Saturday, December 13, 2014

Leeds United v Fulham: Redfearn bemoans lack of quality in final third

Yorkshire Evening Post 13/12/14
LEEDS UNITED manager Neil Redfearn was left to bemoan a lack of cutting edge in the final third as his side frustratingly went down 1-0 to Fulham at Elland Road.
It was a day when it didn’t happen in the final third for Leeds, who suffered their second successive defeat following last weekend’s 4-1 loss at Ipswich.
Redfearn felt several of his players looked tired and he admits that he will consider freshening up his side ahead of the festive programme.
The only goal of the game arrived on the hour when Hugo Rodallega converted from close range.
On the result and performance, Redfearn, who admitted that he was unhappy that Rudy Austin pulled out just before kick-off with an ankle injury after he was named on the bench, said: “It is disappointing. I thought we lacked conviction like in previous home games, which have been good and we have looked dangerous in front of goal and had a cutting edge.
“But today, we huffed and puffed a bit, without having the quality to score.
“They rode theur luck a bit and defended well and got bodies in and we had an outstanding moment from (Alex) Mowatt’s header which was touched onto the bar. But for the amount of play we had in their final third, we needed more quality.”
Redfearn, who felt the performance of Sam Bryam was one of the main positives to take, added: “We looked a little bit anxious in the final third.
“We need to maybe look to freshen things up.
“One or two looked a bit jaded and ‘leggy’.”
Redfearn says the club medical staff will assess Stephen Warnock’s hamstring injury on Monday with the United captain substituted late on.
He added: “It’s his hamstring and might be a bit of tiredness as well. It is something we will assess on Monday.”

Leeds United: Redders planning new away strategy

Yorkshire Evening Post 13/12/14
Neil Redfearn is ready to change Leeds United’s approach to away games in a bid to rectify their poor run of form – but the club’s head coach says he will not give up on his commitment to building a “passing side”.
Redfearn admitted that United’s failure to pick up points away from home this season was demanding a rethink of his strategy and the 49-year-old thinks further additions to his squad are necessary to deliver more consistency.
Leeds suffered their seventh away defeat of the Championship term at Ipswich Town last weekend, losing 4-1 just seven days after a rousing win at home to league leaders Derby County, and Redfearn said the result had highlighted the need to “play a little differently” on the road.
Most of United’s points this season have been collected at Elland Road and United have not been beaten at home during Redfearn’s spell as full-time head coach or his four-game stint as caretaker earlier in the year.
Leeds’ squad has undergone sweeping changes since the end of last season, with 15 new players arriving during the summer transfer window, but Redfearn is looking for more resources to tweak his style away from home.
Any plans for recruitment are being complicated, however, by both the Football League disqualification hanging over owner Massimo Cellino and the expectation that Leeds will be hit with a transfer embargo in the January window, their punishment for breaking Financial Fair Play rules.
Redfearn, whose side were 16th in the league ahead of today’s clash with Fulham, said: “We have to look at things away from home. We might have to play a little bit differently away until we get into a position where we’re a little bit stronger in the league with a bit more about us.
“When you’re changing things round and changing a squad round, although it might be a big squad you’re not necessarily looking to involve all the players you’ve (inherited). Not if you’re looking to take the team in a different direction.
“But the message is clear. I see us as footballers. I see us as a passing side.
“We need to get some strength and steel in our performances, particularly away form home, but as I’ve said before that’s going to be a process.”
Redfearn is believed to be on the verge of finally securing an assistant, with Steve Thompson now expected to join from Huddersfield. United’s boss has been looking to bring Thompson in for the past month-and-a-half and an impasse appears to have broken following fresh talks between Cellino and Redfearn and an admission from Huddersfield that they no longer want compensation.
Redfearn stressed the importance of strong management at Leeds, saying: “It’s up to me and Massimo at the top to be tough.
“We’ve got make sure we send the right message and say the positive things the players need to here, to keep on down the right road.”

