Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Yorkshire Evening Post 26/9/11
It’s great to be back - Pugh INTERVIEW
By Phil Hay
In the last hours of the summer transfer window, every ring of Danny Pugh’s mobile phone had him jumping out of his seat.
The traditional drama of deadline day was keenly felt in the midfielder’s household.
Leeds United rushed to sign him on August 31 after an influx of expensive recruits at Stoke City rendered Pugh surplus to requirements at short notice.
City’s manager, Tony Pulis, was loath to auction off a trustworthy squad member but the investment of around £20million in Peter Crouch, Wilson Palacios and Cameron Jerome gave him no alternative.
United’s move for Pugh was the sort of deal which has made the minutes before FIFA’s transfer deadline a bi-annual institution – chaotic, scrambled and set against a ticking clock.
The timing of their approach came too late for the completion of a medical and other formalities, and Pugh was forced to sit tight until a temporary move was agreed between Stoke and Leeds last Thursday, a fortnight after the Football League opened its emergency loan market.
Pugh’s transfer was completed with a view to a permanent deal in January, a signing which is set to cost United in the region of £500,000. After a month of uncertainty and tested patience, it was a relief to find himself in Simon Grayson’s starting line-up at Brighton on Friday night.
“I was first aware of the interest just before the window closed,” Pugh said. “I nearly came on deadline day but things didn’t quite get sorted between the two clubs.
“I had my phone on and every time it rang I was jumping about but I had to wait a bit longer than I expected. It’s been a long three weeks for me and the people involved, so it’s nice to finally be here and to get the first game under my belt.”
Grayson echoed Pugh’s sentiments after finalising his loan, admitting that Leeds “could have done with him here 10 days ago”.
Although the 28-year-old was omitted from Stoke’s Premier League and Europa League squads, Pulis was still inclined to name Pugh on the bench for their Carling Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur.
Pugh’s attributes served many of Grayson’s needs, in a squad which was lacking slightly in experience and more seriously in left-sided midfielders following Max Gradel’s move to St Etienne.
He was also a player who had previously served United with distinction between 2004 and 2006, brought to Elland Road as a makeweight in the controversial deal which took Alan Smith to Manchester United.
Pugh became Kevin Blackwell’s first signing as manager and appeared regularly in his initial season with Leeds before rapidly losing Blackwell’s favour. He opted to leave United after 50 league appearances, declining the chance to renew his contract and relocating instead to Preston North End. United earned compensation of £250,000 from the transfer as Pugh was under the age of 24.
Asked if he had unfinished business at Elland Road, Pugh said: “Yes, definitely.
“I had two great years here and some fantastic memories. I’ve no bad memories at all and it’s nice to be back. I’m looking forward to my home debut now. Personally, I just want to get a run of games in, get my sharpness back and then take things from there in the longer term.
“I think a couple of other Championship clubs were involved (in trying to sign him) but once Leeds were interested this was always the place I wanted to come to. I love it here, I really enjoyed myself first time around and it was a no-brainer to come back.”
Pugh made a 81-minute outing in Friday’s 3-3 draw at Brighton and saw the best and worst of his new team – three goals scored, including one in injury-time when the game appeared to be lost, but three conceded in a manner which left manager Simon Grayson tearing his hair out.
His performance contributed to a organised and tactically-perfect first half in which Leeds established a 2-0 lead, but United’s composure deserted them in the second period as two efforts from Craig Mackail-Smith led a spirited fightback from Brighton.
Pugh said: “The overriding feeling was disappointment. To be 2-0 up at half-time and comfortable and then come away with a draw is disappointing, even though we scored a late goal.
“I thought we started brilliantly in the first half. We worked really hard, had good shape and scored two very good goals.
“But in the second half we conceded an early goal and that just rocked the boat. It threw us a bit and we conceded again. But we at least showed the fight to come back and not lose the game, and that’s a massive thing. To come out with a point away from home, you’ve got to try and take any positives.”
Leeds played Manchester United in the Carling Cup three days earlier and Brighton were involved in a hard tie against Liverpool on Wednesday evening, and Pugh said: “Tiredness was possibly a factor (with Brighton’s first-half performance). But our lads played on Tuesday and both teams will have had quite tired legs.
“We put in a very good performance in the first half and maybe it was our own fault that we slipped up in the second. But there are lads in this team who can score goals and the front two (Ross McCormack and Andy Keogh) looked really sharp and bright. There’s goals in midfield as well. Attacking-wise, it all looks good.”
Grayson, meanwhile, was satisfied with Pugh’s first outing and said the midfielder would play a crucial role for Leeds during the rest of the Championship season.
“He was very professional and helped us keep our shape,” Grayson said. “He got a bit of cramp towards the end which is why he came off but he’ll be a very good acquisition over the season.”
Simon Grayson's Brighton verdict...
Leeds United manager Simon Grayson was quick to vent his frustration after Friday's 3-3 draw at Brighton.
An injury time equaliser from Ross McCormack secured Leeds a point on the south coast, but Grayson was seething after his side threw away a two-goal half-time lead.
United had dominated the first half, but conceded three in the second period before a dramatic leveller ensured honours ended even.
"I want to make sure there's a game that isn't a spectacle," said the boss.
"I'd rather bore people to death if that's what we have to do. We were absolutely cruising at half-time in the game, the team was outstanding, we passed it well, scored good goals, and never looked like we would concede.
"Brighton are a good side, they can move it well, they get the ball into little pockets, and they have Mackail-Smith, who is a good striker. There was no doubt that if we could keep it tight for the first 10/15 minutes in the second half we could see the game through.
"But, and I keep saying the same things week-in week-out, we keep shooting ourselves in the foot. I put a defence out there to make sure we don't concede goals, then we deliver contrasting performances like that. I can't believe what they put my staff through and the fans through sometimes.
"I have five centre-halves who are all good players and have played at this level. For some reason, we keep making mistakes. How can you go from the first half to the second half like that? The goal gave them impetus, and the penalty was soft, but you get them. We can't go through games and keep having to come back.
"All that said, I can't fault the effort and the way they keep going. They certainly have spirit with the way they came back and got the equaliser, but equally they were very, very disappointed at the end because they know the game should have been all over and it should never have got to that stage."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

BBC 23/9/11
Brighton 3 Leeds 3
Ross McCormack snatched an equaliser deep into stoppage time as Leeds stopped Brighton from returning to the top of the Championship table.
