David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘Leeds United’ Category

Another chaotic 48 hours in the life of Leeds United

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

cellino
I know the last day of the transfer window is chaotic at all clubs, but at Elland Road on Friday night it was taken to a different level. With the imminent takeover of the club by the eccentric Italian Massimo Cellino, the decision was made to relieve Brian McDermott of his duties as Leeds United manager.

But who actually sacked him?

GFH strenuously deny approving McDermott’s dismissal, and all of a sudden Cellino has claimed he didn’t want to sack him, but that it was the current owners who wanted the manager out. The ins-and-outs of it all are near to insanity. Plus to put the icing on the lunacy cake, McDermott is back at the club, as the board revealed after Saturday’s 5-1 hammering of Huddersfield that he was still in charge of Leeds.

Cellino’s name has been associated with Leeds United for less than a week and he has already tarnished our reputation. To start, he tried to get former Middlesbrough defender Gianluca Festa in the dugout for Tuesday’s game against Ipswich, immediately undermining McDermott before he even had the reins of the club. Cellino works on the ideology of a “coach not a manager”, again signalling his intent to get rid of the McDermott.

Off the field, his track record hardly shows him as a saint. With previous charges of fraud and a case of embezzlement looming over him, is he really the man to be trusted in running this precious club? He has had 20 years experience at Serie A side Cagliari investing millions into the club. So from another perspective, isn’t this what Leeds need, a man willing to pay the money to make us better?

His introduction to English football couldn’t have gone much worse, with hoards of Leeds fans chasing and barricading his taxi at the Elland Road complex after the news of the sacking broke.

But it was the public execution of Brian which really caused the chaos. The manner in which McDermott handles the players, the team, the media and the club is impeccable. He holds Leeds with the highest of honour, and the fans hold McDermott in the same light. He loves Leeds, and Leeds love him.

His bond with the fans is second to none, his philosophy of Leeds needing to be “one club” involving fans, players and staff alike has rejuvenated Elland Road. The support McDermott received at Saturday’s game was outstanding, and the fans were a credit to themselves. For 90 minutes, the Kop end choir sang “Oh Brian McDermott” and “We want out Brian back”, not even stopping to celebrate a Leeds goal, but continued belting out the hymns louder and louder.

McDermott has the foundations of his team laid and this season has shown at times it is beginning to mould into shape. The Barcelona 3-4-3 has been ditched after dreadful performances against Rochdale and Sheffield Wedneday; at the end of the day we have Michael Brown and Lee Peltier, not Xavi and Dani Alves. The favoured 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 is the Leeds United way, pace down the wings and solid down the spine. And with the form of newly appointed captain Ross McCormack, surely things can only get better after one of the worst weeks Leeds have ever faced off the field.

But with the Football League still to make a decision on Cellino’s proposed takeover, will it be Forza Leeds United, or Arrivederci Massimo?

Written by Josh Westerman, We Are Going Up’s Leeds United blogger

Josh tweets at @MJoshWesterman23

Let’s Talk About Brian

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

BMc

After an unbeaten start to the new campaign, it is safe to say Leeds United are in safe hands with Brian McDermott at the helm. After the dismal scenes of last season, the philosophy and belief McDermott has installed into the team have rejuvenated not only the squad, but the fans too.

The pre-season, it is fair to say, was a bit up and down with a few good wins partnered with a few bad losses, most notably a defeat against Walsall, but all was forgotten by the 3rd of August. A packed house of 33,500 watched on as new boy Luke Murphy smashed the winner in against Brighton on the opening day of the season, and every one of those fans came away with a renewed sense of optimism that this maybe, just maybe, could be the year Leeds finally return to the Premier League.

It was obvious from the kick off that McDermott had stamped his ideas on the team, with the players showcasing a new 4-1-2-1-2 (or the diamond midfield as it is affectionately known) formation, much different to that of Neil “Hoof-Ball” Warnock. The new system encouraged passing, attacking and, most importantly for the on-looking fans, entertainment. And this wasn’t just a one off, McDermott has stuck with the formation for the opening four games, resulting in two wins and two draws. The decision to drop Lee Peltier as captain in favour of midfield enforcer Rudy Austin also seems to be a winner with the Elland Road faithful.

