Monday, December 27, 2010

Daily Mail 26/12/10
Leicester 2 Leeds 2: Foxes dig in to deny Championship high-flyers the points
By Janine Self

Simon Grayson reached for the manual of positive thinking as he tried to find an explanation for the win that got away.
So the Leeds players performed well, showed character, were in full control and, naturally, are 'disappointed'.
Management speak. In fact, Leeds squandered a two-goal lead in five destructive minutes, swapping a win for a draw and dropping down to third in the table as well.
When boss Grayson sits down next summer to review the season, he will find Leicester filed under N for nuisance, despite the happy years he spent at the club as a player.
Leeds have failed on three occasions to better their Midlands rivals even though they might have thought this would be third time lucky when former City winger Max Gradel grabbed his seventh goal of the season.
Gradel left the Walkers Stadium last year and insisted in the build-up that the last thing on his mind was revenge. But he looked the picture of happiness after heading Neil Kilkenny's cross past Chris Kirkland in the 19th minute.
Robert Snodgrass extended the lead 10 minutes into the second half, taking advantage of hesitation by Curtis Davies, and there seemed no way back for the home side.
But Snodgrass inadvertently opened the door to a comeback when he slipped, Darius Vassell raced away and was brought down by Kasper Schmeichel, who was booked.
Paul Gallagher converted the penalty in the 71st minute. Referee Tony Bates's decision to opt for yellow instead of red caused head-scratching from both managers, perplexed by the rules of the game.
'Do the referees know the rule?' asked Grayson. 'Some referees might have given a yellow, some a red. Is it denying a goalscoring opportunity? The ref's there to make a decision. 'We made one mistake and gave them a penalty. But I am delighted with the players. We nullified the crowd and they played with quality.'
Leicester boss Sven Goran Eriksson admitted: 'Sometimes when it's a goalkeeper who makes the fault it is red, but if that had been an outfield player there would be no discussion.
For a goalkeeper the rule does not exist. 'But I don't agree with the rule. If you have a red card and a penalty you punish the player twice, so I would not complain about that.'
At least there was nothing controversial about the equaliser, a fabulous strike from Andy King, who is attracting attention from Barclays Premier League clubs.
Eriksson has a glint in his eye as he prepares for a January shopping spree, although Matty Fryatt will leave for Hull this week. Leicester are 17th but Eriksson still wants promotion.'Today we have played half the season and the facts are obvious. We have to do better if we want to talk about promotion. We do that by working hard, believing - and getting in some fresh players I hope. I am pleased with the character of the players today. It was a merry finish!'
Telegraph 25/12/10
Simon Grayson urges Leeds United players to harness club's history for return to elite
There is an almost eerie sensation to being inside the Leeds United boardroom as the images of Don Revie, John Charles and Billy Bremner gaze down from the walls, embodying the only thing that could not be sold during the financial meltdown which took the club to the brink of extinction.
By Mark Ogden
History. Elland Road is infused with it, but as players, land, and even goldfish, were sold to keep the club afloat during the darkest days of the last decade, the history proved to be the only asset without a 'For Sale' sign attached.
Ten years ago, David O’Leary’s Leeds were en route to the Champions League semi-finals before losing to Valencia. Since that high, the club have plunged to the unimaginable and unprecedented lows of administration and three years in the third tier of English football.
But as Leeds prepare to face Leicester City at the Walkers Stadium on Sunday, Simon Grayson’s team lie second in the Championship with the possibility of securing top spot ahead of the FA Cup third-round trip to Arsenal next month.
A bright new dawn appears to have followed a long, tormented night, but Grayson, who celebrated his second anniversary as manager on Thursday, insists that the history of Revie, Bremner and the rest must be harnessed and embraced if Leeds are to return to the elite.
“When I was Blackpool manager, the pictures used to be up of Stanley Matthews and all the other greats,” Grayson said. “People asked me if it was a burden to have the history and tradition, but I only see it as a motivation for the current players.
“At Leeds, I tell them they can be the new group of players who end up having their pictures all over the walls of Elland Road.
“They can be a new bunch of heroes who can achieve something, so why settle for somebody half-remembering that you played for Leeds United - be one of those who people remember in 10-15 years' time as somebody who was a really good player for the club.
“It’s not about dwelling in the past, it’s about being inspired by it, and after the dark times this club has endured - some of it was soul-destroying - we should be proud of our history and motivated by it.”
Former chairman Peter Ridsdale, who claimed that Leeds were "living the dream" as exorbitant spending on players sparked the club’s demise, is still held up as the figure to blame for the fall from the Champions League to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
The £240 bill for goldfish in the chairman’s office hardly broke the bank, but if anything encapsulated the financial madness, that was it.
Having teetered so close to the brink, however, Leeds under Ken Bates are a different animal. The club is now financially stable and profitable and Grayson admits that the lessons of the past will not be forgotten.
He said: “As a club, we are in the black and the chairman, along with [chief executive] Shaun Harvey, run the club as a business.
“And the one thing I would like to think - and I’m sure this will be the case while the chairman is involved - is that the club will never get back to the state it was in financially.
“It was so bad that the club went into administration and that shouldn’t happen to a club like Leeds United. The club’s very existence was at risk.
“Nobody needs to go through that again, where people who had worked here for many years lost their jobs.
“But we are in a really positive state now, the club is making money and we won’t be throwing stupid money around in the transfer window. We don’t want to get back to where we were.”
Having seen home-grown stars such as Jonathan Woodgate, Alan Smith and Harry Kewell all offloaded to stem the losses, the Leeds revival is now being driven by captain Jonny Howson, a 22-year-old local boy, and Grayson admits youth is the key to Leeds’ future.
“Jonny Howson, who came through the system and is now captain at 22, has fantastic potential.” Grayson said. “He is a Leeds lad and he wants to be a success at this club.
“He is fulfilling his potential and I am sure people will be keeping an eye on him, but we don’t need to sell anybody.
“I’d like to think that, if the players have the ambition that I think they have, they can see they can succeed with us rather than go elsewhere and Jonny hopefully sees that.”
But can promotion and a return to the Premier League be achieved this season?
Grayson said: “When I came here two years ago, I said that somebody would take Leeds back to where the club belongs and the chance is there, so I would love to be the man to do it.”

Leeds United’s decline and crawl back up

Leeds United’s downward spiral saw the club plunge from Champions League semi-finalists to financially-bereft third tier strugglers within eight years.

April 2001 Champions League semi-finalists.

Jan 2002: Top of Premiership on New Year’s Day.

Jul 2002: Rio Ferdinand sold to Manchester United for £30m.

Jan 2003: Robbie Keane, Robbie Fowler, Olivier Dacourt, Lee Bowyer, Jonathan Woodgate all sold.

May 2004: Relegated to Championship. May 2007: Enter administration, relegated to League One.

Aug 2007: Start League One season on minus 15 points following administration.

May 2008: Lose play-off final to Doncaster Rovers.

May 2010: Promoted to Championship.

Dec 2010: Defeat QPR to occupy second promotion slot in Championship.
Yorkshire Evening Post 22/12/10
Grayson rejected Premier League job
By Leon Wobschall
Leeds United chairman Ken Bates has claimed that Simon Grayson turned down a Premier League job offer last year – to stick with the Whites.
The United boss, who celebrates his second anniversary at charge at Elland Road tomorrow, rebuffed top-flight interest – believed to have been from Burnley – to concentrate on the task in hand of guiding his boyhood club to promotion from League One.
His loyalty has been rewarded this season, with Leeds flying high in the Championship as they target a return to the top flight.
Bates said: "Simon is in it for the long run. "He was approached and offered a job on a much bigger salary, in the Premiership, over a year ago and he said, 'I came to Leeds to do a job and I'm going to finish it'. If he manages in the Premiership, he wants it to be with Leeds.
"We have got a good relationship. He rings me when we lose, which I know some managers don't. If he has a problem we talk about it, which is the only way to do things. We have total trust in each other." Bates insists Leeds' success over recent years is based on an understanding between himself and his manager that he will not meddle in any business relating to the playing side of the club.
"There never has been as far as I'm concerned, wherever I have been," he said.
"The manager has to be judged by his results, so the only fair way is to let him pick his players. If he fails, it's because he picked the wrong players.
"You can't do what some clubs do and have chairmen introducing players to the manager after they've been signed. That's not our policy here."
On his aspirations to return to the footballing elite with Leeds at home and abroad, the ex-Chelsea chairman added: "It is a dream of every club, but we will do it on a different basis this time. David O'Leary (former Leeds manager) was allowed to spend money like water, which ultimately caused the club's collapse.
"If we get back into Europe, perhaps I should say when we get back into Europe, we will do it on a proper basis. It will be step by step, brick by brick. That is how we are building Leeds. If it means it takes another two or three years, then so be it."
Yorkshire Evening Post 20/12/10
Opportunity knocks now
By Phil Hay
Simon Grayson believes Leeds United's next four fixtures will have a crucial bearing on their prospects this season after watching his side storm into the Championship's automatic promotion places.
Leeds took another huge step forward with a convincing victory over league leaders QPR on Saturday, and the club are preparing for a spell of games which Grayson expects to provide a clearer indication of his squad's potential.
United's manager said he would be ready to "take stock" after Leeds' clash with Cardiff City on January 4, a game which follows their Boxing Day visit to Leicester City and home matches against Portsmouth and Middlesbrough.
The win over QPR lifted Leeds into second position in the Championship, three points short of the top of the table and eight clear of seventh place.
Grayson continued to ward off suggestions that promotion had become a prime target for his players but he left no doubt about the importance of a satisfactory return from the coming fortnight.
"We'll only really take stock after the next four games," he said. "It's going to be a busy period and the squad will be tested against teams who are paying (players) a lot more money than us. After that, we can see where we're at.
"There's an expectancy level at this club, but I don't think anyone expected us to be where we are.
"Our first target was consolidation and making sure we were still in the division at the end of the season. That hasn't changed. We could still get relegated and that's not me being pessimistic – it's a reality.
"What we've done is give ourselves an opportunity. The players are enjoying what they are doing. There've been a lot of sad and bad times at this club in recent years but, at this moment, things are going well.
"We're determined to enjoy it, with a hint of realism mixed in."
Grayson will arrive at his second anniversary as manager of Leeds on Thursday, and the 41-year-old said: "When I came here two years ago, I said that someone would take this club back to the Premier League.
"No-one knows when that will be but there is an expectancy level here and hopefully we can achieve it in the not-too-distant future."
United will spend a week in second place for the first time as a Championship club, aided by the postponement of Saturday's game between Cardiff and Burnley and Swansea City's loss to Sheffield United.
Two goals from Max Gradel secured Leeds' impressive win over QPR, continuing the goalscoring form of one of several players who have contributed heavily to United's run of nine games without defeat.
Gradel has struck six times in those matches, and QPR had no answer to his finishes in either half at Elland Road.
Gradel said: "There's no secret to my goalscoring. I haven't been working harder on my finishing, but the goals have been coming.
"This is a big win and we need to build on it. "We don't want to think about the Premier League because it's too early. To get promoted would be a great achievement and it would be nice to be part of the team that helps the club there.
"It's a dream but, hopefully, the dream can come true."
QPR manager Neil Warnock blamed his defence for the club's defeat – their second in 21 league matches this season - but Grayson claimed United's performance had merited a victory.
"Considering who the opposition were and how we played, it was our best performance of the season," Grayson said.
"There have been times when I've criticised the players for not closing out games but we saw this game out well and showed a lot of footballing intelligence."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

