Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sporting Life 30/10/11
Robert Snodgrass rescued a point for Leeds as they recovered from Joe Mason's first-half strike to secure a 1-1 draw with Cardiff at Elland Road.
The Scotland international hit home from six yards after 73 minutes to cancel out Mason's opener to earn a deserved point for the Whites after long periods of pressure
Patrick Kisnorbo's free-kick near the halfway line found Tom Lees who knocked the ball down with a header for Snodgrass to find the back of the net.
Cardiff had led since the 17th minute, when Joe Mason pounced on some hesitant defending from Darren O'Dea, before rounding Paul Rachubka to notch his third goal in as many matches.
The home side started much brighter after the break with David Marshall expertly denying Andrew Keogh at point-blank range after Snodgrass' free-kick.
Leeds threatened again moments later when Paul Connolly's cross flashed across the box with Keogh and Ross McCormack both inches away from making a connection.
And with Simon Grayson's team upping the pressure, a succession of second half chances forced Marshall into action - the keeper pushing away a Snodgrass shot from 25 yards before Keogh headed wide of goal and a 30-yard strike from Adam Clayton tipped over.
A break from McCormack saw Marshall called upon once more, punching clear a loose ball inside the box and later pulling off an incredible one-handed save to keep out Howson's header.
But despite pushing for the winner in the last minutes, the Whites had to settle for a point and miss their chance to move to third in the table.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Yorkshire Evening Post 27/10/11
Paynter joins Brighton and Hove Albion on loan
By Phil Hay
Brighton have completed the signing of Billy Paynter after reaching a deal to take the striker on loan from Leeds United until January 2.
Paynter saw his wish for a move to another Championship club granted last night after Leeds and Brighton reached an agreement over a transfer to the Amex Stadium.
Brighton manager Gus Poyet is a long-term admirer of Paynter’s but had previously failed with a number of attempts to lure the 27-year-old to the south coast.
Talks over a permanent transfer came to nothing at the end of the summer transfer window, and the prospect of United sanctioning a loan to Albion appeared remote once Grayson ruled out a deal involving a Championship side with prospects of promotion or an appearance in the play-offs.
Speaking last week, Grayson said: “One or two people from the Championship have enquired about him.
“I won’t be lending him out to any rivals who are in or around us and if he did go to a club from the Championship then it would be one down near the bottom. Any deal needs to suit all parties.”
Brighton sit two points behind Leeds in the table but United have agreed to a loan until the turn of the year and Paynter has finalised the switch ahead of Albion’s league game against Birmingham City.
Poyet had seemed equally doubtful when asked recently about his chances of signing Paynter, saying: “It was an option in the summer and it was an option a month ago.
“He’s still not in their squad but it looks like we can’t get him. Maybe Leeds think we’re a team who are going to be fighting for the same place.”
Preston North End also expressed an interest in Paynter following Grayson’s decision to make him available but the League One club were unable to conclude the signing as Paynter held out for a move which allowed him to remain in England’s second tier.
The striker had no immediate future at Elland Road, in a squad which contains four other proven forwards.
Ross McCormack and on-loan Wolverhampton Wanderers player Andy Keogh are Grayson’s preferred partnership at present, with Luciano Becchio - last season’s top scorer - consigned to the bench.
Finnish international Mikael Forssell is ahead of Paynter in the selection order but has failed to feature in United’s group of substitutes for their recent games against Peterborough United and Birmingham.
Grayson signed Paynter on a free transfer from Swindon in the summer of 2010 but the striker’s short spell at Elland Road has been hindered by injury and defined by a lack of goals.
He has scored only once for United in 23 Championship appearances.
Yorkshire Evening Post 27/10/11
Zigic strikes to give Whites the blues
By Phil Hay
As games in hand go, Simon Grayson admitted he could think of easier than a visit to St Andrews. His caution was borne out by Leeds United’s loss to Birmingham City but it will feel today like an self-inflicted wound.
Birmingham’s record at home before last night showed no defeats in four leagues matches and only one goal conceded, creating no shame in a defeat on their turf.
Leeds succumbed as three other Championship sides had before them but their manager could not pass off the result as inevitable or deserved.
Grayson’s players fell to a 35th minute goal from Nikola Zigic, claimed with little effort or guile in a first half when United gave as good as they got and were running Birmingham’s clean sheet close.
Their promising display floundered when Zigic swallowed up a weak parry from goalkeeper Paul Rachubka and stretched a net which had been largely unthreatened in the previous half-hour.
At a stroke, his finish ended United’s seven-match unbeaten run and denied the club the chance to establish a three-way tie for second place in the Championship with West Ham United and Middlesbrough.
Grayson claimed on Monday that he would worry about the table in April and May, rather than at the tail end of October, but it was not the same as saying that the loss of attainable points was a good idea or in any way helpful.
A draw was the least on offer at St Andrews before Zigic took an open invitation.
The defeat that came instead represented a disappointing start to a sequence of four games which will demonstrate whether United’s league position is an accurate reflection of their potential.
Leeds proved as competitive as they had been during Saturday’s win at Peterborough United, a game in which they were constrained by a noticeable lack of width before the second-half appearance of Lloyd Sam.
In answer to that concern, Grayson recalled Robert Snodgrass at St Andrews.
The winger was free from the back spasms which prevented his selection at London Road and he reclaimed his place from Mika Vayrynen who dropped to a bench containing Sam, Luciano Becchio, Patrick Kisnorbo and goalkeeper Alex Cairns.
Grayson found no space in his squad for Mikael Forssell on the Finn’s return to his former club.
Birmingham started with a two-man strikeforce of Zigic and Marlon King – City’s answer to Darren Ferguson from the point of view of United’s merciless travelling support – and unexpectedly named nine-goal Chris Wood among their substitutes.
It proved an astute decision by manager Chris Hughton who saw the better performances among his side come from that pair.
King took less than two minutes to cause trouble, cutting through a risky sliding tackle from Adam Clayton inside United’s box and attacking Paul Rachubka with a shot which Tom Lees turned behind before it could reach the keeper.
King’s was a isolated opening in the initial stages but it became clear early on that Birmingham’s run of five successive victories before yesterday’s meeting was the product of a slick, confident style. Their defence, however, was almost caught cold in the 11th minute when Leeds cut City open with a hopeful long ball and gave Snodgrass the sort of opportunity he would have expected to take.
Danny Pugh fed Andy Keogh’s downward header to Ross McCormack who stood 18 yards from goal and in a position to shoot.
He chose instead to set up Snodgrass for a finish which slipped past Boaz Myhill and wide of his far post.
The game opened up quickly after that near-miss and Jonathan Spector saw a cross from Chris Burke swing beyond him six yards from goal after Zigic guided a dropping ball behind United left-back Aidan White.
Zigic’s height and ability in the air was a constant problem, limited though City’s opportunities were.
United themselves threatened in spells, sending Snodgrass into Birmingham’s box once more in the 22nd minute after the hosts surrendered possession to McCormack inside their own half. Snodgrass’ attempt to beat Myhill was blocked by the foot of Curtis Davies.
Clayton, in contrast, thought he had beaten Birmingham’s keeper two minutes later when he struck the rebound from a Snodgrass cross with a goalbound volley, but Myhill reacted brilliantly to turn the ball over his crossbar with one, solid hand.
He came under pressure again almost instantly as Tom Lees steered a long pass McCormack and Steven Caldwell diverted the ball behind as United’s leading scorer looked to drive it into the net, and there was enough in those chances to persuade Leeds against settling for a point.
But after Myhill smothered a long-range strike from Snodgrass, Grayson’s players succumbed to the opening goal in unflattering fashion on 35 minutes.
City’s right-back, Stephen Carr, broke towards the byline after a loose pass from Keogh and produced a cross which Rachubka palmed out to Zigic. The Serbian controlled the ball before driving it into the net with the aid of a deflection, sucking the wind from United’s sails.
Rachubka’s role in the concession was debatable but he kept Leeds in touch in first-half injury-time by using a leg to divert Zigic’s finish away from goal after King chested the ball into space inside United’s box. The interval arrived at a convenient time for Grayson.
Hughton might have felt differently but his players did not miss a beat on the resumption of play and Chris Burke scraped Rachubka’s side-netting at the start of the second half. Snodgrass replied in kind soon after, lashing a strike over the bar from all of 30 yards. Becchio’s call to arms came in the 63rd minute, thrown on as a replacement for Keogh, but he saw no useful possession for all that Leeds saw much of the ball.
Hughton refreshed his own strikeforce by sending Wood on in place of King as Grayson brought Sam and Vayrynen into the fray, and Myhill denied McCormack with another breathtaking save before Vayrynen headed a cross from Sam high over the bar.
Rachubka played his part by keeping out a Wood finish spectacularly but, on this occasion, five minutes of injury-time offered Leeds nothing more.
Telegraph 26/10/11
Birmingham City 1 Leeds United 0: match report
By Brendan McLaughlin
So often the butt of the jokes, Birmingham City striker Nikola Zigic reminded St Andrew's what he has to offer with the winning goal against Leeds United.
The 6ft 8ins Serbia striker ended an eight-month goal drought with his first goal since his historic effort in the Carling Cup final to earn Chris Hughton's fast-improving side a sixth successive victory in all competitions while, at the same time, ending Simon Grayson's team's own seven-match unbeaten sequence.
Hughton, meanwhile, can do no wrong. This latest success elevated his team up to eighth - still with two games in hand on most of their rivals - within a point of the play-off places.
The Birmingham manager said: "This run has raised my expectation levels to a degree. We don't know how long the European campaign will last but I always wanted to be in contention (for the play-offs) when it ended.
"Leeds are not the biggest team so it was something I looked at. With Zigic we know we have a good player. He has missed an awful lot of football. I still don't think he's fully fit but he can still be a very effective player."
