Wednesday, August 31, 2011 31/8/11
Max Gradel was this morning undertaking a medical with Saint-Etienne with a view to completing the formalities of his transfer to the French top division club.
The Ivory Coast international handed in a transfer request on Tuesday afternoon when he stated: "It is with a heavy heart that I have asked to leave Leeds United today.
"It was a difficult decision for me as Leeds has been a wonderful place to live and to play football. However, I have made the decision based on my career development, and the opportunity to play at the highest level in France is too big an opportunity to turn down.
"I want to thank all the Leeds United fans who loyally follow the team up and down the country as you have made my time at the club very special. I also want to thank Simon Grayson, my team-mates, and everyone at the club for all your help and support, and giving me the opportunity to play for this great club.
"I am sure that it will not be long before Leeds United return to the Premier League and I wish you every success in the future."
leeds 30/8/11
Gradel departs after transfer request
Leeds United have reluctantly accepted an offer from French club Saint-Etienne for Max Gradel.
The player, who joined Leeds for an initial fee of £200,000 when he moved permanently from Leicester in January 2010, submitted a transfer request earlier on Tuesday, stating his desire to secure a move to his 'native' France and play at the highest level for his career development.
There has been extensive interest in the player, who is out of contract at the end of the season, from both clubs in England and France, however we were reluctant to agree to a domestic transfer that could potentially harm our promotion ambitions.
The player is to undertake a medical examination on Wednesday and the fee will remain undisclosed.
Max has scored 25 goals in 81 appearances for United since joining the club, initially on loan from Leicester City in October 2009.
The player, who won his first international caps while with the club, played a part in the team which won promotion from League One in 2009/10 and also figured prominently on our return to the Championship last season.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Yorkshire Evening Post 29/8/11
Ipswich Town v Leeds United: Whites left to rue their luck
A week is a long time in football, as Ipswich Town cannot fail to realise. It is nothing like the length of the fortnight in which Leeds United will dwell on a perplexing defeat.
The charitable streak in Simon Grayson told him that of the two managers thrown together at Portman Road on Saturday, Paul Jewell was most in need of whatever luck existed. Devoid of any on a night of humiliation at Peterborough United, Jewell’s hands were suddenly full of it.
Ipswich’s manager cracked a knowing smile after their 2-1 win over Leeds, counting his blessings in full. Grayson looked crushed by a scoreline which, in his view and those of others around him, beggared belief. “No-one leaving this stadium can say we deserved to lose,” he said, a defiant claim in the face of a travesty. When it came to bemoaning his luck, United’s boss did not know where to start.
Top of the charge-sheet was a red card shown to his left-back Aidan White, issued at a time when Leeds were a goal to the good and apparently untouchable. Without White’s 49th-minute dismissal, the result might have given rise to speculation about the first sacking of the season, but respite for Jewell came in spite of Ipswich’s many flaws. He will breathe easier because of it.
His back four looked vulnerable before Saturday’s game, exposed by appalling losses to Peterborough and Southampton, and no help was forthcoming from Grayson, a close acquaintance of his. It came instead from a sending off that Jewell himself struggled to justify.
Grayson disputed it angrily and also argued with Andy D’Urso’s refusal to award a penalty for a foul on Max Gradel with the score at 1-1 and the clock on 86 minutes. “It looked like a penalty to me,” admitted Jewell.
There was little for Grayson to say about the winning goal in the final minute of the match, claimed by Keith Andrews but the product of a wild deflection.
Earlier, United had taken the lead through Ross McCormack’s 34th-minute header and waltzed around the pitch before half-time. That a solitary goal materialised in a one-sided period of the game was ultimately to their cost.
Ipswich’s attempts to exploit White’s red card were negated for a while but Jason Scotland found a gap in Leeds’ defences in the 77th minute, forcing an equaliser with the sharpest of finishes. The completion of Ipswich’s victory was a more dubious process and, deflated in his dug-out, Grayson oozed frustration. For all the strain on Jewell, his team reached the international break with six points to show. Leeds have only four.
Jewell was frank enough to describe the second half of Ipswich’s 7-1 rout in Peterborough seven days previously as “the hardest 45 minutes I’ve had to endure” and three signings in the 48 hours before Saturday’s match were indicative of a pensive manager.
His club’s pulling-power showed in the selection of two players approached by Leeds before the season began, Andrews and David Stockdale. A hamstring strain accounted for Lee Bowyer but the talented Jimmy Bullard took up a seat on the bench, explaining why Grayson preferred to disregard Ipswich’s week from hell and avoid a sense of false security.
More assurance came from the recovery from injury of White and Tom Lees, allowing Grayson to use the same group of 11 players as he did for United’s meeting with West Ham. Disappointed though Ramon Nunez was to find himself on the periphery again, he cannot have been surprised. The collective performance at Upton Park overrode his goals in the Carling Cup.
Warm sunshine greeted Leeds on their arrival at Portman Road but a violent shower in the half-hour before kick-off rendered the pitch sodden. A wet surface contributed to a loose start but United saw pleasing evidence of Ipswich’s fragility twice in the opening 10 minutes.
Robert Snodgrass cut open Jewell’s defence at the first attempt, feeding McCormack with a chipped pass which the striker struck against the legs of Stockdale, and Snodgrass’ curling shot 60 seconds later flew across the goalkeeper and inches wide of his far post.
Already, the smell of blood was apparent to Grayson’s players and their attitude seemed fearless. A counter-attack covering the full length of the pitch ended with Max Gradel carrying Snodgrass’ crossfield pass into the box and dragging the ball beyond Ipswich’s goal, and Stockdale blocked a McCormack finish with his chest after Tom Lees evaded the nervous Aaron Cresswell and hooked a cross onto the Scot’s head. From five yards out, the chance was gift-wrapped.