BBC 18/12/10

Leeds United 2 QPR 0
Gradel's brace gave Leeds a win that extends their unbeaten run to nine games
By Phil Dawkes
Leeds moved to second in the table after Max Gradel's brace gave them a deserved win over league leaders QPR in an entertaining game at Elland Road.
The home side had the better of an open encounter and took the lead through Gradel's close-range half-volley.
The winger struck again midway through the second half, capping a solo run with a good near-post finish.
QPR threatened intermittently in the first half but were never allowed to assert themselves on the game.
Rangers' home loss to Watford in their previous match - which halted their attempt to equal a club record of 20 games unbeaten - meant Leeds replaced them as holders of the Championships longest unbeaten run, which is now extended to nine.
Neil Warnock's side remain top of the table but are now just three points clear of today's opponents and a further point ahead of Cardiff, whose home game with Burnley was called off because of the snow, and Swansea, who lost 1-0 at Sheffield United.
The Yorkshire side - roared on by a crowd of 30,000 - were fully deserving of their victory, having out-worked and out-classed QPR, who had chances in the first half but offered little else.
After a low-key opening from both teams, Leeds created the first real goalscoring opportunity when winger Robert Snodgrass crossed for Luciano Becchio, but the Argentine's close-range header was tipped over by Rangers keeper Paddy Kenny.
The visitors responded with a long-range shot from captain Adel Taarabt, which flew wide of the post.
They also saw a Clint Hill header blocked by Leeds defender Neill Collins, while Kaspars Gorkss volleyed wide when well placed in the area.
The home side began to exert themselves on the game and were rewarded in the 25th minute when Snodgrass engineered room to cross with his right foot and Becchio headed down for Gradel to fire home from close range with a well-executed left-foot half-volley.
With Leeds in the ascendancy, a one-two between Jonny Howson and Gradel gave the latter a chance to extend Leeds' lead, but the winger's shot on the stretch was fired past the post.
Leeds picked up where they left off after the break and Becchio had the first opportunity of the second half with a shot from 20 yards that Kenny was able to scramble away.
With 20 minutes to go, Gradel doubled the home side's lead when he picked up the ball in his own half and drove on into the QPR box before unleashing a shot that beat Kenny at the near post.
It could have been three goals minutes later but Kenny's superb save denied Howson from a stinging shot.
And the visiting keeper was called into action again soon after to palm away Snodgrass' long-range effort as Leeds threatened to over-run Neil Warnock's men. The damage had already been done by the home side though and they were able to take the foot off the gas in the closing stages as QPR accepted their fate.
Yorkshire Evening Post 14/12/10

Whites exceed expectations in Grayson's first two years in charge

Simon Grayson will reach his second anniversary as manager of Leeds United next week with a feeling of satisfaction after admitting that the club's progression in the past two years has exceeded his expectations.
Grayson said the rise of Leeds to fourth place in the Championship on Saturday was an achievement which went beyond his initial hopes when he took control of United shortly before Christmas in 2008.
The club's standing in the Football League is their highest for four-and-a-half years, equalling a position held under Kevin Blackwell during the closing stages of the 2005-06 season, but Grayson promised to push for further improvement during the second half of this term.
The 41-year-old has stopped short of classing his team as clear play-off contenders, playing down their chances despite the impact of eight games without defeat on their league position, but Grayson said he and United's players had a responsibility to "keep building for the rest of the year".
The midway point of the season will arrive on Boxing Day, three days after Grayson's second anniversary as manager, and his performance in that time has repeatedly justified Leeds' decision to recruit him from Blackpool in 2008.
United paid undisclosed compensation following his arrival at Elland Road, tying him to a one-year rolling deal, and their promotion from League One last season earned Grayson an improved three-year contract.
Leeds came into the Championship in August with avoiding relegation their first priority but the club moved on to 35 points after a 3-2 win at Burnley on Saturday and are five wins away from reaching the 50 mark, a total which has been sufficient to ensure survival in England's second tier during both of the past two seasons.
More impressive is their ranking two places below the automatic promotion positions, and Grayson said: "In terms of being a realist, I wouldn't have thought that two years down the line we'd be fourth in the Championship.
"But the reason I came to the club was firstly to get us out of League One and ultimately to try and get us back into the Premier League. It doesn't mean we're going to do it this year but we've given ourselves the opportunity to keep building for the rest of the year.
"You've got to keep progressing and whether it happens this year or not, somebody will take this club back to the Premier League.
"It's been proven many times that the club deserve to be there."
Grayson refused to be drawn into discussing the possibility of promotion ahead of a clash with league leaders QPR, insisting his only concern was to see Leeds improve their unbeaten run to nine matches in their last fixture before Christmas.
"We set out at the start of the season to get promoted like everyone else," Grayson said. "But there's a long way to go and I just want us to keep extending this run.
"We've got a very difficult game against QPR now and ultimately all that matters is where you are in April or May. We'll see where this takes us."
Yorkshire Evening Post 13/12/10
Burnley v Leeds United: Whites storm back to Burn the Clarets

