We All Agree…

I was born in the 1960s and from a young age had a passionate interest in football. In 1972, my father decided to take me to a live football game for the first time and gave me the choice of either going to Elland Road, Leeds, to see United (recent F.A. cup winners, several double decker buses leaving from Barnsley Bus Station) or Oakwell (home of local team, Barnsley, within walking distance from the same bus station and struggling in the fourth division).

Not a difficult choice.

That day Leeds beat newly promoted Norwich City and gave a text book account of their great ball skills, solid defensive game and creative attacking flair.

Continue reading

Redfearn and Leeds

The last time I wrote an article about Leeds United was after Neil Redfearn’s last game in charge as caretaker manager (see https://twilightdawning.com/2014/09/25/ch-ch-changes-2) before Darko Milanic took over the reins for a brief period in charge  – which matched the length of appointment at Elland Road previously only associated with the dark days of David Hockaday, Brian Clough and Jock Stein.

Now Redfearn is back in permanent charge (whatever that means under Massimo Cellino – oh, sorry we’re meant to believe that he has no current involvement in the club’s decision-making process as he is an unfit person), I decided it was time to give another survey of how the team has changed and so I will do so concentrating my energies on the two recent home games against Watford (3-2 loss) and Ipswich (2-1 win). Let’s see what we can learn…

Continue reading

Ch..Ch..Changes

A visit to Elland Road these days requires that you buy a matchday programme. Not for some interesting half time reading … but in order to identify the players. The team (indeed the squad) has changed beyond recognition and many of the players are new to the UK. So being able to pick out the numbers on the shirts and check them against the list in the programme is the only way forward.

Continue reading

To ‘Ell And Back Again

And so the era of Simon Grayson’s management of Leeds United has passed and is now but a moment in history. Nothing surprising there but what has surprised is the way in which the appointment of Neil Warnock has seemingly, just for a moment, quietened the doubts of Leeds fans. His every word is rested upon and it seems he is indeed the Messiah or at least Moses come again, to lead us to the Promised Land of the Premiership.

Continue reading

Back at Elland Road…..

It’s 19 years since I was able to attend an opening home game at Elland Road, Leeds. It’s around that time that I moved to London from my Yorkshire home. It’s 38 years since the first time I attended an opening game there. I guess that me and Leeds United go back a long way. I always get back to Elland Road but it’s a long time since I’ve seen a game there in August.

Arriving at the ground, I was greeted by the bizarre sight of Nigel Clough (son of Brian) walking the Derby team from the bus towards the ground having insisted that the coach stopped on Elland Road itself for the players to walk the rest of the way. This brought echoes of the film "The Damned United" which I finally viewed a couple of weeks ago and which tells a very different story from the one which I remember growing up. It’s interesting that Nigel Clough was seeking to emulate something which the film says his Dad learnt from Don Revie many years ago but which several Leeds players including Peter Lorimer (who is one of the few Leeds players to have anything good to say about the film) say never actually happened. History, fiction, memory and incident all get intertwined as we get older but by any standards this is a peculiar twist of events.

There will be few Peter Lorimers on display in the Leeds team today but I’m guessing that Lash allowed himself a wry smile when the Derby fans tried to get the Leeds fans going by singing classics like "If you hate Don Revie, clap your hands" and "Brian Clough’s a footballing genius". Something odd about the tenses in both of those and the fans singing them could probably not have been alive when Clough and Revie were at the helms of today’s two sides.

So two teams haunted by their pasts and on this evidence Derby doing much better at trying to recapture glory days than Leeds. Derby went ahead through a goal from ex-Leeds striker, Rob Hulse. Luciano Becchio levelled things only for the referee and his assistant (who had exceptionally bad days) to give a dubious penalty to Derby which carried the three points out of Yorkshire as it ended the scoring.

So who was on duty for Leeds in Simon Grayson’s extensively re-tooled line up?

Goalkeeper: Kasper Schmeichel. A new signing from Notts County who proved a popular choice which might be surprising given that his dad filled a similar spot for arch-rivals Manchester United. Schmeichel was Leeds’ best player on the day with a crucial double-save at one point doing a lot to get the Leeds faithful on his side. After all, you don’t get to pick your parents.

Defence: Paul Connolly, playing on the right side of defence, 27 years of age and recently signed from Derby County! Connolly acquitted himself well particularly in the first half. He played with an arm heavily bandaged and strapped but didn’t seem to notice that too much. He defended well and was a good distributor of the ball.

