Monday, July 21, 2014

Big time beckons at Leeds for teenager Lewis Cook

Yorkshire Post 21/7/14
TEENAGER Lewis Cook marked himself out as Leeds United’s next academy success story as coach David Hockaday hinted that the 17-year-old will be in the thick of the forthcoming season.
Cook caught the eye with a consummate display in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Guiseley, leading Hockaday to admit that he is ready to blood the midfielder and other United youngsters when the Championship season starts next month.
Hockaday fielded Cook in his starting line-up at Nethermoor and the England youth international produced the pick of the performances in a tight and competitive pre-season friendly.
Cook’s reputation has grown in the past six months on account of his involvement in the England squad who won the European Under-17 Championship in May, and he was taken on United’s tour of Italy earlier this month.
He was one of three young professionals used by Hockaday at Nethermoor, with centre-back Ross Killock completing an hour and striker Lewis Walters featuring for the final 30 minutes.
Hockaday said: “If you chopped Lewis’ head off and put an older head on his shoulders, you wouldn’t be surprised.
“From what I’ve seen, he along with one or two others have a very good chance here. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with a lot of the younger players and I’ve got a history of giving young players a chance. If they’re good enough, they’ll get their opportunity.”
Cook, who is under contract at Elland Road for the next two years, played as the defensive tip of an experienced midfield diamond containing Michael Tonge, David Norris and new signing Tommaso Bianchi.
Hockaday gave two other foreign recruits – goalkeeper Marco Silvestri and forward Souleymane Doukara – an hour on the pitch at Nethermoor, and goals from Jason Pearce and Matt Smith snatched a late victory.
Watched by owner Massimo Cellino, United struggled to get on top of Guiseley and appeared to be heading for a goalless draw with the Conference North side until Pearce converted a free header five minutes from time.
Smith’s tap-in completed a 2-0 win in injury-time.
Hockaday conceded that the club’s new signings would need time and patience to settle in, saying: “They’ve got to acclimatise to the English culture, the language, the tempo of the games and what we’re looking for.
“Some of them will fly early doors and some might need a bit of time to walk before they run and fly so we’ll have to be patient. We need them to be ready for Millwall on August 9.”
Gaetano Berardi – the Swiss right-back signed by United from Sampdoria on Friday night – was eligible to play at Guiseley but only took part in the half-time warm-up with a view to making his debut at Mansfield Town tomorrow.v
“He came in on Friday and trained for the first time so he wasn’t ready,” Hockaday said.
“If we’d needed him in the last few minutes then we could have thrown him on.” Leeds are continuing to pursue the signature of 22-year-old midfielder Federico Viviani from Roma but Hockaday confirmed that trialist Andre Blackman will not be joining United.
Left-back Blackman began training with Leeds last month and travelled on their tour of Italy but he was not present at Thorp Arch last week.
“We had a look at him but it’s not right,” Hockaday said.
“We wish him well and we move on.”