Simon Grayson spent Saturday evening in the company of a friend whose footballing allegiance lies with Burnley.
"We'll be drinking Claret," he said, leaving no doubt that the pleasure of the meeting would be all his.
The right to brag was already apportioned but even Grayson looked mildly bemused to be in possession of it. The outlook after 45 minutes of Saturday's game at Turf Moor was so bleak that he could have asked for no more than a second half which protected his pride. "I'm looking forward to dinner more than I was at half-time," he said.
Grayson has had his share of exasperating team-talks in two years as Leeds United's manager but Saturday's verged on thankless, forced upon a coach who was in poor health last week and gradually losing his voice.
Two goals down to a Burnley team who are ruthless enough at Turf Moor without the help of a long headstart, he and his players converged in the dressing room beneath the stadium's away stand and tried, in his words, to be constructive. The ripple of encouragement created a swell of animation which swept their bewildered hosts away.
Grayson was almost alone in believing that the fixture was anything other than a lost cause when Jay Rodriguez scored Burnley's second goal late in the first half. Leeds had the air of a beaten club and Burnley assumed they were. Their manager, Brian Laws, asked out loud if that was the problem. "We hadn't won the game," Laws said. "Maybe one or two of the players thought we had."
For him, a postmortem. For Grayson, a relaxing night of reflection on a win as improbable as it was epic. He is growing accustomed to victories of that nature after a scrambled defeat of Crystal Palace seven days earlier, but Palace's desperate defence of a one-goal lead was in no way comparable with Burnley's superiority at the end of the first half on Saturday. The points gained at Turf Moor were pulled from the fire, like few others accrued during Grayson's tenure.
Their value was seen in a Championship table which is draining credibility from Grayson's attempts to talk of promotion as something which is not yet worthy of discussion.
Fourth in the division with 21 games completed; this is destined to be a merry Christmas at Elland Road, the most satisfying in terms of league position for five years. Saturday's game against QPR is a timely and meaningful comparison with the club considered to be the Championship's benchmark and one who might feel that there are better times to be visiting Leeds.
There were certainly better times to be visiting Burnley. The club's record at Turf Moor went before them last week, as strong as any other in the division after QPR's loss to Watford on Friday night, and a clinical streak spread through their performance as the first half wore on. With 45 minutes played, the stadium was proving as unaccommodating as it threatened to be.
But even at that juncture, Grayson felt short-changed. The scoreline was the result of a perfect storm, comprising of loose finishing from his own players, finer accuracy from Burnley's and a mistake leading to Rodriguez's goal.
"I still thought there was something in the game," said Grayson, admitting that a victory was not prominent in his mind.
The speed of Max Gradel's reply in the 52nd minute was pivotal, arriving early enough to foster patience among the players around him and make full-time a distant target in the eyes of those he had rattled.
Luciano Becchio equalised 14 minutes later, by which time Burnley's remarkable naivety had given way to an utter loss of composure as Leeds swarmed forward. That it took a majestic goal from Jonathan Howson to win the match with five minutes remaining was due only to three chances that Burnley survived through luck more than judgement. Grayson did not have to argue too firmly that the result was fair.
Howson has a liking for the spectacular and his coup de grace was one flash of brilliance on a day of many from him, a low shot curled around goalkeeper Lee Grant after a 30-yard sprint from the halfway line. The 4,000 away supporters behind Grant's net reacted with the astonished delirium that football creates infrequently. "You should have gone Christmas shopping," they taunted the home crowd, returning with interest an improvised song aimed at them in the first half.
Christmas shopping might have been on Andy O'Brien's agenda over the weekend after a thigh strain led Grayson to omit him from his line-up. Against a club with so much authority at home, his absence was a nuisance, depriving Leeds of a player who brought order to their defence last month.
Neill Collins was reunited with Alex Bruce and certain bad habits resurfaced, specifically the error from Bruce which invited Rodriguez to score. Less obvious amid the chaos of the second half was their stoic resistance with Grayson's midfield committed to salvaging something from the game. Chris Iwelumo, Burnley's rugged striker, was seen off without finding the net in the 73rd minute.
Nor was it Bruce's fault that Leeds were themselves goalless at half-time. Max Gradel sliced a shot wide of Grant's left-hand post when the ball hit Robert Snodgrass and rolled to him inside the box two minutes after the start of the game. The winger was as wasteful when Snodgrass slipped him in behind right-back Tyrone Mears, floating a lob onto the roof of Grant's net while Howson and Becchio screamed for a cut-back.
The implications of those missed opportunities became apparent in the 28th minute when Andre Bikey met a corner from Ross Wallace which struck a crowd of bodies on Kasper Schmeichel's goalline. Brian Easton found the ball at his feet and hacked it into the net.
With a lead to feed on, Burnley began to show the strength and fluency befitting of a side who might yet be promoted. Rodriguez's goal nevertheless owed little to creative skill. The forward pursued Bruce as the defender followed a long clearance from Clarke Carlisle, and Bruce's critical loss of footing left Rodriguez to sweep the ball under Schmeichel. Turf Moor smelt blood as Grayson thought about spilling some.
He stopped short of substitutions at the start of the second half but pushed Gradel forward to complement Becchio and intensify the fight. Within seven minutes, the winger met Becchio's knockdown with a careful shot and directed it past Grant with Burnley suffering from the disarray which afflicted them from there on.
Salvation would have been at hand for Laws had Iwelumo not driven a header wide at the end of Wade Elliott's cross, and his failure to score did not go unpunished.
In the 66th minute, Paul Connolly advanced though Burnley's half and exchanged passes with Howson before producing a cross which Becchio dispatched with an outstretched foot. It was clear then that the game had more to offer Leeds than a draw.
A third goal eluded Leeds narrowly when Bradley Johnson sent a shot careering wide of Grant's goal and Snodgrass curled a shot against his crossbar. Substitute Ross McCormack saw an effort held up on Burnley's goalline as the crowd behind attempted to suck the ball in. But Howson's touch was unerring and his accuracy perfect when a tiring run took him to the edge of Burnley's box with five minutes left.
McCormack had his opportunity to remove any doubt about the result but smashed a shot against Grant, seconds before Schmeichel denied John Guidetti an equaliser with a flailing right glove. Light work it was not but many hands are making Leeds a school of promise.
Telegraph 12/12/10
Championship round-up: Leeds United captain Jonathan Howson seals fightback to defeat Burnley at Turf Moor
Burnley 2 Leeds United 3
The great Leeds revival continued at Turf Moor where Jonathan Howson, nominated for England recognition, emerged captain courageous with a winning goal five minutes from the end that took his side to fourth place on the strength of an eight-match unbeaten run.
Yet neither player nor club are getting carried away as a path towards a second successive promotion has opened.
“It’s nice to hear comments like that, but I am not getting ahead of myself and we are not as a team either,” said Leeds-born Howson, who at 21 is one of the club’s youngest captains.
His name had been put forward as an England possible by Andy O’Brien, the central defender on loan from Bolton, who was ruled out by injury from the stunning fightback at Burnley where Leeds overcame a two-goal interval deficit to emerge the only Championship top-six weekend winners.
Both Howson and manager Simon Grayson, approaching his second anniversary in charge, are adamant that feet will be kept firmly on the ground.
“All we’ve done is stretch the unbeaten run to eight games,” Grayson said after the 3-2 win. And Howson recalled: “We were flying as we approached Christmas last season, but then we tailed off for a bit before eventually clinching second place. However, we have a lot of belief in ourselves and that includes people who come off the bench to play their part.
“Being captain gives me a massive lift and a special feeling because I am Leeds born and bred. I used to watch them as a lad when Lucas Radebe was captain and I recently had the pleasure of meeting him.
“We are now fourth and that is a result of hard work. We worked our socks off against Burnley and know it is going to be difficult to keep this run going. Our next game is against Queens Park Rangers and that is a massive one because they will want to bounce back after what Watford did to them.”
Burnley, too, will require immediate redemption at second-placed Cardiff after tamely surrendering a comfortable advantage gained thanks to first-half goals from Brian Easton, his first for the club, and promising young striker Jay Rodriguez.
It left manager Brian Laws accusing his team of complacency as Max Gradel and Luciano Becchio achieved parity before Howson confirmed deserved victory.
Easton admitted: “It has happened so many times before and is something we need to quickly sort out.”
Leeds are two points behind Cardiff, who failed to capitalise on leaders QPR’s first defeat of the season in losing 1-0 at Middlesbrough. Julio Arca’s penalty earned Boro their first win in five league games and lifted them out of the relegation zone.
After Cardiff’s fourth league game without victory manager Dave Jones said: “I don’t know how often we are going to leave the door open at the back. A bit of fear has crept in there somehow. At the moment that unit isn’t working.” Norwich finished with 10 men, having Leon Barnett sent off for a second booking after giving away a stoppage-time penalty, and dropped to sixth place after a 2-0 home defeat by Portsmouth.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sky Sports 11/12/10
Grayson delighted with scalp
Whites boss thrilled, Laws disappointed
Simon Grayson was naturally delighted to see Leeds come from two goals down to beat Burley, although Brian Laws was less than impressed.
The Clarets took control of the contest in the first half thanks to goals from Brain Easton and Jay Rodriguez.
However, second half goals from Max Gradel, Luciano Becchio and Jonathan Howson capped a remarkable comeback at Turf Moor.
Grayson was unhappy with the ease at which Burnley opened up their lead, but he could not fault Leeds' character to fight back.
"We contributed to our own downfall in the first half with the mistakes we have made. We had to do the ugly side better in the second half and we knew we could be a threat still," he said.
"We have players in the team that can score goals and an early goal put us on the front foot. From then on we grew from strength to strength. It's a difficult place to come and we did feel at half-time we had a good opportunity to come back into it.
"We had to make sure we had better energy levels. Our fans keep driving us forward home and away.
"We showed good quality, we got the early goal which gave us a lift and we could have scored three or four more in the second half.
"We've got players who can affect the game and obviously it's a great result against one of the best teams in the division. I'm delighted to come here and win.
"It's hard not to see the table but there are far too many games to be involved in yet. We have got players that are adapting to the division and a fan base that demand the best from the team. Over the next months we will see where that takes us."
Disappointment
Burnley boss Brian Laws could not hide his disappointment at the loss, expressing his anger at letting Leeds score the first goal after half time.
He said: "It was a contrast of two halves. We were solid and in control and took a two-goal lead into half-time and the one thing that you do say at half-time is make sure the next goal is ours. That is important in a game of this magnitude.
"We stopped doing what we were doing in the first half and that's something I'm really angry about. We were going backwards instead of forwards and that put unnecessary pressure on us and that was the start of the rot in the second half.
"In particular the last goal, we concede from our corner, he's been allowed to run the length of the field. I am bitterly disappointed, we shouldn't be talking about a defeat.
"There's been a few words said and rightly so because that is unacceptable from our point of view. It is about being professional and switched on and organised. "But we are going to have to trawl through the second-half errors and get it right.
"It's not good enough, we have to make sure we eradicate those issues. The manager will always take the rap but the players have to take a portion of it because of the way they went out in the second half."

