Wednesday, April 23, 2014

After Forest rout, McDermott readies summer cull at Leeds

Yorkshire Post 22/4/14
BRIAN McDermott admitted last night that a complete overhaul was needed at Leeds United after a trademark defeat to Nottingham Forest.
United’s manager will tell new club owner Massimo Cellino that major changes to his squad are required when the two men meet to discuss their plans for the summer later this week.
Cellino was not at Elland Road yesterday and missed a sorry 2-0 loss which United brought on themselves by conceding twice in the opening 16 minutes.
Two Matt Derbyshire goals in the early stages of the game condemned Leeds to yet another league defeat and prompted McDermott to concede that deep cuts were necessary before the start of next season.
Cellino, who secured control of United from Gulf Finance House earlier this month, is yet to indicate whether McDermott will definitely continue as manager next term but the Leeds boss has already drawn up a list of transfer targets and will present his strategy to Cellino in the coming days.
McDermott said repeated performances as weak and ineffective as yesterday’s meant the loss to Forest was “no accident”, saying: “That sums up the last three months – not the season because we started the season well and we were fifth at Christmas, but that sums up the last three months.
“We gave a couple of goals away early on and were chasing the game. We had a lot of possession but didn’t hurt them and that needs to be addressed in the summer.
“We need to plan for players, the squad and how we’re going to do things. We need to definitely look at players coming in and we’ve got changes to make to the squad, there’s no doubt about that. We need to address things.
“We’ve got a list of targets and we need to do deals.”
McDermott has two years remaining on his contract at Elland Road but no fewer than nine of his players are free agents in July and most look likely to leave after a grim campaign.
United have suffered 21 league defeats and the the club have two matches left, away at Birmingham City on Saturday and at home to Derby County seven days later.
Asked why United were so prone to caving in, McDermott said: “It keeps happening and because it keeps happening, it isn’t right.
“It’s happened too many times and if it keeps happening, you’ve got to change things.”