Ipswich took 23 minutes to muster any type of response, and even then the moment was wasted when Andrews mishit a volley on the edge of the box. The space for him was created by Daryl Muphy’s flicked header but dependent too on Patrick Kisnobro’s slow reaction to Andrews’ run. An error seemed to be Ipswich’s most likely route to Andy Lonergan, the one passenger in United’s team before half-time.
By the 27th minute, when Grant Leadbitter fouled Adam Clayton and Gradel grazed the side-netting with a neat set-piece, the blank scoreline had the capacity to worry Grayson.
The briefest sniff of a goal at Lonergan’s end of the field came shortly after as Ibrahima Sonko nodded Mark Kennedy’s long free-kick over the bar, but any concern felt by Grayson faded immediately as McCormack scored the goal Leeds had threatened for the duration of the opening half-hour.
The forward drifted into another dangerous position in front of Stockdale and rose to cushion a delivery from Snodgrass into one corner of Ipswich’s net.
A short and unconvincing advance on Lonergan in the closing minutes of the half did not prevent booing amongst the crowd when the interval arrived.
Neither they nor Grayson could foresee the change in the wind instigated by White’s dismissal. The young defender lost control of a high clearance and dragged down Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, giving D’Urso the right to show him a straight red card.
The only consolation for Grayson was the referee’s view that White’s offence had taken place a foot outside Lonergan’s box.
In a flurry of tactical jousting, Grayson replaced McCormack with Andy O’Brien and Jewell refreshed his midfield by calling on Bullard and Josh Carson. Lonergan prevented a quick equaliser by diving to punch away Andrews’ 20-yard drive.
Ipswich continued to descend on Grayson’s defence and the battle lines were drawn far from Stockdale’s goal. United’s appeared to be holding on until Kisnorbo stepped off Scotland and gave Ipswich’s third substitute room to crack a lethal shot to the left of Lonergan, lifting the gloom that was gathering ominously around Portman Road.
D’Urso did his bit to banish it further when he ignored a risky tackle by Carlos Edwards on Gradel inside Ipswich’s box, and Andrews’ finish in the 90th minute left the crowd in as much disbelief as Leeds as the ball was carried over Lonergan from 20 yards by a fierce deflection off the boot of Clayton.
“This isn’t a night to analyse things,” said a relieved Jewell. “It’s a night for saying ‘thank Christ for that.”

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sporting Life 28/8/11
Ipswich boss Paul Jewell admitted his Ipswich side were lucky to come from behind and beat Leeds.
Town went behind to a Ross McCormack goal but hit back with strikes from Keith Andrews and Jason Scotland after Leeds had defender Aidy White sent off.
After shipping five and seven goals in their previous two npower Championship games the Ipswich boss was relieved to get a win, however undeserved.
"Let us be honest, Leeds are a good team and outplayed us first half," said Jewell.
"After losing seven the players are edgy and we were on the back foot, which was understandable.
"We got a couple of decisions that went our way and a deflected goal.
"Thank Christ for that, sometimes you have to just take the victory. We needed a victory and however we got it - we will take it."
Leeds-born David Stockdale thwarted McCormack twice in the opening 20 minutes, first saving with his feet and then a block from a point-blank header.
But McCormack was not to be denied in the 34th minute when he found space in the six-yard box and steered his header from a Robert Snodgrass cross past the keeper.
Leeds boss Simon Grayson said: "First half we were outstanding against a team that has been put together with a lot of money and internationals and they created nothing.
"They never created a chance against us. We could have been two or three up and the game would have been put to bed. Ross McCormack's header hit David Stockdale and he knows nothing about it. It wasn't a worldy save, I could have accepted that, but we could have had the game won.
"When the home crowd boo their team off you know you have done a good job."
Three minutes after the break Leeds defender White was shown a straight red card for dragging down Jay Emmanuel-Thomas a yard outside the box - a decision Grayson insists made all the difference.
"The whole game changed on the sending-off decision," he said. "It's a free-kick on Aidy White for a start. As he and Thomas are running through Thomas has nudged him in the back and that has made them both go down.
"We were in no danger of losing that game until that decision."
Although Grant Leadbitter's free-kick came to nothing, the moment inspired Ipswich. Substitute Jason Scotland equalised for the Blues in the 77th minute with a 25-yard thunderbolt. Andrews hit the winner with his third goal in three games since joining on loan from Blackburn a couple of minutes from time when his long-range effort deflected off Adam Clayton to wrong-foot Andy Lonergan.
Leeds claimed for a penalty when Max Gradel went down under a Carlos Edwards challenge but D'Urso waved away their appeals.
Grayson said: "Max Gradel could have had a penalty. Outside the box a free-kick would have been given and it should have been given inside."
Jewell admits his match-winner Scotland is still up for sale but was pleased for his scorer.
He said: "All managers like to think they are experts and I looked at his record against Leeds and saw he has a decent record so I stuck him on the bench.
"Jason deserves a pat on the back."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Yorkshire Evening Post 24/8/11
Doncaster Rovers 1 Leeds United 2: Nunez double gets Whites out of jail
AN exhilarating skirmish with West Ham United on Sunday left little doubt about the make-up of Leeds United’s strongest available team. Last night’s visit to Doncaster Rovers, where Leeds staved off an early exit from the Carling Cup, all but confirmed the pecking order at Elland Road – with one exception.
The club’s outing at a half-full Keepmoat Stadium was a chance for players on the periphery of Grayson’s regular line-up to fight their corner and catch his eye, but the bulk of United’s team should pick itself in Ipswich this weekend after their scramble into the League Cup’s third round.
Nunez posed the only serious question mark by scoring twice in fine style and settling the tie in normal time.