Sunday, December 05, 2010

leedsunited.com 5/12/10
REWARDS FOR ALL AT ELLAND ROAD
United manager Simon Grayson said Saturday's 2-1 Elland Road win against Crystal Palace was just reward for a collective team effort on and off the pitch.
The United boss paid tribute to his players, and the near 26,000 fans who turned out on a freezing day, and he also saluted the off-field efforts that ensured the visit of Palace was one of the few games to beat the big freeze.
"A lot of hard work has gone in from a lot people and this is reward for that," he said.
"Full credit to the ground staff and helpers who cleared the snow, to the fantastic crowd that turned out, and to the players for the belief and character they showed. It was a big effort from everyone.
"When you get a game on like this you have have to try and take advantage - we didn't do that against Wycombe last season in similar circumstances, but I'm delighted we did this time.
"It was a difficult game, it was hard fought, and we were sloppy at times, but they're the games you have to win if you are to do anything.
"We started well, their keeper made some great saves at times, but we kept going then we got sone by a sucker punch just before half-time.
"We had a belief at half-time we would win it though. We changed personnel and the system, and once we got the first goal you could sense the urgency among everyone in the ground.
"The players lifted themselves and the fans were there to suck the ball into the back of the net.
"Luciano and Ross were both claiming the first one, but there was no doubt about the second. Luciano was in the right place again, and that's what you need."

