Tag Archives: Wolverhampton Wanderers

This is Not the Time to Push That Leeds United Panic Button – by Rob Atkinson

Divine duo

Christiansen and Radrizzani of Leeds United

A little sober analysis of last night’s defeat at the hands of a rampant pack of Wolves will reveal that, after a bad start where we got properly mauled, things could have turned out oh so differently. The fact is that, in the wake of Gjanni Alioski‘s excellent finish to pull us back into the game at 2-1 down, Leeds United were on the up and up, exerting considerable pressure on a home team that were doing some post-interval creaking after a dominant first half. A second yellow meaning a red for Ronaldo Vieira changed all that, and Wolves were able to reassert their authority with two more goals, leaving the scoreline looking rather lop-sided. But the positives were there for United against an expensively assembled side that looks certain to dominate the division this campaign.

Some Leeds United fans, so overjoyed at sending Middlesbrough coach Garry Monk back up the A1 with nowt, have then failed to see beyond that 1-4 scoreline, leading to renewed calls for the revolving door on the Elland Road manager’s office to be greased up ready for an impending departure. Whites boss Thomas Christiansen will not be unaware of the calls in certain quarters for his replacement, but he has troubles of his own to contend with – a tendency to concede ridiculously harsh penalty kicks, and doubts over the future of a certain Herr Lasogga among them. Yet Christiansen’s poise and dignity are still the hallmarks of his brief stewardship at Elland Road; he remains defiant and determined. The facts back up the theory that he’s not had the best of luck with various factors beyond his control, and – given the comical frequency of managerial turnover during the previous regime – surely it is time for the club to stick to its guns and give its man the opportunity and resources to do the job for which he was hired.

A visit to arch-nemesis Barnsley on Saturday is hardly the kind of trip Christiansen would choose as he looks to bounce back from the Molineux mangling; the Tykes have in common with so many other Championship clubs an almighty chip on the shoulder where Leeds are concerned, and this tends to inspire them to hit heights they find unattainable on less Cup Final-ish occasions. So we can expect a fired-up opposition to be waiting for us at Oakwell, but that’s the name of the game for a club like Leeds, and it’s high time we learned to deal with it. Again, Christiansen will be aware of this syndrome, having fallen foul of it at Millwall not so long back.

For many, that was where the rot set in, though worrying signs had been visible against Birmingham City just four days earlier, despite a 2-0 success against the Blues. There are many who feel that, despite his respectable goal return, it’s been the introduction of Lasogga to the team and his presence around the squad that has made the difference between the early season Leeds that was carrying all before it, and the misfiring machine we’ve been watching more lately. There does seem to be some issue, and a few conflicting rumours, where Lasogga is concerned, and this is just one of the factors on Christiansen’s worry list right now. But the priority should be to give him every opportunity to get that list sorted.

Happily, owner Andrea Radrizzani currently seems inclined to take the path of least resistance, keeping faith in his man and, although his motives might be open to question, that has to be A Good Thing for the time being at least. Whether Radrizzani is motivated by a deep personal conviction that he has the right man, or whether he is trying to establish his Leeds United ownership credentials by being as obviously as possible Not Cellino, remains a moot point. Whatever the reason, Christiansen deserves the chance to turn the currently less than ideal situation around. The performance against Middlesbrough showed that his methods have some merit, and it may well be that another endorsement of his ability and leadership was on its way against Wolves – until Vieira’s dismissal signalled the end of United’s chances.

The buzz phrase at Leeds United, for the time being at least, must be “Keep the Faith”. Christiansen has much in place within his squad that has been both pleasing to the eye and effective at times this season. The aim must be to regain a position where the whole of the team performance is greater than the sum of its parts; lately that equation has been the wrong way around on too many occasions, but in the last two matches there have been definite signs of a return to form.

Keep Fighting, as they used to say in the old days. And keep behind the team. Now is not the time to push that panic button.

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FA Has Strategy to Keep Leeds’ Pontus Jansson OUT of Play-Offs?   –   by Rob Atkinson

 

jansson-and-co

Pontus Jansson – a marked man?

Speculation is rife ahead of Leeds United‘s home clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers that – as well as the obvious necessity to take 3 points from the game – United have prioritised the disciplinary dilemma over their inspirational defender Pontus Jansson

Jansson will face a 3 match ban with his next caution, and the feeling around Elland Road is that it might be no bad thing if that caution happened today. This would rule Jansson out of the last three games of the regular season, but he’d be back for the play offs – should United qualify. 

With Liam Cooper only part-way through a long suspension for a similar offence to the one the Pride of Devon’s Marcos Rojo got clean away with, United’s defensive resources would be stretched thin if Jansson were to be suspended. But there are good back-up options at full-back, and Luke Ayling can play central defence if needed. So, for Pontus to get a ban after the Wolves game would be risky – but it’d be a calculated risk. Or, so some are saying. But are they reckoning without the beady eye of the football authorities? 