Leeds raced into a two-goal half-time lead courtesy of strikes from Andy Keogh and McCormack.
Craig Mackail-Smith reduced the arrears then turned provider, winning the penalty which Ashley Barnes scored.
Barnes then supplied Mackail-Smith, who slotted home, but McCormack grabbed a point for Leeds in the final seconds.
Brighton manager Gus Poyet made five changes to the team that lost against Liverpool in the Carling Cup on Wednesday night but despite the fresh faces, they looked weary in the opening exchanges.
Leeds were soon ahead through Keogh.
The striker found Adam Clayton on the edge of the area and when the midfielder's shot was blocked Keogh gathered the loose ball to slot home his first Leeds goal.
Six minutes later McCormack turned to unleash a superb left-foot drive into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
Brighton thundered out of the blocks after the break and less than two minutes after half-time Mackail-Smith collected Barnes' pass from the right to coolly slot the ball into the bottom corner.
Leeds were now the team under pressure and Leigh Bromby was the first man to buckle, inexplicably bringing down Mackail-Smith in the box with an hour played.
Barnes netted from the spot in the 2-1 defeat by Liverpool and he was again on hand to complete the formalities.
But the game was far from over.
First Inigo Calderon and Barnes combined effectively down the Leeds left to leave Mackail-Smith with a simple finish.
And with barely a minute remaining of stoppage time the impressive McCormack slammed home his ninth of the season from Jonathan Howson's cutback.
Leeds boss Simon Grayson vented his frustration that his side could not see the game out from being in a commanding position.
He said: "We can't keep conceding goals and my players must understand it.
"We shouldn't be delighted at getting a point right at the death from the situation that we were in."
Opposition manager Gus Poyet had mixed emotions after the game.
He told BBC Sussex: "It was a great game of football to watch and great for supporters, but not a good game for managers.
"There were things we needed to put right. It was important to go back in the second half and score early. Things we normally do we did better, until the 92nd minute.
"It's a mix of emotions. We were practically out of the game and then nearly won it. Then we conceded not a very good goal at the end."

leedsunited.com 22/9/11
Leeds United have signed Stoke City utility man Danny Pugh on loan with a view to a permanent transfer.
The 28-year-old returns to the club after a five-year spell that took in Preston North End and Premier League Stoke.
Danny, who was the club's first signing following our relegation from the Premier League in 2004, made 57 appearances for Leeds between 2004 and 2006, scoring six goals.
Danny was a regular during his first season, but found appearances restricted in 2005/06 and he moved to Preston that summer before joining Stoke two years later, who he helped reach the Premier League.
Danny, who has made 213 career appearances, can play anywhere on the left side of the park and has also played in central midfield.
"We're delighted to bring Danny to the football club," said United boss Simon Grayson.
"He is a versatile player and he is an experienced player, who has played in both the Premier League and the Europa League with Stoke.
"He also knows the Championship well and he knows this club very well. Two or three other clubs were in for him, but he jumped at the chance to come here.
"This was a deal we almost did on deadline day with some of the money that is available, but Tony wanted to keep him at Stoke a while longer, so we've brought him in on loan in the first instance and will make it permanent in January."
Yorkshire Evening Post 21/9/11
Leeds United v Manchester United: Reds’ old brigade makes Whites pay
By Phil Hay
January 3, 2010 was a date for Leeds United to remember. September 20, 2011 will be forgotten by the weekend.
Lightning does not often strike twice and it refused to land on Elland Road last night.
Simon Grayson promised that Leeds would “do ourselves justice” against Manchester United and, on this occasion, respectability was all his players had to compete for. Once bitten and bitten badly, Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad did not even flirt with the threat of a second upset at the hands of Grayson’s.
Two goals from Michael Owen settled the best of the Carling Cup’s third round ties inside 33 minutes, giving Ferguson the comfortable evening he must have craved, and Ryan Giggs made an exhibition of the second half with a goal on the stroke of half-time.
Leeds bowed out of the competition without severe disgrace – real though that threat was after 45 minutes – but they could not conjure the magical performance which Premier League sides have come to expect from them in competitions like the Carling Cup. They have so often been the draw from hell.
That Owen partnered Dimitar Berbatov in a weakened Manchester United team said everything about the strength of Ferguson’s hand, and he left Elland Road without embarking on a repeat of his scathing interview at Old Trafford 20 months earlier when a 1-0 defeat to Leeds in the FA Cup’s third round elicited praise for United’s superior appetite.
Grayson’s players were not lacking in that respect but Manchester United’s finishing was clinical in a first half when they produced a total of three shots on target.
Owen’s first strike was simple and his second excellent, both taken in the absence of any markers. Defensively, Leeds have struggled against less adept teams than Manchester United this season.
For Grayson, his attention reverted swiftly to the bigger fish he has to fry this week, namely Friday night’s Championship game at Brighton and Hove Albion.
It was not his intention to disregard yesterday’s tie but he made his priorities clear from the moment the draw for the Carling Cup’s third round was made on August 27. Neither he nor Ferguson were excessively consumed by an attractive knockout fixture at Elland Road.
United’s previous appearances in high-profile cup games had, through no coincidence, come at a time of convincing form: Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur while Leeds were heading their division, Arsenal after one defeat in 13 matches and Liverpool at a time when the club held an unbeaten record in League One.
Last night’s tie followed two of Leeds’ less convincing displays, both of which yielded precious league victories nonetheless, and nine competitive games without a clean sheet.
An allegedly ring-rusty Owen was thrown in against a changed United defence and tore it apart with repeated success.
Patrick Kisnorbo’s one-match ban made room for Leigh Bromby – a player who had missed the razing of Old Trafford in 2010 through suspension – and it was not unlike Grayson to turn to Luciano Becchio for a searching examination.
Ramon Nunez lost his place to the Argentinian, as somebody was bound to eventually.
Manchester United’s team bus received a police escort to the entrance of Elland Road and an Istanbul banner was unfurled in the away end as the teams walked from the tunnel.
Yet, for all its heat and aggression, the atmosphere was above-board for much of the contest and controlled by a sensible performance from referee Michael Jones, who kept his cards in his pocket for as long as he could.
