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Thursday, 28 October 2010

Leeds still a MASSIVE draw for fans…


Leeds United’s NEWSNOW page is as busy as ever, especially with news of Andy O’Brien’s imminent arrival from Bolton. However, between all the muted excitement there are several stories regarding our upcoming away matches…

Saturday’s opponents, Scunthorpe United have released a statement indicating to fans that only 900 tickets remain for the fixture and they’re in the standing area of the stadium. The article is reminiscent of a concert billboard with dozens of ‘SOLD OUT’ notices across every section of the ground.


Perhaps such a situation is to be expected, just 2 days before the game and in a relatively small arena. Further down the news page Coventry City’s Official Site are promising fans a season best crowd that will smash through last season’s record of 22,209 against local rivals Leicester City. Almost 6,000 United fans are expected to roar The White’s on at The Ricoh Arena on November 6th.


Again, a sceptic would indicate that we haven’t played The Sky Blues for 3 seasons, and the fixture is viewed as a novelty by local fans…

Also on the page is an article courtesy of Norwich City’s Official Site, the article reads; BE PART OF A RECORD CROWD!

Apparently Leeds United’s arrival in town has spurred the Canaries into breaking the all-seater record crowd for Carrow Road. The previous best of 25,749 when England U21 beat Romania looks set to be consigned to the annals of history.

If only we had a team to match such euphoric expectation…

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Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Operation: Survival


Another midweek game, another thumping. To say Leeds were outclassed last night would be a severe understatement. It’s difficult to stomach, and equally difficult not to demand something be done, be it a change of expectations, a change of personnel or a change of manager. Either way, something MUST change.

My first suggestion is a strange one, but I have to question the attitude of the coaching staff, the players and ultimately the manager with regards to half time. Whilst the majority of the crowd may have been occupied by another dreadful attempt to win £50 by a member of  The Revie Stand, I noticed that the Cardiff substitutes were put through a rigorous training session of running and passing with a coach keeping an eye on proceedings. Meanwhile, the Leeds substitutes were in groups of two kicking a ball about, talking and generally just passing the time before they returned to the dugout. A coach was nowhere to be seen. I realise that this is a minor issue and probably has little bearing on our current form but it looked like a Sunday League team against an established, professional outfit. We may not be at our most grandest at the moment but that doesn’t mean we have to abandon all sense of professionalism.

My next suggestion is an obvious one; The players. I could write all day about the shortcomings of our squad but my opinion, although deemed worthy enough to be read by a few hundred people browsing the internet, in the grand scheme of things is going to change very little, so I will get right to the point – More than half the squad are just not good enough. A point highlighted last night when the crowd reacted angrily and ferociously to a few heavy tackles just before half time, the ball fell to Bradley Johnson, who’s response to the heightened atmosphere was to loft the ball to the far corner flag and out for a goal kick, no team-mate was within 30 yards of his pass… I say ‘pass’ in the broadest sense of the word, in actual fact it was a desperate attempt to get rid of the ball for fear of incurring the wrath of the crowd – a trait that has no place at this level. Similarly, when Schmeichel was looking to release the ball early ALL ten outfield players had their back to him, seemingly praying that he wouldn’t choose to pass to them.

He was far from alone though, Robert Snodgrass is rapidly earning the accolade of ‘Most overrated player of a generation’ and the entire back four have struggled all season, regardless of which quartet is chosen. Rule number one of defending is ‘never let the ball bounce’, if you do, disasters similar to that of the opening goal last night happen. It’s easy to blame Schmeichel but he clearly shouted for the ball, only to be dispossessed by Bruce getting in the way… Amateurish.