Leeds United: Loopholes may allow Whites to do deals - Hay

Yorkshire Evening Post 13/12/14
Leeds United will be hit by a transfer embargo – but it may not be an outright ban on signing players during the upcoming January transfer window.
Nothing at Leeds United is ever black or white. Massimo Cellino is proof of that. Will he sidestep his Football League ban or will this disqualification stick? Is he here for the foreseeable or is the club on the road to another sale?
Next month’s transfer embargo is equally devoid of clarity.
It’s coming – without question it’s coming – but the belief at Elland Road is that the January window will not be an entirely closed shop. It will not be a free market either but the scope for new signings could exist, in a certain fashion and at a certain price.
There’s a caveat to any conjecture about squad-building, forward planning or future objectives: the glaring possibility that Cellino will not escape the corner he is in.
Earlier this week he made it clear that he is prepared to resign from United’s board while he fights his disqualification.
The £23.5m injection he and Gulf Finance House announced as recently as last Thursday has been suspended pending the outcome of Cellino’s appeal.
Leeds cannot carry on regardless, presuming the net will untangle itself.
All the same, the club are speaking about transfers and thinking about the January window.
They won’t be free to deal as they please next month but there’s a heavy suggestion that the embargoes handed down by the Football League will be laced with loopholes.
In effect, Leeds expect to be able to make a small handful of signings.
That the club are destined for an embargo is not in dispute.
The Football League is yet to determine which sides are in breach of its Financial Fair Play rules but United’s accounts show a loss of almost £23m last season, a figure far in excess of the FFP limit.
No amount of clever accounting would fudge the issue and Leeds have not even tried. Part of the reason why 15 new players came to Elland Road in the summer window was because Cellino expected to have his hands tied in January, if not exactly in the way they are now.
The grey area which Leeds might seek to exploit is complicated.
They anticipate that in tandem with an embargo, the Football League will soften the impact by allowing clubs to maintain a squad of a certain size.
The players who count towards a set quota will not include any under the age of 21 or any who have made a small number of appearances this season (five, for the sake of argument).
As big as the squad at Elland Road is, there are numerous professionals who fall into one or both of those categories.
The club would almost certainly be prevented from paying fees for any signings but they suspect that the League will permit the arrival of players whose individual wage packages costs the club no more than £600,000 pro rata (around £300,000 at the midway point of the season). That sum equates to more than £10,000 a week.
Cellino is not in the habit of paying high wages.
The contracts he gives out tend to be incentivised – sweetened with goal bonuses and other add-ons.
Over the past month he and his sporting director, Nicola Salerno, have spent some time looking at the transfer market, despite the knowledge that an embargo is coming.
The Football League was asked by the YEP to explain how tightly its embargoes will be enforced and to clarify any loopholes or exemptions.
A spokesman said the “specific embargo arrangements” would be outlined to clubs once the League confirmed which of the 24 were in breach of FFP rules.
It remains to be seen whether the uncertainty surrounding Cellino leaves any real appetite for immediate investment in players but the club are being linked again with Leonardo Pavoletti, the Sassuolo striker who almost joined the club in the last hour of the summer transfer window.
Pavoletti is 6’2” and a variation on the forwards Leeds already have. United did not fight hard to keep Matt Smith at Elland Road but despite Cellino’s concerns about Smith’s agility and versatility, he suspected that Leeds might miss his height. United have a tall forward in Steve Morison but coach after coach is declining to play him. Mirco Antenucci, Souleymane Doukara and Billy Sharp have different strengths but much the same build.
In the context of United’s meek away form, variety is what they lack.
There is real promise in the squad at Elland Road, some natural ball-players and a healthy mentality, but the club lack bite away from their own stadium.
Tommaso Bianchi embodies that problem – in his element at Elland Road, more passive and fragile elsewhere.
Neil Redfearn has harder midfielders in Rudy Austin and Michael Tonge but you sense they are not the options he wants.
Jamaica international Austin is out of contract next summer and has not been offered a new deal and Championship rivals Brighton and Hove Albion are being credited with an interest in him again.
For United’s squad to evolve properly it needs the right tweaks at the right times.
Leeds have the numbers to cope with a quiet January but the club are not in a position – in the Championship or otherwise – where they can afford to stand still; not when their away record shows five points from 10 matches and everyone from the owner down knows the jigsaw is incomplete.
It feels churlish to think about new signings when so much is hazy and an embargo awaits but the plea is the same as every other day of the week – that in the midst of everything else, the football does not get entirely forgotten.
******
Much ado about Steve Thompson, the first-team coach at Huddersfield Town who has been waiting for more than a month to up sticks and join Leeds United.
He and Neil Redfearn are former Bolton team-mates and close friends – Thompson was best man at Redfearn’s wedding – and Redfearn, inset, singled him out as his preferred assistant as soon as Massimo Cellino named him as head coach on November 1. Since then people on both sides of West Yorkshire have been waiting for the appointment to happen and wondering why, six weeks on, the arrival of Thompson at Elland Road has become so protracted.
At the outset Huddersfield asked for compensation for Thompson. Leeds refused to pay, believing that he was largely surplus to requirements. Thompson was named as Huddersfield’s assistant by Mark Robins in June but Robins survived for only one game this season and Town are now in the hands of Chris Powell. Powell’s number two is Alex Dyer.
As time went on Huddersfield’s demands dropped and then gave way altogether. As Powell admitted at his weekly press conference on Thursday, Huddersfield’s board are now willing to allow Thompson to leave for nothing and told Leeds that more than a week ago. Meanwhile, up at Thorp Arch, Redfearn said he was still waiting for a deal to fall into place.
It made for a weird and unfathomable impasse but the YEP understands that later in the day Redfearn and Massimo Cellino discussed Thompson’s situation again and agreed to get the appointment finalised. Leeds have been drawing up a contract in readiness for the 50-year-old to sign. A straightforward job made strangely difficult but perhaps Redfearn finally has his man.
*******
There is irony aplenty in the list of potential winners of Sky Bet’s ‘transfer fund’ – a raffle which will award £250,000 to one lucky Football League club to spend in the January transfer window.
Leeds United have two supporters amongst the 10 competing for the cash on their club’s behalf.
A Nottingham Forest fan is also included. No matter the fact that both sides are heading for a transfer embargo and look likely to be prevented from doing much business next month.
Other Championship teams in with a shout might be better placed to use the money.
Wigan Athletic, Huddersfield Town, Cardiff City, Fulham and Watford were also selected at random for the shortlist.
The draw takes place at Wembley this Tuesday.
In a press release, Sky’s Jim White was quoted as saying: “You can only imagine how the chairman, manager and players of the winning club are going to react when they hear the news.”
That rather depends on the outcome.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Key appointment made at Elland Road - Club appoints new Chief Operating Officer