His sublime volleys were the sum of United’s performance, coming in either half and freeing Leeds of the mediocrity that constrained them for an hour.
Doncaster’s night was trouble-free for much of the game but having taken a second-minute lead through James Hayter and exerted enough control to win the match before the interval, they ran out of steam and found Nunez lurking in wait.
United’s presence in the third round draw relied entirely on his deadly precision.
Leeds have profited regularly enough from the Carling Cup and the FA Cup to give both competitions serious attention but it was not difficult to guess the order of Grayson’s priorities last night.
The club’s 2-2 draw at Upton Park 48 hours earlier was one good reason to rest players and Saturday’s match against Ipswich – the last before the season’s first international break – gave him another.
Grayson was not about to risk a league fixture on progression beyond the second round of the League Cup.
Six changes revised three-quarters of United’s team, leaving only their strikeforce of Ross McCormack and Andy Keogh untouched. Doncaster’s line-up showed just three and their familiarity – or United’s lack of it – paid off instantly.
In an inauspicious start, goalkeeper Paul Rachubka took to the field for his competitive debut and was beaten inside two minutes by a basic goal. Giles Barnes crossed unopposed into United’s area and a touch from Hayter nudged the ball into the net. Rachubka was already committed when the deflection flew to his left.
The unravelling of Grayson’s defence continued apace as Richard Naylor, United’s former club captain and a defender released by Grayson in May, skewed a free header against Andy O’Brien and Mustapha Dumbuya whipped a cross in front of Rachubka after cutting unopposed along the byline.
Rachubka’s diving block beat away a volley from Kyle Bennett nine minutes later.
Players who Grayson said “needed a game” struggled to conceal their rustiness.
The influence of Barnes on the right wing underpinned Doncaster’s dominance, and the pressure on left-back Aidan White brought the game’s first booking in the eighth minute after White clipped Dumbuya’s heels.
When Barnes began tying the young defender in knots shortly after, it seemed that Grayson might need to protect White from a second caution by substituting him. As a whole, United’s early demeanour was one of disarray.
The width of a post denied Doncaster a second goal in the 21st minute when a through-ball to Bennett forced Rachubka to look on as the winger curled the ball around him and against the inside of an upright.
The flamboyance of Bennett’s finish with only Rachubka to beat bordered on wasteful, and Sean O’Driscoll came to rue that miss when Nunez equalised on the half-hour through nothing more than a half-chance.
Andy Keogh’s flick guided Rachubka’s clearance to the corner of Doncaster’s box, and Nunez punished a lax defence by driving an instinctive volley which looped over Gary Woods and into the far side of his net.
It was the first time that Doncaster’s keeper had been remotely troubled.
The equaliser spared Grayson from the early substitutions which seemed unavoidable for as long as Doncaster dictated the flow of the match. United’s bench featured Adam Clayton, Max Gradel and Robert Snodgrass but, so soon after the exertions of West Ham, the ideal scenario was a tie that left all three players unused.
The start of the second half did not bode well.
Shortly after the restart, Rachubka showed his agility again by diving to parry Bennett’s header after Dumbuya’s cross reached the back post, and Barnes’ short corner five minutes later found Sam Hird wandering into space inside United’s area. Hird’s shot against Jonathan Howson’s elbow raised vociferous appeals for a penalty but prised no award from referee Mark Brown.
White’s exhausting shift ended after an hour with academy graduate Charlie Taylor stepping into the breach, and Gradel replaced McCormack in quick succession.
United’s only chance in between was a lay-off from Nunez to Keogh after Naylor misjudged a high ball towards Doncaster’s box, but Keogh’s wild finish sliced the ball wide.
But Rovers began to flag as normal time ticked away and Rachubka became a grateful spectator, bothered only when Mark Wilson’s attempt from 20 yards slipped off his hands and bounced behind.
Gradel threatened with a bursting run and shot which climbed over Doncaster’s bar, and the tie was won by Nunez when the Honduran international found the corner of Wood’s net with a deadly volley from 20 yards, seven minutes from the end of the match.
Doncaster’s fortune deserted them for a final time as a last shot in anger from Bennett caught the outside of a post.
Yorkshire Evening Post 24/8/11
Ramon’s in the frame
SIMON Grayson admitted he was under pressure to hand Ramon Nunez a regular starting place at Elland Road after a brace of goals from the Honduran international carried Leeds United into the third round of the Carling Cup.
Nunez earned Leeds a 2-1 victory at Doncaster Rovers last night with two brilliant volleys, increasing his tally of goals for the season to five in six appearances.
The midfielder scored on 30 minutes, levelling an early strike from Doncaster’s James Hayter, and he struck again seven minutes from time to pull United through a tie which Rovers dominated.
Nunez made his first league start for Leeds during last week’s 4-1 rout of Hull City, a match in which he found the net, but he returned to the bench for Sunday’s 2-2 draw with West Ham United.
His performance last night put him in firm contention for inclusion against Ipswich Town at Portman Road on Saturday, and Grayson, who named Roberts Snodgrass and Max Gradel on the bench at the Keepmoat Stadium, admitted he was running out of reasons to omit Nunez after a sequence of influential displays.
Grayson said: “I told him when I left him out on Sunday that he’s done nothing wrong and nothing to justify being left out of the team. This gives me a major problem for the weekend because he’s put in a performance that tells me I should pick him.”
Nunez was part of weakened team used by Grayson against Doncaster, 48 hours after a tiring meeting with West Ham, and the United boss said: “We had to make a few changes. Doncaster caused us a lot of problems but once we got back into the game we were very composed.”