One passage of play last night underlined the difference in quality between ourselves and Cardiff; Jay Bothroyd picked up a long ball played into the right-hand channel from a central defender, he had barely moved 10 yards across the penalty area, yet the ball was at his feet and he had turned to attack the goal. The pass was weighted just over Neil Collins and between the central defender and full back – A simple pass, yet so effective. We managed to quell that attack and within 30 seconds had punted the ball at Davide Somma’s neck, in the hope of something similar whilst surrounded by 3 Cardiff defenders…

This brings me on nicely to The Manager, I like Simon Grayson and the job he has done at Elland Road is undoubtedly a good one, but should one of the seemingly never ending line of people I know who love poking fun at Leeds United defeats ask me how Leeds set out last night, or indeed against Leicester, I couldn’t answer them. I couldn’t tell them what our game plan was, or what we attempted to do to stifle the unquestionable talent of Craig Bellamy. We appear to just take to the pitch and play off the cuff, whatever happens, happens and we’ll deal with it afterwards…

I hate questioning the manager because it’s his right to test his skills at this level having finally dragged us out of League One but I have to question a few things;

His Signings; For every Kasper Schmeichel and Paddy Kisnorbo there have been several Frede Bessone, Jason Crowe, Gary McShefferey and apparently Ross McCormack – disappeared without trace.

His Tactics; or lack thereof. As I mentioned, what has our game plan been these last few weeks? Now that we don’t have the quick striker we seem to be  devoid of ideas. I thought Grayson had solved that with the acquisition of countless wingers, yet last night we had a left footer on the right and a central midfielder on the left… I don’t know either.

Another thing I noticed last night (yes I was paying close attention) was, from one of our corners a Cardiff player found himself with the ball, facing his own goal roughly around the penalty spot, a precarious position to be in for any player. Yet, without looking he hooked the ball out to the right back position where his right winger collected the ball and proceeded up the pitch. This might be a happy coincidence but I doubt it, it’s obviously a premeditated tactic when clearing in such a situation – he knew his player was there. Can you imagine the current Leeds team having such a plan?? no, thought not. That is ultimately down to the manager.

His Selection Policy: Another defeat last night and the expected departure of George McCartney will mean another list of changes for Saturday. Injuries have been cruel this season but towards the end of McAllister’s reign I remember players complaining that one mistake meant a month on the bench, de ja vu?

Finally the fans, no not change the fans, and not another plea for some realistic expectation. Most fans seem to realise that anything above 15th is a decent season. I’d like to take issue with something that is a problem for our game on a National level, probably why our National team look as likely to win anything as Newcastle; Let me explain:

Last night Jonny Howson picked up the ball in central midfield and after noticing he had a little bit of space proceeded directly at the centre of the Cardiff defence, still going towards the edge of the area he was greeted unanimously with shouts from the crowd of “GET RID OF IT, GET RID OF IT…” Can you imagine that attitude in a football stadium anywhere else in the world?? Spain haven’t nurtured Iniesta, Xavi, Ramos etc on such mercurial teachings and nor was Lionel Messi ever taught to “GET RID OF IT..”

There will be those that point to our decent start and our acceptable league position but all promoted teams set off well with the momentum that promotion brings but after four defeats in five (three at home) we’re in a battle for survival.

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Friday, 22 October 2010

Jamie Forrester: My Time at Leeds United – Part 3


As I posted the opening 2 parts of Jamie’s account of his Leeds United career, here is number 3!

Again, an incredibly honest reflection… young academy players would do well to read it!

Parts 1 and 2 for those that may have missed it are HERE

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Keep Fighting: The Billy Bremner Story ON SALE NOW!

I received an email about an hour ago informing me of this book, so I thought I’d share my knowledge of it’s existence. I had no idea such a title was planned, never mind already released. So for those in a similar situation – here you go!

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Billy Bremner is a football icon. During his years playing for Leeds Utd and Scotland his passion for the game and his commitment to the cause made him an all-time footballing legend. When Billy Bremner died in 1997 at the age of just 55, Paul Harrison was working with him on a definitive biography. They had completed extensive no-holds-barred one-to-one interviews covering Bremner's distinguished career as a player and manager. With Bremner's untimely death the book was never published but, now, Paul Harrison has reworked the original material into the definitive biography. With contributions from many of the greats of the game, including Sir Alex Ferguson, Franz Beckenbauer, Ian St John, Kevin Keegan, Jimmy Greaves and late contemporaries such as Brian Clough, Don Revie, George Best and Sir Bobby Robson, Billy Bremner: Keep Fighting tells the story of Bremner's life both in his own words and those of the author and the distinguished contributors. Packed full of stories, anecdotes and reminiscences, this is a fitting tribute to one of the greats of the game.


