Sunday, April 28, 2013

Leeds United 1-2 Brighton and Hove Albion: McDermott issues Diouf warning

YEP 27/4/13
Leeds manager Brian McDermott insists controversial striker El-Hadji Diouf must learn from his mistakes after a gesture to Brighton fans earned him a red card and left his side with nine men in today’s 2-1 defeat.
Diouf’s team-mate Rodolph Austin had already been dismissed for fouling Ashley Barnes and Brighton substitute Inigo Calderon was also shown a red card by referee Graham Scott in the npower Championship clash.
Gus Poyet’s Brighton booked their place in the play-offs but the dismissals proved the main talking point.
Diouf made his crazy gesture moments after stroking home a 74th-minute equaliser from the penalty spot. McDermott plans to appeal against Austin’s red card but he refused to excuse Diouf and said: “I can’t understand him and maybe he can’t understand himself.
“What he did is not clever. He has got to learn because he is going to miss three games now. He is really upset but he has to be accountable for his actions. These things are dotted around his career. He can be a match-winner and I’ve told him he has to let his football do the talking.
“If you run 50 yards and make a gesture, that is not a heat of the moment thing. I believe 100 per cent he can learn from this - he has to.
“Austin just bumped into their player so no way was it a sending-off offence and we will appeal against it.”
Calderon was sent off for fouling Diouf in conceding the penalty and Poyet said: “Inigo will miss one match. If the penalty award was correct then probably the referee had to send him off, so it is about analysing the build-up to the penalty.”
Poyet added: “I am very pleased with the result. The Championship is becoming more and more difficult so we are delighted to be in the play-offs. We’ve lost Bruno Saltor injured so we are looking for a right-back to play in the next game and there are plenty of volunteers.”
It started going wrong for Leeds when highly-rated right back Sam Byram was injured in the warm-up and lost his ever-present record. They were a goal down inside 10 minutes and two minutes later were reduced to 10 men with Austin’s red card.
Brighton were gifted the opener by England Under-21 defender Tom Lees, whose back-pass towards keeper Paddy Kenny was much too short, Will Buckley cashing in.
Leeds enjoyed ample possession but several penalty claims failed before Calderon’s offence on Diouf, who covered himself in glory from the spot only to bring shame on himself during the celebrations.
The Seagulls’ winner arrived in the 87th minute, Argentinian striker Leonardo Ulloa heading home from Andrea Orlandi’s cross.

He has to learn - Boss' words for Diouf

leedsunited.com 27/4/13
Brian McDermott on two red cards...
United boss Brian McDermott says El-Hadji Diouf must learn after being sent-off against Brighton at Elland Road on Saturday for gesticulating at the visiting fans.
Diouf had drawn United level in the contest, with a coolly taken penalty, but he was shown a straight red card for his celebrations.
The red card saw United reduced to nine men - Rudy Austin had been sent-off in the first half - and the visitors, who also had a man dismissed, made the numerical advantage count by nicking a late winner.
"You can't do what Dioufy did, and he has done so well for me over the games," said the boss.
"His talent is terrific and I don't want to be talking about incidents away from what he is good at - football.
"I'm gutted about what's happened. It can't continue. He's mature enough to say 'I've got to learn from things like this.' I spoke to him afterwards and said 'you've put me in a situation here.'
"I like him. As a player and a person he's not what people perceive him to be. He's a good guy and he's got great talent, but you can't get involved with stuff like that. He apologised and he was upset."
The player will now miss next weekend's trip to Watford.
Austin is also set to miss the game, but the boss says the club are likely to appeal his red card. The Jamaican was sent-off for an alleged elbow in a challenge with Ashley Barnes.
"I've seen Rudy's sending off and for me that wasn't," said the boss. "We'll appeal that. I think once the referee has seen that again he will see it."