Guiseley 0 Leeds United 2: Hockaday happy with friendly victory

Yorkshire Evening Post 21/7/14
by Phil Hay
The value for money at Nethermoor was in the seats beside Massimo Cellino. For 60 minutes in intimate surroundings, Leeds United’s owner gave a riotous running commentary to the sound of hysterical laughter and the smell of cigarette smoke.
Even Cellino’s animation ran out of steam as a stereotypical friendly between Leeds and Guiseley ground towards full-time but he was roused before the end by goals from Jason Pearce and Matt Smith.
This was not football as he dreams of it but pre-season rarely is – and few owners of United go looking for it at a non-league ground in West Yorkshire.
His predecessors were not inclined to attend matches with such a low profile.
At stages of last season it seemed hard enough dragging representatives of Gulf Finance House to games of much greater importance.
As he rocked and rolled at the back of Nethermoor’s main stand, you wondered how Cellino’s heart would put up with 46 league fixtures a season and all the stress surrounding them when a simple friendly caused such fervour and anxious chain-smoking.
Saturday’s friendly was a simple contest – tight and rusty, as games so often are this far out from the season – and while Cellino fizzed, Leeds kept their powder dry.
The Lions are four levels below United in the English pyramid but they were fit, disciplined and organised enough to keep the game goalless for 85 minutes.
Pearce eventually cracked them with a header from six yards and Smith put the result beyond doubt as referee Adrian Holmes prepared to blow up in injury-time.
In previous summers, Leeds have used non-league opponents – Guiseley, Farsley, York City and others – to start their pre-season schedules and in a sense, Saturday’s friendly was their first.
Guiseley are a Conference North side but a world away still from the village team beaten 16-0 by Hockaday’s squad in Italy or the Leeds-on-Leeds practice match arranged after Romanian club Viitorul Constanta pulled out of a scheduled game eight days ago.
“Guiseley are Conference standard, a good footballing team,” said Hockaday, who along with his players was taken by Cellino for lunch at an Italian restaurant in Leeds before kick-off.
“The game served its purpose because what I wanted was to dominate possession, keep a clean sheet and win the game.
“What we do with the ball is what we need to work on now but the basic culture of the team is different.
“We want to try and keep the ball but in the final third we need to get better.
“If we’d done that, we could have run out very comfortable winners. But winning isn’t the be-all and end-all of pre-season games. At the moment it’s about match fitness and coming through unscathed.”
Hockaday understands the scepticism caused by his appointment at Elland Road and has ridden through it without flinching but his promise of patient football – a promise made at his first press conference – was in evidence at Nethermoor.
That United’s football felt heavy and underwhelming did not change the fact that it was devoid of the anti-Christ which has come to be known as ‘hoofball’ in Leeds.
There is, all the same, plenty left for the club and Hockaday to iron out.
Eleven players completed an hour against Guiseley including three of United’s foreign signings.
Hockaday started and persisted with a diamond midfield, the formation which failed Brian McDermott last season.
Tom Lees took the armband from the outset and Pearce captained Leeds for the final half-hour.
There was no Dominic Poleon – sent instead to Garforth Town with the Under-21s – but 17-year-old Lewis Cook played from the start and stuck his head above others around him.
How much should anyone read into any of that? “Absolutely nothing,” Hockaday said.
“We’re having a look at lots of formations and combinations – people playing with different people to see if the chemistry’s right.
“We had Lees as captain in the first half and Pearce as captain in the second but we’ll give the captaincy to other people now and then see what’s what.
“In pre-season, every place has to be up for grabs. You can’t just say ‘on the back of last season, that’s your position.’
“Everyone is fighting for the jersey and fighting for it is the easy bit. The hard bit is keeping it.”
It is during the traditional jostling for position that pre-season usually throws up a surprise.
There is money already on Cook providing it. The teenager’s talent is an open secret at Thorp Arch – broadcast further afield by his role in England’s European Under-17 Championship-winning squad – but United’s support will look for him now, the next academy story.
Used as the hindmost point of the diamond on Saturday, his strengths were obvious: intelligence and energy in front of the defence and feet which can trap a ball like glue.
Cellino is said to have singled out Cook’s ability already Hockaday did not try to shield the midfielder afterwards. “I think highly of him,” Hockaday said. “Very highly.”
Twenty yards behind Cook, Marco Silvestri’s 60 minutes in goal amounted to a quiet hour in which he tipped a Danny Forrest shot over his bar but did little else.
Jake Lawlor should have opened the scoring early in the second half but dinked the ball around Silvestri’s right-hand post and the match lost its way at each end of the pitch.
In the last half-hour, Guiseley lost their way too. Leeds were annexing the home penalty area in the minutes before they finally scored. Width in Hockaday’s team came predominantly from left-back Charlie Taylor and his cross created the first meaningful chance which Steve Morison headed into the side-netting after 13 minutes. Morison was paired up front with Souleymane Doukara, a French recruit with the physique of Carlton Cole but more mobility about him. There were flickers of vision and movement from Doukara but quiet periods too. “He’s only trained for a day-and-a-half and it’s obvious that he isn’t match fit yet,” Hockaday said. “We wanted to start him and make it hard for him.”
Tommaso Bianchi, the midfielder brought to Leeds from Sassuolo two weeks ago, had much the same experience: involved in patches but passed out of the game in others. His shot on the half-hour – tipped away brilliantly by keeper Steve Drench – was as close as Leeds came to a goal until the final five minutes.
Hockaday withdrew his entire starting line-up around the hour and fresh legs took hold of the match.
Pearce was first to score on 85 minutes when Dench midjusged Aidan White’s corner and allowed the defender to head into an empty net, and Smith struck from point-blank in injury-time when Sam Byram rose above the combative standard to pick him out with a clever delivery.
“It’s a good foundation,” Hockaday said. “I’m happy with that.”
Guiseley: Drench, Holdsworth, Parker, Lowe, Hall, Lawlor, Brooksby, Stockdill, Boyes, Forrest, Rothery. Subs: Toulson, O Johnson, Harrison, Ible, Porritt, Crossley, Marshall, Walker, Scott.
Leeds United: Silvestri (S Taylor 60), Thompson (Byram 55), Lees (Wootton 60), Killock (Pearce 60), C Taylor (Warnock 60), Cook (Austin 60), Tonge (Murphy 60), Bianchi (White 60), Norris (Hunt 60), Morison (Walters 60), Doukara (Smith 60).