Leeds United 0 Nottingham Forest 2: Derbyshire’s double does for sorry Whites

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/4/14
by Phil Hay
Nottingham Forest have made an unholy mess of their season but now, at the last, they might salvage something from it.
For Leeds United there is nothing left to gain and little left to lose. League position, reputation and credibility went out with the bathwater weeks ago.
The cost of defeats is found in the manner of them and Leeds have been unrivalled in collapsing inwardly since Christmas.
Forest’s form has been equally dull but their results are not the same litany of hammerings.
Most Championship teams have the means of losing games without surrendering their dignity as well. At Elland Road, surrender is becoming second-nature.
Leeds were beaten at Forest four days after Christmas by a 20-yard bullet from Matt Derbyshire, a top-draw goal which gave his club the honour from a game they dominated throughout.
Derbyshire settled yesterday’s contest at Elland Road again but with none of the same brilliance, converting a gift of a chance after one minute and 32 seconds and scoring again 15 minutes later.
Gary Brazil, Forest’s caretaker, must have dreamt of that scenario on Sunday night.
The final weeks of the season bring their own, stressful pressure but Leeds were the team under a heavy weight yesterday, despite the fact that they will finish clear of the Championship’s relegation places and can climb no higher than 15th in their last two games.
The club’s new owner, Massimo Cellino, was not present at the game but he will travel to England from Miami this week with questions to ask not only of United’s week-to-week performances but of the club’s brittle psyche and fundamental failings.
Victories over Barnsley and Blackpool were, with hindsight, recorded against two of the poorest sides Leeds have encountered since August, and Forest were alive to United’s weak spots from the earliest seconds.
Derbyshire opened the scoring with their first attack and tucked away their second, leaving the visitors with 70-odd minutes to play out safely.
They put their backs to the wall in the second half and turned the contest into a defensive training exercise.
When these teams played at the City Ground in December, their respective coaches spent post-match talking about the play-offs – Billy Davies with more optimism than McDermott, admittedly.
The similarity now is the unmitigated shambles both clubs have become.
That Forest are still in contention for the top six after two wins from 15 games says so much about the way the Championship works.
Forest sacked Davies last month and McDermott’s survival at Leeds has been in spite of circumstances and results.
The first taste of foreign ownership was sour in Nottingham and Leeds, and this summer will be a time for lengthy reflection at both clubs.
In appointing Stuart Pearce as boss from July 1, Forest have at least given an indication of how their shortcomings will be addressed.
They are one of several Championship sides at risk of breaching the Football League’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules, but the legacy of their expenditure is a useful squad for Pearce to inherit.
The changes at Elland Road should be more vast and there was no experimentation from McDermott yesterday, no risk-free blooding of youngsters. Barring Ross McCormack, this season has slowly destroyed so many of his players.
Marius Zaliukas and Matt Smith dropped out of United’s line-up and Rudy Austin and Noel Hunt stepped in, taking Leeds back to their starting point this season the diamond midfield.
It let McDermott down back then and was cracked in no time yesterday, as Jamie Mackie threaded the ball through to Derbyshire in the second minute, inviting the striker to advance on goalkeeper Jack Butland and slot the ball past him.
It was apparent then that United were at risk of another hiding, as much because of their own ineptitude as Forest’s ability.
In the 16th minute, Scott Wootton lost possession outside his own box and Derbyshire made light work of rounding Butland neatly and guiding a shot into the net.
Game over, there and then.
The strategy of Brazil’s players never wavered and every one of their counter-attacks had United trailing backwards.
Derbyshire headed over from a yard out on the half-hour, flagged for offside but lost completely by McDermott’s defence as Leeds chased shadows.
When United were caught short of numbers again, Derbyshire and Jamie Paterson did them a favour by tackling and injuring each other.
The only convincing riposte was a free-kick from McCormack on 40 minutes, awarded on the edge of the box for handball against Mackie.
McCormack’s set-piece beat Dorus De Vries but whipped past the post, a fraction away from the striker’s 30th goal of the season. It is all Leeds have to aim for now, collectively and individually.
Their tactics yesterday seemed to stop with flighted, hopeful balls from the halfway-line, the sort of ploy used by Barnsley to ill-effect at Oakwell on Saturday.
Minus the tall presence of Matt Smith, the knockdowns were few and uninviting.
Forest mopped up everything and turned the crowd on McDermott’s players before half-time.
Yet again, the changes at the interval could have run to 11 but McDermott left his starting side to fight the scoreline.
A spell of pressure came as Forest took time to warm themselves up, and De Vries was lucky to see the ball roll into his hands after Luke Murphy’s shot caught the heels of Hunt.
The goalkeeper’s two-handed save from McCormack’s free-kick on 55 minutes was a sharp reaction, denying the only player who threatened to conjure something from nothing.
McDermott tried to find another by replacing Hunt with Smith on the hour, to the sound of more jeers at Hunt’s expense. McCormack whipped a difficult volley into the crowd and Wootton and Smith fared no better with similar opportunities as Forest dug in.
An effort from Tonge, also on the volley, flashed wide and a cross from substitute Danny Pugh clipped the crossbar.
They were desperate hits; pot-shots in the twilight of a season which really needs to end.
United have had their fill of it.

We Need Someone with Pace, Someone to Create – Leeds Manager Brian McDermott

Inside Futbol 21/4/14
Leeds United require someone who can run at and beat players, manager Brian McDermott has admitted, following the club's 2-0 home defeat against Nottingham Forest today.
The defeat left Leeds sitting 16th in the Championship table and thoughts have quickly turned to next season, with McDermott explaining he has a meeting scheduled this week to discuss potential transfer targets.
And the former Reading boss is clear about the type of player he feels Leeds are lacking at present.
"No, [we haven't got anyone who can go by people]. I think that's something we need to address in the summer time", McDermott explained to LUTV.
"We need some pace in the team", he continued.
"When they were 2-0 up they just sat back in there.
"We need someone who can create something, make something happen and use their pace and I don't think we had that in the team today."
However, McDermott was in no mood to blast his players for the shift they put in against Forest at Elland Road.
"We couldn't criticise for effort and endeavour", he concluded.

Leeds 0-2 Nottingham Forest: Derbyshire double keeps Brazil's side in play-off hunt