Factors that turned screw on Bates reign at Elland Road

YEP 27/4/13
By Phil Hay
So farewell then Ken Bates. Well, not quite. Chairman of Leeds United for another week at least and honorary president thereafter. That is unless GFH Capital plans to renege on its agreement or Bates no longer wants the presidential seal.
But his last home game as chairman takes place today and titles aside, Bates will soon lose his executive power. He resigned as a director of Leeds City Holdings in December and will step down from the club’s board directly. If truth be told he has been on the fringes of the boardroom for months. GFH Capital is running the show and has generally run it without him.
So eight-and-a-half years of Bates stewardship ends here or hereabouts. How will Leeds remember him? Here’s how he remembers himself: “I’ve made mistakes, I admit that,” he said yesterday. “But I’m leaving the club in much better shape than I found it.”
We should give him that. There is not so much as a lone voice arguing that anyone other than Bates or his backers were willing or able to buy Leeds in 2005. The summer of 2007 was different – a summer awash with declared bidders, most of them frustrated by the selling process – but Leeds were dead in the water when Bates first landed. Presently, the club are stagnant. Stagnant is better than dead.
History will also say that stagnant was never enough. Certainly not in 2012 when Bates finally decided to sell again. The record reads like this: five full seasons in the Championship, three in League One. Attendances ravaged and a first-team squad which looks like squads tend to when a club accepts the shilling too often. There was no repurchase of Elland Road or Thorp Arch and no Premier League football; no serious legacy to speak of beyond the club’s survival.
“I’ve not taken a penny out of the club in wages,” Bates said yesterday. Kudos for that. But certain people have done okay. Lutonville Holdings Ltd, the firm which paid £3.2m for preferential shares in Leeds in 2011, made £800,000 on its investment when GFH Capital bought Bates out. Nice work if you’ve got £3.2m to play with. And Ticketus are profiting nicely from the £5m loan given to fund Elland Road’s East Stand development. Bates rebuilt it at great expense but sadly for him the fans didn’t come. With hindsight, that project looks like the watershed moment in his tenure.
It is only through social media that we know that the first £3.3m raised from season ticket sales for 2013-14 will go straight to Ticketus, with little left over. Salem Patel’s tweet to that effect laid the liability bare. In no small way, social media is what turned the screw on Bates, a 24-hour platform for debate, argument and opposition. His style of ownership isn’t designed for this generation – one man, no votes – and his robust defence was overridden by dissent. It was not so much the public campaigns against him which made a change necessary, it was the creeping desertion of paying supporters and the rise of crippling apathy.
The assumption with Bates was that he was too institutionalised to vacate the boardroom full time. He has done this for years, but at 81 he might not miss the cut and thrust of daily combat. Or the abuse which required him to change his mobile and fax numbers. He certainly won’t miss me.
Our last conversation was an hour-long argument about something or other. In 32 years my most expensive phone calls have been made to Monaco. I don’t doubt that he believed in what he was doing, but the struggle to take people with him was obvious. The consistent downturn in crowds is all the evidence you need of that.
Bates sits on the right of football in a political sense. You could argue that in comparison, GFH Capital is wildly to the left. The Dubai-based firm has been populist and reactive during its four months as owner, doing much of what the public demands of it. Some of its decisions have been astute and in tune: lower season ticket prices with match- day prices to follow; the employment of a very suitable replacement for Neil Warnock. But on days like Wednesday, when the unveiling of Leeds’ new home kit turned the Internet blue, you half expect GFH Capital’s executives to pick up the phone and surrender to the fall-out by berating manufacturers Macron. They are more aware of the prevailing mood than Bates ever was.
To say the least, the home shirt for next season divided opinion. But a poll run by The Scratching Shed, an LUFC blog, found that 36 per cent of voters disliked the kit and 35 per cent were sold on it. The rest weren’t sure. As a more world-wise journalist than me once said, the best football club boards are those who listen keenly to their supporters but retain the conviction to make the right calls.
These comings months will be the first in which Bates does not hold sway; the first in which GFH Capital – on the assumption that the company is majority shareholder of Leeds for the duration – will take the heat for cash that is and isn’t available. In Bates’ time as chairman there was no fiercer battleground than the subject of transfer funds. For those of you who viewed him negatively, look closely for differences when the window opens.