leedsunited.com 12/12/14
Leeds United are delighted to announce the appointment of Matt Child as the club's new Chief Operating Officer.
Matt comes from the telecoms industry having held senior positions in private equity backed companies.
Club president Massimo Cellino said: “I am delighted to announce the appointment of Matt Child as our new Chief Operating Officer. Matt will take immediate responsibility for the management and development of the day to day business. It is vitally important that we protect and enhance the future of the club and develop the most effective ‘off field’ team that we can”.
Matt Child said: “It’s clich├ęd but I’m genuinely honoured to represent the club. The opportunity to deliver value to your hometown team and city doesn’t happen that often, if at all, so when I was asked to step in there was only one answer. I have been involved for a few months behind the scenes and have been hugely impressed by the president's passion, commitment and will to win. We find ourselves in interesting times but as a Leeds fan I know only too well that we are often at our best when we have adversity to overcome. We have a number of big tasks ahead of us but if any club can do it, we can”.

Leeds United: Redfearn still waiting for Thompson agreement

Yorkshire Evening Post 12/12/14
Neil Redfearn’s pursuit of Steve Thompson remains up in the air despite Huddersfield Town admitting they are willing to allow their first-team coach to join Leeds United for no compensation.
Redfearn has been looking to appoint Thompson as his assistant at Elland Road for the past month-and-a-half but United’s head coach is still without a number two six games into the job.
Leeds and Huddersfield were initially at odds about compensation for Thompson, who joined Town’s staff as assistant to Mark Robins in the summer, but current manager Chris Powell revealed yesterday that the club were no longer seeking money in return for his services.
Asked about the planned appointment, Redfearn said: “The club know what I feel and the person I want. I’ve got to be patient.
“It does get frustrating but it’s important that it’s done the right way. We’ve got to respectful of other clubs.
“I’ve got a squad of 20 which I can manage and I’ve got good assistance in Matt Pears (fitness coach) and Neil Sullivan (goalkeeping coach). Some of the academy staff have mucked in too.
“At the moment it’s working but in an ideal scenario you’d have another body in.”

