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."
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 5/12/10
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." 4/12/10
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. 28/11/10
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.
" 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.