Federico Bessone, another debutant. The Argentinian who moved from Swansea had a quiet game on the left side of the defence. He did little wrong but his work rate will need to improve if the defensive performance of the team is to do likewise.

Neill Collins who sent some time at Leeds on loan last season and has now joined them permanently, was paired with captain Richard Naylor in central defence. Perhaps it was that Collins was not in his best position but the two looked out of place against the lively and energetic Hulse and Commons. They were outclassed and over-matched with Collins perhaps enjoying the better performance of the pair.

Midfield: Leeds crammed the midfield and all the central midfield players performed well. Jonny Howson, Bradley Johnson and Neil Kilkenny all did their best to feed the wide players and to provide defensive help for those behind them. Unfortunately each of these players is more inclined to push forward which left those behind them a little exposed particularly since the defence was out-matched for speed.

Width was provided by loanee Sanchez Watt and new signing, Lloyd Sam. Sam who has joined the team from Charlton looked like he didn’t know quite where he was meant to be playing and he was the first of the Leeds team to be withdrawn to make room for Aidan White. Sam will have to show much greater confidence and application if he is to succeed in West Yorkshire. Watt did better but seemed a little lightweight and was too easily knocked off the ball. In the second half. Kilkenny was also substituted for another debutant and loan player, Adam Clayton. Clayton did okay but all the central midfield guys looked to have similar skills and with one of the wide players drifting through the game there was too little invention to feed the lone central attacker.

Attack: That lone central attacker was Luciano Becchio who also provided the lone Leeds goal and 90% of the opportunities that came Leeds’ way. He was asked to do too much and when eventually offered a partner in Mike Grella who replaced Howson after 86 minutes, it was expecting too much of his tired legs to take advantage of this very late, almost token, change.

So what does the season hold for Leeds? Despite today’s defeat I don’t think the season is going to be too bad. We have a lot of new players who will take time to find their feet and one another. With a few tweaks, some players back from injury and a lot of settling in, I would expect Leeds to finish in the top half. 

From Hallowe’en to Fireworks

Place: Elland Road, Leeds
Date: 31st October 2009
Event: Leeds United vs Yeovil Town

Leeds, coming off the back of a 4-0 victory over promotion rivals Bristol Rovers, were expected to dominate their next opponents easily. Yeovil Town securely in mid-table and not looking likely to go much higher, were not perceived to be the threat that the Pirates had been but half way through the game it all looked like it might go wrong. It looked like we might be on our way to a hallowe’en- flavoured nightmare.

Leeds had begun the game with Ankergren in goal. Higgs was still unavailable. Ankergren is not the safest pair of hands but their only other alternative is young Alan Martin. In defence, Patrick Kisnorbo and Richard Naylor are a solid pair in the centre of defence. Leigh Bromby, at right back, looked solid as a feeder down the wing to winger, Snodgrass but less comfortable when under pressure from the Yeovil forwards. Left back, Andy Hughes, is not in his most natural position in that slot but did reasonably well in a team that looked flat and uninspired.

Micky Doyle playing immediately in front of the central defenders did okay in the first half but Leeds needed more playmakers to feed the front pair. In a game where Leeds’ main tactic seemed to be to bypass the central midfield as they sought to hump it upfield hard and fast when they could not carry the ball down the flanks, Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson had really no role to play. Amazingly in the first half Leeds had gone in front but hardly looked like they deserved that lead.

Robert Snodgrass had been by far the brightest of the three forward players. Jermaine Beckford is, of course, a proven force but his partnership with Sam Vokes looks hardly worth the name. They look like someone needs to take them aside in the dressing room and introduce them. In the first half, they both sought to lead the line in their own way but, really, there was no interaction between them.

Beckford is lethal when he has the ball but does not impose himself or create space when he is off-the-ball. The players looked like they expected to win just by turning up. The goal when it had come on 42 minutes looked like the final touch had come from Beckford but later examination of video footage was to reveal that no contact was made and the goal belonged to Bradley Johnson.

The second half started in exactly the same vein and the crowd was growing quiet as that feeling that we were going to take this slender lead into the late stage of a game in which Yeovil might just grab a share began to develop.

And then on the hour came Simon Grayson’s masterstroke. In one moment, he showed why he is the mostly highly rated manager in the lower divisions. Leeds needed a big change in midfield and someone with spark and play-making skill and Grayson had just the move in mind.