Leeds United: Bellusci is doubtful

Yorkshire Evening Post 12/12/14
Giuseppe Bellusci will undergo a fitness test this morning with the Leeds United defender fighting to be ready for tomorrow’s game against Fulham.
Bellusciis a doubt with the hamstring strain which kept him out of last weekend’s defeat to Ipswich Town but he will be given the chance prove his fitness during training at Thorp Arch today. The Italian centre-back is United’s only major concern and Jason Pearce will keep his place in the centre of Leeds’ defence if Bellusci fails to recover.
Head coach Neil Redfearn said: “I don’t think it’s a bad strain. There’s a tear but not a bad one. If he can get through everything (today) then we’ll consider him.”
Leeds were soundly beaten by Ipswich, losing 4-1 and suffering their seventh away defeat of the season, but Redfearn looks likely to stick with a similar starting line-up against Fulham, saying: “We’ve been playing well at home and I’m mindful of that. Sometimes you can make things worse by trying to make them better.”

Leeds United: Adryan’s keen to remain at Whites

Yorkshire Evening Post 12/12/14
by Phil Hay
Brazilian playmaker Adryan admitted last night that he wants his loan at Leeds United to become a permanent transfer next summer, saying he is ready for “a long time” at the club.
The 20-year-old revealed his plan to commit to an extended stay at Elland Road as he neared the halfway point of his season-long loan in Yorkshire.
Leeds took Adryan on a temporary basis from Flamengo in August, signing him in a complicated deal which saw the midfielder terminate an existing loan at Italian club Cagliari and then move immediately from Brazil to England.
At the time, United owner Massimo Cellino negotiated an option giving Leeds the right to take Adryan on a permanent basis at the end of this season.
The deal would cost United a fee of something in the region of £3m.
The Brazil Under-20 international is four months into his spell with Leeds and has settled comfortably into the club’s starting line-up since completing his league debut in October.
He will make his ninth first-team appearance at home to Fulham tomorrow.
Quotes attributed to Adryan two months ago appeared to suggest that the youngster would favour a return to his parent club when this season finished.
But speaking to the YEP, Adryan said: “I can’t say what will happen definitely but I want to stay. When the season finishes I hope I will be able to stay.
“I am happy here and I like the football. I would be happy to be here, to be in the team for a long time.”
Adryan waited almost seven weeks to make his debut for Leeds, featuring in a series of development squad matches after his transfer from Flamengo, but he was used for the first time in a 2-1 defeat at Rotherham United and has quickly become a fixture in United’s team.
Leeds’ head coach, Neil Redfearn, has used the Brazilian as a number 10, in behind two strikers, and Redfearn admitted last month that maximising Adryan’s flair and creativity would be crucial to his side’s success this season.
“He’s more aware of where to go and where to receive the ball now,” Redfearn said. “We need to get him in between the lines and shake him free.
“That’s down to other people’s movement. We’ve got to let him have that little bit of sugar and let him go and attack. If we do that then he’ll work the rest out – how to go past people, how to link in.”
Adryan has had a hand in several goals since his first appearance but is yet to score himself. He came closest during a 2-1 loss to Blackburn Rovers three weeks ago, denied by an alert save from goalkeeper Jason Steele.
The result at Ewood Park was one of seven away defeats inflicted on Leeds but the club have been more dangerous at Elland Road and they return to their own ground tomorrow for a meeting with struggling Fulham, the Championship’s pre-season title favourites.
“I want to score in the next game against Fulham,” Adryan said. “I hope I can.”

Insight on Leeds accounts: Did Fulham get the better deal on McCormack?

