Monday, November 13, 2006

Leeds Current State Part 1

Well I rarely post these days despite there being many things to say about many things. I am making this post at the request of Michael Nemman who asked me to make a post on what is happening at Leeds. Maybe he just wants to send me further into the abyss! Anyway- this is just for you Michael: my sole blog reader lol.

It'll be quite short too. I can't be bothered writing as much as the topic deserves!

Leeds United: Play off finalists to relegation dwellers. How the tides have changed. Why has it happened, and what about the future?

Part 1

The first point that must be noted is that Leeds had a very average end of last season, meaning that any realistic chance we had of catching Sheff Utd up for the automatic promotion place was scuppered pretty quick. We were in too strong a position from earlier in the season to miss out on the playoffs though. Kevin Blackwell had proved the previous season that he was not very good when it came to the home straight. We did manage to get the 'job done' in the Semis against Preston but the NZ televised final was abysmal. Despite having high calibre strikers Hulse, Healy, Blake, Cresswell (suspended) we played one man up front (Hulse) and packed the midfield with 5 men, mainly defensive minded. Blackwell decided that with Butler back from injury, and Crainey (leftback) suspended - to put Butts in central defence with Gregan and put Killa on the left. So to accommodate Butler who is average we had to put our best defender at leftback, and play the two old men in central defence together. Madness. We were shellshocked. Our tactics were far too defensive, and were well beaten by a fresh, hungry Watford we had out-performed earlier in the season, and managed by Aidy Boothroyd, who had been Blackwell's right hand man until he left for down south. Hulse had no service. He had been scoring infrequently during the second half of the season, some said he was carrying an injury but it certainly wasn't helped by a lack of service from midfield.

So post playoff final blues carried on into next season. We have had our worst ever start to a season. What happened.

Had our squad been severely weakened? No.

We had lost the quality Hulse to Sheff Utd for a profit, but we still had the quality Healy, Blake, the relatively new Beckford snatched from the Rymans League and Mooro who few Leeds fans rated. In Midfield we let Douglas and Miller back to the teams who loaned them out (Blackburn Rovers and Man Utd respectively) but neither had set the world alight. We also got in Westlake from Ipswich who had a good reputation and the quality Nicholls from Luton. Stone was back from a season long injury too. Although he was to pick up early injuries.

And in defence we had pretty much a back four we'd played a lot with: Kelly, Butler, Killa, Crainey (Gregan to step in as back up regularly). We had lost Harding, Pugh and Walton but they'd rarely played anyway despite the fact some of them maybe should. Harding we made a loss on after paying over the odds for him in the first place due to tribunal, and Pugh wasn't given enough of a chance and went for a pittance. Walton - local lad - was off for half a mill to Charlton (who promptly loaned him to Ipswich), he'd been played a few times in midfield even though he was really a central defender. But this defence we'd played with a lot became shaky. Crainey has always been castigated by the Elland Road faithful and some blamed him.

We had some close losses and after a poor start Ken Bates acted: sacking Blackwell.

Let's analyse this a little further.

Last season we had had some lucky wins, we had picked up points which suggested we had overachieved. We didn't play as well as our points total suggested. It seemed that this season the luck was being turned on its head. Close wins had become close losses. It seems Blackwell hadn't become useless overnight.

It's all about momentum. We started badly. We got into a malaise. Our confidence was down, our rhythm was affected. Butler was also, it became apparent, a poison. Supposedly our captain he was the main man who created internal ructions in the team. The big incident surrounding a golfing trip but I'm not going to post hearsay here. Let's just say reliable sources point to Butler as a poison. And yet Blackwell loved Butler, always picking him, getting help from him for selections. The Blackwell Butler love-in really affected the team. Blake was heard muttering in public about how we needed a new manager.

I thank Blackwell for what he did. He took a poisoned chalice of a job, worked hard, stabilised us in the first season of relegation, and took us to the playoff final in our second season. He's a good man and I'm grateful for his work. I like the fella. But perhaps he's not right for the manager of Leeds.

His mistakes? The Butler love-in to start with. Also - his love of playing seasoned journeymen. He was always reticent to play the youth and when he did he was too quick to criticise them. He didn't seem to apply the adage: 'if you're old enough you're good enough'. He also lacked some man management skills. And there were certain players he didn't play who we were crying out to play. Matthew Spring hardly had a look in and he went on to play a major role in Watford's successful season and is now succeeding in the Premier League. The same could be said of Marlon King who we loaned from Notts Forest. Also Danny Pugh. And he shot Harding's confidence.

So yes, Blackwell certainly had his flaws but he also had his plusses, namely he'd made a good few signings like Derry. Indications he was more of a coach than a manager.

He also played 4-5-1 a lot. Many fans castigated him for this. They were gagging for 4-4-2. However under John Carver as caretaker manager 4-4-2 didn't work. We may have started with a great 3-2 over Birmingham but then received a few poundings. Perhaps Blackwell was right to play his 4-5-1. We would be tight and we would win more than we lost. Last season we were lucky on a few occasions, this season under Blacky we were unlucky instead. So Carver the new Caretaker Manager failed. He presided over some shocking displays and Bates hand was forced again.

Part two to follow...I need a break from writing this...


Mike said...

Do ya reckon Leeds United can get back up to the top half of the Championship?? or will they be involved in a relegation scrap for the rest of the season? I'd love to see Leeds back up personally, always had a soft spot for the Elland Road faithful lol.

William Fussey said...

That depends. I would like to think we can get into the top half but there's a lot of hard work to go. A huge amount depends on what occurs in the January transfer window.