The fact it was a game bereft of controversy will have been welcomed by referee Chris Foy on what was his first outing since he came in for criticism from Andre Villas-Boas for his display in nine-man Chelsea's defeat to QPR.
As for the Blues of Birmingham, they had Boaz Myhill, the goalkeeper, to thank after he pulled off an extraordinary save to tip Adam Clayton's dipping 20-yard volley over his crossbar. Put simply, it was a 'worldie'.
It was a key moment. By the 35th minute City were ahead after Stephen Carr's cross fell to Zigic and he drove a shot home in off the left post via the aid of a deflection off Paul Connolly.
Zigic could even have doubled his and Birmingham's tally before the half-time whistle however, with the angle tight, he was unable to squeeze the ball beyond Leeds goalkeeper Paul Rachubka.
Leeds had plenty of the possession - Ross McCormack came closest with a drive - yet they could not find a way through a stubborn Blues defence which has still conceded just one league goal at St Andrew's all term.
Grayson said: "I thought we played very well. We worked their back four and the goalkeeper but we just couldn't put the ball in the net.
"You have to give credit to them. They have an experienced back four. They are not eye-catching, but they are very efficient. They won't be far away come the end of the season."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sabotage Times 23/10/11
Peterborough vs Leeds United: Cut Out The Errors And Promotion Is Ours
By Jon Howe
With a disturbing trait for throwing points away now causing some anxiety at Elland Road, it is essential that Leeds United attain some consistency if promotion is to be achieved.
The last four days have been a microcosm of Leeds United’s existence in the Championship since their return in August 2010; conceding dramatic late goals, scoring dramatic late goals, living on the edge, but in general, by the skin of their teeth, just about maintaining an upward curve.
Tuesday night’s 93rd minute equaliser, conceded to a Coventry side whom we had dominated for the opening 45 minutes and should have put to sword, was one of those calamitous, Keystone Kops episodes that Leeds fans have just come to expect in the last 18 months. We, as fans, have become fantastically adept at taking the rough with the smooth; if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Conversely, fast forward to Saturday lunch time and having conceded an 88th minute equaliser to 10-man Peterborough nobody should have been surprised that we managed to keep Pacemakers-R-Us in business for a few more days by scrambling home a 95th minute winner, to the disbelieving rapture of the demented masses.
But no Leeds fan wishes to subscribe to the Kevin Keegan school of football management. We don’t actively seek the violent mood swings and the perpetual tightrope walking that envelopes our central nervous system until the 96th minute of every single game. Whilst we derive Schadenfreude by the gooey, lip-smacking bucket load in beating Darren Ferguson in the dying embers of Fergie-time, as we did today, I would much rather beat him comfortably within the 90 minutes, and deprive him the opportunity to bemoan the referee’s interpretation of stoppage time in the manner his Dad has perfected to a fine art.
It is fine to suggest that this Leeds United team “never knows when to give up”. Indeed, this is a great quality to have for any side seeking promotion from the toughest league in the world, however, my issue is that this team bares little resemblance to last season’s team when pretty much the same things were happening. Only Connolly, Howson and Snodgrass have played a significant part in the whole of Leeds Championship rollercoaster over the last season and a quarter, and many of the newer components this season are showing much the same traits as last season’s incumbents of the famous White shirt; that being a seemingly sadistic desire to shoot oneself in the foot and see how difficult you can make the task of hopping about one-legged whilst achieving your original objective.
Clearly, the one common denominator must be manager Simon Grayson. Or is it his coaching staff?
I am not going to turn this into a singular criticism of the Leeds boss, because the nett effect of what is happening is that we are very healthily placed in 5th position with a game in hand; win that and we could be second on goal difference. Being realistic, that is a great position, particularly given our muddled start to this season and particularly given the perceived lack of investment in the first team squad during a seemingly disorganised transfer window.
For me, Grayson is doing a fantastic job with the resources available to him. The lack of investment doesn’t really wash because free transfers and loans such as Pugh, O’Dea, Keogh, Vayrynen and Forssell still cost money. Whether that’s what the club intended when they said they wanted to ‘kick on’ from an impressive first season back in the second tier is difficult to say, but the fact is that Grayson has had to scratch around for these signings and, despite the impression that many of the signings were off-the-cuff with seemingly little strategic planning, so far they have produced the goods for him. Add to that the fact that Academy youngsters Tom Lees and Aidan White have appeared in the first team to positive effect and Adam Clayton has risen to the challenge of a fair pop at a first team place and all in the garden looks relatively rosy. Again, whether the promotion of youngsters to the first team was more by luck or design only the inner sanctum can tell us, but it’s working.
What frustrates the majority of Leeds fans, looking solely, as difficult as that may be, at what is happening on the pitch, is that we have a disturbing trait of throwing points away. If you attack and defend with the gay abandon we seem to, by definition, it will not always go your way. This season alone, which is a mere 12 games old, we have drawn games to Coventry at home and West Ham and Brighton away which were evidently winnable. We have lost to Ipswich away having dominated for the opening 45 minutes and lead 1-0 at half time. In addition, we have won two games with late winners (Crystal Palace and Bristol City) having surrendered an early lead achieved with relative ease.
I would much rather beat him comfortably within the 90 minutes, and deprive him the opportunity to bemoan the referee’s interpretation of stoppage time in the manner his Dad has perfected to a fine art.
Looking at these games as a whole it is easy to suggest that the team cannot hold onto a lead and close the game out. Undoubtedly, that is true, so it must be down to Simon Grayson’s tactics right? Certainly the second half against Coventry on Tuesday night saw Leeds wrestle an unlikely draw from the jaws of a certain victory, with an inexplicable concession of control which allowed an average Coventry team back into the game.
On the other hand, what can Grayson do about Patrick Kisnorbo skewing a clearance expertly into his own net at West Ham a minute after we had deservedly equalised? What can he do about Leigh Bromby defending like a pensioner at a tea dance for all three goals at Brighton? What can he do about debutant goalkeeper Paul Rachubka spilling a tame cross in the 93rd minute against Coventry? What can he do about the referee’s questionable decision to send off Aidy White at Ipswich?
Whilst Leeds can be criticised for inviting pressure whilst in a winning position, that, unfortunately, is what happens in football. Sometimes you have to give credit to the opposition. It is inevitable that any team chasing a winner or an equaliser will put you under pressure; that is the nature of the game. What Leeds lack in those situations is a leader and a dominant midfielder to quell that tide. But quite honestly, most teams in the league are also after such a rare commodity. We are told our squad is full of leaders, but time and again we cannot take a game by the scruff of the neck and see it through.
So if we agree that many of the points Leeds have lost this season are down to individual errors, where do we go from here? The lucky dip that Grayson indulges in with his central defensive partnerships has appeared to have finally borne fruit. The settled duo of O’Dea and Lees have looked solid in the last four games and that can only improve with time spent playing together. Other centre halves in the squad can count themselves unlucky that Grayson did not have the same patience with them, because undoubtedly, changing the partnership every game cannot help and at times it has looked like kneejerk reactions have cost an unfortunate player his berth.
Ultimately, it is true that we can point to individual errors but it is also true that an element of coaching must come into how those errors can be eradicated. The tangible effect of the coaching staff is negligible at best, their influence cannot be seen by the naked eye, only, we assume, the influence of the manager. However, we have been watching these same kind of errors for 18 months now and the joke is wearing thin. To put it bluntly, promotion-winning teams do not make these errors, they don’t ease off and let teams back in, and that is why we finished outside the play-off’s and that is why we are sat outside the top two now. You have to say this is our rightful place until we can attain a solid consistency, and until we can form a unit capable of absorbing pressure and seeing the job through, like real champion sides do.
Cut out the errors and promotion is ours, sounds simple, but the frustration is borne from the fact that we are not too far away. Our goals for tally tells us that much, again, counting on the evidence that the players scoring goals for us this season (McCormack, Clayton, Nunez, Keogh, Pugh) played little or no part in our similarly impressive goals tally last season. So Grayson must have something. Despite his many critics, despite those that cannot cope any longer with the blindfolded, stab-in-the-dark approach to winning games, Grayson clearly has something.
What we need now is an end to the entertainment; we need to find a balance. It’s been a great journey and we’ve all enjoyed it, but what will ultimately see us to our goal is a resolute procession of turgid 1-0 wins, a George Graham approach to nullifying any semblance of positive thoughts once a goal has been scored in our favour. We need to be spending the second half of most games gnawing our finger ends off at the sheer tedium of events before us, as long as we are 1-0 up. We won’t win many friends, but we haven’t got many anyway, so let’s revel in the unpopular side of football that has always been our forte, what is there to lose?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mail 22/10/11
Peterborough 2 Leeds 3: Late drama as O'Dea denies 10-man Posh comeback
Darren O'Dea scored a controversial injury-time winner as Leeds secured a win over 10-man Peterborough they appeared to have thrown away.
The Republic of Ireland defender's effort went over the line seconds before Luciano Becchio made sure in the 95th minute, although the home fans felt O'Dea should have seen red for a last-man foul minutes before.
Becchio also claimed the goal, although the linesman confirmed at the whistle that O'Dea had scored, flicking in a free-kick from Adam Clayton - who had put Leeds ahead for a second time on the afternoon.
Prior to O'Dea's late intervention, another error from Leeds keeper Paul Rachubka appeared to have cost his side all three points.
Having gifted Coventry a late equaliser on Tuesday, the stopper was caught in no man's land as a ball sailed into his box and got tangled up with his defenders, allowing Mark Little to bundle in from six yards.
Before that, Andy Keogh's stunning opener had put Leeds ahead, only for Peterborough to level through Gabriel Zakuani and then be reduced to 10 men when Lee Tomlin scythed through the back of Keogh.
Peterborough were incensed by the decision but looked to have gained some reward for the afternoon when Little scored, only for O'Dea to then intervene, just seconds after he could have been dismissed for a last-man foul on David Ball.