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything has managed to get the point of view of an anonymous FA official – we shall refer to him as Mr. Lee D. Shater (because that’s the git’s name). Mr. Shater was intrigued at the idea of “getting the suspension out of the way”. He laughed, mirthlessly, adjusted his Sheffield Wendies club tie, toyed with his Huddersfield Town kennel-club membership card, and remarked, “You people need to be aware that we’re on the lookout for this kind of thing. If Jansson serves a ban, and is back for the play-offs, our people will be after him from the first whistle. If he so much as raises an eyebrow at an opponent, he’ll be off – and it’ll be goodbye Wembley and Sayonara Premier League, you Yorkshire suckers”. 

When asked if this rather blatant admission did not in fact constitute undue prejudice against Leeds United, Mr. Shater replied, “No more than usual. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. You want Jansson available, we’d rather he wasn’t. Stop whinging and suck it up, you grimy Leeds oiks”. 

Watch this space. 

Sam Byram Should Put Himself First; and Stay at Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson

Sam Byram: learning his trade at Leeds United

Sam Byram: learning his trade at Leeds United

Wolves 2, Leeds United 3

Sam Byram is already a very good footballer as well as a tolerably wealthy young man. These twin attributes should see him able to set himself up for life by the time those distant days of his mid-thirties are upon him. Given ordinary luck, he will then be able to look back upon a long and successful career with the security of a good few million in his Post Office Savings Account. All of which means that the contract decision he is now in the process of making is unlikely to have major long-term financial implications. What Byram really needs to consider is where best to spend the next few, still formative, years of his football education. And, despite the lure of fatter contracts elsewhere, it may well be that those long-term interests will be best served by remaining at Elland Road for the immediate future at least.

The wisdom of this could be illustrated by considering the differing fates of those who have previously struck out along the path to fame, fortune and some Premier League giant’s reserve side, as opposed to the more cautious types who stuck with their club of origin until a degree of maturity grew about them. There’s no hard and fast rule here, and no real need to name names. But let’s do so anyway – take the example of our own Gary Speed, who stayed with Leeds and built a firm foundation for a lengthy career that now sees him venerated as a legend, a status that owes little if anything to his tragic early death. Speed enjoyed the fruits of success at several other top-flight clubs after putting in the years at Leeds, not incidentally picking up a Title-winner’s medal while he was here. His mark on the game was made indelibly before he secured a move to his boyhood heroes Everton

Consider also the case of Aaron Lennon, a teen speed machine at Leeds who was sold early to Spurs when the Ridsdale house of cards came tumbling down. It was crisis time at Leeds, and Lennon’s move to London was inevitable – but if he’d had the chance to follow Gary Speed’s example, might he not have made slightly more of an impression later on in his career? There is the air of potential not quite fulfilled about Lennon – and who knows what a few more years in his formative environment might have done for him? No matter, you might say – he’s still loaded and made for life. But, even today, football is not all about money. Byram will wind up extremely wealthy whatever path he takes, barring some unforeseen misfortune. Short term financial gain should, perhaps, take second place to his prospects of securing for himself a place in football history. 

This was really the theme of United manager Steve Evans‘ post-match remarks after United’s 3-2 success at Wolves, in which Byram returned to the starting line-up and scored twice. If the lad wants to stay and play for a club and manager that appreciates him, earning “decent money”, then he’ll have a chance of being part of whatever Evans and Leeds can achieve over the next few years. “We’re trying to build something here”, says Evans – and as we all know, if you build something at Leeds United, then the world sits up and takes notice. 

Byram’s choice is not really about money at all – it’s about how best to ensure the game will remember him after his playing days are over. Terrific prospect though he is, it’s quite possible that Leeds could be the biggest club Byram ever plays for. Where else might he end up? Norwich, like Jonny Howson? Hull, like Rob Snodgrass?

For all but the very best, the only way from Elland Road is down, whatever the league tables might temporarily say. And it will be a few years yet before we can say with any certainty whether Byram is out of that very top drawer. If he is, then he might have his choice of big clubs in his mid-twenties, at home or abroad. The sky could be the limit. And if he’s not – well, then, he might be ushered out of Leeds United anyway. Better, surely, to stay with an indisputably massive football institution while he can, buckle down and learn the rest of his trade – and see where the journey takes both himself and the club. Byram has the luxury of time and an enviable situation. He must be sure not to fritter either away.

This blog is on record as stating more than once that Sam Byram is not indispensable as far as Leeds and their battle to achieve top-flight status are concerned. I stand by that. If the club can get decent money for Sam – and reinvest it – then the loss of one precocious talent need not prevent the club returning to its natural level. And even if he were to go for a song – the club is still bigger than any one talent. Leeds will be back anyway, sooner or later.

It is probably fair to argue, as this article has set out to do, that Byram needs Leeds more than Leeds United needs Sam Byram – certainly at this point in his development. A few years on, the shoe might very well be on the other foot. Who knows? But, for the time being, Sam’s best bet could be to put pen to paper, get on with his work – and do his best to reward the fans who have supported him so well and with such pride thus far in his fledgling career. 

Do yourself a favour, Sam. Put your own best interests first. Stay at Leeds United, stay true to your roots – and help restore a true giant of the game back to its proper place. Deep down, mere considerations of pounds and pence notwithstanding, you must know it makes sense.