I’m not going anywhere - Byram

YEP 27/4/13
By Phil Hay
Sam Byram insisted today that staying at Elland Road and taking the club to the Premier League was his “number one goal” as he prepared to put the seal on an outstanding individual season.
The 19-year-old prospect – named last night as the YEP’s player of the year for 2012-13 – said he expected be part of United’s squad next season amid mounting speculation about summer bids for him from Premier League clubs.
Byram’s impeccable form in his first year as a professional has attracted serious interest in his signature but the right-back claimed he was “really happy” at Leeds and expressed a desire to work under new manager Brian McDermott beyond the end of this term.
McDermott took charge of United two weeks ago and has already stressed the importance of retaining Byram, saying he would “absolutely, 100 per cent, expect Sam to be playing for us next season.”
Byram told the YEP: “I’d love to see the club get back into the Premier League and be here when it happens. That’s where the club belongs.
“You can see by the amount of fans who turn up that it’s a Premier League club. It (getting Leeds back to the Premier League) is one of my number one goals.
“It’s nice to hear that Premier League clubs are interested in me, just because it shows that I’m doing a good job here, but personally I’ve really enjoyed playing at Elland Road. The best way to learn is by playing games and the new manager’s been unbelievably encouraging with me. I like his style of play and I’m really happy.”
Byram has been watched on two occasions by West Bromwich Albion manager Steve Clarke and Cardiff City – newly-promoted to the Premier League – inquired about him as they closed in on the Championship title.
The Welsh club are understood to have been quoted a valuation of £8million.
Manchester City – a team who could finance a fee of that size comfortably – have also been heavily linked with him, while rumours of interest from Everton are also persisting. United made an attempt to ward off bids in January by extending Byram’s contract until 2016.
McDermott said: “He’ll get better and he’ll improve at Leeds, there’s no doubt about that.
“He’s a Leeds boy – the fans love him, the staff love him, the players love him.”
Byram is the only ever-present player in United’s squad with two matches of the season to play and his form won him the YEP’s player of the year award with almost 99 per cent of the vote.
He is the youngest-ever winner of a prize which was claimed by Ross McCormack last year and has previously gone to Patrick Kisnorbo, Max Gradel, Robert Snodgrass, and David Prutton.
He made his debut on the first day of the campaign and is currently on a run of 42 successive league starts.
Only goalkeeper Paddy Kenny has made as many league appearances as Byram this term.
Byram said: “I’m dead pleased and really proud. Overall it’s been a good season for me.”

Saturday, April 27, 2013

We will do things my way - McDermott

YEP 26/4/13
By Phil Hay
Brian McDermott has dismissed suggestions that Leeds United should model their future strategy on the success of tomorrow’s opponents Brighton, saying: “We won’t aspire to be anyone else.”
McDermott spoke highly of Albion and their manager Gus Poyet, describing the former Leeds assistant as a “good guy”, but he played down the claim that Brighton’s blueprint might offer an example to his own club.
Poyet’s squad are on the verge of qualifying for the Championship play-offs this season, two years after winning promotion from League One.
In the interim, Brighton have moved out of their old Withdean home and into the custom-built Amex Stadium. Their average home attendance is currently the highest in the Championship.
The Sussex side also have plans for a £23million training ground – plans which are likely to gather pace if the club reach the Premier League for the first time – and Poyet’s success on the south coast made him a leading contender for the job of Leeds manager after Neil Warnock’s sacking on April 1. United chose to appoint McDermott instead.
The two coaches will face off at Elland Road tomorrow on a day when Brighton can secure a top-six finish. Leeds, in 13th, are already confirmed as a Championship club for next season.
McDermott said: “You’re talking about Leeds United here. Leeds United don’t have to aspire to be anybody. We’re not looking to aspire to be anyone else because we don’t need to. Our history suggests that we don’t need to.
“We just need to do what we need to do. And what we have to do is play a great brand of football, the sort of football our supporters want to see. We need to get our supporters back through the turnstiles and get the ground packed.
“At the moment I want us to finish the season on a high, play some good football, get the right results and then move on.
“Having said that, there was a job to do when I came – a very specific job – and that job’s been done.
“Brighton are trying to cement their place in the play-offs but we want the right result tomorrow. It’s very simple.”
Poyet left his pre-match media duties to Brighton first-team coach Charlie Oatway yesterday but he spoke earlier in the week about his interest in managing Leeds, a recurring theme since he left his post as assistant boss at Elland Road to join the coaching staff at Tottenham in 2007.
Poyet said: “(Leeds) is a great place. I love that place and I’ll probably go back one day because I enjoyed my time there so much.”
Poyet’s deal at Brighton includes a £2.5million release clause, a drawback which was always likely to rule him out of the running to replace Warnock, but Leeds insisted on the day of McDermott’s appointment that they had made no offers to any other coach. McDermott said: “I know Gus very well and I’m looking forward to seeing him. He’s a good guy.
“I know he’ll be popular with the Leeds fans because he was assistant under Dennis Wise here. I’m sure he’ll get a great reception.
“We (Reading) played Brighton a couple of times last year. We beat them at the Madejski and then at Brighton very late in the season. That was a very big game for us.
“I remember it clearly because we had a lot of injuries and a lot of players playing out of position. We managed to win and it was a terrific performance.”
Leeds have minor doubts over Rodolph Austin and Adam Drury due to knee and back problems respectively but both players are likely to be fit.
United have nothing left to compete for but McDermott said: “The players shouldn’t need motivated to go and play at Elland Road. I certainly wouldn’t.”