Amid the manic noise, both teams ran on adrenalin. Mame Diouf raised a smile by tripping himself up during Manchester United’s first foray into Leeds’ box and Dimitar Berbatov appeared in the right place at the right time to hack a Darren O’Dea header off his own line in the fourth minute.
The resulting scramble could easily have generated the opening goal.
Grayson would have accepted it gleefully and felt a downward swing of emotion when his team conceded after 15 minutes, just as they appeared to have negated the earliest stabs at Andy Lonergan.
Ferguson’s players were unable to reach the goalkeeper until Ji-Sung Park diverted Berbatov’s through ball to Owen who scuffed a shot between Tom Lees’ legs and into the back of Lonergan’s net.
United’s immediate task was to stay in the game and prevent the floodgates from swinging open. Adam Clayton, a former Manchester City player, tested visiting keeper Ben Amos for the first time after dancing around several players on the edge of the box and Leeds worked to restore their shape and organisation.
Diouf and Fabio Da Silva became the first bookings of the night after loose fouls forced Jones’ hand.
Manchester United’s attacks were few but incisive when they came, and Bromby did well to force Federico Macheda’s shot behind after Da Silva found his run in behind Lees.
But Lonergan was helpless again in the 32nd minute when Diouf picked out Owen on the edge of box and gave the striker all the room he needed to beat United’s keeper from 18 yards.
An orange flare appeared among Manchester United’s supporters after Owen’s second goal, effectively signalling the end of the contest.
Antonio Valencia could have put it beyond doubt four minutes later with a sliding finish from Owen’s pass which flew wide of Lonergan’s far post.
What Valencia had failed to do, Giggs did in first-half injury-time when he nutmegged Aidan White and stroked the ball beyond Lonergan with the outside of a boot.
Elland Road could see the writing on the wall as it had after the completion of Owen’s brace.
Grayson made no substitutions at the start of the second half, perhaps preferring to give his starting XI the chance to make the scoreline more agreeable.
Ferguson moved to withdraw Giggs in a clear indication that the Scot expected no fightback. He was not confounded.
Owen came within inches of completing his hat-trick in the 56th minute, finishing a counter-attack with a curling effort which arced around Lonergan’s far post, and Leeds’ tireless effort put Amos under no more pressure than he had survived in the fourth minute until substitute Nunez sliced a glaring chance wide in added time. The evening belonged to Manchester United and by the margin the form book predicted.
Mail 20/9/11
Leeds 0 Manchester United 3: Owen at the double as Reds ease past old rivals
By Ian Ladyman
They still do what they always did at Leeds United. They still come to Elland Road in droves and they still back their team with the gusto they did when they were winning league championships.
These days, though, it’s all a bit of a struggle on the field.
In 11th place in the Championship, a return to the top division still seems a little way off for Simon Grayson and his team. Leeds were left confused and humbled by a Manchester United reserve team they couldn’t really live with.
United made 11 changes from the team that beat Chelsea at the weekend and, once again, they led 3-0 at half-time. This time they deserved it, too, as two goals from Michael Owen and one from Ryan Giggs served to illustrate how far Leeds have fallen behind their great rivals from Lancashire.
By the end, Leeds could reflect on some decent spells in the game. United goalkeeper Ben Amos, though, could reflect on just one save. It had been a hard night for the home team.
Grayson said: ‘There is a big gulf between us. They are where we want to get to and it looked a long way off. But we didn’t perform like we can. We wanted to give United a game and we didn’t do that.’
Grayson has done a fine job in dragging this great club from the nowhere land of League One to a position where they could yet have an impact on the upper echelons of English football’s second tier this season.
Leeds do try to play decent football, too. This is not a team that resorts to kick-it-and-chase-it tactics when things aren’t going their way.
Nevertheless, they currently look some way short of a team that could handle life in the Premier League, and here — in the areas where it mattered —United were far too good for them.
On this occasion, as before in this competition, it was Owen who inflicted the damage. This was the former England player’s first start of the season but you really couldn’t tell.
United may have fielded a peculiar team with midfielders Antonio Valencia and Michael Carrick in the defence and 19-year-old debutant Ezekiel Fryers alongside them. This may have been a team with two central strikers — Federico Macheda and Mame Biram Diouf — operating as wide players. But when you have genuine quality in key positions, anomalies such as these don’t always matter.
Leeds actually created the night’s first chance when a Tom Lees header from a corner was cleared from the line by Giggs in the fifth minute. That, though, was as good as it got for Grayson’s team and United went on to win the game with three goals in half an hour.
Ji-sung Park and Dimitar Berbatov led the United charge as they broke through the centre on the quarter-hour to feed Owen in a position he loves. Moving into the penalty area with only Lees to beat, he shifted the ball to the left to give himself a yard of space and struck a rather scuffed shot that ambled its way across the goalkeeper and inside the far post.
Owen’s first goal of the season perhaps wasn’t the sweetest he will ever strike, even if it was illustrative of his enduring sharpness. The one that followed 20 minutes later was a belter, though.
The 31-year-old had barely a yard in which to function when Diouf passed to him inside the right side of the penalty area but a touch on the outside of the right foot stopped the ball and a second with the instep of the same boot sent it fizzing across Andrew Lonergan and into the goalkeeper’s top, right-hand corner.
It was a fantastic goal, reminiscent of Owen’s salad days.
Given that he still has so much to offer, one wonders why he doesn’t seek a club where he can play more often. No matter, this was a good night for him, as indeed it was for Giggs, who supplemented last week’s Champions League goal in Lisbon with another here.
A nutmeg of Aidan White by the left touchline and a shot with the outside of the left foot was all it took to kill the game.
It looked easy but only because Giggs made it appear so.
‘We will never play you again,’ sang the United fans.
It certainly may be a while until they do.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

ToEllAndBack 17/9/11
Super Ross relieves the dross! - Leeds 2 - 1 Bristol City
Ross McCormack was on target yet again as Leeds recorded back-to-back wins for the first time this season, but it was hardly vintage stuff against a struggling Bristol City side inspired by a former Leeds favourite who made the whites' battle all the way.
