga’s second, a well-placed header to complete the scoring after about an hour. Enough was as good as a feast, Lasogga came off to a noisy standing ovation, and Leeds strolled through the rest of an afternoon where you suspect they could have had ten if they’d really wanted to.

And all of this, of course, without arguably the season’s star up to this point, Ezgjan Alioski, who was benched for this game after his international exertions with Macedonia in midweek. Gaetano Berardi was missing still, as was Matthew Pennington, and Leeds felt able to replace Vurnon Anita with Stuart Dallas at the interval as well as giving the young colossus Jay-Roy Grot some minutes later on. None of this disrupted the progress of the Leeds juggernaut and poor Burton were simply steamrollered flat as a pancake.

It was the kind of performance to ring the changes between epochs, a signal demonstration that what had been is no more; here was a new era and it’s one to get excited about. Four areas of the club are radically altered from what many see as a reasonably successful season last time around. The owner is now the sole owner, and has been going about things very much his own way; everything Andrea Radrizzani touches seems currently to turn to gold. And it’s his birthday today. Many happy returns, sir.

The other three areas are recruitment, coaching and the team. Victor Orta has demonstrated his unerring eye for a player, pulling off some remarkable coups in the transfer window lately completed. The Wood exit has summed up Orta’s success; the income from that deal has virtually financed all of the incomings, including the loan deal that has provided us, in Lasogga, with a striker who looks better and who provides more options than the effective but one-dimensional Wood. And the coaching of Thomas Christiansen has been a revelation; the likes of Roofe and Liam Cooper have grown under his tutelage, almost overnight, into the players they clearly had it in them to be. The team looks solid at the back, creative in midfield and fluidly lethal up front. Many are still trying to assess the ability of new keeper Felix Wiedwald, or even properly to learn his name. He’s had that little to do so far, beyond linking up well with the back line to distribute the ball across the defensive third.

These are heady times to be a Leeds supporter; it’s difficult for many of us to keep our feet on the ground after so long in the doldrums. The first defeat will be the big test for the support; you suspect that, as far as the squad is concerned, Christiansen has plans and a message for that contingency. On the evidence of yesterday in particular, and the season so far in general, that first setback may (fingers crossed) be some way off. In the meantime, supporting United currently feels so good that you wonder if it’s not somehow bad for your health. But these are good feelings, and we deserve them – they’ve been a long time coming, after all.

Whatever the long and short term future may have in store for us all, there’s one thing that’s quite certain: this demolition of Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion, with the scoring debut of Lasogga as the icing on the cake, will live long in the memory. It truly was the stuff of dreams – and it really happened, just as we recall it. So we can stop pinching ourselves right now, and settle in for what looks like being a season to savour.

-o0o-

While you’re here – a gentle and polite reminder. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything depends on your donations to keep going. Please click HERE to donate what you can – even a quid or two makes a big difference. This blog will never hide behind a paywall, so it relies on your generosity for its continued existence. Thank you – MOT. 

Garry Who? Chris Who?? TC’s Divine New Leeds Chopped the Forest Down – by Rob Atkinson

Divine duo

Christiansen and Radrizzani: Divine Duo

As we head into the season’s first international break, with its timely chance to pause and reflect, we can look back upon a first segment of Leeds United‘s campaign that can best be described as the stuff of which dreams are made. The Elland Road exits of Garry Monk and Chris Wood had the press pack, or at any rate that 99% of it hostile to the Whites, drooling with anticipation of United’s fall from grace. Gleefully, they speculated upon the damage that will be done by the loss of thirty-goal Wood; happily, they salivated at the jumping overboard of Garry Monk – who would actually appear to have swapped a cruise liner for a rusty tug. The reality of Leeds’ refreshing approach so far has confounded these ill-wishing souls, and they’re frankly welcome to their own purgatory. Leeds fans, by contrast, are higher than kites on Cloud Nine.

Today’s performance at Nottingham Forest surpassed even last Saturday’s demolition of Sunderland. Both were clinical displays away from home at perceived football fortresses. Both saw United make light of the loss of their erstwhile big number nine; both ended up as solid victories via a memorable goal in each half. But the high-press at Forest was even more effective than United’s stifling of the Mackems seven days ago, with the fluency of midfield passing and the incisiveness of the multi-pronged and revolving attack both even more impressive than at the Stadium of Light. It’s fair to say that today’s win at the City Ground – normally absent from United’s happy hunting ground roster – was as complete and satisfying as any away performance over recent seasons.

Count the blessings: another clean sheet, that’s four on the trot in the league; a first goal from the dazzling Gianni Alioski (and what a goal it was); the continuing development of Kemar Roofe in a central striking role, his display embellished by a neat headed finish – and last, but by no means least, a late cameo of rich promise from new signing Jay-Roy Grot. On the evidence of his short time on the pitch, this massive unit of a young striker will have much to offer over the season ahead. He showed a neat turn, the potential to dominate in the air, pace to burn – and an endearing tendency to bully opposing defenders that belies his tender years. Grot has been described admiringly by the Leeds Twitteratti as a monster, a beast, an animal. In the context of the pantheon of Elland Road heroes, these are terms of high praise indeed.

So, for the second week running, United have breezily popped the bubble of a rival’s promising start to the season. We remain unbeaten, handily placed in the league, and with the enticing prospect of further possible recruitment during the last few days of the transfer window. To say there is currently a feel-good factor around LS11 is hopelessly inadequate; a masterpiece of understatement. It really is much better than that so far – but it’s important as a serious blogger for me not to get too carried away; there’s a long way to go, after all.