Yorkshire Post 22/8/11
West Ham United 2 Leeds United 2: Impressive Leeds play their part in superb encounter
By Richard Sutcliffe
WHEN the case was being made in favour of West Ham United moving to the Olympic Stadium after next year’s Games, all manner of reasons were put forward by the club’s board.
A need to bring more matchday income into the coffers courtesy of a 60,000 capacity venue was the most persuasive, while it being much easier to get to Stratford than Upton Park on weekends when the tube system in the East End is left near paralysed by engineering works also won over many of the doubters.
Upton Park being something of a graveyard for the Hammers when Leeds United come to the capital is, admittedly, unlikely to have been in anyone’s thoughts.
However, after United yesterday extended their amazing run to just two defeat in 18 trips up the District Line since 1975, the home fans could be thankful that come 2013 West Ham are likely to be kicking off the season in new surroundings.
A dramatic equaliser with six seconds of normal time remaining by Adam Clayton was enough to earn Leeds reward this time.
And, even allowing for being denied so late on, surely few of the home fans in the 28,252 crowd can argue that the Yorkshire club did not deserve a share of the spoils from a truly absorbing contest.
Against a side containing three current England internationals – something that was enough to persuade Fabio Capello to give up his Sunday to watch – and a £5m summer signing in Kevin Nolan, Leeds were quite simply outstanding.
With Clayton and Jonny Howson bossing proceedings in midfield and Andy Keogh again linking up impressively with Ross McCormack up front, Simon Grayson’s side took the game to their hosts in a manner that few will surely match this season.
West Ham also played a full part in ensuring that the 103rd tussle between two old foes should be such an enthralling affair.
Sam Allardyce’s side undoubtedly started brighter, so much so that they created three chances in the space of 51 seconds just after the clock in the corner of the Trevor Brooking Stand had passed the five-minute mark.
Andy Lonergan was equal to the first of those two efforts, a looping header by Carlton Cole and a fierce header from James Tomkins. The Leeds goalkeeper could, however, do nothing about the third of those quick-fire chances as Cole nipped in front of Tom Lees to divert Matt Taylor’s cross into the net from close range.
It was the worst possible start for Leeds but credit must go to Grayson’s men for how they responded in admirable fashion to force several openings of their own.
First, a delightful chipped pass from the outstanding Clayton released Max Gradel, who brought a fine save from Robert Green.
Keogh then had two efforts blocked before Robert Snodgrass struck a post with a dipping shot after West Ham had only half-cleared the Scot’s corner.
Allardyce’s side, clearly not wanting to be dictated to on their own patch, responded with a surge forward that saw Darren O’Dea forced to concede a corner under pressure from Taylor.
From the resulting set-piece, James Tomkins was then bundled to the floor by Paddy Kisnorbo only for referee Michael Oliver to wave away the appeals for what appeared a definite penalty.
West Ham were understandably incensed and their anger only increased on 28 minutes when Oliver pointed to the spot at the other end after an awkward bounce had seen the ball strike Matt Taylor on the arm.
It was a soft decision, though one Leeds were unable to take advantage of due to Gradel then drilling wide of Green’s right-hand post from 12 yards.
At this stage, it was difficult to believe less than half an hour had been played, such had been the remarkable pace of proceedings.
That continued right through to half-time with West Ham having a second penalty appeal turned down when Cole seemed to be tripped by Aidy White and then Gradel raced up the other end to unleash a swerving 30-yard effort that Green beat away at full-stretch.
If that wasn’t enough incident for the crowd to savour in 45 captivating minutes, there was still time for referee Oliver to miss Cole swinging his elbow into O’Dea’s face.
The controversy continued after the restart with Parker’s sliding tackle on White seeing a corner awarded by the Northumberland official when he should have instead pointed to the spot.
What was also maintained in the second half was the ability of both sides to race forward at breakneck speed to force an opening.
Unlike the opening 45 minutes, Leeds were the first to threaten when Keogh found himself in space just eight yards out only to then shoot straight at Green, McCormack firing the rebound over.
At the other end, Jack Collison brought a smart block from Lonergan but it was the visitors who continued to dominate and their reward came just before the hour.
McCormack, who had been denied twice in quick succession just moments earlier, was the player who found the net with a close range finish but the goal owed everything to the intricate play of Snodgrass and Keogh plus a raking cross-field ball from Jonny Howson that had opened up the home defence.
West Ham’s response was impressively swift, the hosts regaining their lead within just three minutes when a drilled cross by Julien Faubert was turned into his own net by the unfortunate Kisnorbo.
For a spell, Leeds then looked a beaten side as only the brilliance of Lonergan kept out efforts from James Tomkins and Winston Reid, while Parker’s drilled shot was deflected just wide by O’Dea.
However, right at the finish, there was a sting in the tail for the Hammers as Clayton pounced after Howson’s snap shot had struck the crossbar to fire past Green and ensure United’s record at Upton Park since 1975 now reads 10 wins, six draws and just two defeats.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Guardian 21/8/11
Adam Clayton's late strike earns Leeds a deserved draw at West Ham
Championship - West Ham 2 Leeds United 2 Jonny Weeks at Upton Park
Adam Clayton pounced in the 90th minute as Leeds twice fought back from a goal down to earn a point from a colourful clash at the Boleyn Ground. But in a game riddled with penalty appeals, Max Gradel's failure to score the only spot-kick that was awarded might have cost Leeds dearly.
The Ivorian dragged a tame effort wide in the first-half, with Leeds trailing to Carlton Cole's early strike, but second-half goals from Ross McCormack and Clayton rescued a deserved draw for the visitors.
Gradel's abundant talents had attracted the West Ham manager, Sam Allardyce, earlier in the summer, though Leeds refused to part with their player of the year last season for the £2.5 million the Hammers offered.
Allardyce's may now reconsider the need for such a player but much, of course, will depend on his ability to retain the services of Scott Parker and Cole.