The new philosophy taught by McDermott has also brought a new role for fans’ favourite Ross McCormack. Since his move from Cardiff in 2010, McCormack has been used mainly as a striker partnering ex-star Luciano Becchio or as a wide attacker in a 4-3-3. But the new manager has seen McCormack fit to play just off the two front men, as an attacking midfielder. The switch has worked magnificently, with the Scottish international’s flair, guile and creativity becoming the lynchpin of the team; when McCormack plays, Leeds play. Plus by already scoring two goals in three league encounters, it seems like he is revelling in his new role.

The acquisition of players has been a taboo subject over the club’s recent history, mainly due to the tight-fisted ex-Chairman-to-President Ken Bates. But Leeds have been relatively busy in comparison to years gone by. McDermott bolstered the club’s striking options by bringing in Matt Smith and Noel Hunt on free transfers, which inevitably ended Steve Morison’s ill-fated spell at Leeds as he was shipped off to Millwall in a bid to reduce the wage bill. But it is the other two new arrivals which McDermott can class as coups for the club. Midfielder Luke Murphy was brought in from Crewe for £1million, and boy does he live up to his price tag. The 23 year old is a complete midfielder, with the ability to pass, tackle, create, head and more importantly score goals, becoming an instant fans’ favourite after his 94th minute winner against Brighton. The second impressive deal comes in the form of Scott Wootton. The defender, who can player either central or at right back, joins from Manchester United and is a highly rated young prospect within the game. Many of his admirers are questioning why David Moyes has let Wootton go without giving him a fair crack of the whip, especially with the ageing pair Rio Ferdiand and Nemanja Vidic becoming increasingly injury prone.

But it isn’t just on the pitch the team are reaping the benefits of McDermott’s changes. Little things like making a pitch at the club’s the training facilities the same size as Elland Road, to moving the academy players changing room next to the first teams are all combining to rebuild the club and make it United once again.

McDermott has worked in nearly all the different positions in football, from Scout to Reserve Team Manager and has shown he can already create the formula for promotion after a successful spell as Reading boss. His cool and calm demeanour in interviews suggests he knows what he is doing, and his latest recruits back this up. So let’s hope this is a season to remember, rather than yet another to forget.

Written by Josh Westerman, We Are Going Up’s Leeds United blogger

Josh tweets @JoshuaWesterman

Another Season, Another Disappointment

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

What if we hadn’t sold Snodgrass?

What if the takeover was completed in the summer?

What if Warnock had left earlier?

These are the sort of questions playing on the minds of Leeds United fans as the Championship campaign goes by with the same sufferable outcome, another season of mid-table mediocrity.

After the poor 2011/12 season, Neil Warnock promised an overhaul of the squad with fresh faces to pull the team out of the second tier of English football and back to where they belong. He even starred in a promotional video for the new kit with the “new shirt, new start” slogan building up the fans hopes of reviving their Premier League status.

With the takeover talk looming over the entire summer, Warnock was left to rummage through the bargain bin. The calibre of players was worse than the standard seen under Simon Grayson in League One, with four of the signings coming from recently relegated Portsmouth. But, that wasn’t the worst of it. The sale of the clubs best player and captain Robert Snodgrass left not only the fans fuming, but Warnock too. He constantly talked up the need of funds to bolster his squad, but the newly crowned ‘President’ Ken Bates threw out his demands. It left Warnock calling for the help of El Hadji Diouf, a man he once described as a sewer rat.

But on the pitch Leeds opened the season well, a demolition on Shrewsbury in the League Cup, followed by an impressive 1-0 victory of Wolves, it seemed as if this could be the year Leeds push onwards and upwards. But that in fact, it couldn’t have been further from the truth. The league form fluctuated, a lack of consistency left Leeds chasing the pack.

The worse came in a 6-1 home defeat to Watford, a loss which struck a sense of déjà vu amongst the fans after Warnock had previously stated a Leeds team would never be humiliated again like the 7-3 defeat to Nottingham Forrest the previous year. Warnock became increasingly under scrutiny. Even the completion of the takeover, a saga which had lasted 7 months, couldn’t turn all the fans.

