Leeds United on the pitch is a lot like Leeds United off it; flat, rudderless and ridiculously frustrating. It seems unthinkable that we are still talking about a takeover that still hasn’t happened and as Eddie Gray continually reminded us, he knew that Leeds’ lifeless, but ultimately point-gathering results would catch up with us.
The fact is that everyone connected with the club is pretty much just sitting around waiting for this takeover to be completed; it wouldn’t be so bad if we had a better, stronger squad and we were going somewhere but even Neil Warnock sounded utterly out of ideas and fight during his post match interviews.
Gray is right though; Leeds have been playing very poorly recently and it has only been by great fortune that they have escaped defeat on numerous occasions and it was somewhat inevitable that eventually, when faced with opposition boasting real quality, that Leeds would eventually be defeated.
Birmingham may not have produced a vintage display, far from it in fact but in their side, they have proven players who are just a little bit good. Contrast that with Leeds and realistically, from a creative point of few, they could offer nothing in comparison to the likes of Marlon King, Chris Burke and Leroy Lita. I’d actually like to stick Danny Pugh in there, just for the craic.
In all serious, Pugh’s shock inclusion was the precursor to the disappointment that lay ahead, even if his performance wasn’t actually that bad.
From the off, the play was extremely bitty; continually punctuated by a constant squandering of possession from both sides, the first half was a largely forgettable affair. Leeds weren’t as lethargic as they were against Charlton and clearly had the idea that they needed to keep up the pressure on the visitors from early on. Lee Peltier in particular was very solid, restricting King and Lita’s time on the ball almost single-handedly, playing in what appears to be a more comfortable central defensive role.
One gripe in particular with Warnock’s tactics is the constant and in my humble opinion, a hugely unnecessary changes to the defence, harking back to an era when ‘square pegs in round holes’ eventually cost Warnock’s predecessor his job. ‘In Warnock we trust’, claim the masses but for the first time, there were murmurings of discontent among the sparse Elland Road crowd as Leeds succumbed to defeat; the reality is, we know Warnock is realistically, our best hope of getting back into the Premier League before the decade is out but it is a massive undertaking which he cannot manage without significant backing.
That backing must come from the club, as we have long said; which in turn, rests on the outcome of the takeover but Leeds fans have their part to play as well.
I must make it clear that I am not criticising the fans for the lack of atmosphere in recent games, the idea rests on the full understanding that a two-way street exists and at this moment in time, neither Warnock nor the players are living up to their side of the bargain, nor the club. It is a sign of the times that Leeds felt the desperate need to beg fans to purchase tickets for yesterdays match, as well as the upcoming League Cup game against Southampton.
Given the constant PR gaffes that have come from the highest echelons of the club, it may not be viewed as desperate but the fact continues to remain that the club isn’t doing nearly enough to make coming to Elland Road an attractive prospect which provides value for money. The club is stagnant.
The shambolic mis-management of the takeover has been an embarrassment and an insult to the fans who have deserved so much more than the petty side-swipes and meaningless updated scraps on which we have had to feed.
GFHC and David Haigh could have been welcomed (back) to Beeston as heroes who have saved us from Bates’ tyrannical reign. Now, they’ll be lucky to have any friends by the time they eventually settle in the plush surroundings of the East Stand boxes. One can only hope they have a better PR officer than Ken.
The post-match phone-in on Yorkshire Radio was littered with loosely levelled criticism of where the blame lies for Leeds’ current state on the pitch; perhaps we’re all too bored with what has gone on off it that we turn our attention to why we are failing on it. Warnock’s honeymoon period is well and truly over; now he will have to settle for the heavy battles of a fiery marriage
For a long time, it was felt that Simon Grayson was sort of untouchable in that the work of Bates and co. off the pitch far outweighed in the heinous stakes than some of the embarrassing defeats which came on it. Now, Warnock is suffering the same fate, and it isn’t all unfounded. Some in the squad are capable of better.
Warnock had little to offer about his sides’ failure to produce any real threat on the Birmingham goal, except Diouf’s header as Leeds fans were subjected to the same, tired post-match ramblings which failed to justify a total lack of imagination from his side. He remarked that Ryan Hall’s late introduction to the game was as a result of him being deemed fit enough only for the bench; surely if they are fit enough for the bench, they must be fit for the whole 90 minutes; surely Leeds’ options aren’t so stretched that he is forced to rely on a player way off match fitness to turn the game around with just eight minutes of normal time remaining.
The sad reality is just that. The squad is so devoid of game changing players with an ounce of creativity and nous that we have to rely on unfit players. One could be forgiven for wondering why Ross McCormack isn’t on the bench, even with his foot in a cast. We miss McCormack enormously; his partnership and understanding with Luciano Becchio is something Diouf cannot replicate because they are completely different players. All our best play seems to have Diouf at the heart of it and yet Warnock and most of the team seem to be content with long balls towards an isolated Becchio as an acceptable outlet. Diouf’s frustration clear to see, time and time again, possession was squandered because of the long ball and the absence of a strike partner for Becchio to get in behind the defence.
It’s hard enough to find things to be positive about where Leeds are concerned but the recent run of form – taking away that we did actually pick up points has been wholly disheartening. Everyone is waiting around for January now, and with 13 matches between now and then…
Well, at least it’s only 58 days till Christmas.