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Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Foxes expose United’s lack of quality.


Only poor finishing, a bit of luck and a crossbar saved Leeds from another humiliating reverse last night. To say that we were second best doesn’t do justice to the superiority enjoyed by Leicester, as the Foxes served Leeds a footballing masterclass.

From the very first minute, the visitors formation and crucially their extra width caused United all sorts of problems. Leeds could have been 3 adrift before Grayson reverted to a 4-1-4-1 formation with top goalscorer, Davide Somma operating on left wing. The change in system restricted Leicester’s options but not their dominance… The ‘Mighty’ Whites literally had no answer to the high tempo, fluid performance of ‘Sven’s Men’. Becchio’s goal was the only real half-chance that we created in 95 minutes!

We played over an hour with 5 midfielders and it wasn’t until the introduction of Neil Kilkenny that we actually passed to any of them, favouring instead to punt long to an out-numbered Luciano Becchio, it all combined for a miserable night at Elland Road.

Rather than berate the fact that we were clearly not good enough last night, and could easily be licking the wounds of another 5 or 6 goal humiliation, lets look at the reasons why we failed to compete with a team who were in the relegation zone prior to kick-off…

The main reason is that individually too many of our players are just not good enough for Championship football; in recent years plenty of Leeds players have been accused of lack of effort, lack of caring or even apathy towards the club, but I don’t believe that is the case with the current squad – they are simply just not good enough, operating at least 1 division higher than they should be. Richard Naylor for instance could easily have cost us 3 goals last night as a direct results of individual errors. We’re not talking poor marking here, we’re talking blatant misjudgements, bad positioning and/or lack of concentration, as it was only one Leicester goal can be laid at the door of our club captain. Add that to the catalogue of errors already this season and the number of goals he can account for must surely be in double figures!

It’s hard on Richard Naylor, a revelation when he arrived amid similar defensive disasters after the reign of Gary McAllister, he unfortunately appears to have become the victim of age and the step up in quality that promotion brings with it. Alongside Neil Collins, it is a defensive pairing screaming out for leadership that neither player commands. I dare say that along side Paddy Kisnorbo or similar defensive behemoth both players would prosper. As it is they look very pedestrian every time we are required to defend.

Whilst Naylor can point to a relatively successful career that is only faltering due to his age and the quality of opposition, the likes of Jonny Howson, Bradley Johnson and Robert Snodgrass have no such saving grace.

Eyebrows may be raised by the mention of Robert Snodgrass in what is a very critical article but despite his recent injury problem can anybody remember the last thing he did in a Leeds shirt that an average semi-professional player couldn’t muster? Are we looking as far back as the curling winner against Southampton almost a year ago!?! His decision making and distribution leave a lot to be desired. That said, I’m sure he has enough in his locker to rise to the challenge of  The Championship. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for messrs Howson and Johnson.

Despite the odd flash of brilliance, usually reserved for critical moments for which we have all been very grateful (see Bristol Rovers HOME May 2010 and Carlisle AWAY May 2008 for details), Jonny Howson remains a bit of an enigma. Should you be dominating  a game or competing against a lesser midfield then Jonny will produce a performance to rival anything that Zinedine Zidane had to offer, but should you chasing a game or struggling to get a foothold then Mr Howson literally evaporates and offers absolutely nothing aside from the odd misplaced pass or an incredible ability to get dispossessed in his own half. Unfortunately, our vice captain will never be able to dictate a game. Similar to Naylor, mistakes from Howson have attributed to the concession of several goals so far this term. Having said all that, I’d love him to do well and prove all the doubters wrong.