Simon Grayson opted for minimal changes to the side that beat Crystal Palace seven days ago, Aidy White returned from suspension to replace rookie Charlie Taylor for whom there was no place on the bench. Michael Brown also dropped down to the dug-out, replaced from Adam Clayton who recovered in time from a calf-injury.
Taylor, Lloyd Sam and new signing Mika Vayrynen did not even make the bench. United's new Finnish signing had apparently been given a few more days to settle into life in West Yorkshire before being thrown in to the cut and thrust of the English game.
There was barely three minutes on the clock when United drew first blood. Snodgrass's typical pounding of the left wing saw Clayton find an excellent position and the former-Manchester City youngster's innovation and screaming for the ball paid off as he sweetly looped a left footed first time drive past David James for the Leeds opener,
Leeds really should have killed the Bristolian's off within the first ten minutes and Andy Keogh was guilty of missing two sitters, Grayson's decision to keep Luciano Becchio on the bench looked somewhat tainted as the on-loan Wolves man squandered two glorious chances to net his first in a white shirt on his second spell with the club.
Another player who was familiar with the surroundings was Neil Kilkenny, the Australian international who somewhat surprisingly elected to join the Ashton Gate outfit having failed to agree a new-deal with Leeds. Kilkenny received a mixed-reception from the home fans, some booing him whilst others applauded him when he came to take a corner at the Gelderd End following a rare City attack.
However on 11 minutes Kilkenny, who else, took full advantage of some typical standoffish Leeds play when he lofted a superb equaliser from the edge of the box over Lonergan into the roof of the net.
Simon Grayson had told his players beforehand he did not expect to see a repeat of last week's shoddy performance against Palace, where the whites' switched off and allowed the visitors back into the game, Although City did not attack with the guile of the Eagles, much to Grayson's dismay they finished the half the stronger and United were guilty of some clumsy play including two hospital passes from O'Dea and then the below-par Howson which surely a more superior side would have punished.
Leeds looked more alert and up for retaking control of the game after the break, but we struggled to find any momentum or rhythm - once again it seemed that Nunez and Snodgrass on the flanks were being starved out of the proceedings and Maynard, the man who City have gambled on turning down a huge fee from Leicester for and risk losing him on a Bosman next summer, was increasingly causing problems for the whites'defence.
In a letter to season ticket holders before the first ball of the season was kicked, Ken Bates lamented the prolonged absence of Paddy Kisnorbo as being a factor why Leeds just couild not raise the bar enough to make the place-offs last season. I'm sorry Ken, but Kisnorbo once again showed his limitations when faced against someone with pace and intricate skill. His heading ability reminiscent of Michael Duberry at his worse and clumsiness proved to be a liability on 64 minutes when he hauled Maynard to the ground and conceded a penalty.
I understand the TV replays have shown the initial contact was made outside the penalty area, but as last man Kisnorbo had to go and ironically the game would swing in Leeds' favour.
Maynard stepped up and fluffed the penalty or rather Andy Lonergan yet again underlined that maybe Grayson had a point in taking Leicester's offer for Kasper Schmeichel. Lonergan earned a standing ovation and grateful hugs from his team-mates for beating away Maynard's efforts.
Grayson had already thrown Becchio on in place of Nunez and bolstered his makeshift defence by bringing on Leigh Bromby for Keogh on 69. Both of these substitions would have a dramatic impact on ten-man Leeds' late winner.
With just four minutes remaining and moments after Becchio was left kicking the post in frustration having failed to convert a good opportunity but his aerial prowess more than made up for that missed chance as be flicked on Bromby's throw into the path of Ross McCormack who slid home the winner at the far post.
With four minutes stoppage time added to the four minutes remaining it was nail-biting stuff and City had the ball in the net, Lonergan however was adjudged to have been fouled but TV replays showed Howson had shoved a City player into the Leeds keeper.
So Leeds ride their luck somewhat and both the result and the performance gives us plenty to consider. Two home wins on the spin is a positive and we can take some heart from how we battled with ten men to grab the winner, but the nagging doubt it how will we fare when we face superior Championship teams than Bristol City and Palace. Our defence is still not right, Leeds looked more competant at the back following Kisnorbo's enforced departure. In midfield, the return of Adam Clayton was a massive positive and but-for Lonergan's heroics he would have been my man of the match however Nunez seems to be litte more than a lightweight replacement for Max Gradel, Snodgrass is clearly suffering a drop of form and captain Howson seems to have a habit of going missing.

Sporting Life 17/9/11
Leeds manager Simon Grayson hailed Ross McCormack's attacking instincts after the striker scored the winning goal four minutes from time in their 2-1 victory over Bristol City in the npower Championship.
McCormack stole in at the far post to snatch Leeds' winner and leave Bristol City second from bottom with just one win.
McCormack's seventh goal in nine matches settled a match of many fluffed chances, including a penalty miss by City's Nicky Maynard, whose shot struck Andy Lonergan's legs.
Patrick Kisnorbo was sent off for bringing down Maynard, leaving Leeds to battle from the 65th minute with 10 men.
Grayson said: "Ross was in the right place at the right time and showed a striker's instinct. We could have been two or three goals up in the opening minutes but in the end we ground out the result. Andy's penalty save came at a vital time of the match and I had no quarrel with Paddy's sending-off.
"He's the fourth player we've had dismissed this season but we are not a dirty team. We were unfortunate with the other three."
City manager Keith Millen admitted Jamal Campbell-Ryce's disallowed goal just before the end came after Jon Stead had fouled Lonergan, but he added: "We made the worst start possible by conceding a third-minute goal but Neil Kilkenny's goal got us back into it.
"When they went down to 10 men we should have scored from the resultant penalty and that's two we've now missed this season.
"I wasn't happy with the way we conceded the late goal, either. If you give away goals like that you don't win football matches."
Kilkenny had the perfect answer to those Leeds fans who argue Adam Clayton has more than filled his boots.
Kilkenny could only look on in admiration as Clayton met a right-wing cross from Robert Snodgrass and swept it into the top left corner of David James' net.
But the man who joined Bristol this summer after running down his contract at Leeds let fly from outside the penalty area and saw his shot fly in off the underside of the bar for an 11th-minute equaliser to stun his old club.
Clayton has been a revelation so far this term and the midfield battle for supremacy with Kilkenny was a feature of a match which rarely hit the heights.