Despite impressing since returning to the club on loan from Wolves, Keogh's return of one goal from nine games meant his place was under threat from last season's leading scorer Becchio.
But manager Simon Grayson's only change was enforced, with Mika Vayrynen replacing Robert Snodgrass, and Keogh justified his starting shirt immediately.
Taking in a pass from Clayton, he teed himself up just inside the area and thundered a volley beyond Paul Jones and into the top corner to give his side the perfect start.
Stunned by the setback, Peterborough searched for a response and Little was unlucky not to see anyone running onto his cross following a strong run down the right, while George Boyd drove over.
Ross McCormack then flashed wide from the edge of the area, before Peterborough, after a spell of pressure, levelled after 23 minutes when Rachubka did not come for a Grant McCann corner and Zakuani powered in a header from underneath the bar.
Leeds had the chance to regain the lead straight away but Keogh's finishing deserted him as he hit straight at Jones when clean through, but the Irish striker remained at the heart of the action and, with 37 minutes gone, was at the centre of the game's first flashpoint when Tomlin was dismissed.
Peterborough were already unhappy that Grayson would not allow his physio to treat Zakuani while the home doctor tended to Boyd and, tensions were raised further as Darren Ferguson furiously encouraged referee Keith Stroud to allow the latter to return to the field as play continued.
What was a temporary numerical disadvantage soon became permanent, though, as Tomlin clattered through Keogh with a challenge that perhaps looked worse than it was, but Stroud was convinced of its intent and wasted little time in issuing a red card.
The home side were incensed but their fury would have been worsened had McCormack and Jonny Howson taken the opportunities afforded to them either side of the break - the latter hitting a one-on-one at Jones and the former fizzing over from eight yards.
However, with the home side down a man and Leeds creating chances it only looked a matter of time before they took one, and so it proved with Clayton doing the damage in the 54th minute.
Substitute Lloyd Sam pulled Danny Pugh's cross down and rolled the ball across the area to the waiting midfielder who stepped inside the would-be tackle of McCann and stroked home his third of the season.
Peterborough then thought they had salvaged a point when Little slipped in to score, and McCann went close to winning it with a free-kick following O'Dea's foul on Ball, only for the defender then have the final say himself.
Yorkshire Evening Post 19/10/11
Rachubka clanger costs Whites dear
By Phil Hay
For 90 minutes and more, a change of goalkeeper by Leeds United passed almost unnoticed at Elland Road, but a last-gasp error from Paul Rachubka cost Leeds United a victory over Coventry City.
The former Manchester United trainee stepped in for the injured Andy Lonergan last night and delivered a near flawless performance until his fumble in the closing seconds surrendered two points at the death.
Leeds were closing in nervously on a 1-0 win, leading through Darren O’Dea’s 26th-minute goal, when Rachubka spilled a cross from Cyrus Christie and watched Richard Wood knock the loose ball into his net.
Blame fell heavily on the 30-year-old keeper, making his full league debut at Elland Road, but accusing fingers could be as readily pointed at the outfield players who dropped dangerously deep in the last 10 minutes and failed en masse to see out the game.
Such was Coventry’s late surge that their draw was almost deserved.
O’Dea’s confident strike, scored by a centre-back who showed striker’s instinct, put United on course for a third straight win and a third successive clean sheet, and Simon Grayson’s side had chances aplenty to put the match beyond reach.
But United’s manager could sense the walls closing in as full-time approached and the introduction of Mika Vayrynen was an anxious attempt to see his side home.
As passes went astray and possession was passed up repeatedly and wastefully, Coventry’s frantic pressure came to bear in the third minute of injury-time.
Goalkeeping issues threatened to affect both clubs but Coventry avoided a late change when Joe Murphy was passed fit after concussion and took his place in their team.
Leeds were less fortunate, and a bruised finger forced Lonergan to retreat to the stands.
Paul Rachubka, on his full league debut, gave Grayson a proven replacement and Alex Cairns a less proven substitute, aged 18 and with no prior experience of the Football League.
Had Lonergan been fit, Grayson would have left his team untouched after their cakewalk at Doncaster on Friday evening.
A fifth win in sixth games beckoned yesterday along with a third clean sheet in as many league matches. The second of those achievements last occurred two years ago.
Rachubka was isolated initially, required to make only two cursory touches in the first 12 minutes.
Murphy on the other hand was on his guard immediately, watching two crosses fly through his goalmouth before Ross McCormack met an improvised delivery from Robert Snodgrass with a diving header which dropped onto the roof of Murphy’s net. It was a warning shot with six minutes played and Coventry’s defence absent.
Another came four minutes later when Snodgrass found Andy Keogh with a deep and skillful cross, hit with too much power for the striker to finish on the volley.
But Rachubka was put under pressure soon after when he dived to parry Gary Deegan’s 20-yard shot and looked on gratefully as Lukas Jutkiewicz slashed the rebound over the bar from a tight angle.
For most vantage points in the ground, it looked easier to score.
Coventry’s confidence seemed in need of a chance like that and they gained sight of Rachubka again during a scramble inside United’s box in the 20th minute. O’Dea blocked one shot and Paul Connolly cleared another from David Bell after the ball dropped into space 18 yards from goal.
But Leeds sought to reassert themselves and a Snodgrass’ free-kick forced Murphy to beat the ball away as it bounced in front of his goalline moments before O’Dea beat the Coventry keeper with an immaculate finish.
The Irishman’s chance was cheaply offered when an attempt to clear Paul Connolly’s cross struck the back of Clive Platt but O’Dea controlled the ricochet before beating Murphy with the calibre of strike which Grayson would have expected from a player like McCormack. City’s last line of defence had no chance of stopping it.
Opportunities to turn the screw arrived quickly as United pressed forward with their tails up. McCormack tested Murphy with an effort towards the near post and Richard Keogh turned a header from Andy Keogh behind amid strong suspicions of handball.
O’Dea, having banked his first Championship goal, threatened another when he arrived from nowhere to nod the ball wide and, for most of what remained of the first half, Rachubka was left to observe from a distance, asked to do little more than retrieve the occasional stray pass towards his area. Leeds allowed Coventry little of the ball and no space to work with what possession they had.
Sammy Clingan – for a while a summer transfer target of Grayson’s – drilled a rare opening straight into Rachubka’s hands but United should have scored a second goal before half-time and were amazed to see McCormack pass up the easiest of openings.
Keogh laid it off to him six yards from goal after the pair exchanged passes on the edge of Coventry’s box but McCormack got under the ball and hooked it high over Murphy’s net.
The Scot wore the perplexed look of a man whose overhead kick against Doncaster won the Football League’s goal-of-the-week vote yesterday morning.
Ultimately, the miss mattered. Coventry made two substitutions at half-time, bringing on Cody McDonald and Gael Bigirimana, and Leeds struggled to maintain their hold on the midfield, giving McDonald more freedom than they had afforded the ineffective Platt.
Snodgrass, whose authority and skill caught the eye from the first whistle, kept Murphy involved by teeing up Danny Pugh for a header which the keeper blocked and then firing an ambitious shot inches wide of a post.
Murphy protected Coventry again when he used his body to divert a Clayton effort over his bar.
Grayson clearly wanted the security of a second goal and he replaced McCormack and Keogh with Luciano Becchio and Mikael Forssell with 20 minutes remaining.
Soon enough the call went out for Vayrynen as, with Coventry seeing more of the ball and McDonald clipping the top of Rachubka’s bar, Grayson attempted to protect what Leeds already had.
His players looked to have reached the winning post but, deep into injury-time, Rachubka failed to gather Christie’s cross and Leeds’ fan Wood buried the rebound. Elland Road had seen it coming and so had Grayson.
Guardian 18/10/11
Coventry's Richard Wood makes Leeds United rue missed chances
Leeds United threw away a chance to move into the top six of the Championship deep into stoppage time when their goalkeeper, Paul Rachubka, making his first league start of the season, made a mess of a save and set up the Coventry City defender Richard Wood's equaliser .
Time was running out when the City defender Cyrus Christie launched a hopeful cross to the far post in time added on and, when Rachubka could only parry the ball, Wood pounced to cancel out Darren O'Dea's first-half opener.
It was just reward for the visitors, who refused to buckle under long periods of pressure, and Leeds were made to pay for a hatful of missed chances in either half.
The Republic of Ireland defender O'Dea drove home an angled shot midway through the first half but the home fans were left to endure an anxious finish and watched in despair as Wood made them pay for their profligacy.
Leeds's leading scorer, Ross McCormack, had miscued from six yards with only the Coventry goalkeeper, Joe Murphy, to beat just before half-time and Danny Pugh and Adam Clayton were both denied by an inspired Murphy in the second period.
Coventry were always in the hunt and had Lukas Jutkiewicz kept his flying late header a shade lower in the closing stages, the Sky Blues would have been level earlier. The home side almost took a sixth-minute lead when Robert Snodgrass curled a fine cross with the outside of his boot into the penalty area and McCormack stole in between the visitors' central defenders to head inches over the crossbar. But Coventry launched an early riposte when the captain, Sammy Clingan, shot from 25 yards, forcing Rachubka to parry at full stretch and Jutkiewicz blasted the rebound narrowly off target.
Murphy was then at full stretch to keep out Snodgrass's clipped free-kick as Leeds began to press for the opener, which duly came courtesy of an unlikely suspect in the 26th minute. Paul Connolly's cross was deflected to the left side of the penalty area and the centre-half O'Dea arrowed a striker's finish, left-footed, into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal.
Murphy did well to keep out McCormack's stinging drive and the Scottish striker spurned a gilt-edged chance in the 41st minute when lifting the ball over the crossbar following excellent work by Andy Keogh. Coventry showed more urgency after the break, no doubt buoyed by Leeds's missed first-half chances, but the home side stepped up a gear around the hour mark and went close to extending their lead on three occasions.