Cole gave West Ham the advantage in the sixth minute of the match – the Hammers taking an early lead for the third game running – despite the valiant efforts the Leeds goalkeeper Andrew Lonergran, The England striker stabbed home a close-range volley from Matthew Taylor's corner after the visiting keeper had tipped successive headers from Cole and James Tomkins over the bar.
After such a thirsty opening, the Hammers allowed Leeds to settle. Robert Snodgrass clipped the bar with a rising volley for Leeds before Matt Taylor gifted the visitors a needless penalty when he stifled a cross with his right arm, though Gradel's spot-kick bobbled harmlessly past Robert Green's right hand post.
Cole appealed heartily for a West Ham penalty following an injudicious challenge from Aidy White before half-time; the latter seemed at fault as he bundled Cole to the floor with the striker in on goal, but the referee was unmoved.
Leeds began the second half with renewed vigour and had a strong appeal for a penalty denied when Scott Parker's sliding tackle brought White to the turf. If Parker made contact with the ball it was all but impossible to see, leaving the visiting fans incensed.
Leeds finally earned their equaliser in the 59th minute and it was a goal fashioned with stealth and skill. Andy Keogh's cute back-heel fed Snodgrass whose incisive cross was drilled home by McCormack from close range.
But parity did not last long. Within three minutes Patrick Kisnorbo had blasted into his own net from similar range following the substitute Julien Faubert's left-wing cross.
The Hammers might have scored a third and fourth – Winston Reid was denied at point-blank range by Lonergran before Parker's deflected shot nicked the post. But Leeds remained lively to the last and when Jonathan Howson rattled the bar Clayton rammed home the rebound.
Yorkshire Evening Post 19/8/11
Leeds United reaping fringe benefits - Hay
Andy Keogh rarely features in laments about the looting of Leeds United’s academy. Flogged to Scunthorpe for the price of a Mercedes, his transfer caused none of the hell raised by other Thorp Arch sales. Perhaps it should have done.
In his own way, Keogh upheld a sorry trend – Leeds’ academy working to the benefit of other clubs. Scunthorpe paid £50,000 to sign him and United pulled in twice that sum through a sell-on clause when he joined Wolves in 2007, but both of those clubs relied on Keogh during seasons in which they were promoted. There were times in the intervening years when Leeds would have made better use of him.
The explanation at the time of his sale was that Leeds were unable to promise Keogh more than a seat in the stands. It is often the way with aspiring professionals and a recent reality at Elland Road. For the past two seasons, academy representation in United’s first team has been virtually nil, Jonathan Howson aside.
Where that left a player like Tom Lees was difficult to say before his debut last week. At the end of last season he harboured doubts himself. “Playing football’s what I want to do,” he told the YEP. “It’s really up to other people decide where I do it.” Or, to read between the lines, I’ll leave if I have to.
His hesitancy in clinging too tightly to a career at Elland Road was understandable. Simon Grayson’s years as manager of Leeds have been a period of evolution, but they have not been a time of stoic dependence on the club’s academy. When Lees appeared in their Carling Cup tie against Bradford City, he became the first graduate since Aidan White in 2008 to debut for the senior team at Leeds. Within days, Charlie Taylor and Zac Thompson became the second and third. Some will see this as a notable change of policy. There is a distinction to be made between Taylor and Thompson – two raw teenagers who have already played more senior football than they were entitled to expect this season – and a player as educated as Lees. The 20-year-old came back from Bury in May with 84 league appearances behind him and enough in the way of schooling to make another loan pointless. Had Grayson shown a reluctance to lean on Lees after two full years in League Two, the defender might as well have packed his bags and taken Keogh’s lead. He was not alone in that respect. Last month, Adam Clayton and Ramon Nunez were in the same boat with the same itchy feet. Neither player was produced by United’s academy but both were in the untapped category after sitting on contracts for a full season without scratching the surface at Elland Road.
In Nunez’s case, Grayson wanted to see him receive the sort of Football League enlightenment found by Jermaine Beckford at Glanford Park and Davide Somma at Lincoln City. Clayton, by comparison, was squeezed out last season by Grayson’s natural loyalty to Bradley Johnson and Neil Kilkenny. Moot though the discussion is now, his aptitude in the past fortnight makes you wonder if Clayton, in the absence of a midfield signing in January, could have offered Leeds a service when their form deteriorated after Christmas.
The point with him is that a second year of “development” - translated as more time on loan – would have been a charade. By Clayton’s own admission, he was in danger of wasting away at Manchester City and came to Elland Road in search of open doors and greater inclusion. Leeds might claim to have one of the highest wage bills in the Championship, but they do not delight in carrying excess baggage. Aged 22, Clayton’s apprenticeship has clearly been served.
That much was also true of Lees and Nunez, who extended his contract with United for a further 12 months in April. If Grayson had found no reason to use them or Clayton this season, there would have been no reason for having them on the books at all. A summer of few signings and a glut of injuries and suspensions made their involvement swift and essential, but it was United’s duty to blood them regardless. It also seemed necessary to make a definitive judgement on White, three years and 18 appearances after he tempted Leeds to offer him a five-year deal. He is at the crossroads.
The debate over the calibre of Grayson’s squad will not be swayed by the emergence of players on the fringes of it. It is a separate argument altogether. But the desire in Leeds is for signings of overwhelming merit. There is no enthusiasm for stop-gap recruits to fill positions which players in situ have the skill to occupy.