Leeds to meet with highly rated French striker

Vital Leeds 20/7/14
Leeds United are amongst the clubs chasing striker Andy Delort from French Ligue 2 side Tours.
Delort was the joint leading goalscorer in Ligue 2 last season with 24 goals in 36 games and la Nouvelle Republique (English translation) report that Delort is set to meet with Leeds in the next few days.
Spanish side Atletico Madrid are currently leading the chase to sign Delort with English Premier League side Southampton amongst a number of other clubs also reportedly showing an interest in the 22-year-old.
Leeds are keen to bring in a striker after the sale of Ross McCormack to Fulham earlier this month.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lewis Cook stars in Leeds United win

Club Call 20/7/14
Three of Leeds' summer signings started against Guiseley, but it was youngster Lewis Cook who starred in a 2-0 victory. The England Under-17 international pulled the strings in the Whites' midfield as coach Dave Hockaday played two line-ups - the first XI playing an hour. Marco Silvestri, Souleymane Doukara and Tommaso Bianchi were also involved from the off, while goalkeeper Stuart Taylor came on for the last 30 minutes. Jason Pearce headed home Aidy White's corner to put Leeds in front with just four minutes remaining before Matt Smith wrapped up the victory.

Leeds miss out on Swedish international Robin Quaison

Vital Leeds 20/7/14
Leeds United have missed out on Swedish international Robin Quaison after he joined Italian Serie A side Palermo.
The 20-year-old midfielder chose newly promoted Palermo after being recommended by new Leeds sporting director Nicola Salerno before his arrival at Elland Road.
Salerno was then keen to bring Quaison to Leeds but he has missed out after he signed a three-year deal with Palermo.
Quaison has made his name with Swedish side AIK and his form saw him called up by the Swedish national side, scoring two goals in four appearances.
Leeds were amongst a number of clubs to miss out on Quaison with Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam and Premier League Queens Park Rangers amongst the other clubs interested.

Young striker Robbie McDaid hits Leeds United hat-trick in rout

Vital Leeds 20/7/14
Young striker Robbie McDaid started his Leeds career off with a hat-trick as Leeds under-18`s beat York City 8-0 on Saturday.
McDaid signed for Leeds from Northern Ireland side Glenavon in the second half of last season. The 17-year-old striker stayed with Glenavon for the remainder of the season before joining up with Leeds at the start of pre-season.
McDaid has made ten senior career appearances already despite his tender age and he made a name for himself with Glenavon last season when he came off the bench with twenty minutes remaining to score twice in the 4-2 local derby win against Portadown.
His form brought him to the attention of Leeds, earning him a successful trial with the club, he has also represented his country at under-19 level in the past year, and he has started his Leeds career off with a bang thanks to his hat-trick at York.
The game also saw exciting young Zimbabwean Munyaradzi Mbanje score a hat-trick as the Leeds side, which contained a number of players from the under-16s thrashed York. Mulhern and Oduor were the other scorers for Leeds in the rout.
The under-21s also enjoyed a comfortable win beating Garforth Town 4-0. Leeds included Alex Cairns, Chris Dawson and Dominic Poleon with first team experience.
Leeds led 3-0 at the break thanks to Tom Lynan, Dominic Poleon and Kalvin Phillips before Piteu Crouz added a fourth from the penalty spot in the second half.
The future is looking bright for Leeds with fellow youngsters Sam Byram, Lewis Cook, Ross Killock, Lewis Walters, Charlie Taylor and Zac Thompson, who have come through the Leeds academy, on first team duty on Saturday as Leeds beat Guiseley 2-0.

