A periodic update on the fortunes of my football team, Leeds United
When I first visited Elland Road in 1972, Leeds were the best team in the old Division one of the English Football League (what we would now call the Premiership). At that time, Cheltenham Town were in the old Southern League Division One (a non-league team, in short). Somewhere along the line, history changes things and now both teams are in the Football League, League One (third division, when I was a boy). All these name changes make it very hard to describe historical development in the life of football teams but to cut a long story short, they got much better, we got much worse.
On Saturday, we met at Elland Road. Cheltenham are struggling to stay in League One without much success (they are bottom of the table). Leeds are fighting to get out of League One without much success (we are well out of the automatic promotion places and four points below playoff qualification at the time that the game kicked off). Both teams could have used a win but in the end Leeds came out on top by a two-nil advantage. Jonny Howson, a player that I would have left out of the starting line-up, scored both goals. I was there and I’ll take a moment to review the performance of the Leeds team, player by player, and look at what I think this means for the future.
1. Casper Ankergren. Leeds United’s Danish goalkeeper is hardly the safest pair of hands in the division. He seems to lack confidence and seemed to be anticipating losing control of the ball – which he did on a couple of occasions. He conceded a goal which was disallowed but the clean sheet he maintained probably had more to do with Cheltenham’s ambition to play for the draw. 4/10
22. Andy Hughes. Injury to club captain Frazer Richardson left midfielder, Hughes, playing out of position at right back. An innocuous performance which saw him withdrawn in the first half. Nothing wrong here but not much right. 5/10
5. Rui Marques. The African central defender seems to have lost confidence since he was a target for some Premiership teams a year or two ago but he is faring much better now than he was at the tail end of Gary McAllister’s time as manager. He marshalled the limited resources he had around him well and made few mistakes. 6/10
36. Richard Naylor. Recent signing, Naylor is club captain in Richardson’s absence and there are whispers that might become permanent. Despite this Marques seemed the more significant influence on those around him. Naylor produced a solid but decidedly unspectacular performance. 5/10
19. Ben Parker. Injury and the end of Carl Dickinson’s loan period has handed the left back slot to Parker who is 21 and has some promise. On Saturday, he did enough but no more. 5/10
4. Jonathan Douglas. Douglas is probably capable of playing at a higher level but is temperament is a little suspect. He keeps the midfield organised allowing Delph room to roam and be creative. 6/10
15. Fabian Delph. Talk in the transfer window had Delph departing from the Premiership for anywhere from £2.5 million to £8 million and to anyone from Fulham to Arsenal. In the end, he went nowhere and to be honest, he is far from the finished article. His ball control is good and he is inventive and skilful but too many of his passes go astray. Having said this he is still far better than most of the meagre feast on display. 7/10
14. Jonny Howson. Two goal Howson skied a few other chances but didn’t seem to do very much else. A game to remember for him because of the goals but he will need much more than enthusiasm to stay in the team. 7/10
18. Andy Robinson. Ex-Swansea man, Robinson began wide on the left but moved to the right when Hughes left the field. Last time, I covered a Leeds game, I mentioned his suspect temperament and his tendency to drift out of the game. He has conquered the second of these. He looked like the most committed and dedicated man on the park on Saturday and he was involved in everything that was good about Leeds. However, he was also involved in a running battle with ex-Leeds man, Ian Westlake which saw him gain another yellow card. A player of real passion, skill and ability. 8/10
10. Lucian Becchio. The big Argentinian is at his best with his back to the goal, holding the ball and laying it off for his strike partner. Problem was that on Saturday, he was the only natural central attacker in the team. Options to partner him were Trundle and Grella who were on the bench for the majority of the game. Becchio though is determined and did well in less than ideal circumstances. 6/10
23. Robert Snodgrass. Better as a wideman, Snodgrass was drawn in a little to provide help for Becchio. This didn’t really work but Snodgrass still had a good game when he could use his speed and flair to good effect. 7/10
8. Neil Kilkenny. Usually out of favour under new manager Grayson, Kilkenny had most of the game to impress. However, used out of position, he was little in evidence in this game. 5/10
35. Lee Trundle. After missing a penalty against Hereford, Trundle (on loan from Bristol City) was left out of the starting eleven. In the short time he was on the field, he had a couple of chances and gave the impression that things might have been better if he’d have partnered Becchio from the beginning and Snodgrass had been given more room to get out on the flank. But then Howson would have been left on the bench so who knows……. 6/10
13. Mike Grella. Grella entered the game in time added on and touched the ball once. A pointless substitution.
I really don’t think this team is good enough to get us into the playoffs. When Jermaine Beckford returns from suspension, and provided he can remain fit, we will have a better chance but it will still be an outside one.
Another season in the third division (I can’t get away from the old terminology) seems a dire prospect but most likely. Perhaps then Grayson can add some new faces – permanent signings, please – and better times might lie ahead.
Sereyna (my daughter) and Darren
Lee Trundle and Sereyna