In a double switch, he brought an end to this developing hallowe’en and gave us the fireworks a few days early. On came Neil Kilkenny to replace Michael Doyle who really was an unneeded presence on this occasion. Most significantly, Andrew Hughes was pulled off to make room for Max Gradel, a loan player who has come in from Leicester.

It was Gradel who was to prove the difference in taking this team from their flat first hour to a final third of the game when they tore Yeovil apart.

Gradel ran himself forward at every opportunity. He wrapped the defence in knots. He outpaced the full back to make the vital cross on numerous occasions and he wasn’t afraid to try a snapshot himself. Indeed, it was Gradel who with a goal of brilliant individuality made it 2-0. This came shortly after he had providing a dangerous opening for Beckford and shortly before he fed Howson for another chance.

Beckford and Vokes finally met when the former fed off the latter’s flick to give a three goal lead.

Shortly afterwards, Beckford the goalscorer made way for Tresor Kandol who was later to add a fourth goal.

There were even more fireworks after the final whistle when Kandol seemed to get a little too lively in exchanges with opponents. There had been other chances during the actual game and Leeds were unlucky not to make it more than four.

A jubilant crowd eventually moved away having forgotten the woeful beginning to this game. Leeds can’t afford to become complacent. Perhaps a permanent deal for man-of-the match, Gradel could provide an on-going spark that they were so sorely lacking in the first hour.

A Quiet Man and his Tiny Colour Movies

Thursday 29th of October
Leeds College of Music
John Foxx

Reviewing John Foxx, I have to declare a bias. There are very few musicians I would travel from London to Leeds to see whether I was writing a review or not. With Mr Foxx, I would comfortably travel twice that distance just for my own enjoyment.

Thursday night was not a concert but rather a film show with music. A few years ago, John began to develop a movie called "Tiny Colour Movies" from a selection of old Super8 films that he had gathered together from markets and attics. He added an evocative soundtrack and it became an hours fascinating experience. He has been playing it occasionally around the UK whilst tweaking it slightly before each showing to make it closer to the artistic vision that he had in mind.

Film of skyscrapers in New York, old Hollywood actors using keys to open doors, a naked 19 year old swimming around a car dumped at the bottom of a lake, members of families waving to their relatives…… it’s all here. It is not the stuff of today’s Hollywood Blockbusters and it is all the better for it. I suspect that the back story that Foxx has created of the various film makers and collectors is a lot of hokum but it creates a modern fiction from old inconsequential factual footage which is quite, quite charming.

After a twenty minute break, we return to the audiotorium to hear a section of the recent spoken word album "The Quiet Man". Foxx plays piano whilst the voice of an actor pre-recorded for radio is heard reading Foxx’s short story. We’re told a story of London gone wild for unknown reasons where the buildings are empty but intact except for the trees and flowers growing up the walls and through the carpets. The music is thoughtful and sparse, the accompanying film is provocative and interesting and the RP reading of the story keeps your attention.

Finally, VJ Karborn is invited to the stage to mix and sample images whilst John Foxx improvises a piano piece full of echo and resonance. The music is interesting but needs to be developed. It is difficult to see the theme in the images and no real narrative is established and this is the least satisfying of tonight’s performance.

The affable Mr Foxx then fields questions for twenty minutes talking about his inspirations, his plans for the future, slightly nerdy questions about synthesisers used 30 years ago and the sci-fi film Robot Monster.

A relaxed and thoughtful and quite beautiful evening’s activities. I’d travel to Leeds again for more of the same.

Live in Leeds

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.

Goalkeeper

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

Defence

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

Midfield

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

Attack

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

Substitutes

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

To Ell and Back

I’ve spent the last two weekends in Leeds so now seems as good a time as any to update on the fortunes of my football (soccer, I don’t understand American Football) club, Leeds United. On Saturday, we played Huddersfield Town in Football League One (old third division) in a game which because of the geographical nearness of the two opposing teams drew over 32,000 fans, making it the 5th best attended game in England on the day and 6th best attended in the whole of the UK. Only 4 premiership games , none in the Championship and only Glasgow Rangers’ home game in Scotland, had a larger crowd. Football, then, is very much alive and kicking in Leeds but the team is not what they once were. But the hard times seem to be lifting. Prior to the game, we were third in the division, compared to Huddersfield’s standing in 16th. Despite this apparent advantage and the promise that a win, in this early kick-off, would take Leeds to the top of the division (at least until later in the day), we managed to lose 2-1 as Huddersfield scored in the last minute. Leeds had taken the lead through Snodgrass in the 4th minute but couldn’t hold on to the lead despite having the lion’s share of the quality individual performances.