Pugh's bullet header was superbly saved by Murphy and after Snodgrass's raking drive whistled past the post, the visiting goalkeeper was at his best again to keep out Clayton's low shot from inside the area. Luciano Becchio and Mikael Forssell replaced Keogh and McCormack in the 70th minute as Simon Grayson chased that elusive second goal but both failed to make any significant impact.
Jutkiewicz almost equalised for the visitors with a fine header as Leeds grew increasingly nervous in the closing stages before Wood latched on to Rachubka's fumble to stab the ball home at the far post.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Yorkshire Evening Post 15/10/11
Doncaster Rovers v Leeds United: Mac’s special help Whites cruise home
By Phil Hay
Simon Grayson was once a manager with problems but at present he will find only those he invents.
A first away win of the league season carried Leeds United into the Championship’s play-off positions last night, far removed from the corner they once occupied.
Grayson sounded words of encouragement amid signs of an impending crisis at the back end of August and United’s appearance in the Championship’s top six underlined the strength and conviction of his side’s response.
The club were liable to lose fifth place today as the division’s other fixtures played out but Leeds will feel that their point has been made regardless.
Danny Pugh instigated their victory at Doncaster Rovers, converting Robert Snodgrass’ first-half free-kick, and doubt was erased by a sublime overhead kick from Ross McCormack, his 10th goal of the season scored early in the second half. From there, a fourth league win in five games was wrapped up with a swagger, sealed by a Tom Lees header.
McCormack’s finish aside, Grayson’s players rarely dabbled in the spectacular but their boss has seen too much of that in his time as a Championship manager at Elland Road.
Their shape and organisation was faultless and Doncaster were annihilated by United’s brutal front six.
Clean sheets, meanwhile, are behaving like proverbial buses with two arriving in as many games after 11 without one.
McCormack, in contrast, is in the form of his career with Leeds and his acrobatics poured more scorn on Scotland’s decision to omit him from their most recent squad.
The striker’s goal was due reward from a game in which he and his partner, Andy Keogh, ran Doncaster tirelessly and wore them down. Keogh later struck the crossbar, a mean stroke of misfortune at the end of a telling performance, but Lees gave the scoreline the width it deserved in the 64th minute.
With Snodgrass fit, Grayson’s team was as easy to name last night as it had been all season. A certain amount of doubt surrounded Keogh’s position with Luciano Becchio breathing down his neck but United’s manager seemed keen to avoid change for change’s sake.
In the end, Keogh was more than worth his place.
Doncaster, by comparison, threw in goalkeeper and new signing Chris Kirkland and included Herita Ilunga, their loanee from West Ham United, at left-back.
The notable omission was Pascal Chimbonda who took a seat on Rovers’ bench after missing a number of training sessions earlier in the week.
In all, only 10 of the players used last night started August’s Carling Cup tie between the clubs, explaining why Grayson was happy to disregard that game entirely. Dean Saunders’ line-up scarcely looked like a team condemned to a season in the bottom three, and Doncaster’s most recent results did not give that impression either.
Their strikeforce alone, consisting of Billy Sharp and Jon Parkin, had danger about it, and Lees was given the task of containing the imposing Parkin.
The 20-year-old had been safely on loan at Bury when Parkin ran riot at Elland Road with Preston North End last season but Grayson remembered that evening well.
All United’s manager could promise was that his strikers, Keogh and McCormack, would cause trouble in return.
McCormack had the sniff of his 10th goal of the season after only eight minutes when Paul Connolly found Keogh’s sly run onto the right wing, and McCormack’s attempt to covert Keogh’s cross with his heel was repelled by Richard Naylor’s uncompromising tackle at the near post.
The sliding challenge from Leeds’ former captain left McCormack clutching an ankle and Grayson remonstrating with the fourth official about a defender whose aggression he once relied on.
Grayson’s faith at the Keepmoat was placed instead in Lees and Darren O’Dea who saw off Parkin’s first opportunity by standing up to the striker’s close-range volley in the 13th minute.
Amid a patient examination of each other, neither team were able to fashion a more promising opening until the 20th minute when Pugh scored.
As he had against Portsmouth on October 1, the midfielder appeared on cue as Snodgrass flighted a contentious free-kick into the box and his emphatic volley swept beyond Kirkland before the keeper could move.
Doncaster bemoaned the decision to penalise George Friend for bringing down McCormack on the touchline but Saunders had as much to say about the marking inside Doncaster’s box. Leeds saw an opportunity to squeeze Rovers out of the contest and Keogh threatened Kirkland again with an ambitious shot from 30 yards which swung away from goal.
At that early stage, Doncaster’s committal of players to attack was leaving their defence badly stretched.
Keogh and McCormack both had chances to punish Rovers, the former wasting one counter attack with a stray pass and the latter dispossessed by Naylor at the vital moment, and the rising heat of the game provoked a clash between Adam Clayton and James Coppinger on the half-hour. Coppinger was booked for swinging a knee in Clayton’s direction.
The final warning shots of the first half came from Leeds, with Pugh failing to pick out a Leeds player six yards from goal and McCormack testing Kirkland with a long and hopeful free-kick.
Only a glancing header from Parkin in the 41st minute forced Lonergan to scramble across his line and ensure that his far post was covered.
But when Snodgrass looped a misguided cross over Doncaster’s box with Saunders’ defence in disarray again, it seemed that United were dithering over an invitation to kill the match before half-time.
That fear was banished in the 52nd minute when Keogh guided Clayton’s pass to McCormack who controlled the ball in the air and, without pausing to think, whipped an overhead kick beyond the reach of Kirkland and into the back of the net.
It was something for Craig Levein to ponder as he and Scotland prepare to twiddle their thumbs next summer.
Doncaster’s heads dropped but Lees kept his when Snodgrass steered a cross into his path on 64 minutes, inviting the defender to rise and nod the ball beyond Kirkland.
It is many months since Leeds were able to showboat as easily as they did in the time that remained.

Sky 14/10/11
Whites secure first away win
Pugh, McCormack and Lees on target as Whites claim the points
Leeds United secured their first Championship away win of the season following a 3-0 success at Doncaster Rovers on Friday night.
Danny Pugh opened the scoring in the first half with a second goal in two games since re-signing with Ross McCormack and young defender Tom Lees sealing the victory with further efforts after half-time.
Dean Saunders had registered two wins and a draw since replacing Sean O'Driscoll at the Keepmoat Stadium, but his side were no match for fast-improving Leeds, who moved into fifth place after stretching their unbeaten league run to five games.
Former Wrexham manager Saunders had lifted the gloom at Rovers with the help of a plasma television and a half share in a race horse as rewards for his players in training and matches.
But no incentives could make up for the gulf between these two sides in terms of cohesion and confidence and while Leeds manager Simon Grayson will be looking up the table, Saunders will now be aware of the full size of his task.
Former England goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, on loan from Wigan, and West Ham defender Herita Ilunga made their debuts for Doncaster, while a third new signing, Pascal Chimbonda, started on the bench.
Leeds were unchanged from the side that beat Portsmouth in their last match, with Finland internationals Mikael Forssell and Mika Vayrynen, as well as Luciano Becchio, named among the substitutes.
Cagey opening
Doncaster threatened first after a cagey opening, with Jon Parkin's low shot forcing a sprawling save from Leeds goalkeeper Andy Lonergan.
Leeds responded with a swift counterattack, but Robert Snodgrass's driven cross was steered wide by McCormack.
Leeds soon began to boss possession and were rewarded with the breakthrough in the 20th minute when Pugh volleyed home in fine style, direct from a Snodgrass corner.
The home side were finding it difficult to get a foothold in the game and James Coppinger was booked by referee Kevin Friend after taking his frustrations out on Leeds midfielder Adam Clayton.
Parkin will feel he should have hit the target with a header from Coppinger's cross shortly before half-time, but Rovers failed to muster any real momentum and it was the visitors who looked the more likely to add a second goal.
Leeds sprayed the ball about with growing confidence after the restart and a moment of individual brilliance from McCormack doubled their lead in the 51st minute.
The Scot flicked the ball over his marker in the area and, with his back to goal, sent an overhead kick into Kirkland's top right-hand corner for his 10th goal in 13 appearances this season.
Saunders replaced Coppinger with Kyle Bennett in the 61st minute, but two minutes later Lees' thumping header from another Snodgrass corner put the result beyond doubt.
Lonergan was replaced by Paul Rachubka in the closing stages and Andy Keogh struck the crossbar with seven minutes left as Leeds threatened to add a fourth goal.

Twohundredpercent 13/10/11
Who owns Leeds United? How Football Documentaries Should Be Made
Many years ago, I listened to prize-winning author and ultra-famous Arsenal fan Nick Hornby reading extracts from the book which made his name, Fever Pitch. And the reading was a disappointment. Hornby was good, but just not as funny as the voice, indeterminate and certainly not my own, in which I’d read the original. The same disappointment arose when listening to speeches by Guardian journalist David Conn. Conn is a decent speaker – even when “10-minute” speeches to Supporters Direct conferences exceed half-an-hour, but his words spoke louder from the page in the voice inside my head. This I know to be unfair, after watching the long-heralded documentary Who Owns Leeds United, which aired on October 10th in the BBC’s Yorkshire and Lincolnshire area. For the core material of the programme overpowered concerns about presentation, and the presentation itself was of a standard to which all football documentaries should aspire.