The team performed admirably in the cup competitions before the Christmas period, defeating Premier League Everton and Southampton, before the Eden Hazard show lead to an unreflective 5-1 battering by Chelsea.  But the festival programme in the league did not follow suit, as the mediocre results left Leeds losing more ground on the play-off hunters.

Warnock’s days seemed numbered from then on, promotion was looking unlikely and his ideas were wearing thin. January saw a 2-0 away loss to strugglers and Yorkshire rivals Barnsley, with the fans letting Warnock know exactly what they thought of him. He showed too much loyalty to his old guard, sending Everton’s hot prospect Ross Barkley back to his parent club as he couldn’t guarantee him game time over Michael ‘Browneh’ Brown and Michael ‘Tongeh’ Tonge. The transfer request and sale of tally man Luciano Becchio, which brought the disappointing Steve Morison to the club, left the writing on the wall for Warnock; it was just a matter of when.

The shock 2-1 win over high-flying Spurs in the FA Cup did nothing for the league campaign as results were constantly disappointing, and after the next rounds 4-0 annihilation by Manchester City, Warnock knew himself his tenure was drawing to a close.

A small green patch of results, followed by hugely disappointing displays against Ipswich and Derby, left Leeds out of reach of the play-offs, and only a whisker away from the bottom three. Warnock ‘mutually agreed’ to leave, claiming he could go with his head held high. No manager, no form, no confidence; it began to look like a relegation battle.

But then the club made a massive announcement.

On Friday 12th April it was announced Brian McDermott would be taking over as manager. The signing was seen as a huge coup as McDermott, who was unfairly stripped of his duties at Reading, is known as a well-respected, highly talented and ambitious manager.  And he wasted no time getting involved as he was down in the dug-out for Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday’s visit to Elland Road the following day, a game Leeds won 2-1.

McDermott brought with him his ‘entertaining’ football philosophy, and the changes were evident from day one. The hoof ball tactics of Warnock were gone; Leeds United were actually passing the ball around and team began to prosper from it. Even Luke Varney began to be cherished by the fans. The season finished with a dramatic 2-1 victory over promotion chasers Watford, but left Leeds yet again in the wilderness of 13th place

Amongst a lot of negatives however, there are a few positives. Sam Byram has been exceptional throughout the entire campaign, keeping club captain Lee Peltier out of his natural right back position. The 19 year old is a fantastic prospect, along with midfielder Chris Dawson, who plays with the confidence and guile of Luka Modric.

But as Leeds fans say every May, let us hope and pray it is different next season.

Written by Josh Westerman, We Are Going Up’s Leeds United blogger

Josh tweets @JoshuaWesterman

One year on: The disastrous reign of ‘Messiah’ Warnock

Monday, February 18th, 2013

It was Saturday 18th February 2012 when Neil Warnock was appointed as the man to lead Leeds United back to the promised land of the Premier League. Leeds were facing Doncaster Rovers at Elland Road as Warnock watched his new side from the stands, only to witness a 1-0 deficit at half-time to one of the divisions relegation battlers. He took it on himself to delegate second half tactics on the team, going down to the dressing room to make the needed amendments. Leeds won the game 3-2, and Warnock was presented as this fallen giant’s saviour. One year on, it looks much bleaker.

After being dumped out of the FA Cup through Sunday’s 4-0 thrashing by Manchester City, Leeds are left in Championship mid-table mediocrity with chances of a play-off finish slowly diminishing. But where has it gone oh-so-wrong for Warnock, the man described as a promotion Messiah?

Warnock succeeded the popular Simon Grayson, who had taken the club to the cusp of the promotion places, yet a weak winter period led Ken Bates to wield the axe. With seven promotions to his name already, Warnock was the perfect replacement.
But things rarely work out in football, especially at Leeds United.

The remainder of the season was a disaster. Leeds plummeted down the league places, with a string of embarrassing results, the worst a club record 7-3 home defeat to Nottingham Forrest. Leeds ended the campaign in the wilderness of 14th position.