With Lee Bowyer on board, Clayton’s selection would have been questionable (though his performances to date have overshadowed those of Michael Brown). What he should not have been asked to do was yield to recruits of the ilk of Barry Bannan and Jake Livermore who, on the evidence of last season, looked greener and less accomplished than him. Lees is worthy of the same opportunity. Having promoted him to a starting position for reasons of form, Grayson should keep him there for as long as it takes Lees to either hang himself or prove that he is a defender for all seasons. The managers who coached him at Accrington Stanley and Bury know where their money would lie. Keogh left Leeds untried and untested. It was not befitting of a club who pride themselves on youth development and not a mistake to repeat.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Telegraph 16/8/11
Leeds United 4 Hull City 1: match report
Read a full match report of the Championship game between Leeds United and Hull City at Elland Road on Tuesday Aug 16, 2011.
By Chris Brereton at Elland Road
Few chalices in English football can turn out to be as poisonous as one involving Leeds United. When the club’s fans are with you, they are really, really with you. When they are not? Well, just consider former manager Brian Clough, or, latterly, chairman Ken Bates.
Bates has a long reputation for agitating fans, and his current standing among the denizens of Elland Road will not bother him one iota following the recent demonstrations regarding his boardroom incumbency and the lack of funds available.
The seeds of a tough season have been sown by a summer transfer window that has seen a dearth of new attacking talent arrive, save for Andy Keogh’s loan signing from Wolves. However, Bates, who has a unique spin on the current gloom surrounding Elland Road, on Tuesday night called a section of the clubs’ fans “morons” in his programme notes.
“I’m unimpressed by the demonstrations of a few morons on Saturday,” he wrote. “The rebuilding of Leeds United is a bit like sex. In an age of instant gratification, Leeds are having a long drawn-out affair with plenty of foreplay and slow arousal.
“Some fans may not like me or agree with me but you’re stuck with me. I saved your club in 2005 and 2007 when nobody else would.”
Events on the field had quite a lot to live up to in the wake of Bates’s warm-up act and this encounter did not disappoint, beginning with a scintillating opening between these Yorkshire rivals.
An early Ross McCormack header gave Leeds the lead after they had dominated the opening passages, but Tom Lees’s ludicrous own goal moments later evened the encounter up. Lees stroked Matty Fryatt’s harmless looking cross past Andy Lonergan to give Hull a goal they had not deserved. The defender soon made amends before the interval as Hull goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi fumbled a Ramon Nunez cross into the defender’s path and he picked out the top corner with aplomb.
Leeds made it 3-1 at the start of the second half as Robert Snodgrass curled in a stunning 25-yard free-kick to further assuage Leeds fans. Why shout about Bates when the eminently more enjoyable opportunity was present to bait inhabitants of East Yorkshire instead? That baiting only got louder as Nunez added Leeds’ fourth with a clinical finish.
Yorkshire Evening Post 15/8/11
Keogh raring to get going INTERVIEW
By Leon Wobschall
Andy Keogh can’t wait for his second coming at Leeds United to get underway, with the Irishman in line for his home debut against Hull City tonight – nine years after joining the club.
The 25-year-old Wolves forward has returned to the Whites, the club where he started his career as a scholar in 2002, on loan until January 2 and is expected to be thrown straight in against the Tigers this evening.
After two successive Championship defeats, United are desperate for lift-off as they aim to avoid a third consecutive league loss at the start of the season for the first time in exactly 75 years, since 1936-37.
And Keogh may not be the only arrival on the strikers’ front this week, with United running the rule over free agent Mikael Forssell, with the former Chelsea and Birmingham City frontman, 30, currently training with the club.
For Republic of Ireland international Keogh, it’s very much a case of proving a point, having been on the periphery in his first spell at United – where his solitary appearance came as a substitute in a Carling Cup tie at Portsmouth in 2004.
Raring to go second time around, Keogh, linked with a move to United last summer, said: “I can’t believe it’s come up. I need games as well, so it’s perfect. This is where I started, it’s great to be back.
“I know about the club. I was here in what you could call the good old days and left just as things started to go downhill.
“I was disappointed I never got a fair chance here. I thought I was sold (to Scunthorpe in 2005) too quickly. I understand what it was like back then, but it’s good to be back and have a chance to play in the first team again.
“Every player wants to prove something and I’m no different. I feel I was let go too early and didn’t get the chance to show what I can do.”
Keogh – who has a year left on his Wolves deal – is well down the pecking order at Molineux, with his days in the Black Country looking numbered.
Wolves chief executive Jez Moxey has revealed the loan could become a permanent transfer in the future, having initially been flexible to United’s situation with the club suffering a striker shortage with Luciano Becchio and Davide Somma injured and Billy Paynter also struggling.
Moxey added: “We’re of the view that we’d prefer a sale for his sake, but Leeds need some help more than anything, so this loan is a good arrangement for everyone.”
Keogh will be hoping for better luck than his previous loan spell at Bristol City in the second half of last season, which saw him score just once in nine outings before returning to the Midlands with a back injury.
Earlier on in 2010-11, he only managed two goals in 16 games in a separate loan stint at Cardiff City, where he struggled for opportunities behind Jay Bothroyd and Michael Chopra.
But the industrious attacker – also strongly linked with Doncaster Rovers last season – is well regarded by many Championship clubs, while also being a regular in the Ireland set-up under Giovanni Trappatoni, who used him as a sub in last week’s friendly with Croatia.
Capped 22 times, the Dubliner, whose best position is deemed to be as a support striker, is also able to operate on both flanks.
Finland international striker Forssell, whose contract with German side Hannover expired earlier this summer, has linked up with United following an unsuccessful close-season trial at West Ham.
Suspended skipper Jonathan Howson misses his first league game since May 2010 this evening.
Yorkshire Post 15/8/11
Keogh on way as Leeds United look to ease early-season injury problems
By Richard Sutcliffe
LEEDS UNITED have signed Wolves striker Andy Keogh on loan until January.