Match report: Guiseley 0 Leeds United 2

Yorkshire Evening Post 19/7/14
by Phil Hay
An animated Massimo Cellino watched from the stands as Leeds United claimed a 2-0 win over non-league Guiseley at Nethermoor.
United’s Italian owner joined a crowd of 2,200 for a tight and even contest which played out in wet and humid conditions and was settled by late goals from Jason Pearce and Matt Smith.
Cellino had taken his players and staff out for lunch in Leeds prior to their first domestic friendly of the summer and Pearce and Smith delivered a victory in return after a long spell in which Guiseley frustrated United.
Head coach David Hockaday stretched the legs of his starting line-up by playing them for an hour, using new signings Marco Silvestri, Tommaso Bianchi and Souleymane Doukara from the outset.
Gaetano Berardi’s move from Sampdoria yesterday evening was processed too late for the Swiss right-back to play but he travelled with the squad to Nethermoor and could make his debut at Mansfield Town on Tuesday, the first of United’s friendlies against Football League opposition.
Guiseley are four rungs below Leeds in the English pyramid but this afternoon’s match was still the most competitive staged by the Championship club so far following a 16-0 rout of an amateur side in Italy last week and the cancellation of a planned meeting with Romanian side Vittorul Constanta.
Guiseley’s team included two familiar names - ex-Leeds left-back Ben Parker and Gavin Rothery, once a promising member of United’s academy at Thorp Arch - and the non-league side made a tight contest of the first half.
Leeds saw only two clear chances, with Steve Morison heading a Charlie Taylor cross into the side-netting and Bianchi forcing an excellent, one-handed save from Steve Drench with a curling shot from outside the box.
Danny Forrest could have scored at the other end, however, and his rising shot forced Silvestri to tip the ball over with his fingertips.
Jake Lawlor should have opened the scoring for Guiseley at the start of the second period but dinked the ball wide of an exposed goal and Silvestri stood up well to claim a rising effort from Rothery.
Doukara saw a rare chance deflected shortly before Hockaday introduced a different line-up for the last 30 minutes and Leeds were denied a penalty when Aidy White’s cross struck the arm of Ryan Toulson.
Lewis Walters almost snatched the opening goal when his strike on the turn on 74 minutes was beaten away by Drench but the keeper’s failure to read a corner from White on 85 minutes left Pearce with the task of heading into an empty net.
And Smith sealed the victory five minutes later when he ran in to covert Sam Byram’s cross from point-blank range.
Guiseley: Drench, Holdsworth, Parker, Lowe, Hall, Lawlor, Brooksby, Stockdill, Boyes, Forrest, Rothery. Subs: Toulson, O Johnson, Harrison, Ible, Porritt, Crossley, Marshall, Walker, Scott.
Leeds United: Silvestri (S Taylor 60), Thompson (Byram 55), Lees (Wootton 60), Killock (Pearce 60), C Taylor (Warnock 60), Cook (Austin 60), Tonge (Murphy 60), Bianchi (White 60), Norris (Hunt 60), Morison (Walters 60), Doukara (Smith 60).

Leeds Have Ended Giuseppe Bellusci Talks Reveals Nicola Salerno

Inside Futbol 19/7/14
Leeds United deal-maker Nicola Salerno has revealed that the Elland Road outfit have pulled out of the race to sign Catania defender Giuseppe Bellusci due to financial reasons.
The Championship side have been keen to snap up Bellusci from Catania, who were relegated from Serie A last season, but have struggled to push a deal over the line.
And now Salerno, who worked as sporting director at Cagliari with current Leeds owner Massimo Cellino, says a deal is off.
"We have discontinued the negotiations with Catania for the defender Bellusci, finding no economic agreement", Salerno explained to Itasportpress.
With Leeds having already brought in four players from the Italian market (goalkeeper Marco Silvestri, right-back Gaetano Berardi, midfielder Tommaso Bianchi and striker Souleymane Doukara) however, Salerno feels there is much to be pleased about with their transfer work.
"I think we can be satisfied with that", he added.
Leeds are not expected to slow down their recruitment though, with Cellino having promised as many as six further new faces before the transfer window slams shut for the summer.