Mail 21/4/14
Matt Derbyshire's two-goal salvo kept Nottingham Forest's Sky Bet Championship play-off hopes alive as Leeds' mini-revival spluttered to a halt.
Derbyshire has only started six games this season but his Saturday goal against Birmingham ended Forest's 13-match winless run and the former Blackburn striker's rich vein of form continued at a subdued Elland Road.
With a visit to Bournemouth and a home task against Brighton to come, Forest are just one point outside the top six after winning 2-0 in West Yorkshire.
They made a dream start with two goals from Derbyshire in the first 16 minutes.
The game was just one minute and 32 seconds old when Scotland international Jamie Mackie threaded the ball through the centre of the Leeds defence to Derbyshire, who took it forward before picking his spot.
Forest doubled their lead when Derbyshire took advantage of a slip-up by Leeds defender Scott Wootton by clipping an angled shot past Jack Butland from 12 yards.
It was a painful wake-up call for Leeds who had won their last two matches, albeit against strugglers Blackpool and Barnsley.
Derbyshire, who scored Forest's winner against Leeds in December, escaped his marker again before heading just over the bar and, with Forest very much on top, Butland had his hands stung by Stephen McLaughlin's speculative shot from 30 yards.
There was anxiety for Forest when Derbyshire and Jamie Paterson needed lengthy treatment after a collision but they recovered sufficiently to carry on.
Five minutes before the interval Leeds' top scorer Ross McCormack was inches away from netting his 30th goal of the season in all competitions.
Mackie handled just outside the penalty box and McCormack's rasping free-kick zipped fractionally outside the near post.
Leeds' defence remained vulnerable and Butland had to move smartly to his left to hold Osborn's low drive from distance.
Leeds needed to summon a massive improvement in the second half and they began with more purpose.
Rodolph Austin had a shot blocked in the goalmouth, Luke Murphy's deflected effort made keeper Dorus De Vries change direction to save and the keeper then did well to claw McCormack's bending free-kick round a post.
Matt Smith's arrival from the bench in place of Noel Hunt drew approval from the home crowd on the hour mark and Leeds later brought on Danny Pugh and young midfielder Alex Mowatt in the hope of turning the game round.
Leeds enjoyed more possession in the second half but Forest's defence proved hard to break down, with Leeds lacking genuine quality which can only be rectified by summer recruitment.
Forest replaced injured keeper De Vries with Bulgarian Dimitar Evtimov 10 minutes from the end and he made a smart save from Smith's stoppage-time header.

Monday, April 21, 2014

McCormack will shun Premiership offers to stay at Leeds

Yorkshire Post 21/4/14
ROSS McCormack moved to the brink of 30 goals for the season with a classy winner at Barnsley and then played down talk of a summer transfer to the Premier League by saying he would extend his deal with Leeds United if the club put an offer in front of him.
The Scotland international continued his exceptional campaign with a 29th goal at Oakwell on Saturday, earning Leeds a 1-0 victory and taking himself to the verge of a rare landmark.
McCormack stands to become only the second Leeds player in 22 years to hit 30 goals in a single season and he is two strikes away from reaching that figure in league games alone – a feat last achieved by John Charles in the 1950s. The 27-year-old’s form has bucked the trend of a poor term for United and increased the prospect of top-flight sides tabling bids for him when the FIFA transfer window opens next month.
McCormack signed a new four-year contract at Elland Road last August following a concerted attempt by Middlesbrough to sign him and he was the subject of approaches from West Ham United and Cardiff City in January.
But he indicated that he was willing to remain with United in the Championship, saying: “I’ve got a couple of years left on my contract and whether the new owner (Massimo Cellino) wants me to extend that or whatever, that’s up to him. If he puts a contract in front of me to sign, I’ll be part of this new regime and hopefully take the club forward.”
Manager Brian McDermott conceded last week that close-season offers for McCormack were inevitable but he is hopeful the United captain will stay at Elland Road next season.
McDermott said: “We all want to be in the Premier League. Everyone does. Every player should want to play in the Premier League but we all want to do it with Leeds.”
A 16th-minute effort from McCormack was enough to settle an unremarkable derby. The result redeemed a series of poor defeats suffered by Leeds at Oakwell in recent seasons and McCormack said: “Personally I’ve been here a few times and we’ve rolled over. That’s not good enough for a club of this size. On this occasion we rolled our sleeves up.”