James, City's 41-year-old former England keeper, belied his years with top drawer saves to deny Andy Keogh and Darren O'Dea, while at the other end Lonergan, who has been tipped as a future England keeper, made that vital 65th-minute penalty save .
Maynard was made to pay for his miss when, with four minutes remaining, Luciano Becchio helped Leigh Bromby's long throw towards McCormack who stabbed the ball over the line and sent Leeds into Tuesday's Carling Cup task against Manchester United with morale high.
Mail 17/9/11
Leeds 2 Bristol City 1: McCormack's last-gasp strike earns United vital win
Ross McCormack fired a late winner as 10-man Leeds weathered a storm to deny Bristol City only their second win of the season in the npower Championship.
Striker McCormack swept the ball home from close range at the far post in the 86th minute following a flick-on from substitute Luciano Becchio as Leeds registered back-to-back home wins.
City midfielder Neil Kilkenny made a stunning return to Elland Road by curling home a first-half equaliser against his former club after Adam Clayton had fired Leeds into a third-minute lead.
Keith Millen's side were left to rue what might have been after taking control of the match once Leeds defender Paddy Kisnorbo had been shown a straight red card in the 64th minute for scything down City striker Nicky Maynard in the box.
But Maynard's subsequent spot kick was saved by Leeds goalkeeper Andy Lonergan and the Yorkshire side snatched all three points thanks to McCormack's seventh goal of the season.
Leeds made two changes, with left-back Aidy White back from suspension and midfielder Adam Clayton returning following a calf injury.
City lined up as they had done last week when losing 1-0 to Brighton and were quick to fall behind at Elland Road as Leeds raced into a third-minute lead.
Robert Snodgrass broke free down the right and his cut-back from the by-line was slammed home from 12 yards into the top corner by Clayton, who had burst forward in support.
But the home side's lead lasted only eight minutes. City midfielder Cole Skuse played the ball inside after making headway down the right and Kilkenny kept his composure 25 yards from goal and curled a fine shot into Lonergan's top right-hand corner.
McCormack went close for Leeds when his angled drive was tipped away at full stretch by David James in the 26th minute and the former England goalkeeper made more comfortable saves from Darren O'Dea's header and another shot from Nunez.
But City gave as good as they got as half-time approached. Striker Albert Adomah forced Lonergan to hold his stinging shot and winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce fired inches over after cutting inside from the right.
McCormack and Snodgrass both lifted shots over the crossbar early in the second half, but City soon wrestled the lion's share of possession.
The visitors were rewarded for their pressure in the 64th minute when they were awarded a penalty and Leeds reduced to 10 men.
Maynard wriggled clear in the penalty area and was blatantly hauled down by Kisnorbo, who was shown a straight red card by referee Fred Graham.
Maynard picked himself up to take the spot kick, but Lonergan guessed right and saved low to his left.
City midfielder Marvin Elliott sent a 25-yard shot fizzing wide and then headed straight at Lonergan as the visitors threatened to make their one-man advantage tell.
Elliott was off target with another header as Leeds battled gamely to weather the storm and substitute Becchio helped snatch the points.
The Argentinian headed the ball on in the area and McCormack pounced to deal City a late blow.
Yorkshire Evening Post 14/9/11
Mikael Forssell pleased his patience paid off INTERVIEW
By Phil Hay
With Mikael Forssell signed to a 12-month deal, the number of strikers on Leeds United’s wage bill stands at six.
One of those strikers, Davide Somma, has no chance of playing this side of Christmas but it is true to say that Forssell is at a club where appearances will be hard-earned.
The 30-year-old’s insistence on chasing a contract with Leeds was in spite of what many might call a surplus of players in his position.
Even without Somma – the victim of a serious knee injury – United manager Simon Grayson reached the end of the summer transfer window with a group of forwards comprising of Ross McCormack, Andy Keogh, Luciano Becchio and Billy Paynter. It was the one area of his squad which required no urgent attention.
Leeds were still as interested in recruiting Forssell as Forssell was in signing for them, and a two-week trial at Thorp Arch culminated in a season-long deal agreed last Thursday.
Forssell made his debut as a substitute in Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Crystal Palace and his role in a dramatic fightback at Elland Road proved how quickly a spare player can make his presence felt.
Acclaim on Saturday fell to McCormack and Becchio, who returned from injury to restore parity at 2-2 and inspire United’s late recovery, but Forssell was instrumental in creating the decisive goal for McCormack seven minutes from time. Grayson had cause to thank the forwards up his sleeve.
“There are lot of us here, with a lot of quality too,” Forssell said. “We’re fighting for a couple of places and it’s difficult to be certain about anything.
“I look at the other strikers and think they’re all good enough to start week in, week out.
“But in my view it’s better to have too many strikers than not enough – better to score plenty of goals than find yourself short.
“If I have to be patient then that’s the way it is.
“I wouldn’t expect anything else. But there are so many games this season and we’ll all be needed.”
The fact that Forssell chose to sign for Leeds while other offers were on the table said much about his expectations of serious involvement at Elland Road.
He began training with United’s senior squad a month ago, following on from a trial at West Ham United, and he left Grayson in no doubt about his intentions before leaving to link up with Finland’s squad during the recent international break.
His contract at Elland Road was finalised within 24 hours of his return to Yorkshire last week and agreed in time for him to make his debut against Palace.
“The deal marked the resumption of Forssell’s career in England after three years in Germany with Hannover 96.
The former Chelsea forward needed no introduction to Grayson and less still to United owner Ken Bates, chairman at Stamford Bridge when Forssell made his debut as a 17-year-old.
Forssell’s reputation was built in this country and, at the age of 30, the chance to return outweighed other opportunities abroad, among them a move to Greece.
“I wanted to come back to the UK and I was ready for this deal from the moment I started training with Leeds,” he said.
“In the beginning I had other options so it wasn’t like Leeds were the only club looking at me but I came here and stuck around because I knew it would be a great move.
“My first thought when I started training (at Thorp Arch) was to make sure I stayed fit but Leeds soon made it clear that they wanted me to stay here and sign a deal.
“I was really happy about that because I wanted to stay too but you know how football is – sometimes a deal can’t be done or you don’t agree on everything.
“Nothing’s certain until you’ve signed but it worked out well and to be involved straight away against Palace was great.