The 25-year-old started his career at Elland Road as a trainee and has been drafted in to plug the gap in Simon Grayson’s squad left by injuries to Luciano Becchio, Davide Somma and Andy Paynter.
Keogh was at Thorp Arch today to complete the signing in time to face Hull City tomorrow night.
Wolves chief executive Jez Moxey confirmed Leeds’ interest in the striker. He said: “We are of the view that we would prefer a sale for his sake but Leeds need some help more than anything, so this loan is a good arrangement for everyone.”
Grayson told the club’s official website: “Andy will strengthen our striking options. He’s got plenty of experience, having played a lot at this level and in the Premier League.
“He’s also returning to the club where he started his career so he knows what it’s like here and understands the place.”
Keogh failed to make a senior appearance during his time at Leeds and joined Scunthorpe for £50,000 early in 2005 following an initial loan spell.
He scored 23 goals in 96 appearances for the Iron before joining Wolves for £600,000 in January 2007. He spent the first half of last season on loan at Cardiff and the second half at Bristol City.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sporting Life 13/8/11
Leeds manager Simon Grayson declared himself "bewildered" after his nine-man side were beaten 1-0 by Middlesbrough in the npower Championship match at Elland Road.
With fans protesting about chairman Ken Bates off the field, referee Anthony Taylor dominated proceedings on it by sending off three players - two from Leeds - while Marvin Emnes struck a second-half winner.
Max Gradel and Tony McMahon, both booked in the fifth minute following a minor skirmish, saw red before half-time, with Leeds captain Jonny Howson following them down the tunnel on the hour following a controversial incident involving Emnes.
Howson had already been booked after an almost unavoidable foul on Emnes following a Michael Brown error, and, when the two collided as they raced towards a vacant Leeds half, Taylor gave the decision in Howson's favour.
But, as Emnes lay on the floor, Grayson claims Taylor was told to change his initial verdict by his assistant, Keith Lawson, who had to take over the fourth official duties after getting injured just a minute earlier.
"I don't know what words to describe it," Grayson said.
"Everybody is referring to a few of the decisions. It amazes you at times. You have 20-odd thousand here, a passionate local derby, two players go for a 50-50, not over the top or anything like that, and they're both yellow-carded which puts them both on the back foot.
"Neither of them went over the top and then Max makes a rash challenge. He then decides to even it up by sending off Tony McMahon which I don't think was another yellow card, and then the second sending-off absolutely baffled me.
"I've been in to see the referee. The second decision with Jonny Howson is an unbelievable decision. He has given a free-kick in our direction and was about to book Emnes and, if he wasn't rolling around on the floor like he was doing, he'd have been booked and we'd have had a free-kick. He was going to book him for diving, that's what he's told me.
"He's clipped Jonny Howson's leg - I've seen the DVD - and while he's rolling around on the floor, the fourth official tells him from 60 yards that he's made the wrong decision and Jonny Howson gets sent off.
"The referee is 10-15 yards away, and how he can't make the decision himself or make it and then get overruled, leaves me bewildered."
With sections of the home support already unhappy at boardroom proceedings, the sendings-off only added to a tense atmosphere inside Elland Road.
Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray, while happy to take the points, was equally puzzled by some decisions and felt the official had failed to take the mood of the ground into account.
"We were only interested in the final result," he said. "It was a game of swinging emotions and frustrations, but we'll put it behind us very quickly as we have the points.
"How referees decide to manage football matches is probably decided before they start. When I came to watch Leeds and Middlesbrough in the 1970s there seemed to be a sending-off every game.
"It's a fantastic atmosphere to play football in and I think it over-hypes the players. My own personal view is the referee had a difficult day."
Having conceded a last-minute equaliser against Portsmouth on the opening day, Mowbray was pleased to see his players survive a late Leeds assault, with goalkeeper Andy Lonergan a regular fixture in their box as the home side pressed.
"We have been vulnerable to late barrages in the past and thankfully today we didn't succumb to it, as it happened to us a few times last year as well."
Yorkshire Post 11/8/11
Leeds United 3 Bradford City 2: Nunez at the double to stun battling Bantams
By Richard Sutcliffe at Elland Road
IN a week when revolting (in every sense of the word) natives have left the country burning, perhaps it was inevitable that the simmering resentment among Leeds United fans should last night boil to the surface.
Simon Grayson’s side may have eventually earned a place in the Carling Cup second round courtesy of a rousing fightback that saw two goals by Ramon Nunez and a header from Ross McCormack eventually account for neighbours Bradford City.
But that did little to ease the unrest among supporters, many of whom could be heard chanting ‘Bates out’ and ‘where’s all our money gone?’ even as they disappeared into the Leeds night.
Tellingly, the home fans had not turned on their manager once during a thrilling 90 minutes despite United going so close to being humbled with chants of ‘there’s only one Simon Grayson’ indicating where they feel the blame lies for the summer travails.
The £7m spent on adding executive facilities to the East Stand is the main bone of contention among the Elland Road faithful, chiefly because just a fraction of that amount has been spent in the transfer market.
Whether Leeds invest further before the deadline at the end of the month remains to be seen but, on the evidence of how League Two Bradford came close to pulling off a major shock, it is to be hoped the club’s recruitment is far from over.
As for City, they emerged with tremendous credit from a pulsating first-round tie.
It had been evident from the very first exchanges that manager Peter Jackson had sent his side out to try and get at their hosts.
In possession, Bradford spread the ball with adventurous intent at every opportunity, while without it they snapped and snarled at United’s heels.
Such an adventurous approach paid dividends on the half-hour with a goal of stunning simplicity as Mark Stewart raced to the by-line and pulled a cross back for Jack Compton to convert from close range.