Barnsley 0 Leeds United 1: McCormack’s gem edges Tykes to brink

Yorkshire Evening Post 21/4/14
by Phil Hay
Leeds United are bigger than Ross McCormack and so is the summer in front of them but the club will be built from the ground up if the Scot decides to hang his hat elsewhere.
Players come and go from Elland Road but 30-goal strikers don’t pass through Leeds often.
United have had two in the past 40 years and that bare fact alone is all the warning Massimo Cellino needs about the risk of flogging McCormack before his first season as owner begins.
There are other forwards in circulation and McCormack’s price tag has an upper limit but instincts like his is rare and effective.
When Jermaine Beckford cut loose in 2010, Leeds won promotion. When Lee Chapman did likewise in 1992, they won the first division.
That McCormack’s strike rate – one short of 30 with three games to play – has done nothing more than fend off relegation is another way of telling Cellino that he has little else to cling to. McCormack is his asset, the clean patch on a blemished canvas.
The striker reached 29 goals for the season at Barnsley on Saturday and this evening’s game against Nottingham Forest gives him the chance of a 30th.
A brace would make McCormack the first Leeds player since John Charles to amass that total in league fixtures, a comparison which harks back to the days of black-and-white photographs and arguably the finest footballer ever to wear United’s badge.
“It’s good to be talked about in the same breath as someone like John Charles,” McCormack said after his winner at Oakwell. “I’m definitely looking to get two goals.
“It would be a nice personal end to the season after everything that’s gone on. It’s not been easy.”
A trying season would have been blacker without him; perhaps as dire as the Tykes’ is turning out to be.
The South Yorkshire club are as good as relegated after Saturday’s 1-0 loss and it is only because of McCormack’s finishing that United are in no danger of joining them in League One.
United have won two league games without the help of a goal from their leading scorer, two league games in a season of 43.
It could not be said that his form has been wasted when Leeds sit far beyond the Championship’s bottom three but as Beckford, Chapman and Charles showed, there is more to be made of a striker so prolific.
Cellino showed his appreciation of that when he stonewalled a bid for McCormack from Cardiff City late in the January transfer window.
“We are where we are and the bottom line is we’ve not been good enough,” McCormack said.
“At the end of the day, the league doesn’t lie and we are where we are because of performanceson the pitch – regardless of what went on with ownership and what went on in January with the takeover.
“We were fifth up to Christmas with a fighting chance and we should have added a few people to the squad and had a right go at the play-offs.
“It wasn’t to be and everyone in the dressing room regrets the season but the beauty of football is that you always get a chance to put it right.”
The club’s manager, Brian McDermott, is tempted to think that the turnaround is underway after back-to-back wins over Barnsley and Blackpool and two clean sheets for good measure.
The past 10 days have been a sharp relief for a club who were beset by their own disorganisation, tempered only by the realisation that the teams beaten by McDermott’s squad were as poor as the Championship has to offer.
Blackpool looked like a team on the way to League One last weekend and Barnsley are cut from the same cloth, seemingly doomed after McCormack’s 16th-minute goal – a wonderful slick strike – freed Leeds from the hell that Oakwell had become.
Viciously battered on their last three visits there, United found peace by quietly murdering a Barnsley team whose poise and direction deserted them.
If relegation shows in a side’s body language, Danny Wilson’s squad were down with 10 minutes to go.
“It was a poor game,” Wilson said later. “A typical derby minus goalmouth action.” His summary was fair. Barnsley extinguished their own threat with useless long balls towards Chris O’Grady and hoofed passes down the throats of three grateful centre-backs. The combination of Michael Brown, Michael Tonge and Luke Murphy smashed Barnsley’s midfield.
The pressure translated into a single goal and few chances but it gave Leeds a calm experience on a ground where they are used to being tortured.
“We haven’t won here since 1997 apparently and I’m glad no-one told me that before the game,” McDermott said.
“It was settled by a piece of real quality from Ross and after that, I thought we deserved the win. It was a tough day, very windy, and Barnsley needed to win that game but we wanted to win it too. That’s two clean sheets in a row now and I’m delighted.”
McCormack took his goal with a blink-of-the-eye finish, turning his marker on the edge of the box by flicking Matt Smith’s header over his shoulder and sweeping the ball past Luke Steele with his left foot.
In 90 minutes plus five of stoppage-time, the other moments which counted as chances could have been saved by any member of the crowd. Several of the more wayward shots required supporters to fish the ball from row Z. Butland plucked headers from O’Grady and Dale Jennings from the air during the second half but the protection of United’s goalkeeper was rigid and unusually disciplined.
He will wonder where that defence was during the worst of his loan at Elland Road. Wilson tried to shake the derby into life by introducing Paddy McCourt and Nick Proschwitz from the bench but both were passengers, and Barnsley’s well was as empty as Oakwell when full-time came.
McDermott spoke at length about McCormack afterwards, describing him as a “match-winner”.
“You get players who score three or four goals in a 5-1 win but he gets the goal that wins a game 1-0 or 2-1,” McDermott said. The striker has done it countless times for this season, a light in the gloom at Elland Road. The task for United now is to convince him that another year in Leeds is worth his while.