leedsunited.com 4/12/10
BECCHIO DOUBLE SECURES UNITED WIN
UNITED 2 (Becchio 81, 83), CRYSTAL PALACE 1 (Danns 44)
While the majority of games in the north fell victim to the weather, Project Buckingham (get the Palace on) paid dividends with United getting the go-ahead to take on Crystal Palace.
United boss Simon Grayson made one change to his starting line-up with Andrew Hughes stepping for the suspended Paul Connolly.
Palace arrived on the back of three wins from four while United were unbeaten in six, and Grayson's men were celebrating inside the opening five minutes until a late offside flag curtailed the joy.
Jonny Howson latched on to a ball over the top and finished well, but the youngster was celebrating in front of the South Stand by the time the flag was spotted for offside.
It was Max Gradel who played Howson in and TV pictures suggested David Wright may have been playing Howson onside.
Leeds certainly started the game brightly, though, and were looking to make early inroads into Palace.
The early dominance was United's, Bradley Johnson had a free-kick deflected wide before Antony Gardner blocked a Robert Snodgrass shot.
Shortly before the half-hour, Julian Speroni was called upon to save well from Howson after another good move by Leeds.
Palace responded by going close with a header from a set-play and it was certainly a lively opening 35 minutes or so.
Johnson had another shot blocked and Alassane N'Diaye had to make an important clearance after some great build-up play.
And United came within a whisker of opening the scoring on 38 minutes. Lucianio Becchio was unable to control a superb cut-back from Snodgrass and Gradel sent the follow-up wide.
Leeds continued to dominate the game and really put Palace under the cosh in the period leading up to the interval.
Unbelievably, it was the visitors who snatched the lead two minutes before the interval. Palace broke quickly via Nathaniel Clyne, and Neil Danns was able to convert the full-back's low cross from close range.
And in first half stoppage time, Kasper Schmeichel was called upon to save well from Darren Ambrose with a well-struck free-kick.
The goal was a blow, but United started the second half on the front foot and Speroni reacted well to palm an Andy O'Brien header over the top before a flag was raised for a foul.
Ten minutes into the second half, Grayson introduced both Lloyd Sam and Ross McCormack and changed his system to a 4-4-2. A;lmost immediately, Kilkenny forced a save from Speroni after good work by Sam.
The Palace keeper made another great save to deny Becchio after more good work by Leeds.
The visitors were still looking to exploit any gaps as Leeds pressed, and Danns screwed a shot wide when presented with a decent chance.
United responded with Sam forcing Speroni into making a good save and moments later MCormack got on the end of a ball over the top to slot home, but an offside flag denied Leeds again.
With 13 minutes left, Grayson added further firepower with Billy Paynter replacing Andrew Hughes as he looked to force a result.
Paynter had two opportunities within moments, the first coming when he was unable to direct his header on target, but the scores were soon level.
McCartney and Paynter headed a Kilkenny corner back into the box, and Becchio got the decisive touch to level the scores.
And it was 2-1 within the space of two minutes. McCormack was fouled while looking to escape on goal, but Becchio seized on the loose ball as advantage was played and Speroni had no chance.
Four minutes of stoppage time sparked a frenetic ending, United had some defending to do as Palace looked to salvage point, but it took a fine save from Speroni to deny Paynter his first goal in a Leeds shirt.But two goals were enough as United made it seven games unbeaten.
Yorkshire Evening Post 29/11/10
Reading v Leeds United: Whites pleased to keep it clean at last
By Phil Hay
Unbeaten results are more aesthetically pleasing than a spate of games without a clean sheet and Leeds United did not delight in simultaneously counting both.
One half of a glaring contradiction was bound to give eventually and the mischievous smile on the face of Ian Miller as he boarded the bus home from Reading belied his awareness of the club's most unflattering attribute.
"A clean sheet," teased United's coach. "Who'd have thought?"
After 10 games and two months, not every member of the squad who survived the journey from hell to reach Berkshire as planned. Only because of their maligned defence was an eight-hour drive from Wetherby worthwhile.
Leeds found England's motorway network impassable on Friday afternoon, an unintentional metaphor for their attitude against Reading.
Their manager, Simon Grayson, has been invariably grateful to his creative players for making this season the progressive project it is, but his debt was owed elsewhere on Saturday at the end of a game which, injury-time aside, proffered no more than a point.
Grayson sensed an improbable heist when, with 92 minutes played, Jonathan Howson felt his tired legs dragging him onto a pass from Ross McCormack and in behind Reading's defence.
"You'd expect him to score from that position," said Grayson after Howson's shot met the right palm of Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici, but it went too far to talk of an opportunity missed. Grayson was more inclined to accept that his players had not examined Federici enough. Seven days earlier, United's draw with Norwich City had their manager complaining mildly about his side's failure to "kill the game".
At the Madejski Stadium, he chose to count his blessings and quietly bank a useful point. Grayson had his defence to thank for seeing Leeds through the moments when Reading managed to bare their teeth.
The interest in Saturday's match was such that a capacity crowd paid to be present, just as upwards of 26,000 attended Leeds' appearance in Norwich.
Carrow Road provided value for money in a way that the Madejski Stadium could not and a goalless scoreline was inevitable until fatigue and substitutions lifted the game's congested cloak in the closing 10 minutes.
United clung on to a draw in a strangely chaotic finale, rescued by the reactions of Kasper Schmeichel whenever their defence grew ragged.
Howson might have won the game in its final seconds but Grayson was not anticipating that.
"We threw the kitchen sink at them," said Brian McDermott, the Reading manager. "Only one team was going to win the game."
The strength of his statement was supported by the fact that Howson's shot was the third of three directed at Federici, the telling statistic on an afternoon when Leeds manufactured too little to dispute the final result.
Grayson would fret about that were productivity a problem among his players but goals come naturally to United's squad.
The issue before Saturday was the inevitability that they would come at either end of the field regardless of his tactics or the players involved, but the sound of a penny dropping was evident at Carrow Road and unmistakable in Reading.
His team's defending was as deliberate as it could be and desperate when it needed to be, rarely at the cost of sound judgement.
Schmeichel's saves were as few as Federici's by full-time, though the onslaught towards him suggested otherwise. To give the scoreline context, Grayson need only ask himself what the damage would have been a month ago.
Schmeichel was beaten only once, eight minutes before the interval, but found Max Gradel guarding his goalline against Shane Long's deflected volley. The near-miss was one of two incidents worth noting in an aimless first half which almost passed without comment; both involved Gradel, as unpredictable a character as ever he was.
The winger's timely clearance in the 37th minute prevented a goal that Reading had barely earned but Gradel himself deserved more than the caution he incurred by tangling with Andy Griffin four minutes later.
Gradel was knocked over by Griffin as he jumped to head the ball and he kicked out at the right-back with both feet while the pair lay on the ground. Referee Fred Graham was looking elsewhere but his nearest linesman had as good a view of Gradel's offence as Graham could have asked for. The yellow card that resulted was unduly lenient, and Griffin's booking inexplicable.
Grayson might argue that justice prevailed after seeing Ian Ashbee and Jay Bothroyd walk away unpunished from recent assaults on his striker, Luciano Becchio. But half-time was needed to stem the trickle of bad blood. Gradel's attempts to influence the game more professionally reached only dead ends.
The unreliable service from him and Robert Snodgrass rendered Becchio redundant and prone to substitution with 13 minutes to play.
Reading's centre-backs, Alex Pearce and Zurab Khizanishvili, escaped without a bruise.
But the start of the second half found McDermott's team in a clearer frame of mind. Within three minutes, Schmeichel dived to his left to meet an Ian Harte free-kick on the one occasion when United's former defender and set-piece specialist was given the freedom to attack the Leeds goal. The ball flew at such speed that many in the stadium assumed Schmeichel was beaten.
McDermott revised Reading's line-up on the hour by employing two of his substitutes, Jay Tabb and Jimmy Kebe, and Kebe's presence almost broke United's back, cutting loose a player whose pace and skill twisted the blood of George McCartney.
It was from the right wing where Reading were liable to crack Grayson's defence.
Kebe's cut-back created one chance for Noel Hunt which Schmeichel parried with both hands, and Michail Antonio – another of McDermott's replacements – shook a post from an angle which gave him no prospect of beating Schmeichel.
Grayson had introduced McCormack and Billy Paynter by then, a display of aggression with the game asking to be won, but his side were devoid of their usual inspiration when Reading's defence showed signs of caving in. McCormack put them under sudden strain when, with Graham preparing to blow his whistle, he exploited the space in front of Federici by threading a pass over the halfway line and into Howson's path.
The midfielder broke forward as quickly as his legs would allow but Griffin cut him off at the edge of the box, forcing Howson to attack Federici hopefully from long range.
For once, Howson's midas touch was lost in the layer of rust over United's attack. The glint of gold came instead from their defence.
leedsunited.com 28/11/10
ARSENAL AWAY IN FA CUP
Leeds United will play at Arsenal in the third round of the FA Cup.
The tie pits Simon Grayson's men against Arsene Wenger's Premier League challengers for our first meeting since 2004.
The tie will take place on the weekend of Janaury 8/9 2011.
United manager Simon Grayson is delighted with an FA Cup third round draw which has handed his players a trip to Arsenal.
It will be the club's first ever trip to the Emirates and it will re-ignite an FA Cup rivalry that dates back to 1972 when we beat Arsenal in the Centenary Final.
Since then, there have been numerous epic ties - including a four-game marathon in 1991 - and the current boss says it's a great draw for the club.
"It's a fantastic draw," he said.
"Arsenal are one of the best teams in the country and are one of the top footballing teams in Europe.
"I'm sure our supporters will look forward to the game and will sell the full allocation once again."
After knocking Man United out in the third round last season and taking Tottenham to a replay in the fourth round, the current crop at Leeds have shown they relish the big occasion.
"It's amazing when you look at the draws we've had and the performances and the support we've had," said the boss.
"In an 18-month period, we've played Liverpool, Man U, Tottenham, and now Arsenal in the cups which is fantastic for the club and the fans.
"But...as I said before the Man U game last season, we have a lot of league games to come before then and that is our focus. "The players will all want to be involved for the Arsenal game and the league games are so important to us."
Bradford Telegraph and Argus 28/11/10
Leeds United's 'Mad Max' lucky to avoid red card
By John Wray
Reading 0, Leeds United 0
Labelled ‘Mad Max’ by some Leeds fans, winger Max Gradel lived up to his nickname and was lucky to stay on the pitch as Simon Grayson’s men kept their first clean sheet since September in the npower Championship yesterday.
Gradel said in interviews before this goalless draw that he had learned the lesson of his sending off in the final game of last season, against Bristol Rovers, when he totally lost control of his temper. This time he was extremely fortunate that the card shown by referee Fred Graham in the 42nd minute was yellow and not red.
Gradel was tackled by Andy Griffin and then kicked out in anger at the Reading player while both men were on the ground. Both were cautioned.
Six minutes earlier, Gradel had been his side’s hero by clearing Shane Long’s deflected shot off the line after Leeds failed to clear Jobi McAnuff’s corner.
Leeds manager Simon Grayson said: “I saw the incident between Max and Andy Griffin on the dvd afterwards. They collided and Max probably caught him with his boot – whether it was intentional or not I don’t know.
"It wasn’t the cleverest of things to do and Max has to learn from what happened to him in the final game of last season. The referee decided what he had to do and gave them a yellow card.
“Griffin is an experienced campaigner and I am sure he was trying to wind Max up in that instance and for the rest of the game. Up to that point we hadn’t really been threatened, we kept the home fans quiet but that incident just gave them a lift.
“Max is a passionate boy who cares immensely about the football club and his career but he has to channel that in the right direction at times.”
In an untidy first half, Leeds’ only serious attempt on goal arrived on the half-hour when Robert Snodgrass had a free-kick saved by the Royals’ Australian keeper Adam Federici.
Right back Paul Connolly’s booking just before the interval was his fifth of the season and he misses the home game against Crystal Palace on Saturday through suspension, causing Grayson to make a change to his settled defence.
Grayson said: “Paul has settled into a back four that has been doing well recently, but his absence will give an opportunity to somebody else.
"I am satisfied with a point – a clean sheet has been coming over the last few weeks because we’ve looked more solid.
“We didn’t work their goalkeeper enough, but sometimes you have to sacrifice certain parts of your game against a team like Reading, who are hard to beat on their own ground.”
Reading, who included former Leeds defender Ian Harte in their ranks, had the better of the second half and put United under considerable late pressure with Kasper Schmeichel making a superb save from Noel Hunt and Jimmy Kebe giving left back George McCartney a torrid time.
Jonny Howson could have won it for Leeds in added time when put through by substitute Ross McCormack but that would have been harsh on the Royals, and Federici duly made the save. It was Leeds’ first goalless draw since the stalemate at Doncaster on September 17 and extended their unbeaten league run to six matches.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Yorkshire Evening Post 26/11/10
Safety is our first target – Grayson
Simon Grayson today insisted he would not give serious thought to whether Leeds United can sustain a push towards the play-offs until his team have secured Championship survival.The Whites boss claimed the majority of clubs in the division were still credible contenders for a top-six finish with 18 games played and a bottleneck of clubs behind his own in a congested league table.
Leeds will meet one of them, Brian McDermott's Reading, at the Madejski Stadium tomorrow and the Elland Road club are defending a top-six position after holding on to fifth with a 1-1 draw at Norwich City last weekend.
United are more than halfway towards achieving the total of points likely to be needed to protect them from relegation in May, but their manager is not ready to assess the likelihood of Leeds maintaining their current standing, despite a five-game unbeaten run and the surge in momentum behind his squad.
"I'll think about that when we've got the points we need to stay up," Grayson declared. "I'm not going to think about it until we're mathematically safe from dropping out of the league.
"Three-quarters of the division will still think they can achieve promotion, automatically or via the play-offs.
"But it's not as if we're struggling in the division or failing to come to terms with it. Far from it. If that was the case we'd be near the bottom and asking how we're going to get out of trouble.
"We've adjusted well and we're playing some decent football. We've proved that we can win home and away, against teams at the top of the table and teams at the bottom, so we've got an opportunity. But we'll need to maintain this level of performances."
United's league position has recovered rapidly in the past month after a succession of poor results in October pulled the club into the bottom half of the Championship.
Leeds are three points better off than Reading with 28 to their name, and Grayson promised to send his side out at the Madejski Stadium with the same attacking strategy employed at Norwich last Saturday. But he also warned that the discipline of his players would be crucial as they attempt to negate a key threat in Reading's side, former Leeds defender Ian Harte.
The full-back is fighting to overcome a hip injury in time to start tomorrow's game but Grayson is keenly aware of the threat that Harte might pose from set-pieces if his players give the Irishman the opportunity to attack their goal.
Harte has scored six times already this season, and Grayson said: "He's probably one of the best free-kick takers around. He always has been.
"We need to make sure we don't give away needless free-kicks or present him with any opportunities. If we can keep him 30 or 40 yards from goal then that will limit his ability to do anything with set-pieces. He's an expert."
Yorkshire Evening Post 25/11/10
Leeds United keen on O'Brien deal – Bates
By Phil Hay
Leeds United have secured the short-term future of Bolton Wanderers defender Andy O'Brien – and the club will push for a longer deal when the transfer window opens in January.
United erased concern about the possibility of O'Brien returning to the Reebok Stadium after this weekend's game at Reading by negotiating to keep the influential centre-back at Elland Road until the turn of the year.
O'Brien's initial month's loan was due to end on Saturday but Leeds were anxious to retain an experience player who has contributed significantly to their impressive league form during his four-week spell in West Yorkshire. An extension with Bolton until January was set to be signed today.
The 31-year-old came to Leeds on October 29 with the club toiling at the end of a run of four defeats from five Championship games, but his arrival coincided with the start of a five-match unbeaten run and United manager Simon Grayson last week confirmed his intention to retain a key member of his improving defence.Bolton boss Owen Coyle previously implied that he would recall O'Brien after his first month with Leeds but the former Bradford City player had little involvement in Wanderers' Premier League season prior to joining United, and he is likely to leave Bolton permanently in the near future with his contract set to expire at the end of this season.
Leeds have guaranteed his services until after their visit to Cardiff City on January 4 but chairman Ken Bates said the club were likely to approach Bolton again in the new year with a view to keeping O'Brien at Elland Road for the second half of the Championship term.
Bates said: "I'm very happy to say that we've got an agreement with Bolton to extend his loan until January. Then we'll hopefully talk to Bolton again to see if we can keep him for longer.
"He's been a great figure in the defence and he hasn't been on a losing side. He and Leeds are going the same way."
O'Brien's appearance at Norwich City last Saturday was his fifth for Leeds, and the club have collected 11 points during his recent loan, rising to fifth position in the Championship in the process.
Grayson made no secret of his desire to keep O'Brien and left-back George McCartney, whose loan from Sunderland is reaching the end of its second month. Leeds are likely to follow up their bid to extend O'Brien's deal by attempting to retain McCartney until after the Christmas schedule.
Speaking last week, Grayson said: "If we can keep a settled back four then it'll play some part in getting consistency and confidence together. We want to keep good players and those two are good players."
Bates, meanwhile, has hinted that midfielder Bradley Johnson could still have a future at Elland Road if he reverses his decision to turn down a final contract offer from the club.
Johnson was placed on the transfer list by Leeds last week after failing to agree an extension to his existing deal, which runs until June.
The club do not intend to improve their proposal but asked whether Johnson could have a change of heart, Bates, above, said: "It's up to him. We've made clear our position. He rejected his final offer which was then withdrawn.
"He thinks he's worth more than we do and he has to prove to another club that he's worth the rather high valuation he's made of himself."
Johnson has been linked with both Bolton and Stoke City since turning down Leeds' offer.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