“I played more or less 10 years in England and its the place I know best.
“My time in Germany was a good experience but there’s something different about English football.
“It’s a bit unique. I missed the people, the lifestyle and the football itself. I missed the atmosphere you get at a stadium like Elland Road.”
Forssell’s deal with Leeds will take him to the end of the 2011-12 season, the point at which both he and the club will consider their options.
The striker said he was happy with a 12-month contract – “the length of deal I wanted” – but admitted that a long-term career at Elland Road would depend on his form over the next eight months.
“It’s the perfect deal for me,” he said. “That’s what I wanted from the club and I’m happy that they were willing to do it.
“They’ve been open with me from the start – very honest about what they wanted to do and how they felt about me.
“It’s the right length of deal and as soon as it was offered, it was always going to be done.
“I suppose I took a bit of a risk by waiting for it because I had other offers and things I turned down.
“But I knew Leeds wanted me to stay and I wanted to sign a contract with them.
“The only thing to worry about was whether we’d be able to agree something that suited everyone.
“So yes, it was a bit of a risk but I always felt it would work out.
“I hope this move goes well for me and if it does then there’s no reason why it can’t be a long-term thing.
“But it’s too early for me to be talking like that. I’ve only just signed my contract.
“The first target for me is to start games, play well and score goals.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

YEP 13/9/11
Whites sign Finland international Vayrynen
By Leon Wobschall
LEEDS UNITED have signed Finnish international Mika Vayrynen.
The former PSV Eindhoven player has signed a one year contract with the club with a further year’s option.
The 29-year-old, who has been capped 54 times by Finland, was a free agent after leaving Dutch Eredivisie side Heereenveen in the summer.
Simon Grayson told the club website: “We’re delighted to sign Mika. There were good offers from other clubs on the continent, but has turned them down because of his ambition to play for Leeds and be successful here.
“He can play as an attacking midfielder or as a holding midfielder and he’s delighted to get the opportunity to come her.”
United are desperate to boost their squad options and are also interested in bringing old boy Danny Pugh, able to operate at left-back or on the left-hand side of midfield, back to the club on loan after the 28-year-old utility man was left out of Stoke City’s 25-man squad last week by Potters boss Tony Pulis.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ross the boss as Whites triumph
By Phil Hay
Crystal Palace must be sick of the sight of Luciano Becchio. Leeds United cannot get enough of him.
A trademark goal on his return from injury helped avert the type of demoralising day that his club and his manager could scarcely afford to suffer.
Leeds made no secret of their regret at losing Becchio to hamstring surgery midway through July and his cameo as a substitute against Palace explained why. United were sliding helplessly towards a fourth Championship loss when Becchio’s conversion of his first chance rejuvenated a grateful team.
The striker’s 71st-minute goal restored parity at 2-2 and gave Leeds the chance of winning a game they might have lost several times over by then. Ross McCormack followed Becchio’s lead with an 83rd-minute finish, his second of an eventful match. How United’s victory materialised will matter less to Simon Grayson than the fact that it did.
On the balance of the first half alone, his players should not have been in a position to chase a win in the last 20 minutes. Their performance prior to Becchio’s goal failed to dampen the widespread feeling that United’s boss is handicapped by an insufficient choice of players, and Leeds were menaced by Palace’s front three of Wilfried Zaha, Jermaine Easter and Sean Scannell.
But his need for a victory after a spate of poor results in August was urgent, particularly once Palace established a 2-1 lead midway through the first half. Becchio’s comeback ensured that it arrived.
The Argentinian had missed the start of the season after a recurrence of an injury originally sustained in April and his clinical header reiterated his extreme value to Leeds. The matter was never open to debate. Becchio’s 20 goals last season were crucial and Saturday’s no less so to a manager in Grayson who has strayed into one of the more challenging periods of his tenure.
For Palace, their demise was familiar – beaten at Elland Road by two late goals as they were by Becchio’s brace last December. Their boss, Dougie Freedman, might rue his refusal to make more of his strong collection of substitutes while Leeds were trailing in the second half but they at least have evidently improved since last season finished. It is still impossible to say the same of Leeds.
Grayson’s answer to a thin squad has been to embrace the junior corps at Elland Road, and Saturday brought a debut for 17-year-old left-back Charlie Taylor.
His appearance in United’s Carling Cup ties last month and his regular proficiency in reserve games last season made him a viable replacement for Aidan White, one of three players removed from Leeds’ line-up. Grayson had planned for Max Gradel’s absence since his sale to St Etienne and an injury to Adam Clayton – to date United’s stellar midfielder – hastened the recall of Michael Brown. Brown’s display showed the effects of a restricted training schedule.
Taylor was similarly given no time to settle or hide, ending Palace’s first attack with a sliding tackle in front of Zaha and disrupting their second by nodding the ball behind as Patrick McCarthy waited to attack a free-kick at the far post. His third act was to lay on Leeds’ opening goal with absolute precision.
The quality of Taylor’s cross from the left wing stretched a Palace defence whose imposing height was more convincing than their mobility, and McCormack planted a header across Julian Speroni and into the corner of his net. Taylor’s ecstatic reaction outdid McCormack’s.
A lead after eight minutes was an ideal scenario for Grayson but his players held it for only four minutes. They were found wanting when Mile Jedinak’s free-kick dropped to an unmarked McCarthy who made hard work of controlling the ball but found time to lash a volley past Andy Lonergan from four yards out. It was another goal to be filed in the category of soft.
For much of the first half-hour, Leeds swung between the encouraging and the concerning. Brown’s risky pass across the face of his own box needed the reprieve provided by a deflection off Jonathan Parr which bounced away from goal but Ramon Nunez’s 21st-minute free-kick from the right wing was punched off Palace’s goalline by Speroni. Snodgrass clipped the rebound against the outside of a post from a hopeless angle.
But United conceded again within seconds, cut open by a quick and simple move. Parr’s throw-in found Easter tearing away from Patrick Kisnorbo and Tom Lees, and his low cut-back gave Scannell as easy a chance as the forward is likely to see this season. He could not miss from point-blank range, despite the scrambling defenders around him.
Leeds chanced their arm in the aftermath of that goal as Parr failed to convert Zaha’s cross on the volley and Scannell guided a header inches over Lonergan’s crossbar. The goalkeeper would not have been in a position to stop a more accurate finish.