Leeds United: McCormack’s keen to stay at Elland Road

Yorkshire Evening Post 21/4/14
by Phil Hay
Ross McCormack moved to the brink of 30 goals for the season with a classy winner at Barnsley and then played down talk of a summer transfer to the Premier League by saying he would extend his deal with Leeds United if the club put an offer in front of him.
The Scotland international continued his exceptional campaign with a 29th goal at Oakwell on Saturday, earning Leeds a 1-0 victory and taking himself to the verge of a rare landmark.
McCormack stands to become only the second Leeds player in 22 years to hit 30 goals in a single season and he is two strikes away from reaching that figure in league games alone – a feat last achieved by John Charles in the 1950s. The 27-year-old’s form has bucked the trend of a poor term for United and increased the prospect of top-flight sides tabling bids for him when the FIFA transfer window opens next month.
McCormack signed a new four-year contract at Elland Road last August following a concerted attempt by Middlesbrough to sign him and he was the subject of approaches from West Ham United and Cardiff City in January.
But he indicated that he was willing to remain with United in the Championship, saying: “I’ve got a couple of years left on my contract and whether the new owner (Massimo Cellino) wants me to extend that or whatever, that’s up to him. If he puts a contract in front of me to sign, I’ll be part of this new regime and hopefully take the club forward.”
Manager Brian McDermott conceded last week that close-season offers for McCormack were inevitable but he is hopeful the United captain will stay at Elland Road next season.
McDermott said: “We all want to be in the Premier League. Everyone does. Every player should want to play in the Premier League but we all want to do it with Leeds.”
A 16th-minute effort from McCormack was enough to settle an unremarkable derby. The result redeemed a series of poor defeats suffered by Leeds at Oakwell in recent seasons and McCormack said: “Personally I’ve been here a few times and we’ve rolled over. That’s not good enough for a club of this size. On this occasion we rolled our sleeves up.”

Leeds United: Stability is reflected in results says McDermott

Yorkshire Evening Post 21/4/14
by Phil Hay
Brian McDermott welcomed the return of calm to Leeds United after his players claimed an overdue win at Barnsley and recorded back-to-back victories for the first time since his reinstatement as manager in February.
McDermott said United were settling back into the motions of a normal, organised club ahead of discussions with new owner Massimo Cellino about the future of the squad at Elland Road.
The Leeds boss will sit down with Cellino in the coming days to begin compiling a retained list and start the process of rebuilding a team whose disappointing form ruled them out of contention for the Championship play-offs several weeks ago.
United’s 1-0 win over Barnsley on Saturday, following on from a defeat of Blackpool seven days earlier, gave their points tally more respectability but the club lie 16th in the table with three games to play.
They host Nottingham Forest in a televised match at Elland Road this evening.
McDermott is preparing himself for a summer of substantial changes with Cellino in charge – a close-season in which his own job might be threatened – but he said the Italian’s 75 per cent takeover of Leeds had revived a depressed and unhappy club and helped to turn his team’s form for the better. The Italian’s multi-million buy-out of Gulf Finance House came after the collapse of a previous takeover bid and a failed attempt by the Football League to disqualify Cellino from taking charge of United.
The confusion and uncertainty led to a serious financial crisis last month in which a six-figure tax bill went unpaid and McDermott and his players were forced to defer wages.
“You can never say for sure whether it affected the results but I know there’s a different air around the place,” McDermott said.
“You can see that. There’s a different air around the training ground and the players have got a couple of results now. Call it a coincidence if you like bt we’ll see.
“I’ve been banging on about the need for stability and we’ve got that now because the ownership is done. It’s sorted out.
“There weren’t any stories coming out of Elland Road this week. The only story was playing the game at Barnsley. We can all look forward now.”
Ross McCormack’s 29th goal of the season ended United’s appalling sequence of results at Oakwell, among them a 5-2 defeat in 2011 and a 4-1 loss in 2012. Saturday’s victory – their first away to Barnsley since 1997 – left Danny Wilson’s squad on the brink of relegation.
Leeds last won two matches in succession at the start of February, beating Huddersfield Town at Elland Road before claiming a 2-1 victory at Yeovil Town seven days later. McDermott missed the first of those matches after Cellino tried to sack him on the final day of the January transfer window.
McDermott reclaimed his job 48 hours later but those events have hung over him ever since, begging the question of whether Cellino – with Leeds finally under his control – will seek to change manager in the summer.
Wins over Blackpool and Barnsley have strengthened McDermott’s position slightly but the Leeds boss said: “I never worry about my own future.
“I always do the best I can and I’ve done the best I can in the last three months – and the year I’ve been at Leeds.
“I might look back at these last three months and say actually, I did pretty well to dig in. I’ve certainly had to do that.”
United’s meeting with Forest tonight looked destined to be a dead rubber a week ago but results over the weekend combined with Forest’s victory against Birmingham City have kept them within touching distance of the play-offs.
McDermott is likely to be forced into at least one change after defender Marius Zaliukas limped out of Saturday’s win at Oakwell with a calf strain.