After months of torturous rumours, frenzied bullshit and the takeover which is on and off more than a light switch, Leeds fans could finally get back to the one thing we have craved almost as much as salvation from the clutches of our tyrannical chairman; league football.
After the warm up against Shrewsbury in the ‘Capital One Cup’ first round, we could finally put aside the #TOMA (Take Over? My Arse!) talk to see the boys in white take to the field for what we dream could be a promotion year.
Sheikhs in, Bates outThe takeover continues to dominate the Leeds landscape, a constant from which we cannot escape as every day a new fan claiming to be ‘in the know’ (ITK) comes forward with some utter fuckwittery about having seen a Middle Eastern billionaire in the duty free section of Leeds Bradford airport.
Uncertainty has engulfed the club in a manner akin only to the continued dumbfoundedness about Danny Pugh’s continued employment but somehow, Neil Warnock has managed to spend more money during the close season than Simon Grayson could only have dreamt of. Meanwhile, Leeds fans hung on to continued hope of a takeover that would propel the club back to the Premier League.
Hope began to wane as no official word on progress was forthcoming and in the continued absence of any concrete information, the clubs preparations for the season went on. After a successful and apparently very pleasant pre-season tour of Cornwall, west Leeds and Norway, the news Leeds fans had dreaded finally came to pass.
It was never any secret that our beloved Scot, skipper, drunkard and cult hero Robert Snodgrass had long been unhappy with the lack of ambition that the club have shown over the last few years; which culminated in the sale of Jonny Howson the year previous.
Snodgrass was everything that Leeds fans ever want from a player and unlike Howson before him, Snodgrass never divided opinion. Everyone loved him, no one doubted his ability but deep down, we all knew it was only a matter of time before his dreams would be put aside so he could realise his ambitions.
So with a heavy heart, Snodgrass headed, somewhat inevitably, to Norwich in the Premier League, which is where most Leeds players seem to end up these days. The only saving grace, potentially, is that if the takeover does go ahead and Warnock gets the ‘final pieces’ to the puzzle, we may end up passing them on the way up. One can only hope.
Suddenly the hopes and high expectations for the season came crashing to the ground. It was last season all over again. We had failed to keep hold of a prized asset because the club couldn’t match their ambitions. Even with a plethora of new players on the books and the fact that we had somehow convinced another club to take Billy Paynter wasn’t enough to escape the fact that we are obviously not making the type of progress we should be. This is part of Bates’ legacy; amongst other things.
So, the football? Ah yes. Whilst trying to remain as positive and upbeat as it is possible to be when one is a Leeds fan, the visit of Wolves was a chance for the Warnock’s new look side to prove that an unbeaten pre-season wasn’t just down to the fact that most the matches had been against pub teams in fields.
No less than eight new signings made their league debut in front of a patchy Elland Road crowd – category A, lunchtime kick off and it’s on the telly, well done Ken!
The early signs were encouraging for Leeds, Rodolph Austin was putting himself about in a manner which can only really described as ‘slightly psychotic’, whilst being equally nonchalant as he laid off pass after pass. The horizontally-backwards-scissor-kick clearances were equally impressive. Cult hero status – confirmed.
Paddy Kenny had very little to do as J. Pearce Dog and Lee Peltier had a comfortable afternoon in front of him but Kenny, like Austin has gained a similar status of adoration amongst the fans for being a cheeky, ‘party loving’, twitter bantering ‘dude’.
With Pearce and Austins no holds barred approach, Leeds look to finally have the strength we have so craved in seasons gone by. Austin is a type of midfielder Bradley Johnson had the potential but seemingly not the cojones to realise, while Pearce looks like the type of influence that Tom Lees could grow a personality from.
Even as Leeds lack real width and turn to the ever dislikeable El Hadji Diouf in the absence of the now injured Paul Green, Leeds showed promise against a decent Wolves outfit who had plenty of quality in their squad.
David Norris and Luke Varney have a way to go before we can be really convinced of their quality, of which they have showed in glimpses but with the right personnel, ‘the star quality’ which Warnock hopes to secure, Leeds could have a strong outfit for the season.
The really welcome news was that Ross McCormack had finally put pen to paper and committed himself to the club when it looked like Leeds would lose another of their prized Scots. A new three year deal for a player sure to be at the front of the Whites campaign for Premier League football. I won’t lie, take over aside, this was the best news of the summer re: Leeds United.
Up front, Luciano Becchio continues to impress. When Warnock arrived at the club he promised to make him a better player and he is looking back on top form. Dominant in the air, strong in the challenge and in amongst the goals. His brilliant diving header from McCormack’s centre capped off a great move for Leeds’ only goal of the game which was started by Kenny’s perfect pass to find McCormack free on the left wing. One couldn’t help but think we’re just grateful we don’t have still Andy Lonergran .
Leeds’ dominance waned in the second half as the midfield struggled for shape; the void left by Snodgrass is not one which is easily remedied, especially not with Diouf, or Paul Green who isn’t a winger. That said, it has been a while since Leeds looked as comfortable at the back, and difficult to break down, thanks in no small part to the utterly brutal, protecting role played by Austin.
Wolves have quality in their side and with a clinical edge up front, they will trouble teams to a greater extent than they did Leeds but it is a credit to Warnock, amongst others, that young Sam Byram, at the ripe old age of 18 has taken the step up to the first team in his stride and was rarely troubled by the likes of Matt Jarvis.
Warnock now has a great blend of experience and youth in a team which is capable of playing good football, with a dogged approach and one which is capable of keeping sheets in equal measure to their ability to score goals. Time will tell but Neil is on the right track to the record-breaking eighth promotion he so craves.