The twenty-nine minutes on Leeds’ recent ownership history focused its attention, for reasons lawyers may be best-placed to describe, on the club’s current owner, Kenneth William Bates. Conn told the story of their ownership, since the departure of former chairman Mr Peter Ridsdale esq, with a refreshing clarity. And while the story contained nothing new to close observers of Leeds since 2004 – which would include many readers of this site – it would have provided valuable insight to those new to it. Conn took us methodically and simply, though never simplistically, through Leeds’ tale of financial woe, beginning with Ridsdale “living the dream” at the start of the century. “It is generally accepted that the Peter Ridsdale was financially disastrous for the club,” Conn noted. This isn’t, of course, accepted by Ridsdale himself in his current energetic efforts to re-write this part of Leeds United’s history. But this was a documentary didn’t get side-tracked on such side-issues – unlike me.
The tribulations of the “Yorkshire Consortium” of local businessman who in 2004 tried, and failed, to repair the financial damage done by Ridsdale, were faithfully recalled by then-chairman Gerald Krasner. Eyebrows may have been raised when insolvency practitioner Krasner stated that the consortium “were not rich men,” having claimed his Leeds chairmanship to be a “labour of love” for which he would normally have charged “a lot of money,” – many BBC Iplayer viewers in the Plymouth area would know roughly how much per hour he may have meant by that. But the documentary was honest enough about the consortium’s failings, even in its rush to get to the star of its show, Bates, the “unlikely guardian angel from the tax haven of Monaco.”
The documentary was at its most revealing and disturbing at this point, with two stark, black-and-white photos of a younger Bates. The second was demonstrably Bates, though with dark hair. The first showed a clean-shaven, portly yet kindly-looking face, peering innocently out of a car window; proof that the camera may not perpetually tell the truth. Bates’ “colourful” business history was given a brief, wilfully disrespectful airing – “wheeling and dealing… he dabbled in ready-mixed concrete”, as dodgy-sounding a business CV as you could write, bang-updated by the addition of 21st-century business bêtes-noires, “property and banking.” Author Tom Bower, who devoted thirty-three pages of his book Broken Dreams – Vanity, Greed And The Souring Of British Football to Bates, gave us his précis of Bates’ 23 years at Chelsea, buying the club from bankruptcy and selling it just before it became bankrupt again. “Not a great achievement,” he noted.
In a warning to fans currently protesting against Bates for developing Leeds’ Elland Road ground rather than the team, Bower said Bates, while Chelsea chairman, “redeveloped the ground and earned a lot of money for himself from it.” And he added that he didn’t think “selling (Chelsea) to a Russian oligarch was a great service to the fans,” which is not a view held by everyone with Chelsea allegiances – not yet, anyway. But the idea of Bates as self-serving twister was established. And Conn warmed to that theme immediately. Newspapers heralding the “Bates Era” at Leeds in January 2005 “suggested Bates had personally taken over Leeds. But Bates denied being anything more than the “UK representative” of an indeterminate entity called ‘Forward Sports Fund’ (FSF), which had actually ‘bought’ Leeds.
With heavy emphasis on the words “overseas” and “tax haven,” Conn showed how difficult it was to demonstrate whether Bates was lying… or even telling the truth, for that matter. Economist John Christensen cited a purely hypothetical example of “someone who’s resident off-shore, say in Monaco.” Tax havens weren’t just havens from tax: “Professionally we call them ‘secrecy jurisdictions,’” he told us, adding emotively that “money-laundering and bad activities” could be going on “because we can’t find out who actually owns the club.” The secrecy of Leeds’ ownership, it was implied, also cost the club a £25m loan from Leeds City Council, and seconds of airtime later Conn added that “just two-and-a-half years after Ken Bates took over Leeds, the club was effectively bust.” At which point the documentary played the “small business” card.
Conn interviewed Stuart Russell, whose ‘small’ firm Russell’s Patisserie, was owed £2,700 by Leeds. Not “a lot of money in the big scheme of things,” Russell himself noted, “but you have to make a lot of rolls to make £2,500.” So, a third of the way into the documentary, Bates was already established as a secretive failure who took Leeds into administration. This was the cue for a topical dig at the ‘Football Creditor’s Rule’ which ensures that usually highly-paid players get all their money out of an administration process, while Stuart Russell “got back a cheque for just under £50.”
“Incidentally”, said Krasner, pretending the thought had just come to him, “a football manager is not a football creditor.” So Bates’ first Leeds manager, Kevin Blackwell, was left to scrabble for a small fraction of the, ulp, £993,332 he was owed. But two organisations stood to lose much more, “obscure off-shore companies called Astor Investment Holdings and Krato,” which had apparently loaned Bates’s Leeds £15m. Astor and Krato were quickly linked to “tax havens” and “closely-guarded” secrecy, just before Krasner explained that they insisted “that the person who has lost them that money be allowed to buy back the club,” as they told administrators, KPMG, that they would waive their bumper debts if, and only if, Bates remained “in charge” at Leeds, on behalf of… well, no-one, exactly, seemed to know. “Just to repeat,” added Conn, directly addressing the many viewers who had just shouted “Eh?” at their screens, “the investors who lost a staggering £18m under Ken Bates still insisted that he remain in charge.”
The viewer was then taken on a European tour of companies and court cases to determine why Astor and Krato were so keen to get Bates back in charge. But even high court judges couldn’t find out ‘who’ let alone ‘why.’ Bates, of course, was “the most obvious person… to clear up the mystery.” The documentary had already shown him saying that “the one condition they made of coming in was that they did not want any publicity or their identities being disclosed.” But this was immediately followed by an “incredulous” Krasner saying Bates “didn’t even know who he was working for,” inviting the viewer to ask how, then, did Bates know what they were thinking?
As the documentary-makers strongly suspected, Bates wasn’t about to answer their questions, claiming in an e-mail worthy of a school exercise book belonging to “Ken Bates, Class 2D, aged seven,” that he found the BBC (the “Bloated, Biased Corporation”) “thoroughly untrustworthy.” Further examples of Bates’ literary skills were cited; his reference to Leeds fans as “morons” (comfortably refuted by fan representatives’ concise, well-informed contributions to the programme) and his likening, in the official club programme column, of Leeds United to sex, in a passage which would have had any children reading the programme asking “what does that mean, Daddy?” Daddy, of course, wouldn’t have known, as what Bates wrote was, in fact, nonsense. But, as Lee Hicken of the Leeds United Supporters Trust pointed out: “there’s usually something in there that will offend someone.”
Conn then turned to the football authorities’ regulations “designed to make sure that the people who own clubs are upstanding,” having just established that Bates was pretty far from “upstanding.” We were the taken on another tour of ignorance, as it was revealed that the Football League and the Football Association had declared Leeds’ owners to be “fit and proper” without ever knowing who they were. Nobody from the League, “including its chairman Greg Clarke, was prepared to talk to us on camera,” Conn added, implying that not even Clarke could defend their (in)action in public debate. The League instead provided a statement which said little more than that Leeds’ owners were fit and proper because the club said so, to which the most reasonable retort can only be, “Right, so who are they, then?”. And they couldn’t say what the club said because it was confidential.
They, and Bates, would like to file such matters under ‘history’ now that Bates has bought the majority, controlling shareholding in Leeds – via “an obscure company based in (a) tax haven”, Conn added, probably unnecessarily by this stage. But even this apparent clarification raised more questions, as “just at the point when the riches of the Premier League were out of the club’s grasp,” – i.e. just as the club’s market value plummeted – it was put up for sale by FSF. This was yet more anti-logic for newcomers to the story to ponder, before being told Bates was the buyer, having been about the only person who seemed to know the club was for sale.
Viewers were left to draw many of their own conclusions, not least on how Bates could redevelop Elland Road without apparent reference to its owners – a “company based in (a) tax haven,” as Conn noted “while we’re at it.” But the documentary transcript was much longer than other recent football documentaries of comparable length. It never felt too rushed to understand. And the right interviewees made the right points at the right times. And whilst the title’s eponymous question was never going to be answered – unless an anonymous source dropped the answers through David Conn’s letterbox in a brown envelope – it never felt like the piece of failed investigative journalism it technically was.
Of course, seasoned observers already suspect who has beneficially controlled Leeds United since 2005, whether they have (exacted) that control directly or through, shall we say, ‘related’ individuals. But the point now is to force the football authorities to guard against a repeat – in that sense, the documentary was well-timed, coming hours before the government’s response to the parliamentary select committee’s report on ‘football governance.’ It is small wonder, on the basis of stories such as this, that even a government naturally inclined towards a laissez-faire attitude towards governance in so many areas of life is taking such a hard line on football at the moment.

Square Ball 12/10/11
What Ken Said – 12.10.11 – Shot by Shot
Taken from Yorkshire Radio’s interview with Leeds United owner Ken Bates today…
Regular readers of What Ken Said will recall that whenever something doesn’t quite go the Ken’s way, like the recent protests by fans at Elland Road, he reacts with a lengthy monologue during his usual Wednesday slot on his own radio station. After Monday’s BBC Inside Out documentary on the last six years at Leeds United drew attention again to the secretive ownership and continued chairmanship of Ken Bates throughout that period, it won’t come as much of a surprise to find out that seven minutes and 10 seconds of today’s 12-minute ‘interview’ were dedicated to Ken’s monologue on the subject. That’s a total of 1,311 words (or 7,104 characters typed by my good self) – rather impressive for a TV programme that Ken himself describes as ‘a complete waste of time’. Another feature of Ken’s mono-rants is his attempts to discredit anyone who questions him, be it a journalist, fan, a former chairman, or indeed a fanzine such as The Square Ball. This week, TSB published a blog post entitled ‘Revealed: The £10m That Could Have Saved Leeds From Administration’ which used information given to TSB by the BBC after they had obtained it under the Freedom of Information Act while researching the documentary. It is information that is publicly available, should it be requested. It is not, as Ken suggests, illegal or unethical. Elsewhere, he also confuses TSB’s co-editors Dan & Michael while suggesting TSB, amongst others, lack transparency. It is an old line he has used twice before, most recently on April 2nd in his programme notes for the match against Nottingham Forest, and at that time TSB responded responded in full with an ‘Open Letter to Ken Bates’. Elsewhere, Ken talks about some other stuff including – shock! – football, because he’s a football fan, just like you and me… apparently.