What did this game reveal about the team?

Goalkeeper

1. Casper Ankergren. Ankergren has been sharing ownership of the goalkeeper’s jersey with David Lucas despite being the hot favourite to be the regular between the posts at the start of the season. His momentous error which led to the first Huddersfield goal undid an otherwise reasonably solid performance and did nothing to guarantee he will be in the side in a week’s time.

Defence

2. Frazer Richardson. Long serving captain, Richardson, looked more confident pressing forward than in his defensive duties. He provided a good overlapping presence on the right side with winger, Robert Snodgrass and the two gave the Huddersfield full-back a torrid time in the first half.

19. Ben Parker. Left back is a problem position for Leeds and Parker is the current incumbent. Again, better going forward than anything else and the Huddersfield attackers could have made more of the Leeds’ lack of enthusiasm to work on the left, particularly in the first half.

6. Lubo Michalik. The Slovakian central defender is good in the air and clears his lines well but doesn’t contribute much more than that. He will do at this level but it is hard to see him continuing in the team if they were promoted to the Championship.

26. Paul Telfer. The 37 year old central defender looked out-paced and wobbly on Saturday. There are more capable defenders in the squad and it is hard to see why McAllister is favouring him.

Midfield.

4. Jonathan Douglas. Douglas looked a class apart from most of the others on the field for most of the game. The manager replaced him and Delph just at the point when we seemed to have Huddersfield pinned in their own half. His maturity and vision were outstanding but he is let down by a suspect temperament. Our hopes of winning disappeared when he was removed.

15. Fabian Delph. Delph has silky skills and is fast developing into a great young player. I’m not sure who was meant to be playing on the leftside of midfield on Saturday but nobody seemed to fancy that role. Delph, particularly, had a tendency to cut inside when he received the ball rather than being tempted to explore the left side of the pitch. Good game otherwise, if a little too easily knocked off the ball and another regrettable substitution in the late stages.

8. Neil Kilkenny. I spent most of half time trying to remember who was the 11th player on the Leeds side (there is no scoreboard at Elland Road at the moment!). Kilkenny was that invisible presence and, thankfully, he was removed early in the second half, having contributed nothing I could remember.

Forwards

18. Andy Robinson. Robinson played wide on the left side of the forward line. He suffered from lack of support and got himself needlessly cautioned. He has a tendency to appear a little lazy when disposessed and didn’t chase back well on Saturday. Having said that going forward, he appeared to be one of the more solid Leeds players and can shoot from distance.

23. Robert Snograss. Wide on the right, Snodgrass was Leeds’ best player on the day. He scored Leeds’ only goal. Skilful, with a good touch and willing to run at opponents with vigour, he was our brightest hope – particularly in the first half.

10. Luciano Becchio.
A lone central forward for most of the game, Becchio was persistent and solid. When Beckford was brought on, Becchio had more freedom, showed more flair and might have scored.

Substitutes

9. Jermaine Beckford. Top scorer, Beckford, entered the game very positively, early in the second half. In truth, he might have scored within minutes of his arrival. However, his contribution lessened after a couple of heavy challenges knocked him to the ground and the midfield line behind him was rearranged. The sooner he is fully match-fit and can start every game, the better.

7. David Prutton. Suffered by comparison with the players that he and Howson were required to replace, but in truth did well and looked sparky and bright. A poor free kick from him was our last scoring chance.

14. Jonathan Howson. Like Prutton, he was solid but not spectacular. Tried in difficult circumstances.

Unused substitutes: 12. David Lucas. 21 Enoch Showunmi

So a disappointing result before a large crowd. Danny Cadamarteri had something to prove when he came on as Huddersfield’s last substitute and he was responsible for single-handedly creating the chance which led to the second goal but the changes in midfield ended Leeds’ dominance and it wasn’t only the players on the field who had reason to blush.

This looks like another season when we will make the playoffs – and then anything can happen.

Maybe this lad could do a job for us – Lucas the Kop Kat turns away having slammed in a penalty during the warm-up

Darren & the late Billy Bremner