The close season became one of much uncertainty, with a prospective takeover not being completed during the summer. Warnock was left relying on mainly free transfers, and a bizarre advert for the clubs new home shirt, to invigorate the fans. However, after an opening day 1-0 over recently relegated Wolves, it seemed as if Warnock was waving his magic wand over Elland Road, and a promotion pushing season beckoned.

But the fantasy of a return to the high table of English football has all but gone.

Leeds sit in mid-table, eight points of the play-offs and eight points off relegation with some tough fixtures coming up. The much anticipated Warnock magic has failed to create the needed spark. The heavy reliance on Luciano Becchio’s goals was evident and after his January move to Norwich, the future looks dreary.

Warnock, who is still referred to by many Leeds supporters by an unaffectionate anagram of his name, seems to have run out of ideas. The style of play he has implemented on the team is out-dated, the long ball hoof being no-where near as effective as the ‘tippy-tappy’ pass-and-move style. In recent games, the Leeds faithful have cried “Warnock, change the team,” with the Leeds boss rarely making substitutions until the final minutes. Many saw the mid-week clash with Middlesbrough as a must win, yet Warnock’s lack on intent was questioned, by only making changes after the home side took the lead, in the 81st minute.

The decision to send Everton starlet Ross Barkley back to his parent club also baffled fans, a player who is said to go on to great things in the game, yet Warnock could not guarantee him games over the ageing Michael Brown.

In the FA Cup post-match interview, Warnock, who is contracted until the end of the current season, admitted the future of his job is dependent on promotion, but says he deserves a medal due to the background circumstances he has faced. Simon Grayson created a competitive decent Leeds outfit, even from the tiny funds from Bates’ tight fist, and he never complained. He claims to have brought ‘stability’ to the club, but Leeds are in a much worse situation in terms of the league positioning now than before he was appointed.

With play-off chances fading vastly, I only see one solution; Warnock needs to leave, now. His reign at Leeds has been built on false promises and poor results, and is now partnered with the loss of the fans’ faith. Although a top six finish is still mathematically possible, a new man needs to be at the helm.

With games still left of the season, a new manager would be able to assess the team and gain an idea of funds available from the clubs new owners, GFH Capital, for the next campaign. The likes of former Southampton boss Nigel Adkins, Swindon’s Paolo Di Canio and former Leeds assistant and current Brighton manager, Gus Poyet have all been touted for the role. All three would be a more popular choice than sticking with Warnock.

But for now, see thee later Neil, thanks for trying.

Written by Josh Westerman, We Are Going Up’s Leeds United blogger

Josh tweets @JoshuaWesterman

Warnock’s small changes could have a big effect

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

As a Leeds fan, the BBC’s The Four Year Plan documentary left two over-riding thoughts.

The first – if only.

If only a businessman such as Amit Bhatia and his investors resided in the boardroom at Elland Road, in place of the current regime. If only we had an ambitious owner with the ability to lure lucrative sponsors, rather than little-known ‘no win, no fee’ lawyers and a desire to develop a relationship between the club and its supporters, instead of dismissing any fan who criticises the owner as a ‘dissident’ or ‘moron’.

The second thought was a little more encouraging – Neil Warnock.

Walking through the corridors of QPR’s training ground on his first day, he gestured towards a sign on the dressing room door, which proclaimed ‘WINNERS ONLY’.

“We’ll have to take that off,” he said.

His first few months in charge at Loftus Road were about small changes, which had big effects. Aside from tweaking the playing staff, the vast majority of his success in keeping the club in the division came by instilling belief in his players. He seemingly received more commitment and passion from the squad than they had mustered during the club’s entire turbulent period of managerial changes.

The documentary aired during a time where Neil Warnock is attempting to save Leeds United’s season and lead the club on to similar success. A playing squad low on confidence, a defence near incapable of protecting a clean sheet and a group of supporters left disillusioned by an owner who threatens to leave them alienated from the club they love.

If Saturday’s performance against league-leaders Southampton was anything to go by, Warnock has already set about making changes, not only tactically, but also psychologically. Installing Robert Snodgrass as Leeds captain was something many supporters had expected Simon Grayson to do upon Jonny Howson’s departure. Aside from his sizable talent, Snodgrass encompasses everything a Leeds supporter demands from players – passion and pride.