On either flank United were vulnerable, and Nunez struggled to give Taylor the protection afford to previous left-backs by the tireless Gradel. He enraged Snodgrass in the 35th minute by shooting ambitiously from 20 yard while the Scot looked for possession on the right wing but his slipped pass to McCormack seven minutes before half-time put Palace under rare pressure, forcing an anxious clearance at Andy Keogh’s feet inside the six-yard box.
The first 45 minutes in their entirety still amounted to a forgettable half. Thoughts of Becchio and Mikael Forssell – the two strongest assets on Grayson’s bench – were already creeping in as the interval neared. Only by a foot did Scannell fail to claim a goal identical to his first when Dean Moxey eluded the besieged Lees and whipped a cross in front of Lonergan.
The former Preston keeper was called on in the final minute of the first half after Easter dispossessed Taylor – by now carrying a yellow card for a sliding tackle on Zaha – and laid it off to Zaha at the edge of the box. Lonergan met the resulting shot with a desperate swipe of his hand, waving it over his bar.
The keeper’s work was never likely to be done by then and his low save in the 50th minute – nudging an Easter effort wide – was a vital intervention at the end of another lightning counter-attack from Palace. Becchio’s introduction came soon after, as it had to, alongside that of Forssell.
Snodgrass gave Elland Road a glimmer of hope with a curling free-kick which Speroni punched away but Parr could as easily have scored when Freedman’s players broke quickly to the other end of the field. Lonergan made his presence felt again in the 67th minute with a fine block from Scannell.
But Becchio took it upon himself to weigh in as he has so many times before when he met McCormack’s minute free-kick with a brilliant header, guided into the top corner of Speroni’s net. Becchio ran straight to United’s physiotherapist, Harvey Sharman, in a show of gratitude for many months of rehabilitation and hard work.
For the first time in almost an hour, Leeds sensed that the game was theirs to win. It proved to be so in the 83rd minute when Forssell held his balance and nodded a Snodgrass cross into the path of the irrepressible McCormack who angled a volley past Speroni on the turn. It did not convince anyone that all is perfect in the Leeds United household but it gave Grayson and his players a better night’s sleep.
Bradford Telegraph & Argus 11/9/11
Simon Grayson praises Leeds United talisman Luciano Becchio
Simon Grayson was grateful for the “buzz” Luciano Becchio gave his Leeds side as they came from behind to earn a tension-relieving 3-2 win over Crystal Palace.
The Argentinian had not featured for Leeds’ first team since the April 16 draw with Watford owing to a series of hamstring problems.
And until Becchio’s 59th-minute return on Saturday, the atmosphere inside Elland Road had been riddled with tension, partly owing to the ongoing protests against owner Ken Bates about a perceived lack of investment, and partly because Paddy McCarthy and Sean Scannell had scored to wipe out Ross McCormack’s opener.
But the introduction of Becchio prompted a switch in momentum that kicked in with his 57th goal for the club and was completed when McCormack turned in Mikael Forssell’s knockdown to earn United a second win of the season.
“Luciano was never going to play much more than 25 to 30 minutes of football because he’s only played 60 minutes in a reserve game,” said Grayson.
“His arrival lifted the crowd and gave everybody a buzz. We had to play differently, we went with a longer ball, and him and Mikael Forsell caused problems.
“I’m delighted he’s had an impact on the game. He’s a long way off starting a game but it’s a great boost to have him back.”
Even crowd favourite Becchio was overshadowed by McCormack, though, who has finally found his feet at Elland Road following a tricky first season.
He scored just twice following a £300,000 move from Cardiff last summer but already has six to his name this time around and capped a fine all-round display with his late winner – a goal Grayson admitted his side maybe did not deserve.
“When we signed Ross I was excited because I knew what he was capable of doing, but for different circumstances he didn’t get a run in the team,” Grayson said of the Scotland international.
“He looks fit, strong and you can see his confidence. I’m delighted with him, he’s showing what we wanted.
“We didn’t play very well. The biggest confidence boost was that we were only 2-1 down in the game. We need to be better at not conceding goals and need to stop making fundamental errors.
“I’ve sat after a game when we’ve played better than we have today and not won. I know (Palace boss) Dougie Freedman will be disappointed because they probably deserved to win the game.”

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bradford Telegraph & Argus 10/9/11
McCormack nets double to help Leeds United bag three valuable points
Leeds 3 Crystal Palace 2
Ross McCormack and Luciano Becchio combined to give Leeds a tension-relieving win over early-season Championship surprise package Crystal Palace at Elland Road.
Scotland international striker McCormack scored the first and last goals of an end-to-end game, with Becchio, back after a five-month injury lay-off, equalising in between times after Paddy McCarthy and Sean Scannell had put Palace in front.
McCormack’s winner, his sixth of the season, came six minutes from the end and earned his side a second win of a campaign that has so far been overshadowed by off-field unrest about a perceived lack of investment from outspoken owner Ken Bates.
The situation has even prompted the former Chelsea chairman to call sections of the club’s support “morons” and the bad feeling inside the ground swelled further when Dougie Freedman’s Palace, sixth before today, went into a deserved lead.
But first Becchio and then McCormack ensured that some of the gloom was lifted, although Palace could well consider themselves unlucky to return to London with nothing.
It had looked as though they may end up suffering a heavier defeat when Leeds stormed into an eighth-minute lead.
Charlie Taylor, a 17-year-old left-back making his first senior start, whipped in a cross from close to the halfway line, and McCormack did the rest, peeling off his marker before planting a header back across Julian Speroni.
The celebratory mood amongst the majority of the crowd only lasted three minutes, though, with Palace moving quickly to equalise through McCarthy.
A needless foul by Michael Brown on Scannell gave the Eagles a free-kick on the corner of the Leeds box, with Mile Jedinak’s ball in reaching the Irishman who stabbed in at the far post.
The majority of Leeds’ good work in attack was coming through Taylor and it was after he was fouled at the corner flag by Wilfred Zaha that the home side hit the post and Palace subsequently went ahead.
Ramon Nunez spotted Speroni was positioned too far back and whipped in a near-post free-kick, but, even though the Argentine scrambled and padded the ball down, possession fell to Robert Snodgrass who hit the outside of the post on the follow-up.