Ken Bates: ‘I made mistakes, but I am leaving this club in a much better shape...’

Yorkshire Post 26/4/13
Richard Sutcliffe
FOR Ken Bates, the past eight or so years as Leeds United chairman have been far from easy.
The return to the Premier League he targeted on day one after riding to the rescue as the Elland Road club threatened to buckle under ruinous debts has, much to his frustration, proved elusive.
He has also been the subject of a hate campaign that led to the United chairman’s mobile phone number having to be changed along with that of his fax machine in Monaco.
Despite all that, the 81-year-old insists his time as Elland Road chairman has been a happy one and that he remains proud of many things. Not least, that Leeds still has a football club to support.
“Leeds, as a club, were on their last legs,” recalls Bates when asked by the Yorkshire Post about the deal that saw him take charge of United on January 21, 2005.
“If I hadn’t taken over, the club would have gone into liquidation. I am certain of that. The tax debts alone were terrible and there just wasn’t the money about elsewhere to do what had to be done.
“Certainly, no-one one in Yorkshire was going to get involved. That is what I always say to any critics. What was the alternative?”
When Bates took charge, United had been relegated from the Premier League only eight months earlier. However, the ramifications of that demotion had become all too apparent with Elland Road and Thorp Arch having been sold by the previous board.
The sale of Leeds’s last two remaining assets had only bought time with the first month of 2005 bringing a winding up order from the taxman over an unpaid £1.2m bill.
Matters were so bleak, in fact, that then captain Paul Butler issued an impassioned appeal through the pages of this newspaper for United to be put in administration – and incur a 10-point penalty – so the players would know where they stood in the fight against relegation.
Bates’s arrival ended such talk. Transfer funds were soon found as the second and final parachute payment from the Premier League allowed Rob Hulse to be bought for £1.1m as another £2m was spent on Richard Cresswell and Robbie Blake.
Defeat to Watford in the 2006 Championship play-off final, however, proved to be a fatal blow from which United would fail to recover. Within a year, Leeds were not only in administration but also League One and a fraught summer ensued before Bates regained control ahead of rival bidders that included former director Simon Morris.
“What killed Leeds off was Peter Ridsdale’s contracts,” recalls Bates. “They were too long, the players were paid too much and the club just could not support it.
“The syndicate I brought in at the start of 2005 put in and lost more than £30m. It was a huge blow.
“Mind, money isn’t everything. It has never been my be all and end all. Instead, I love building things and doing things.
“It is why I have not taken a penny out of the club in wages, the first (chairman) since Leslie Silver to do so.”
After coming out of administration in the summer of 2007, United won promotion at the third attempt.
A seventh place finish followed in 2010-11 but Leeds slipped to 14th last term.
This time around, they sit 13th going into what will be Bates’s final home game as chairman when Brighton head to Elland Road tomorrow.
He said: “Some things have not been nice, such as the personal campaign waged against me. I had abusive phone calls, while all sorts of nonsense was sent to my fax machine in Monaco. I had to change my numbers.
“In that respect, football follows society and society is nastier than it was and more vicious. Twitter has played a part in that. It’s why I don’t do that or e-mail. What those chanting ‘Bates Out’ and causing problems fail to realise is how much damage they do while trying to be clever.
“In recent years, we have had three different first-class potential investors who did due diligence with a view to getting involved. But then, once they had witnessed the abuse meted out to me, they walked away. They didn’t need the hassle.”
On his time as Elland Road chairman, Bates added: “I am disappointed not to have got promotion to the Premier League, of course I am. That was the plan when I came in.