Before Saturday’s fixture, Warnock had mentioned on a number of occasions that he wants to lead his side out to a packed-out Elland Road. The attendance fell well short last weekend, but if the side are capable of recreating one of the most exciting and promising performances since the 4-0 thrashing of Nottingham Forest several months back, those watching on Sky back at home will surely swap their sofas for the stands.

The result seemed irrelevant. Similarly, a 0-0 draw away at Hull City on Tuesday feels likes progress, as after many months of negativity and bitterness emanating from the chairman’s office and translating onto the pitch, the focus seems to be back on the football itself. The Elland Road crowd were back on side, producing the noise and the support with which the stadium is synonymous.

Campaigns by the LUFC Trust are as likely to continue as the chairman is likely to shift blame upon others in his programme notes, but for now at least, it’s exciting to have the focus, at least on a match day, back on winning games and taking steps towards getting back into the Premier League.

Written by Pete Allison, We Are Going Up’s Leeds United blogger

Pete tweets at @Pete_Allison

A flurry of new contracts is a reason for optimism

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

There are encouraging signs at Elland Road. Within days, Honduran international Ramon Nunez, academy-product and local boy Tom Lees and youngster Zac Thompson have all put pen to paper on deals to keep them at the club for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps at last, the club’s management have seen sense; throwing down the gauntlet to defend themselves from potential suitors of Leeds’ prized squad members. Throughout the years languishing in the depths of the Football League, the likes of Jermaine Beckford have slipped through Leeds’ fingers, seeking employment elsewhere as the clock ticks nearer to their contract expiration.

The fates of the recently departed is varied, with Bradley Johnson applying his trade regularly in the Premier League, while Neil Kilkenny is treading water at the foot of the Championship table with Bristol City. Neither may be considered a sizable loss to Simon Grayson’s starting XI, but it’s not the exit of talented players that’s frustrated Leeds fans over recent years – it’s missing out on transfer fees that could then be reinvested. Jermaine Beckford’s free switch to Everton was proceeded twelve months later by a £4 million move to join Sven’s revolution at Leicester City. Although their cash-happy owners have paid over the odds, it’s clear that the striker would have commanded a sizable fee had his contract not expired at Elland Road.

It’s encouraging to see something being done about tying down the club’s integral squad members. Max Gradel’s sudden demands to leave led Leeds to hurry through his departure before transfer deadline day, having accepted an underwhelming offer from overseas, or risk seeing him walk out of the club for free at the end of the season. Ramon Nunez’s impact early in the campaign softened the blow of Gradel’s exit – he fitted neatly in to the mould of a quick-footed attacking midfielder with an eye for goal, which would otherwise remain vacant in the first-team. Since Tom Lees was included in the side, particularly when playing at the heart of the defence rather than shifted out at right back, Leeds have looked relatively more competent against opponent’s attackers. Zac Thompson has seen little first-team action, but it’s nonetheless encouraging to see young talent at the club be rewarded with an extended deal.

In the club’s history, particularly under the stewardship of Howard Wilkinson, the academy has produced talent that has gone on to reach the upper reaches of English football. In recent years, the club has merely occasionally coughed up the odd gem. After a recent overhaul of the club’s academy staff, the tide could again be turning should the likes of Lees and Thompson fulfil their potential.

However, there’s one player whose contract is moving ominously close to its expiration. Club captain Jonny Howson has reportedly begun talks about extending his deal, but the rumours of wage demands and the club’s reluctance to break it’s regimental pay structure mean there’s a suspicious feeling of familiarity about suggestions of contract talks breaking down due to the club’s reluctance to increase wages.

The news of Nunez, Lees and Thompson’s contracts is welcome, but only with the announcement of a new deal for Howson will the club prove it has moved beyond it’s ill-fated period of losing out on vital transfer funds; a new contract for the local-boy-turned-good would be an indicator of Leeds’ new-found commitment to keeping their biggest talents.

Written by Pete Allison, We Are Going Up’s Leeds United blogger

Pete tweets at @Pete_Allison