leedsunited.com 20/11/10
HONOURS END EVEN AT NORWICH
NORWICH 1 (Barnett 65), UNITED 1 (Gradel 13)
Manager Simon Grayson made one change to his starting line-up, recalling Luciano Becchio for Davide Somma for the clash with Norwich City.
The hosts were expecting a record Carrow Road attendance since the stadium became all-seater and United were backed by a sell-out 2,300 fans.
There was a decent atmosphere as United looked to build on an impressive away run, but it was Norwich who had the first effort on goal when Andrew Surman whipped in a free-kick and Elliott Ward headed over. Alex Bruce also made a decisive early clearance when Norwich came forward again.
In reply, during a frenetic opening few minutes, both Bradley Johnson and Jonny Howson tried their luck from distance.
United were looking to hit the home side on the counter and one early raid ended with Max Gradel winning a corner which was cleared.
Leeds had some defending to do, but both Bruce and Andy O'Brien were looking assured, and with Neil Kilkenny and Johnson offering additional protection, the formation allowed Leeds to move the ball upfield quickly.
And Grayson's men were in front after 12 minutes, courtesy of Gradel. Becchio was hacked down by Leon Barnett on the edge of the box, but the referee played advantage and Gradel tucked the ball beneath John Ruddy.
United were playing some good football and were pegging Norwich back. The movement was excellent and the home side were chasing shadows for a period.
Play was held up in the 23rd minute after Bruce received lengthy treatment following a challenge on Grant Holt which saw him handed a yellow card. Chris Martin took the resultant free-kick, but Schmeichel was able to smother his shot.
United responded by carving out another opening, but no one was on hand to convert Gradel's cross.
At the other end, Andrew Crofts should have done better when he looked to round Schmeichel, but his touch was poor.
And United immediately broke again, Robert Snodgrass having a shot blocked amid calls for handball.
It was certainly proving to be an entertaining clash, and United were working hard at both ends of the pitch. Another reward almost came United's way on 34 minutes, but Ruddy got just enough on a goalbound shot from Gradel to tip it over the bar.
It was an excellent performance from a Leeds side who were pressing to make their advantage count by scoring a second goal before half-time.
Gradel had a shot blocked, Jonny Howson, playing almost as a second striker, nearly walked his way to goal, Becchio headed wide, and Bruce couldn't get past Ward when he looked to meet a Howson flick-on.
United went in at the break on the back of one of the best first half performances of the season, the only frustration being that a second goal couldn't be added before the interval.
Norwich had to come out of the blocks at the start of the second half, and Crofts wasted the opportunity to tee up Grant Holt after a quickly taken free-kick.
Bruce also made a good block to deny the Norwich front man, and as the bal was put back into the box, Holt headed against of the upright.
At the other end, Simon Lappin headed away a cross as Leeds pressed, but it was United who were having to do the early defending, and Schmeichel made a good save to deny Chris Martin.
Grayson's men were still looking dangerous on the break, though, as Norwich's urgency threatened to leave spaces at the back for United to profit from.
But Norwich were back on level terms on 65 minutes in controversial fashion, Barnett headed home a David Fox corner, but Schmeichel was clearly felled as the corner was taken, although the match officials failed to see the incident.
That was the cue for United to open up again and within moments, Ruddy flapped at a cross from George McCartney and Norwich had to scramble the ball clear.
Robert Snodgrass also weaved his way into the box, looking to set up Howson, and another Gradel delivery had to be cleared.
United also won a series of corners, the third of which saw O'Brien battling for the ball as Ruddy flapped again.
United had more grounds for complaint when McCartney was adjudged to have committed a foul on the edge of the box, despite appearing to win the ball cleanly, and Bruce had to be alert to deny Barnett once again.
Bruce was excellent at the back and Schmeichel had another save to make when he got down well to deny Ward.
Moments later Kilkenny made a fantastic run to block off Simeon Jackson who was looking to beat Schmeichel to the ball.
The pressure was Norwich's now, but Leeds were defending well. and were also still looking to exploit opportunities.
The lead was almost regained by Snodgrass in spectacular fashion when he tried his luck from distance with an effort which looped just wide.
Then, Bruce headed clear again at the other end when under pressure from Holt. Schmeichel also saved well from Ward before Crofts fired wide.Four minutes of added time gave both sides hope, but neither could find a winner as Leeds left Carrow Road with a hard fought point.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


New pages uploaded at mightyleeds.co.uk

Leeds United in Panto

When Jimmy Armfield took over an ailing Leeds side in 1974, only one thing could get them back on track: a pantomime
Four Four Two feature from January 2009 - Steve Anglesey

Read the full story at http://www.mightyleeds.co.uk/misc/panto74.htm

Terry Hibbitt – A wayward genius

Frail of build and bandy of leg, Hibbitt was no classic athlete, but he was an outstanding midfielder, playing cultured and intelligent football. He possessed a great range of passing skills and an inspired feel for the through ball

Read the full story at
http://www.mightyleeds.co.uk/players/hibbitt.htm

Don Weston – Wing heeled wonder

Weston was one of the fastest players ever to play for Leeds United, signed by Don Revie as a replacement for John Charles in 1962 and spearheading their Second Division title win in 1964

Read the full story at
http://www.mightyleeds.co.uk/players/westondon.htm


Plus thumbnail autobiographies of United players from the 60s

Brian Wilson (goalkeeper) 1962-66
http://www.mightyleeds.co.uk/players/williamsonbrian.htm

Bobby Sibbald (full-back) 1963-69
http://www.mightyleeds.co.uk/players/sibbaldbobby.htm

Rod Johnson (forward) 1962-68
http://www.mightyleeds.co.uk/players/johnsonrod.htm

Barrie Wright (full-back) 1962-66
http://www.mightyleeds.co.uk/players/wrightbarrie.htm