“But Suzannah and I have thoroughly enjoyed the last eight years. We have made lots and lots of good friends, who will remain so for life.
“I’d also like to thank the overwhelming majority of Leeds United fans who have shown unswerving loyalty during my time as chairman.
“It is just unfortunate that the majority have been silenced by the empty vessels who make a lot of noise to the detriment of the club they profess to love.”
When Bates and his financial backers took charge in 2005, he became United’s fifth chairman in less than two years. Clearly, therefore, tomorrow’s game against Brighton will mark the end of an era.
He said: “I am proud of what we have done. I have made mistakes, I admit that. No-one in the world can claim to not making mistakes.
“But I am leaving the club in much better shape than I found it. Leeds United are in a stable condition. And that could never have been said about Leeds United in 2005.
“It is up to others to take the club forward now. And I have been assured that GFH have the financial resources to build on what we have done.”
NINE years out of the Premier League does things to a football club. Not only does it turn sealing a return to the big time into a near obsession, it also leaves a squad vulnerable to predators whose own coffers have been swelled by television deals that run into the billions.
For Leeds United, this has meant a steady stream of their best talent heading through the exit doors in recent years destined for the Premier League.
Robert Snodgrass, Jermaine Beckford, Luciano Becchio and Bradley Johnson have all departed for the richest league in the world since United won promotion back to the Championship in 2010. Max Gradel is another star name to depart, the Ivorian opting for France and a switch to St Etienne.
Outgoing chairman Ken Bates said: “When the Premier League clubs come along – and, in particular, the riches they offer in terms of a contract – it means clubs in this division simply can’t compete.
“Luciano Becchio (who joined Norwich City in a swap deal that saw Steve Morison head the other way) is a perfect example. Luciano was already the highest paid player at the club but his agent wanted £1.5m a year basic wage.
“Even the thickest Leeds fan must see we can’t afford to pay a player £30,000 per week. You only pay that sort of wage if you want to go bust. I don’t know what he got at Norwich, in the end, but I’d imagine it was in that region.
“Robert Snodgrass was another who left. We tried to do a deal where we’d give him a new contract (last summer) on the understanding that if we didn’t go up this season then he could leave in the summer.
“His argument was, ‘What if I break my leg this season and then can’t look after my family?’ So, we had to reluctantly let him leave.
“Bradley Johnson left on a free. He’d wanted the same wages as Jonny Howson and we said ‘no’. Fair enough, Bradley has proved to be a good Premier League squad player. The flipside is Neil Kilkenny (another Bosman free), he has just been relegated to League One.
“The power is with the players. If we made one stay who was unhappy then, suddenly, we’d have a reputation of making life difficult. As a result, Leeds would not be an attractive place for players with ambition.”
IN lamenting what he considers to have been a “wasted season” for Leeds United, out-going chairman Ken Bates last night revealed how the protracted takeover saga thwarted his plan to sack Neil Warnock last October.
The 81-year-old will tomorrow attend the final game of his reign as chairman when Brighton & Hove Albion bring the curtain down on United’s Elland Road campaign. Coincidentally, the Seagulls were also the opposition for Bates’s first home game in January, 2005.
Much has happened over the intervening eight years and three months, a period that has included two play-off final appearances, a spell in administration, one promotion, one relegation and a host of famous Cup wins.
Bates sold United to GFH Capital, a Dubai-based private equity firm, in December last year, when it was announced he would remain as chairman until the end of the season and then become president.
As proud as Bates is of his Leeds reign, he also admits to being frustrated at not being able to deliver the number one target when taking over from Gerald Krasner’s board.