Ben Fry: Chairman, we’ll start with some fantastic news – Ramon Nunez has committed himself to the club and visa-versa until 2015. You must be delighted that the deal has been done.
Ken Bates: I’m very pleased indeed and so should all fans. He’s an exceptional player, he’s a full international, of course, for Honduras and he played regularly until he decided he has got to concentrate on Leeds. I wouldn’t say he sacrificed his international career but he put it on hold. Once again, the fans have to be patient and realise it’s not as easy to re-sign players as it might appear. It’s taken a few months actually and Shaun has done particularly well with him because Nunez is a foreigner, we’ve had three agents to deal with so it hasn’t been easy. I’m delighted he has signed, he’s another quality player and I think that everyone should be very pleased. We certainly are.
BF: Did the fact that he decided to put his international career on hold strengthen your view on the player that he did actually want to give something to the club?
KB: It already confirmed our view of the player. It just showed that he was putting Leeds first and everything afterwards. He wants to succeed at Elland Road and we are delighted that we have not only got a player, we got one with that attitude. It’s interesting, I was just doing a bit of reminiscing in my mind while I was waiting for you to call me and it now means that we now have 16 players who have played for their country at international level from Under-18s right the way through to full internationals. Of the 16, 11 are full internationals and what’s even more encouraging is seven of our current squad are homegrown and are young. So I think some of the fans who have been complaining or have been disappointed that we haven’t been splashing the cash in the summer, actually realise that we have splashed it really sensibly and really wisely and I’m very pleased with the attitude that Simon has adopted in strengthening the squad and the way that Shaun Harvey has dealt with the finances of it to make sure we are a tightly run ship and we get what we want at reasonable prices. Two Finnish internationals both played last weekend and they cost us nothing. Obviously that reflects in the salaries we are paying but we have a good, strong squad. And if we beat Doncaster on Friday night, we’ll be fifth. We may only be fifth for 24 hours but it demonstrates we have a much stronger squad than people realise because of course it was obscured by the initial bad result against Southampton – no excuses for that, we were bad – and an unlucky defeat against Middlesbrough. From then on, we haven’t done too badly.
BF: Are you now satisfied by the mixture of youth and experience the squad has?
KB: Ben, you’re never satisfied, you always want somebody else. I mean, I’m a fan at heart, just as the rest of them are. I’m never satisfied, I always want something better but we’re making progress, step-by-step, brick-on-brick. We’re getting there.
BF: Now lets move away from footballing matters just briefly to talk about the BBC documentary that was on on Monday night about the ownership of the club. Did you see it and what are your thoughts on it?
KB: Well I saw it and funny enough it was almost exactly how I forecast how it would be. Frankly the total content was a load of rubbish and Shakespeare wrote a play about it called Much Ado About Nothing. If you analyse it, we had David Conn in Geneva rubbing his hands together, somewhat forlornly as he looked at the ships sailing by on the lake and looking up at the building where Chateau Fiduciaire is housed and then we saw David Conn talking to Platini having a nice shot of UEFA’s headquarters and Mr Platini who speaks perfect English, nevertheless the BBC thought they had to put subtitles on underneath. Then we had the same shot six times of Leeds fans going in the ground. Then we had three shots of the East Stand from the air, one shot of the South Stand, no two shots of the South Stand. Then what else did we have? Erm, then we had breach of copyright when they quoted me first of all from my Yorkshire Radio programme and then the match programme. Then they, I don’t know whether they broke the law but they were certainly unethical as they used the Freedom of Information act to obtain confidential correspondence between Shaun Harvey and the Leeds City Council and promptly handed it over to a fanzine, who put it on their website, totally in accordance with the BBC’s moral behaviour. Then we had David Conn saying this and David Conn saying that. Interestingly, he was described as an investigative journalist and he described himself as an investigative journalist and he said ‘after six years, I found out nothing’ – well he’s not much good as an investigative journalist is he? Then they dug up some ancient-looking economist who said, shock, shock, that a tax haven is an off-shore island that is also used for secrecy. Well what a non-event. Then we had photographs of me getting out of a taxi then me sitting on a platform then we had a photograph of Mr Krasner, sitting next to Mr Simon Morris, the former property tycoon who is now awaiting sentencing for a criminal conviction. Then we had Tom Bower. Now Tom Bower is an interesting person. He’s a writer who has a lot to say for himself, mostly unsubstantiated, but interestingly I had a run-in with him before. He did an article in the Mail On Sunday which he described in some detail of a meeting that took place in the Dorchester Hotel in London, even down to describing the type of cigar, the make of the cigar that one of the persons there was smoking. So only one problem, that meeting never took place and I’ve never met the person that was supposed to be smoking the cigar. It was a pack of lies. He made it up as he went along and the Mail On Sunday had to print an apology and pay a substantial sum in compensation, which went to one of my charities. That brings me on to the credibility of the people that took part in the programme because what is more interesting is the people who refused to take part in the programme. So you saw editing versions what was said in this meeting and what was said in that meeting. I mean Damian Collins, self publicist, once agains the DCMS committee report had nothing of interest to say, just recommend the usual things, lovely and vague, not specific, waste of time, waste of money. OK, it gave Mr Damian Collins his day in the sun. And then we had a fanzine guy on, I think he’s the man who asked me two years ago if I would give him an interview for his fanzine and I said to him ‘how many copies do you sell?’ he said ‘none of your business’. So what amuses me is all these people who are asking for greater transparency are a bit vague when it comes to transparency themselves. Then we had a gentleman from LUST. I don’t know how many members they got. I think I was told last time they had 328 [it's around 1,250 now - TSB]. Well Leeds United Members Club, I have just checked, have over 34,000 with 60 regional clubs. That puts something in perspective. And their chairman admitted and we have checked on the computer, that the last two seasons he had come to three games in two years. So I don’t quite know who he is speaking for. But let’s move back to the content of the programme itself. Then we had Mr Krasner speaking at length. Well of course, as you remember, Mr Krasner was my predecessor as the chairman of Leeds United and he made the point a time or two that under my chairmanship the club was relegated to League One. He seems to forget that under his chairmanship, the club was relegated from the Premiership to the Championship and of course the tremendous loss of income was a factor in the Leeds United’s financial difficulties and he made great inference in the fact that he hadn’t charged any fee for any work he did, well I think that was 10 months or something. I haven’t charged any fee for the six-and-a-half years I have been here to put it in perspective. Two of his fellow directors, two of them charged nearly £100,000 a year, and Mr Krasner was a participant in the proposed profit share had he been paid depending of the performance of the club. So that he didn’t actually get any money, he was in for a ride on the profit, if it had been made. I think going back to the Yorkshire Consortium of which Mr Krasner was the chairman, it has to be remembered that they only put £5million into the club, so of which itself was borrowed but they borrowed another £15million from a man called Petchy. So of the £20million they used to buy the club, on five was their own and the £15million was borrowed at exorbitant rates of interest and each of the directors gave personal guarantees to repay that money and in the end they sold Elland Road, they sold Thorp Arch, an option on the land behind the North Stand, to repay Mr Petchy, which of course released them from their personal guarantees and saddled the club with the thick-end of £1.5million a year in rent and rising. The other thing you have to remember of course is that Mr Krasner backed Simon Morris in the administration to try buy the club back in competition with Forward Sports Fund. So all the comments Mr Krasner made have to be view in the context that he was a predecessor and an unsuccessful competitor. Now then, moving on, we have a club which is trading profitably unlike very few other clubs in the league, we have no debt, we have renovated the ground. Even Mr Damian Collins no doubt between clenched teeth said ‘Leeds United are financially secure and upwardly mobile’ – isn’t that all that fans want? The rest is just rubbish. The programme itself was a complete waste of money, such as sending Conn out to Switzerland with his camera crew trailing here and trailing there. There’s nothing in it. We saw shots of Switzerland, we saw diagrammatic… maps of three islands in the Caribbean. It told people absolutely nothing. A complete waste of time. But then, nothing new there, is there? I think what we now need to do is to move on and continue to run the club. Ah, one small point about prices and things, I was doing a bit of survey this afternoon and I looked up an independent report and there are 12 clubs in the Championship where it’s more expensive to go to than Leeds United.
BF: Let’s bring it back to footballing matters then and focus on Friday night’s game. Coming up against a Doncaster Rovers side who have been rejuvenated. Do you now see this as maybe a tougher challenge than it was a couple of weeks ago?
KB: Under O’Driscoll they were playing much more of a passing game. Dean Saunders has brought in a few Premiership players to obviously sharpen them up a bit and they have done quite well – won two and drawn one. But they now play a far more direct, physical game. We’re ready for it. It’s a very important one because as I said earlier, we can go fifth. Who knows, they might even be chanting ‘Bates In’ (chuckles).
BF: After that, Coventry come to Elland Road on the Tuesday night, the 18th. Obviously midweek games are a bit difficult at this time of the year. You hope hope though, that the home form will continue and that the fans can come in numbers.
KB: Fans will come in due course as we continue our good run. If we get success, the fans will come. We are still averaging 23,400 but we’ve won four and lost one in home games so we’re OK. We’re more relaxed than some people fear.
BF: Given the recent form particularly at home, do you see top six ambitions being realistic?
KB: We still thought that after the Southampton game. I mean fans, I understand fans because I am one myself, next Saturday trepidation but then what are we going to do next week? You can’t run a football club on a Saturday-by-Saturday or match-by-match basis. It’s the league table in May next year that counts, that’s what we’re looking at. I think we have a strong team, at last we have got a clean sheet, hopefully the first of many, as usual we are the top scorers in the league. We have a good ground and good support.