Ian Lawson (forward) 1962-65
http://www.mightyleeds.co.uk/players/lawsonian.htm

Mike Addy (wing-half) 1962-64
http://www.mightyleeds.co.uk/players/addy.htm

Saturday, November 13, 2010

leedsunited.com
BECCHIO HAT-TRICK SINKS BRISTOL CITY
UNITED 3 (Becchio 65, 69, 83), BRISTOL CITY 1 (Stead 67)
United manager Simon Grayson made one change from the side which drew with Hull in midweek, striker Davide Somma replacing Luciano Becchio.
Somma, who was due to join up with the South African squad after the game, was an early threat. First he put David James under pressure when in pursuit of a Neil Kilkenny pass and moments later he tested the former England goalkeeper after good work by Jonny Howson.
Max Gradel was an early threat in and around the box while Bradley Johnson also had a shot deflected for a corner as Leeds started the contest firmly on the front foot.
In between, City's first real raid ended with Kasper Schmeichel receiving treatment after Jon Stead looked to meet a Danny Haynes cross.
James came to the visitors rescue before the half-hour when Louis Carey almost turned a Snodgrass cross into his own goal. As City returned the ball forward quickly, Schmeichel had to save well from Stead.
It was an entertaining opening half with Leeds having the better of the half-chances and oportunities that fell at both ends of the pitch.
United started the second period brightly, but the visitors were defending deep and in numbers and were content for Leeds to play around them.
When United did force an opening, Somma looking to capitalise on some decent passing play, James spread himself well to deny the striker.
On 61 minutes, Grayson looked to freshen things up a little, and he introduced Becchio and Lloyd Sam to proceedings.
And it was a substitution that paid dividends within five minutes. Snodgrass delivered a cross from the right and Becchio got up well to head home.
Within two minutes the visitors were level though. Albert Adomah delivered a cross from the right and Stead arrived at the near post to convert.
United responded by attacking straight from the re-start and there appeared to be a good penalty shout when Sam was caught up in a tangle with Nicky Hunt.
But Sam was involved a moment later as United took the lead again. His shot was saved by James, but Becchio arrived to convert the rebound.
Bristol City responded with a couple of raids, but it was 3-1 and game over on 83 minutes when Becchio headed home a George McCartney cross to complete his hat-trick.
The third goal had effectively sealed the game for Leeds as Simon Grayson's men were able to cruise their way towards a first home victory since September 23 when Sheffield United were beaten at Elland Road.
Schmeichel did have a save to make in stoppage time when he tipped a Steven Caulker header over the bar, and he also saved well from Brett Pitman, but the two-goal cushion was enough to see Leeds to a third victory in four games.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Yorkshire Evening Post 10/11/10
Mixed night for Whites midfielder Johnson
By Phil Hay
Bradley Johnson might feel the need to prove his value to Leeds United with contract talks between him and his club some way from a successful conclusion.
The own goal he scored at Elland Road last night was no way to sell himself.
The midfielder gave Leeds the sniff of a win over Hull City with his third goal of the season but ended a lively Yorkshire derby with the unkind distinction of beating both goalkeepers. His sliced clearance on 82 minutes was the defining moment on an evening of ever-shifting momentum.
United trailed for 20 minutes of the first half but had victory within their grasp in the final throes of the match, handed to them by an Andy O'Brien header. But Johnson's woeful flick from Tom Cairney's corner, carrying the ball past Kasper Schmeichel, reprieved a Hull team who were starting to flag with 10 men and precious little time to salvage a draw.
City's first goalscorer, John Bostock, soured his own appearance with a red card deep into the second half but the players he left behind conjured an equaliser from nothing, helped by Johnson's foot. A goalline clearance from Leroy Rosenior denied Alex Bruce a decisive third goal at the death.
Minor though the consolation will seem, the draw achieved one aim by marginally improving United's unusually weak record at home. Three defeats at Elland Road preceded their derby with Hull and Johnson and O'Brien prevented that sequence from extending any further.
Four years have passed since Leeds endured such a poor run; eight since the club lost four home fixtures in succession. If not quite a complex, their results at Elland Road were becoming a hindrance.
The majestic strike from Bostock which drew first blood threatened to subject another sizeable crowd to a familiarly miserable evening but Leeds fought back with calm perseverance, encouraged by a profitable spell away from home.
Three victories in succession, following wins at Scunthorpe United and Coventry City, would have spoken highly of Leeds' resurgence since their minor crisis towards the end of October, but the completion of three league games without defeat is progress in the eyes of Grayson, a manager for whom consistency has been elusive. It made a change for him to reflect on something other than a loss at Elland Road last night.
Johnson was asked to start after a minor hamstring strain accounted for Amdy Faye. The Senegalese international missed training on Monday and failed to persuade Grayson of his fitness yesterday. Max Gradel was cleared to play, despite a similar injury.
Johnson took Faye's place in the centre of midfielder but the most substantial changes were made to Grayson's defence, where Bruce and Neill Collins traded places once more. The former stepped in to partner centre-back O'Brien and the latter dropped to the bench.
Collins' demotion was as harsh as Bruce's had been at Coventry City on Saturday but there was never any doubt about Grayson's plan to recall Schmeichel from his baby-induced absence. The safe hands required by the Dane over the weekend were put to more familiar use at Elland Road.
For 14 minutes, he was shielded from a Hull attack which comprised of Richard Garcia, the sole prong in a protective formation used by Nigel Pearson. But City's first shot brought their first goal, scored in fabulous fashion by Bostock.The midfielder, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, attacked a free-kick 30 yards from goal, swerving the ball across Schmeichel and into the top corner of his net.
A meagre wall constructed on the edge of Leeds' box carried some of the blame, as did Johnson for the aggressive tackle on Bostock which gave the midfielder his chance and might have merited a yellow card. Elland Road, for all that, has seen few finishes as sublime this season.
Grayson could not claim to have sensed it coming. His side pressed City initially, and James Harper was called upon to clip the ball away from Jonathan Howson's feet before United's captain could score for the third successive game, but the onus to attack which Grayson spoke off before the game was heightened by Bostock's goal.
To his frustration, his players found Hull as organised and rigid as their defensive record implied. Becchio failed to apply an effective touch to Paul Connolly's cross on one of several of occasions when Leeds' right-back found space on the wing, and Howson's fluency was lacking when Becchio laid a Connolly pass back towards Hull's 18-yard line on the half-hour. Howson's scuffed shot dragged the ball wide.Yet Hull's defending it was which invited Leeds' equaliser in the 33rd minute. A weak headed clearance from Anthony Gerrard handed possession to Becchio who knocked the ball along the edge of the box. Johnson, his left foot is as vicious as Bostock's, dispatched it without thinking twice, low to the left of Matt Duke.
The scoreline forced Hull to be less economical with their attacks and Bruce earned his selection four minutes later by clearing the ball off Schmeichel's exposed goalline. Kevin Kilbane's cross caught Grayson's defence stretched and ran to Bostock at the far post but Bruce stood up to his shot, turning it behind.
Grayson held his breath again when Ian Ashbee, Hull's captain, met the resulting corner with his head and nodded it past Schmeichel's left-hand post. Ashbee appealed hopefully for handball but knew he should have buried the chance. Hull's discipline wavered towards the end of the first half as Bostock and Kilbane earned cautions for loose tackles and James Harper received one for needlessly deflecting the ball with his arm. Bostock would later pay for his. The draw City were heading for also came under pressure with the interval behind them.
Howson lashed a shot into the side netting after Snodgrass corner' bounced through Duke's six-yard box and Becchio curled the ball against City's bar in the 55th minute, a clever effort from outside the area.
Davide Somma, who signed a three-year contract with Leeds on the morning of yesterday's game, stepped off the bench with little over 20 minutes remaining but stood back as O'Brien, a more unlikely source, supplied United's second goal with a header which flicked Duke's right-hand post.
Johnson should have scored again soon after but Bostock's second booking and subsequent red card for fouling George McCartney seemed to have the same, match-killing effect. To the bewilderment of Elland Road, Johnson turned Cairney's delivery into his own net and rescued Hull with eight minutes to play.
leedsunited.com 9/11/10
LEVELLER DENIES UNITED DESERVED WIN
UNITED 2 (Johnson 32, O'Brien 71), HULL 2 (Bostock 14, Harper 82)
Leeds United manager Simon Grayson made three changes from the side which won 3-2 at Coventry on Saturday. Kasper Schmeichel returned in place of Jason Brown, Bradley Johnson came in for the injured Amdy Faye, and Alex Bruce was recalled for Neill Collins, who dropped to the bench.
United fashioned out the first opening of the game and in similar fashion to the first goal at Coventry, Robert Snodgrass supplied a good delivery into the box which was scrambled clear from an advancing Jonny Howson.
But it was Hull who drew first blood in the 14th minute with a powerful free-kick from Jon Bostock. The on-loan Tottenham youngster unleashed a stunning left foot strike from outside of the box leaving Schmeichel with no chance.
The opening goal was the only meaningful shot of what was a tense opening period. Both sides enjoyed possession, but while Leeds showed more purpose, it wasn't until Howson rounded off a good passing move by screwing a shot wide that United found a half-chance.
But United were deservedly level on minutes when some good pressing paid off and Johnson produced a greaty first time strike from just inside the box to make it 1-1.
Hull had offered little in the way of a threat, but Alex Bruce was called upon to hack a Bostock clear after a cross was scuffed across goal to set the loan man up with a decent chance.
Moments later, Snodgrass headed a Gradel cross over the top as Leeds threatened again. United continued to press again leading up to half-time, Gradel was prving a handful, and there were appeals for a penalty when Ian Ashbee appeared to handle a bouncing ball inside the box.
The half came to a close with a couple of bookings for Hull and flurry of free-kicks as Leeds went in at the break well-placed.
United were looking to end a run of three successive defeats on home soil and Grayson's men started the second period in positive fashion. Howson fired into the side netting from a tight angle on 51 minutes after a Gradel corner was headed across goal.
Becchio was next to go close when he hit the bar with a dipping shot after good work by Gradel and Johnson as Leeds continued to peg Hull back.
United were dominating by the midway stage of the second half and the visitors were defending deeper in numbers as Leeds played the ball around. Grayson also made his first change with just over 20 minutes remaining when he introduced Davide Somma in place of Gradel.
And Leeds were soon in front, courtesy of central defender Andy O'Brien. Snodgrass delivered a cross from the right and O'Brien got up wel to head beyond Matt Duke.
The lead was fully deserved with Leeds turning a best Elland Road performance since early September, and there was some frustration from the visitors when Becchio needed treatment after a clash with Ashbee.
Once play resumed, with a corner kick, Johnson headed wide from close range.
With 12 minutes left on the clock, Hull were reduced to 10 men when Bostock was given a second yellow card following a challenge from behind on the impressive McCartney.
But disaster struck on 82 minutes when a corner was swung in from the Hull right and both Johnson and James Harper swung their legs at it, and the connection was enough to send the ball past Schmeichel.
It was an unfortunate goal to concede after a second half which Leeds had dominated, but Grayson's men continued to press. In the final minute,. Bruce had a flying header cleared off the line by Liam Rosenior before Becchio smashed the rebound over the top.Four minutes of injury time, a first Elland Road introduction for Billy Paynter, and a near 25,000 crowd urged Leeds on - but the winner United deserved didn't come as Grayson's men had to be content with a point.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

New pages uploaded at mightyleeds.co.uk

2009/10 Cup exploits


Matches - 3/2/2010 - Leeds United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 3


It's FA Cup night at Elland Road as a memorable run continues - Jermain Defoe missed a host of golden opportunities but Leeds emerged with credit despite a hat trick from the England striker


Read the full story at
http://www.mightyleeds.co.uk/matches/20100203.htm



Matches - 23/1/2010 - Tottenham Hotspur 2 Leeds United 2

The reward for the breathtaking third round victory at Old Trafford was a trip to another Premier League ground in the next round - Tottenham were the hosts in a game that was even more dramatic than its predecessor


Read the full story at
http://www.mightyleeds.co.uk/matches/20100123.htm



Matches - 3/1/2010 - Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1


29 years of hurt up in a puff of smoke as League One Leeds go to the Theatre of Dreams and inflict humiliation on Sir Alex Ferguson and his Champions League winners - "We're not famous any more!"