Not hanging around, Speroni spotted the ball and launched an attack which set Jermaine Easter free down the left.
The well-travelled frontman made light work of skipping past Paddy Kisnorbo and his pinpoint centre was turned in by Scannell who got to the ball just ahead of Darren O’Dea.
The goal proved to be the trigger for the home fans to turn on their team, and their ire was nearly increased further when Scannell’s cute header crept just over the bar.
Nunez, McCormack and Andy Keogh all had half-hearted efforts at getting Leeds back on terms, but it was Palace who remained the better side, with the combative Scannell running rings around the experienced Brown in the centre of the field.
Zaha nearly made it three before the break when his lob forced Andy Lonergan into a desperate save, and the keeper was in the thick of the action again after the restart as he bundled Easter’s stinging drive around the post.
Grayson threw on last season’s leading scorer Becchio and new signing Mikael Forssell in an attempt to liven his side up, something Snodgrass nearly did with a curler that floated narrowly over.
Scannell then worked Lonergan with a 25-yard effort that caught everyone by surprise, before Becchio nodded in McCormack’s free-kick, awarded after another Zaha foul on Taylor, with 22 minutes remaining.
Leeds had the momentum they needed now and with time running out, Forssell’s flick-on found McCormack and the former Cardiff man spun McCarthy before planting an effort beyond Speroni.
Leedsunited.com 10/9/11
Leeds edge out Palace at Elland Road...
UNITED 3 (McCormack 8, 84 Becchio 70), CRYSTAL PALACE 2 (McCarthy 12, Scannell 20)
United manager Simon Grayson had to make three enforced changes as his side returned to league action following a two-week lay-off. Charlie Taylor came in for his full debut in place of the suspended Aidy White, Michael Brown returned in place of the injured Adam Clayton, and Ramon Nunez took over from the departed Max Gradel on the left. The bench also included the returning Luciano Becchio and new signing Mikael Forssell.
United went into the game on the back of a start that had produced just one win from the opening five games, but the United boss had expressed his satisfaction with performances so far.
And Leeds were celebrating inside the opening minutes when young Taylor produced a pin-point cross from the left and Ross McCormack was on hand to head the ball home. It was the perfect start for Leeds.
It was a well-worked goal and, moments later, Taylor delivered another excellent cross, but this time Julian Speroni was equal to the delivery and he collected.
But it was 1-1 in the 12th minute when Mile Jedinak sent over a free-kick and Paddy McCarthy bundled the ball home from close range to level matters. There were claims McCarthy had used his hand to bring the ball down before converting, but the Palace man made no mistake.
United almost responded immediately, Robert Snodgrass smashing a shot against the post, but it was 2-1 to the visitors after 20 minutes when Sean Scannell finished off a quick break forward by converting from close range. Jermaine Easter was the architect with a storming run and low cross, giving Scannell the easiest of tap-ins.
Leeds had some defending to go again on 25 minutes when Palace threatened, but Darren O'Dea averted the danger in the first instance before the ball was returned and Scannell headed over.
United struggled to get up the field as Palace pressured and worked hard, and it was turning into a tough opening period for Leeds. There was another scare before the interval when another low cross fizzed across the face of goal. Fortunately, no one was on hand to apply the finishing touch.
And, right on the stroke of half-time, Andy Lonergan made a superb save to deny the lively Wilfred Zaha when he turned the ball over the bar.
United looked to start the second half on the front foot, but Scannell was again causing problems as Palace looked to break quickly and Zaha wasted a decent chance after more good work by the striker.
But Palace keeper Speroni was called into action moments later when he beat away a Snodgrass free-kick which was curling into the corner.
On 58 minutes, Grayson made a double change with Forssell and Becchio both joining the action.
And the Argentinean wasted little time in making an impact. Within 12 minutes of his arrival he got on the end of a free-kick from the left and headed the ball home to level matters.
It was a typical Becchio finish and the striker wheeled away to the dug-out to thank the club's medical staff, who have nursed him back to fitness following a hamstring injury.
Lloyd Sam was also introduced following the goal as United looked to win the game, but it was the visitors who had the next couple of openings, Glenn Murray firing at Lonergan and Zaha shooting over the top.
But it was Leeds who were celebrating on 84 minutes when Forssell knocked down a cross into the path of McCormack and the striker converted to make it 3-2.
As the game headed into stoppage time, Snodgrass got back well to make a superb clearance as Palace threw men forward, and Leeds had four minutes of added time to secure the victory.
United had to clear one ball from deep, but Leeds got men behind the ball to secure a second successive home league victory.
leedsunited.com 8/9/11
Striker's excitement at Leeds move...
New United signing Mikael Forssell is hoping his "hunger for goals" will provide added ammunition in the club's quest for Championship success.
The 30-year-old former Birmingham and Chelsea forward has signed a deal until the end of the season at Elland Road.
I'm delighted," said the striker. "I'd had three good years in Germany with Hannover, but I've missed English football and I really wanted to come back here.
"To come to a club like Leeds is fantastic. It is such an historic club, the team is good, the lads are positive, the facilities are unbelievable, and the fans look brilliant.
"I played against Leeds a couple of times for Birmingham and scored in both games - but now I'm on this side and it's fantastic.
"There's big competition for striking places here, but I'm hungry for goals. There's some great players here, and I want to fight for a place to wear such an historic shirt."
Mikael had been plying his trade in Germany for the past three seasons before leaving Hannover in May.
"I've been working hard and training over the summer," he added.
"I played two 90 minutes for Finland at the weekend which felt good so I am happy. Maybe I'm lacking a little bit of match fitness, but a few games and some more good sessions will help."

Saturday, September 03, 2011

leedsunited.com 2/9/11
Striker not too far away...
Simon Grayson has confirmed that Luciano Becchio is close to a return to action after minor surgery on his hamstring.
The striker hasn't played for the Whites so far this season after undergoing minor surgery on his hamstring during preseason, but Grayson confirms he isn't too far away.
"He's been out a long time so I'm not going to build everyone's hopes up that he is going to be in the squad, but he is progressing nicely" said the Whites boss. "Luciano is obviously going to be short of match fitness but we will see where we are. He isn't too far away which is a real plus for everybody."