Yorkshire Post 11/12/14
THE chaotic accounts drawn up by Leeds United for the last financial year will be softened to an extent by money drawn from the transfer market shortly after the year’s end.
A loss of £23m in the 2013-14 accountancy period did not include cash accrued from the sale of Ross McCormack or Matt Smith, and for an injection of over £11m Leeds must be grateful. It equates to almost half of the club’s annual turnover.
A few months on from those transfers to Fulham, the debate can be had about which club struck the better deal. The strikers were United’s top scorers last season - McCormack with 29 goals, Smith with 13 - but Fulham travel to Elland Road this weekend with no great return to show for their investment.
There are two ways of judging the transfers - how badly Leeds have missed the pair, McCormack in particular, and how greatly Fulham have benefitted from paying £10.75m for the Scot and another £600,000 for Smith. They were over-the-odds fees, certainly in the case of McCormack, and signings made by a doomed manager in Felix Magath.
Where Fulham are concerned, their impact is self-evident. The club sent Smith on loan to Bristol City last month after less than 45 minutes of first-team football and a red card on his debut. McCormack has five goals to his name and only four of in the Championship. This time last season he was four short of 20.
For Magath, the impression made by his squad as a whole was fatally poor. Fulham sacked him midway through September, a time when the club were bottom of the league. The German voiced concerns about McCormack’s fitness when the striker signed from Leeds in July - a problem exacerbated by an unhappy summer in which McCormack fell out with United owner Massimo Cellino and missed most of pre-season prior to his transfer - but the forward has suffered from positional issues to.
McCormack thrived at the tip of United’s attack and was most content as an out-and-out striker. At Craven Cottage he has reverted to something resembling the number 10 role which former Leeds boss Brian McDermott asked of him without success. McCormack occupied that position through gritted teeth but was more effective and potent further up the field. At present, for Fulham, he has more assists than goals.
The squad at Elland Road changed so drastically over the summer that it would be simplistic to argue that Leeds are worse off without McCormack, but certain statistics suggest as much. The club have 10 points fewer than they did after 20 games last season. They are also eight goals down. On average United produced more chances and more shots on target with the 28-year-old in their line-up. Those were always likely to be side-effects of selling the Championship’s top scorer.
Where Smith was concerned, Leeds had no substitute for a player of his size. Cellino was perfectly willing to sanction his departure on transfer deadline day but if Leeds can find loopholes in their inevitable transfer embargo next month, the Italian will look for a forward in a similar mould - strong, imposing and blessed with the height which United as a team lack.
As compensation for McCormack, United signed Mirco Antenucci, a striker who scored his eighth goal of the season away at Ipswich last weekend. He and McCormack are comparable in many respects: possessing the same physique and pace, happiest playing off the shoulder and adept at sniffing for chances inside the box. McCormack’s game would still suit United’s style, just as Antenucci’s does.
The contrast in their contributions this season points again to the consequences of their differing roles. Antenucci has claimed more goals than McCormack and produced more shots on target, more efforts inside the box. McCormack is threatening from a longer range and his creation of chances is far in excess of Antenucci’s. It suggests that while the Italian is being used in his natural position, McCormack has been taken out of his. It remains to be seen whether Fulham give McCormack greater prominence at Elland Road on Saturday.
It was said during the summer that McCormack’s value would never exceed the near-£11m that Fulham were offering to pay for him. With Antenucci, whose transfer from Ternana is reported to have cost Leeds £1m, head coach Neil Redfearn sees ample room for improvement, even in a striker who turned 30 in September.
“I think he’s got better as the season’s gone on,” Redfearn said. “He impressed me right from the beginning but I still think he could play one or two different positions and open his mind to other things.
“He’s got so much going for him and his touch and awareness are unbelievable. Stick him in front of goal and he’ll finish. His understanding of that role has got better and better.”
That was McCormack’s talent last season: the knack of producing goals whenever Leeds needed them. By the end of the club’s 46th league game there was a remarkable statistic showing that United won only three matches in which the Scot failed to score. Cellino, nonetheless, claimed his tally of 29 was an anomaly. In Cellino’s view, McCormack’s entire career showed him to be a 15-goal-a-year player.
The two men parted on bad terms in July, disagreeing bitterly over the reasons for his transfer, and McCormack will be back at Elland Road for the first time this weekend. He has politely turned down interview requests, choosing to keep a low profile, but he will not go unnoticed on Saturday. “You’re worth what someone is willing to pay for you,” he said after joining Fulham. Leeds might still feel that the bargain was theirs.