BF: Let’s finish by focussing on one event which is coming up at Elland Road very shortly. It’s the 20 Years On event on October 29th. Ticket sales going well. It’ll be fantastic to welcome back Howard Wilkinson and members of his squad.
KB: We hope as many of them that can come will come. It’ll be a great evening of reminiscence looking back over what Leeds have achieved and looking forward to what Leeds hopefully will achieve.
BF: And if you would like to be here for the event, it is the night before the home game against Cardiff and the number you need is 08713341919 and choose option two. Chairman, as always, thanks for taking the time to speak to us on Yorkshire Radio.
KB: Thank you, Ben

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Yorkshire Evening Post 3/10/11
Leeds United 1 Portsmouth 0: Lees and Pugh looking to return of the good times
SIMON GRAYSON revealed he had issued a final warning to his defenders and they heeded his words by keeping Leeds United’s first clean sheet of the season.
It capped a tremendous week in the fledgling career of Tom Lees, who has ambitions of emulating boyhood hero Jonathan Woodgate in the heart of the United defence.
Awarded a new four-year contract by Leeds manager Grayson, Lees responded with a mature performance after being switched inside to his prefered central defensive role, Paul Connolly being brought in at right-back with Leigh Bromby dropped to the bench.
Having been at the club for 12 years, the 20-year-old has witnessed the demise of Leeds but wants to see them again emulate the feats when Woodgate was in a side which reached the semi-finals of the European Champions League.
Lees reflected: “There is a much better feeling in the dressing room than last Friday (the 3-3 draw at Brighton). I think the hard work we put in during the week has paid off. The important thing was that we weathered the storm in the second half and got our first clean sheet. As defenders, we can’t ask for any more, that’s all we are focussed on. All the lads at the back did really well and the lads in front protected us brilliantly.
“It was a perfect round-off to the week and I am really grateful for the club and the manager and the other people involved in sorting out my contract. I couldn’t have been any happier coming into this match.
“I have been at the club since I was eight years old so I used to watch Woodgate playing in the Premier League, Champions League week in, week out. He was a top player and I would like to enjoy the career he has had without the injuries, of course. I have only played one game at centre-half and, hopefully, I will be there for the next game. That is my ultimate aim to play in that position.”
Another Leeds player celebrating was Danny Pugh, who marked his second Elland Road ‘debut’ with the winner which keeps them in touch with the top six.
He headed into the roof of the net in the 14th minute, racing in from the left unmarked to meet a deep inswing corner from Robert Snodgrass.
Pugh, part of the deal which took Alan Smith to Manchester United in 2004, and on loan from Stoke with a view to a permanent signing in January, said: “To get a goal in my first home game since I came back is really pleasing. To get the goal, clean sheet and three points is a good day all round.”
At 28, a more mature Pugh says: “This move is a fantastic opportunity for myself. I’ve got a lot to prove, a lot to achieve and it’s a great place to come and do that.
“There’s no reason why Leeds can’t get back into the Premier League. From the two games I’ve been involved in, you can definitely take more positives than negatives and there is no reason why we can’t build on that.
“The aim of this club is to get back in the Premier League. I didn’t achieve that the first time I was here but maybe we can rectify that.”
Manager Grayson said of Pugh’s return: “He has brought a bit of experience and know-how to the team. He combines very well with Aidey White because he has played at left-back, too. With Danny here, we can be a little bit more solid but do the attacking side as well.”
The Leeds chief conceded a midweek break had helped, adding: “I said to the players before the game and at half-time that we can run this team into the ground. We had had a free week, have younger players – inexperienced players compared to Portsmouth’s – and on a hot day and with them having had a long journey and a game in midweek I believed we could take advantage and I think we did.”
Delighted to have kept Pompey scoreless, he revealed: “I hope the penny has dropped. One or two were on their last warnings today. I criticised the back four last week which is something I do not normally do because we win as a team and lose as a team but I just felt it was time that people had to take responsibility for what’s happened and they have responded in the right manner.”
It was a surprise that Pugh’s goal was the only one of the match.
Leeds dominated the first period yet, ironically, this was the time when Pompey went closest to breaking through.
Greg Halford, who made a tremendous block to deny Ross McCormack, saw Andy Lonergan go full length to paw a header from a free-kick and then headed against the bar when the ball was chipped back in. The defender was denied again before the break when the Leeds goalkeeper punched away his free-kick at the foot of the left-hand post.
After the break, Pompey were a transformed force following the interval introduction of Kanu to partner previous lone striker Benjani and with Liam Lawrence moving out to the flank.
Leeds were a shade guilty of sitting too far back, inviting the pressure yet Lonergan received better cover in this period.
It took until the later stages for Leeds to threaten and force their only corner of the half – their 10th in all – and for substitute Mikael Forssell and Jonny Howson to test Pompey debutant goalkeeper Stephen Henderson.
Yorkshire Evening Post 3/10/11
Whites silence the Pompey chimes
By Phil Hay
In the wake of Leeds United’s draw at Brighton, Simon Grayson pleaded in desperation for a plain and overdue 1-0 win. Here it was eight days later, earned by Danny Pugh’s early goal and the will to withstand the tenacity of Portsmouth.
So basic had Grayson’s request been that entertainment was not even part of the bargain. “I wouldn’t mind being boring from time-to-time,” he said, reflecting on a game against the Seagulls which was drama personified. His players disregarded that comment and wore Pompey down with their usual flair before edging over the line in an anxious second half.
Pugh’s clinical header was all United’s pressure would yield but it mattered not while the opposition remained goalless. After 12 games and two months of waiting, Grayson has a clean sheet to savour and a viable defensive line to cling to during a fortnight-long break for international fixtures. In that respect, United’s victory over their Fratton Park rivals was perfect.
It depended firstly on a precise finish from Pugh in the 14th minute, showing the nose for goal which saw the midfielder strike six times in his first season with Leeds, and latterly on resistance in which United’s defence broke a trend by playing a consummate part.
The crossbar aided them before the half-hour, and goalkeeper Andy Lonergan did likewise more than once, but credit was widely shared. Portsmouth felt aggrieved, as well they might, as their manager, Steve Cotterill, bemoaned his team’s failure to make anything of the first half.
Leeds’ victory completed what in Grayson’s mind is a productive, helpful passage of matches, worth 10 points from the 12 on offer between the season’s first international break and its second. Home games against Crystal Palace, Bristol City and Portsmouth looked eminently winnable, and Pompey were the least ambitious of the recent visitors to Elland Road. With their Zimbabwe international, Benjani, isolated up front, the wisdom in pushing the pace of the match was obvious and Leeds did not hold back before the interval.
The factor that neither Grayson nor Cotterill could pre-empt was the heat of the sun, climbing to around 30 degrees on the first day of October.
United’s groundstaff hardly expected to be scraping snow from the pitch this early in the season but the temperature was unprecedented and a burden on the energy of the players involved. “They looked fresher than us,” said Cotterill said after his side’s third game in eight days.
Grayson’s own squad had been given a clear week of preparation after the postponement of their game at Birmingham City, and United’s boss used the time to “iron out a few problems”. One in particular stood out, and the movement in Grayson’s defence was novel: Tom Lees appearing in a central role for the first time, 24 hours after signing a new contract, and Paul Connolly resuming his duties at right-back.
Lees’ selection was, in a sense, the last throw of the dice, utilising the one remaining centre-back who had not been employed in his preferred position. Grayson will not be inclined to look back.
The presence of two wingers and one forward in Portsmouth’s team promised more trouble down either flank than it did through the middle of United’s defence but, for the best part of half an hour, Leeds experienced problems in neither area as the game played out at their chosen pace.
Adam Clayton engaged the crowd with neat touches in the centre of midfield and Ross McCormack’s enthusiastic attitude was that of a striker with nine goals on his record. A 10th eluded him in the 14th minute when Greg Halford’s leg prevented McCormack from lashing Robert Snodgrass’ cut-back into the net.
The chance was reminiscent of McCormack’s injury-time equaliser at Brighton and narrowly resisted by Portsmouth’s defence. Their organisation crumbled again, however, when Pugh met the resulting corner with a firm header which found the corner of Stephen Henderson’s net.
Lax marking has been one of Grayson’s regular curses and Cotterill had a bone to pick with Halford, who failed to follow Pugh’s well-timed run. The visiting boss stood hands-on-hips, looking suitably unimpressed.
The opening goal began a concerted onslaught in which Snodgrass tied Bjorn Helge Risse in knots and rattled a shot beyond Henderson’s far post, and Jason Pearce deflected Pugh’s strike behind. At the other end of the pitch, Benjani grasped for a touch of the ball under the watch of a pro-active Lees.
But when Portsmouth found a path to Lonergan, the disorder which followed was typical of Leeds, lacking only the gift of a concession. Halford’s header from a Liam Lawrence free-kick found Lonergan waiting to react with an excellent one-handed save, and Halford met a second cross with another header which crashed against the bar as Jonathan Howson tried to cover his line. Grayson has come to expect the worst from moments like those.
On this occasion his players were worth their luck. Two minutes later, normal service resumed with Hayden Mullins hacking the ball over Henderson’s bar after McCormack anticipated Snodgrass’ quick free-kick and steered a pass into the six-yard box. The balance of play allowed Connolly to press relentlessly on the right wing, paired with a catalyst in Snodgrass who, trick by trick, is starting to resemble his usual self.
Lonergan saw off the final chance of the first half by punching away Halford’s free-kick after Lees flattened Lawrence but Cotterill saw the need for a change at the break and replaced the anonymous Risse with the tall frame of Nwanko Kanu, now 35 and a veritable wild card. It had the desired effect.