Read the full story at
http://www.mightyleeds.co.uk/matches/20100103.htm



Matches - 22/9/2009 - Leeds United 0 Liverpool 1

The glory days were back as United welcomed Premier League giants Liverpool to Elland Road for a Carling Cup-tie. They did themselves proud and were unlucky to see a goal chalked off for offside

Read the full story at
http://www.mightyleeds.co.uk/matches/20090922.htm

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Daily Mail 6/11/10
Coventry 2 Leeds 3: Robert Snodgrass making up for lost time
Robert Snodgrass stole the show as Leeds recorded back-to-back wins with a thrilling 3-2 success at Coventry.
The Scottish playmaker, regaining top form after an injury that ruled him out of the first seven weeks of the season, laid on an opener for the in-form Jonny Howson before netting a wonderful solo second.
Fourth-placed Coventry hit back after the break through Lukas Jutkiewicz and, although Max Gradel's penalty was quickly cancelled out by Ben Turner's goal to set up a tense finish, Leeds held on to build on last weekend's 4-1 win at Scunthorpe.
Howson scored a hat-trick that day and although he was again impressive, Snodgrass stole the show with a fine exhibition of wing play that had the Coventry defenders bedazzled all afternoon. Leeds' preparations were disrupted when goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel withdrew from the side on Friday night to be at the birth of his son, while Coventry were unchanged following their win at Sheffield United last weekend.
Schmeichel's absence did not hinder Leeds in the early stages, though, and they took the lead four minutes in through Howson.
George McCartney's cross from the left evaded everyone and found its way to Snodgrass at the back post, allowing the Scot to stand the ball up for the incoming Howson who planted a header beyond Keiren Westwood.
Neil Kilkenny then drove just wide as Leeds impressed and Coventry were fortunate to see another dangerous cross from Snodgrass fizz across their goal.
Jutkiewicz tried to get Coventry going with a header and a shot that inched wide, while Paul Connolly did well to get his body in the way of a goal-bound drive from former Leeds loanee Gary McSheffrey.
Howson could have doused the home side's fire had he directed a second header off another Snodgrass centre on target when he found himself free in the box, and the winger felt he should have been awarded a 28th-minute penalty when he went down under Martin Cranie's challenge, but referee Keith Stroud waved away his protests.
Jutkiewicz passed up a golden opportunity 10 minutes before the break as he found himself one-on-one with Jason Brown, only to allow Connolly to close his space and force him to shoot wide.
Snodgrass had been the game's star performer, though, and he deservedly doubled his side's advantage after 40 minutes, cutting in from the right and curling home a stunning 20-yard strike that gave Westwood no chance.
Coventry did have chances to reduce the deficit before the break, but Jutkiewicz was denied by Neill Collins before Brown held a Richard Wood bullet on his line.
Former Everton striker Jutkiewicz had been his side's best outlet all afternoon and it was he that gave them a lifeline in the 52nd minute with his fourth of the season.
With McCartney off the field injured, McSheffrey whipped in a cross that Turner nodded back across goal for the waiting Jutkiewicz.
Leeds manager Simon Grayson was unhappy that McCartney had not been allowed back on to the field in time and he and his coaching staff jostled with the Coventry bench in the aftermath.
It was soon Coventry's turn to complain as a penalty was awarded for a Richard Keogh's foul on Gradel, but their claims were without justification and the Ivorian winger dusted himself down to slot home from the spot (61).
But Leeds were as fallible in defence as they were lively in attack, and Coventry were back to within a goal just three minutes later as Turner prodded home a loose ball in the visiting area.
Turner was quickly proving his worth at his own end just after that, getting back to dive in the way of Luciano Becchio's effort which was destined for the goal after he had broke free and rounded Westwood. Coventry laid siege to the Leeds goal for the remaining 26 minutes but, apart from a Wood header that Brown saved, they were unable to find a way to goal.
Yorkshire Evening Post 1/11/10
Howson hat-trick inspires Whites
It is a little-known fact that Jonny Howson was an aspiring striker in his academy years.
Nothing in the 22-year-old's resume speaks of a pronounced talent for scoring goals.
Only when Leeds United's first team began to beckon did the club rebrand Howson as a central midfielder, the position with which he is synonymous at Elland Road and from where his goals were liable to be limited.
Five-a-season is Howson's average but that diminutive total belies his uncanny sense of timing. A first career hat-trick, scored against Scunthorpe United on Saturday, was four years and 169 appearances in the making; worth the wait for a club who needed inspiration and a shot in their arm.
Howson's finishing touch – a get-out clause invoked by Leeds at crucial junctures of previous seasons – came to the fore in the second half at Glanford Park, delivering three goals in 15 minutes and winning decisively a game which was less clear-cut than the scoreline.
"He played like a captain today," said United manager Simon Grayson, complimenting a player who carried the armband with distinction.
Howson soaked up the attention after full-time with his usual modesty, mulling over a hat-trick which veteran members of the press corps described as "classic" – compiled with each foot and with his head. But Saturday, like several of his past conquests, was an afternoon when the collective effect of Howson's brilliance obscured his personal satisfaction.
United were some way short of must-win territory in Scunthorpe but the distance between the club and stony ground had shortened during the weeks of October.
As self-assured as he sounded, Grayson appreciated that defeat at Glanford Park would encourage vociferous voices outside his dressing room to grow in number. "We needed a win," he said, without admitting that the need amongst his players was unusually urgent.
United dipped their feet into the bottom half of the Championship last month and realised quickly that they ought not to do so for long. The excuse proffered after defeats to Leicester City and Cardiff City – the crux of it being that both squads were essentially better than Grayson's – would not have washed at Glanford Park, a ground where crowds and budgets equate to League One. Some expectation is impossible to argue with.
A draw would have provided United with space in which to breathe but Howson's treble made that likely outcome an improbability with 15 minutes to play, notwithstanding Grayson's maligned defence.
His goals were the product of the shift in power that occurred at half-time, the point on Saturday when a storm around Leeds threatened to gather. Scunthorpe it was who felt battered and beaten by the final whistle.
Crucial to that swinging momentum was the premature exit of Scunthorpe's David Mirfin, a smothering centre-back who for 45 minutes marked Luciano Becchio, United's lone striker, out of the game.Mirfin's foot injury forced his manager, Ian Baraclough, to call upon 19-year-old Niall Canavan immediately after half-time, and the result was akin to removing a supporting wall from a house. Howson alone saw more chances in the second half than Leeds' entire team did in the first.
For that, Grayson was also responsible, alive to the disparity between the sides. "It was made very clear to us at half-time that we'd had one corner to their seven," said Andy O'Brien, United's debutant defender. He and the players around him understood the message and began to ask questions of Scunthorpe, questions which Baraclough's team could not answer.
O'Brien's selection, a day after he moved on loan to Elland Road from Bolton Wanderers, was not even open to debate in the mind of a manager whose patience with his club's defensive record ran dry last week. But of the two centre-backs involved in a 4-0 loss to Cardiff City – Neill Collins and Alex Bruce – it was not entirely logical that Collins would be the player asked to make way. Grayson preferred to give Bruce the benefit of the doubt.
Partially culpable for Cardiff's first goal, Bruce relied on O'Brien's anticipation to spare him an own goal in the second minute at Glanford Park, a concession for which a mis-hit clearance by Kasper Schmeichel would have carried more blame.
The anxiety persisted until the interval but lifted eventually, dispersed by O'Brien's strength and defensive nous and the continuity provided by the extension of George McCartney's loan from Sunderland. Grayson might at last have the basis of a settled back four.
O'Brien's first act was his most crucial, hacking the ball away from United's goal after Scunthorpe returned Schmeichel's weak kick with interest. Bruce slid in to dispossess Chris Dagnall inside the box but chipped the ball over his keeper's diving body and towards his net. By then, Grayson was already grateful for O'Brien's presence.
The early exchanges continued in that nervous vein but Howson gave a hint at his pro-active mood when, against the run of seven minutes' play, he cut open Scunthorpe's defence with a slick through-ball. Max Gradel anticipated it by sprinting past Cliff Byrne and slipped a low shot to the right of Scunthorpe goalkeeper Tony Warner.
Gradel's selection was one of three changes to Grayson's team, named as part of a five-man midfield that also included Neil Kilkenny and left Becchio isolated up front. It was not until Grayson dispensed with Amdy Faye and introduced Bradley Johnson in the 55th minute that United's intensity became overwhelming but the involvement of Gradel made use of a player whose claim to a starting position has gained strength in the past month.
Either side of his goal, pressure weighed on Leeds. It told in the 27th minute when Byrne climbed above O'Brien to head Michael O'Connor's corner through the right hand of Schmeichel and into the corner of his net. As a sum of their first-half performance, Scunthorpe had reason to feel that one goal was a modest return.
But Mirfin made way at half-time and Faye followed before the second half had taken shape, allowing Howson to drift forward and throttle Scunthorpe.
Carlisle United and Bristol Rovers can sympathise with Baraclough's players, prior victims of Howson's goals. His first on the hour was sublime, struck across Warner with his left foot after Michael Raynes failed to intercept Paul Connolly's cross.
Twice Scunthorpe threatened to reply as Schmeichel pushed Sears' shot over his crossbar and watched Canavan send a dropping corner in the same direction, but their defence was strewn across the field when Howson met Gradel's deep cross and headed it into the roof of Warner's net.
No sooner had the keeper fished the ball out than Howson was meeting Becchio's pass with a cultured shot from the edge of the box, curled home with his right boot and the help of a post.
"The way we collapsed was like a deck of cards," said Byrne.
Howson was asked later whether the performance was the best of his career. "That's for you to decide," he said with a smile.
A week earlier, United's vice-captain cut a sterner figure while taking it upon himself to comment defensively and eloquently about the club's worsening form. He is maturing as a spokesman but still more comfortable talking with his feet.