City had come very close to scoring in identical fashion 12 minutes earlier, when Michael Flynn’s drilled cross from the left just evading David Syers, so Leeds could not say they hadn’t been warned.
In fact, United’s backline looked decidedly shaky throughout the first half with Stewart wasting two excellent chances before Compton had struck the breakthrough and James Hanson heading wide when he really should have hit the target.
Going forward, Leeds did fare marginally better in those opening 45 minutes with Adam Clayton, in particular, posing a major threat.
It was a cross from the former Manchester City midfielder that created United’s best first-half opening only for Nunez to volley wildly over despite being unmarked deep inside the penalty area.
Nunez also fired into the side-netting just before Compton’s opener but, otherwise, Leeds deserved the booing that met the half-time whistle.
Leeds badly needed a lift and it came within 26 seconds of the restart when Nunez made amends for his earlier miss by smashing in the equaliser following neat work by Clayton and Lloyd Sam.
On league standing, that should have been the prelude to a United onslaught as the Championship club reasserted their authority.
Instead, it was the plucky Bantams who regained the lead on 57 minutes when Michael Flynn unleashed a stunning half-volley past Andy Lonergan after being picked out by Robbie Threlfall.
Cue more unrest on the terraces as the home fans vented their fury once again only for Grayson’s side to draw level for a second time with 20 minutes remaining.
Debutant Tom Lees, who last season helped Bury to promotion from League Two when on loan, was the creator with a deep cross from the right flank that McCormack powered past Oscar Jansson.
Once level, the home side visibly relaxed and started to play with much more confidence.
And it was from one such neat move that the winner came in the 75th minute.
Nunez, once again, was heavily involved with a neat turn before he switched play to Sam on the right flank.
The Leeds-born wideman then controlled before drilling a low cross that Bantams captain Guy Branston inadvertently diverted over goalkeeper Jansson with the deftest of touches that allowed Nunez to gleefully smash into an empty net.
City’s brave resistance was now broken and it took a stunning block by Branston and a flying save from Jansson to keep out two fierce late drives from McCormack as the hosts finished strongly.
Losing after such a Herculean effort was, it must be said, rough on City and their 4,107-strong travelling army of fans gave Jackson’s players a deserved standing ovation at the final whistle.
The hope for the proud visiting hordes as they headed home must be that Bradford can use such an encouraging derby display to kick-start a promotion challenge and end the club’s decade-long decline.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Telegraph 6/8/11
Southampton 3 Leeds United 1: match report
Cowes Week began on Saturday and across the Solent the forecast for these two teams was similarly mixed. Goals from Dean Hammond, Adam Lallana and David Connolly for a vibrant Southampton made this match plain sailing for the newly-promoted team.
But for Leeds, there are choppy waters ahead. Porous in defence and just poor in attack, they appear far less well-equipped for the challenge of returning to the Premier League which their fans and boardroom demand. While the confidence their hosts have shown in recruiting sparingly over the summer while retaining their best players, Leeds’ failure to bring in much new blood and the loss of some key players is likely to cost them dear.
It would have been preferable to experience a happy occasion at a stadium which has already had its share of grief in its short history. But it was obvious even from watching on television that the momentum is very much with Southampton.
For the last seven or so seasons, Leeds and Southampton have been staging their own private competition to see who could suffer the most spectacular fall from grace and stage the most painstaking recovery. Relegation, administration, points deductions – two of the Premier League’s founder members were better known for intrigue off the pitch than achievement on it. Both went through a few managers before finding the men to deliver them from the ignominy of third-tier football and both have chairmen, in Ken Bates and Nicola Cortese, for whom the most sensible description in this litigious age is colourful.
With good quality off-field facilities and infrastructure, on top of their history, they consider themselves top-flight clubs in waiting. The trouble is, so does at least half the Championship, and Blackpool proved two seasons before that sometimes the unexpected can happen.
For Southampton, Norwich’s rise from League One to the promised land in consecutive seasons is an inspiration; for Leeds, it feels like a reproach. The momentum certainly felt as though as it was with the hosts. They had won nine of their last 10 games in 2010-11 to hold off Huddersfield’s amazing challenge for an automatic promotion place; Leeds, in what is becoming a pattern, had claimed three points just three times in the same length of run-in and so yielded the play-off spot which had been theirs for the taking.
Defending had been very much their Achilles’ heel – coincidentally the very part of the anatomy which centre-back Patrick Kisnorbo had damaged so severely that yesterday was his first start for 17 months. But his return did not have the desired impact. The away side had already looked fragile before Southampton captain Hammond was allowed to charge through the midfield and sweep a shot from 25 yards inside Andy Lonergan’s right-hand post.
Just 10 minutes later, the hosts doubled their lead. Andy O’Brien was turned a little too easily in the box by Lallana, who then found the opposite corner with a sweet, curling strike. It would have been three almost immediately, but for Lonergan’s smothering of another Lallana effort.
In the absence through injury of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, it was Lallana who took centre stage despite being positioned as a winger. Diligent in defence, inventive and penetrating in attack, another gem unearthed by the formidable Southampton youth set-up shone brightly. Compare and contrast his Leeds counterpart, Max Gradel, who was equally ineffective at both ends.
Leeds were toothless without injured strikers Luca Becchio and Davide Somma, but not without bite in other areas of the pitch. New signing Michael Brown will fit in with at least one part of the tradition at Elland Road with his uncompromising approach to patrolling the midfield and the only complaint home manager Nigel Adkins could have had was that it took until the 31st minute for referee Kevin Wright to show Brown a yellow card.
Leeds started the second half with more purpose but Connolly’s well-taken goal, after a slick one-two, killed their hopes.
Gradel’s stoppage-time penalty, which should never have been awarded, could be no consolation for an inauspicious start.