Surely the most frustrating player to grace Elland Road in recent times is Bradley Johnson, a decent player who is undermined by his own decision making. Be it sky-high shots, wayward free-kicks or over ambitious passing it all culminates in a player who is again probably playing higher than his natural level.

Despite all of this, these players have earned the right to operate at this level, they are the ones who gained promotion out of League One and the fact that they’re not good enough must surely leave the blame with our manager. I am in full support of Simon Grayson but of those that started last night I’d say only the two full-backs and the two front men have done enough to be considered Championship players, and question marks still remain over Max Gradel and Neil Kilkenny who tried in vein to rescue a desperate situation last night.

I do try not to overreact on this site, it is very easy when you control a medium such as this to vent your spleen over a performance such as that witnessed yesterday but the facts are that we have lost 3 of the last 4 and only a nervy victory at a beleaguered Middlesbrough team has kept The White Army from pressing the panic button.

The most distressing element of last night’s defeat was that we played with a five man midfield to combat a team that were better than us, both collectively and individually and yet we still couldn’t get near them. This is a team that has struggled thus far and were 2nd bottom, We literally had no answers…

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Monday, 11 October 2010

Jamie Forrester: My Time at Leeds United


Whilst browsing the internet on my phone tonight  in a desperate attempt to find some relief from the dreadful viewing that was Swindon Town v Bristol Rovers, I came across this;

A blog written by Jamie Forrester, the man who all Leeds fans will remember for scoring a spectacular overhead kick against Manchester United in the Youth Cup Final back in 1993

It makes interesting reading, I will try to post any further entries, should there be any…

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Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Dirty Leeds Returns…


Amidst a very hectic work schedule and the first birthday of my Daughter, writing on this site has become an item resigned to my ‘to do’ list. The odd Twitter and Facebook appearance has been the sole presence of  The ‘Dirty Leeds’ Blog since early September (a fact not missed by ClarkeOneNil – Cheers!). Whilst I’ve been away, life as a Leeds United fan has seldom been more chaotic…

Indeed I experienced first hand the horror at Oakwell, one of almost 7,000 Whites crammed into the North Stand and one of probably several hundred who missed the opening goal due to traffic congestion on the M1, and after watching a very average Tyke outfit smash five past Shane Higgs, left for home. Partly to steal a march on the traffic that was so infuriating inbound and partly in total disgust at a performance that was as bad as any I can remember. The sum total of my trip was to miss both Leeds goals and witness a Barnsley side ravage a desperate United defence. The joys of being Leeds…

If that wasn’t bad enough, the inexplicable collapse from a commanding 4-1 lead against Preston left me totally numb and totally speechless. I’m sure the rest of the Leeds United internet community have had their say in my absence, so I’ll put it down to ‘a freak’ result, and leave it at that!

Sandwiched between the two defensive horror shows were two hard fought performance against South Yorkshire also-rans in Doncaster Rovers and Sheffield United. Unfortunately hosting a company golf day and my Daughter’s birthday party prevented me from attending both games, by all accounts, I missed very little.

It all contrives to leave my recent Leeds United viewing at; Goals scored – 4, Goals conceded – 11, 0 Points!

This season was always going to be a bit of a rollercoaster, but as usual Leeds United seem to be taking it to a whole new level. Our defensive frailties have been obvious and Shane Higgs’ performances have been that of a player who already seems to have one eye on the exit door after being replaced as ‘Number 1’ by Kasper Schmeichel. The much maligned Richard Naylor has mirrored the up and down form of the team, with slightly more downs, it has to be said…whilst Frede Bessone has shown all the hallmarks of a player who will be added to the long list of professionals who struggle to get to grips with the expectation of playing for Leeds United.

All that said, it’s better than being in League One and I would have taken where we are now after the defeat to Derby. October looks like a month where we can pick up a few points, providing Kasper sorts his foot out.

A special mention here to Davide Somma, despite the two desperate defeats he has been superb in what I have seen, both live and on LUTV.

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