David Norris failed to beat Lonergan by no more than a yard when Lawrence’s cross curled in behind Lees in the 49th minute, and Kanu’s first act was to wrong-foot Clayton and dink a cross towards Benjani who could not get his head to the ball. Already United’s players were sinking deeper towards their own goal, as if in anticipation of pressure to come. Aidan White’s sliding tackle blunted another attack led by Lawrence, and Pearce should have done more with a 70th-minute opportunity than glance it wide with a wayward header. Joel Ward might also have scored when he appeared inside United’s box and flashed Halford’s through-ball over Lonergan and the bar, and Grayson attempted to quell the tension with three quick substitutions.
The appearance of two strikers, Luciano Becchio and Mikael Forssell, was not an obvious means of closing the door, but it took a fine save from Henderson to prevent Forssell from putting the result beyond doubt after Becchio played him in. With a minute remaining and the crowd baying for the final whistle, even Connolly was found sprinting up the right wing, the Leeds United way. “It’s not in our nature to be negative,” Grayson said. “But we were professional with it.”

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Mail 2/10/11
Leeds 1 Portsmouth 0: Pugh on target as Grayson's troops extend unbeaten run
Danny Pugh marked his second home debut for Leeds with a goal as Simon Grayson's men finally put their defensive frailties to one side to beat Portsmouth.
United's defence is notoriously porous and arguably cost them promotion last season, while it has been little better this time around, with a number of combinations failing to return a clean sheet prior to today.
But Grayson stumbled across the right formula this afternoon - although Greg Halford did go close to scoring for Pompey - and Pugh's 14th-minute header, his first since returning to the club from Stoke after five years away, helped extend Leeds' unbeaten run to four games.
They are now perched just outside the play-offs - having played a game fewer than everyone else - but the situation is not so pleasant for Portsmouth.
Last-minute losers against Peterborough in midweek, they have still to win away from home and have just nine points from their 10 games so far, with only the dire form of the likes of Bristol City, Coventry and Millwall keeping them out of the drop zone.
Leeds' defensive record over the last 18 months has been so poor that even chairman Ken Bates voiced concerns about it in midweek, and Grayson's response was to recall the previously-ostracised full-back Paul Connolly for a first appearance in a month.
Portsmouth also made a change on the back of recent performances, with goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown's blunder against Peterborough seeing him lose his place at the expense of Stephen Henderson.
Grayson's decision to extend an olive branch to Connolly was vindicated early on, with his more experienced presence allowing Scotland winger Robert Snodgrass, no longer having to lie deep with rookie Tom Lees, to flourish.
Everything Leeds did early on went through Snodgrass, and his ninth-minute cross laid on the first opportunity, with Joel Ward digging the ball out as Andy Keogh looked set to pounce.
Snodgrass then skipped past Tal Ben Haim and worked his way into the box to produce a cutback that looked to have allowed Ross McCormack to score for the seventh league game in a row Greg Halford's block sent the ball behind.
Portsmouth put the subsequent corner straight back out for another one and from it, Pugh struck. Having scored five goals inside a month of signing for the club in 2004, the home fans were well aware of his prowess in the area, and he displayed it once more as he lost Halford eight yards out and headed in Snodgrass' centre.
Leeds continued to impress after the goal, with Snodgrass driving just wide of the post after a 60-metre run on the back of Andy Lonergan's quick throw, before the same player worked an angle for Pugh who saw an effort blocked by Halford.
Despite his inconsistencies in his own box, Halford's presence caused mayhem at the opposite end not long after, with his header from Liam Lawrence's free-kick forcing Lonergan into a wonder save, while he hit the bar on the follow-up.
Jason Pearce then cleared a McCormack cross from under his own bar, and although Lonergan had to beat away a Halford free-kick, Leeds remained in control through to the break - but Portsmouth looked decidedly livelier after it.
Ward's ball in behind caught the home defence napping and Lonergan had to be alert to save at the feet of David Norris, while some good tracking from Aidy White stopped Lawrence from fashioning an opening.
Leeds were feeling the tension of having failed to score a second when on top, and Halford's ability to get on the end of almost every ball played into their box added to their worries, with Darren O'Dea deflecting one of his efforts behind.
At the other end, substitute Mikael Forssell was denied a clinching second by Henderson's flying save, but even though Lonergan had to scramble to tip over a Halford cross, Leeds held on without extending their advantage.

Sporting Life 1/10/11
Simon Grayson hopes the penny has finally dropped with his Leeds players after they beat Portsmouth 1-0 at Elland Road, keeping a first clean sheet of the season in the process.
Danny Pugh's first-half header on his second home debut for the club helped United extend their unbeaten run in the npower Championship to four games, but it was at the other end of the pitch where Grayson got the most satisfaction, with the latest in a long line of cobbled-together back fours finally keeping the opposition score at nil.
Last weekend's 3-3 draw at Brighton - Leeds had led 2-0 but had to score an injury-time equaliser - prompted Grayson to make a rare public criticism of his defenders, and he was joined in midweek by outspoken owner Ken Bates who also demanded better than 15 goals conceded in eight games.
And after bringing back the previously-ostracised full-back Paul Connolly for a first appearance in a month and moving rookie Tom Lees into his more natural central position, the Whites managed to heed their warnings, leaving Grayson a happy man.
"One or two of them were on their last warnings after last week," he said of his players.
"I criticised the back four and I don't normally do that, but I felt it was time that people took responsibility for what's happened and they responded in the right manner.
"It was a good performance from us, I'm delighted that we kept a clean sheet for the first time this season.
"The players have taken on board what we have worked on this week.
"When they were called on the defenders defended and the goalkeeper made some good saves. We're trying to get the right balance between attacking and defending and we're delighted to keep the clean sheet.
"You have to be able to see stages of a game through and be determined and professional. We've probably been a bit naive, going gung-ho for the next goal, but we needed to be professional and we were."
Portsmouth have picked up just nine points from their 10 games this season, but despite improving on a torrid first-half performance after the break, they were unable to find a way past Andy Lonergan.
And despite enjoying the better of the possession in the second half, Pompey were unable to create the chances they did in the first - Greg Halford hitting the bar also forcing a stunning save out of Lonergan - and manager Steve Cotterill felt his side showed signs having played three games in eight days.
"In the second half, we were much improved," he said.
"In the first half we looked like it was our third game in eight days and they looked fresher than us for not playing in midweek.
"But the way we played in the second half makes it harder to understand why we were so lethargic in the first.
"It was the first goal we've conceded from a set-piece, and if someone loses their man there is not a lot you can do."

Saturday, October 01, 2011 30/9/11
Leeds United defender Tom Lees has signed a new contract with the club, taking him up to 2015.
The 20-year had signed a new contract last Christmas while on loan at Bury, but the club has moved to secure his services for the longer-term.
Tom has made seven appearances so far this season, having made his debut against Bradford City in the Carling Cup in August. He also scored his first goal for the club, against Hull City during the same month.
Having made over 100 appearances during loan spells at Accrington Stanley and Bury over the past two years, Tom returned to the club during the summer knowing it was a crucial year for him as a Leeds player.
"I'm delighted to be in this situation and I'm delighted to sign a new contract.
"I'm really chuffed with how things have gone so far. It's been tough, and I've been learning lots, but I've really enjoyed playing regularly and being a part of the first team.
"It's been a step up for me and it's a good challenge. I wouldn't have thought I would be in this position now, but I know my future is here and my aim is to keep improving, keep learning, and keep getting better."

Yorkshire Evening Post 30/9/11
Great Scot Ross can’t do anymore - Grayson
Leeds United manager Simon Grayson admitted today that he was “bewildered” by the omission of Ross McCormack from the latest Scotland squad.
Grayson expressed his surprise after the in-form striker failed to feature in the 25-man pool named for Scotland’s forthcoming matches against Liechtenstein and Spain.
McCormack has established himself as the Championship’s top scorer with nine goals this season, but national coach Craig Levein found no space for him in a group of players which included Leeds winger Robert Snodgrass and Brighton forward Craig Mackail-Smith.
Scotland’s slim chances of qualifying for Euro 2012 finals hinge on the matches, and McCormack made a strong case for inclusion with five goals for United in recent league games against Brighton, Bristol City and Crystal Palace.
The 25-year-old has made eight appearances for Scotland during his career and came onto Levein’s radar during the summer, but he was absent from the squad used for European qualifiers against Lithuania and the Czech Republic earlier this month and will play no part for Scotland during the international break which follows tomorrow’s game clash with Portsmouth.
Grayson said: “He’s scoring goals for fun and I’m slightly bewildered that he’s not been called up. That’s not my decision, though, and Craig obviously thinks he’s got other players he can use to do the job.
“All Ross can do is work hard and keep scoring and his chance will come. International football is great recognition for players.
“From a selfish point of view as a manager, I wouldn’t want any of my players going away because it gives me a free week to work with them, but he’ll be disappointed and understandably so.
“But his time will come, whether it’s in the next squad or whenever. He can’t do much more than he’s doing at the moment.”
McCormack has hit form on the back of a difficult first season with Leeds in which he played only sporadically and scored just twice.
Eight of his goals this term have come in Championship fixtures and his influence is justifying the investment made by United when they moved to sign him from Cardiff City for a six-figure sum at the end of the summer transfer window in 2010.
“When I paid the money, I knew he had quality in abundance,” Grayson said. “He’s seen an opportunity this season and he’s taken it.
“It wasn’t really his fault that he didn’t play too much last year. Other players got ahead of him and when you’re out of the team, it’s difficult to step in and replicate the form you showed before you came to the club. You’re under pressure straight away.
“He’s started almost every game this season and he knows that if plays well he’s going to be picked. The longer his form continues the more goals he’s going to get and the more his confidence will grow. That can only make him better again.”
Six members of Grayson’s squad will take part in international games during the coming fortnight with Mikael Forssell and Mika Vayrynen included in Finland’s squad, Darren O’Dea and Andy Keogh set to play for the Republic of Ireland and Aidan White preparing to link up with Eire’s Under-21s.