So I’ll confine myself to this brief summing up of the current situation at Leeds United, as follows: Andrea Radrizzani is God; Thomas Christiansen sits divinely at his right-hand side as the New Messiah (the clue’s in his name, brethren); the assembled first team squad are the Heavenly Host, the glorious anointed representatives at pitch level of this omnipotent duo – and we, the fans, are the newly-inspired believers, a teeming multitude of the faithful, looking forward with the serene confidence of ordained destiny to our unstoppable march to the Promised Land.

There. In all modesty and discretion, I think that’s fair comment.

 

The Reason Leeds United Can’t Have Nice Things? Wage Structure   –   by Rob Atkinson

History is repeating itself down Elland Road way, and it’s getting annoyingly boring. It goes like this: Player with obvious potential arrives at Leeds United having not quite done it elsewhere. Player develops and gains confidence through regular football. Player has a brilliant season (or, more rarely, two brilliant seasons) and becomes a Whites legend. Media note with disapproval that player is doing well at Leeds, and relentlessly hype-up “wantaway” stories. Player’s “head is turned”. Leeds offer player new contract at approx 50% of what he could get elsewhere. Player is sold to club of embarrassingly lower historical status. Fans distraught and humiliated. Rinse and repeat.

This is the scenario currently playing itself out with Chris Wood, who had a fabulous season last year without necessarily having eradicated the flaws in his game that stopped him succeeding at the top level. It looks as though Wood, understandably by his own lights, wishes to quadruple his current earnings by participating in the relegation fight of Burnley FC, instead of fighting for promotion with Leeds United. Forty years ago, this would have been inconceivable – but back then football was a whole different sport. Imagine in 1974/75 First Division Carlisle United swooping for Second Division Man U‘s top scorer. The press would have poured scorn on any such notion. But it happens these days; minnows feed off sharks. It’s all about money, folks.

Leeds United, under new ownership, has done a lot of good things amid an atmosphere of renewed optimism. That atmosphere is about to be dissipated by the cold wind of an unwelcome reality check. Twitter is all aflutter about the increasingly strong rumours of Wood’s departure, and suggestions as to his replacement are many, but almost all sadly unfeasible. Sign Danny Ings, they say. Or Peter Crouch, or Jordan Rhodes. But the pesky elephant in the room, poised ready to sit on and squash any such fanciful notions, is the Leeds United wage structure.

In short, the wage structure is the factor that prevents the Whites from competing at the top end of even the Championship transfer market. Despite a lot of wishful thinking that players will flock to sign for the Leeds United brand, Super Leeds, the Revie Boys, Champions of Europe and all that, the annoying truth is that said players are only really interested in the bottom line on their sleek, fat contracts. All else is whimsy. The players want megabucks, and the parsimonious Yorkshireness of the LUFC wage structure doesn’t cater for such munificence.

And that is the sad truth, folks. Beyond which I’m a little too soul-destroyed right now to go much further. Wood will depart and, whatever transfer fee we receive, the reinvestment of that sum will be affected by the wages we are prepared to offer any potential like-for-like replacement. And that’s why we can’t have a Jordan Rhodes, a Danny Ings, or even a Nahki Wells. Because, unlike Middlesbrough, Wolves and even Sheffield Wednesday, we tend to shy away in thrifty horror at paying the going rate. That’s why we’re still in the second sphere, and will most likely languish there still when our proud centenary rolls around. That’s why we can’t have nice things.

We’re just too damned stingy, and that’s the real bottom line.

Leeds Loanee Turned Down Ajax to Add Some Vim to Whites Defence   –   by Rob Atkinson

CBJ

Leeds United‘s newest recruit is a young left-back or central defender by the name of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson. The 20 year old is on a season-long loan from a shady Salford-based franchise, and comes to Elland Road with something to prove after failing to make much of an impression at Wolverhampton Wanderers last season.

The new ownership and management structure at Leeds United should be credited with some solid good judgement, based on their recruitment record so far, and hopes will be high that young Cameron, who has apparently chosen Leeds over Dutch giants Ajax of Amsterdam, can be a further vindication of United’s recent transfer market acquisitions. A few notable markers have been laid down for the progress of CBJ (let’s call him that, to save pulling a tongue muscle). On the evidence of Sunday’s season opener at Bolton, Leeds have purchased well and wisely. 

We haven’t yet seen all of the signings in serious action, but Pennington, on loan from Everton, looks replete with class and composure. Anita, too – a free transfer from promoted Newcastle – looked neat and tidy once called on from the bench. He seems to offer an ability to read the game from a defensive berth, and an endearing willingness to stride forward and have a good dig at the opposition goal. 

Add to that the home-grown potential of Kalvin Phillips, the commitment and passion of the wrongly-maligned Cooper, and the wealth of possibilities in central and wide midfield, and it can be seen that Leeds are but an additional central defender and a support striker away from being a force in this league. Possibly an irresistible force. 

If the judgement displayed so far in the recruitment of the above-mentioned signings, to say nothing of Alioski, Saiz and Klich, is borne out by young CBJ also proving himself, then we’ll  have an embarrassment of riches in the squad, with quality backed up by quality all over the park. The talk now is of a young Premer League striker of pedigree coming in on loan to take some of the pressure off the broad shoulders of Chris Wood. All of a sudden, we are cooking with gas at Elland Road. 

Last but not least in the instant gratification stakes, the loan signing of CBJ has prompted a petulant meltdown on the mufc Twitter feed. Which is nice for its own sake, but encouraging too. Even the Prima Donna types who “support” man u from their Devon hovels wouldn’t have tantrums over the loan of a non-talent. Hopefully, CBJ will be more of a Strachan than a Wootton when judged against arrivals to Leeds from the wrong side of the Pennines. 

In the meantime, the future is bright – the future is White. Let’s buckle up and enjoy the ride.