Speaking exclusively to the Yorkshire Post, Bates said: “The plan when I came in was to get Leeds back in the Premier League but, unfortunately, that has not been possible.
“In that respect, this season has been particularly frustrating, as I feel we really should have been at least challenging. In many ways, it has been a wasted season. A lost year, if you like.”
The past 12 months have been dogged by uncertainty at Elland Road with GFH Capital’s takeover taking the best part of six months to complete. Since then, a 10 per cent share has been sold to Bahrain-based International Investment Bank.
Bates, whose sale of Chelsea in 2003 to Roman Abramovich took a matter of weeks, is adamant the protracted saga has impacted on a season United have mainly spent in mid-table.
He said: “There is no doubt, in my mind, that the uncertainty which has hung like a cloud over Elland Road for a year has been a major factor in our unsuccessful season.
“As everyone knows, we agreed a 90-day exclusivity period (with GFH Capital) that was due to run until August.
“We took that to mean the deal would be completed during that period, meaning the club could still have a real go at getting promotion this season. Instead, things dragged on and, eventually, they (GFH) asked for an extension to November 19, which was turned down.
“Despite that, what we did agree to do was keep talking and, obviously, the deal went through on December 21.
“What people won’t be aware of, though, is that two clauses were included in our agreement with GFH. One was that we could make no material change without consulting GFH, while the other was that Neil Warnock had to stay as manager. “It meant any player bought or sold from June (2012) onwards had to be discussed and approved by Salem Patel, on behalf of GFH. We were happy to do that because, as I say, we thought the takeover would go through during the summer.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t and, instead, the deal wasn’t done until December 21. A consequence was that we had to keep Neil Warnock when I didn’t think we should.
“I wanted to sack him in October because I didn’t think it was working out. But I couldn’t because of what was happening with the sale.”
Warnock’s tenure as United manager finally ended on April 1, almost six weeks after he had first mooted the possibility of stepping down in the wake of the FA Cup fifth round defeat to Manchester City.
The 64-year-old’s departure came just a couple of days after he had publicly lambasted defender Tom Lees for his “stupid” red card in United’s 3-0 defeat at Ipswich Town. Warnock’s assertion that Lees had “let me down, the team down and the fans who travelled” left the Leeds chairman so incensed he immediately telephoned the Academy product.
Bates added: “I didn’t like what he did to Tom Lees. To criticise Tom like that was terrible. After we heard what had been said post-match by Warnock, Suzannah and I rang Tom on the bus home.
“I told him, ‘Forget what has been said, it is a disgrace’. We then told Tom what a valuable member of the squad he was.”
On Warnock, Bates added: “We went for one of only three managers to win seven promotions but it didn’t work out. Warnock was always getting his excuses in first.
“I kept hearing how we didn’t sign this player or that player. But we found the money for (Lee) Peltier, (Jason) Pearce, (Paddy) Kenny, (Rodolph) Austin, (Ryan) Hall and (Luke) Varney in the summer.
“The only player we didn’t sign who Neil really wanted was Clint Hill. He’s 34 and yet Warnock wanted us to commit £1.5m in wages and transfer fee. That was in January and we weren’t prepared to do that.”
Bates may not have too many positive things to say about United’s last manager but he has been impressed by his successor.
“Brian McDermott has made a big impression on everyone already,” he said. “Suzannah and I went for lunch with Brian (on Wednesday).
“He came across as a thoroughly decent man, who had plenty of interesting things to say.
“I found it interesting that he had spent the past two weeks finding out exactly what has gone on at Leeds United for the past three years. I also liked what Brian had to say about players living locally.
“At Reading, they all lived within 10 miles of the club. No-one commuted long distances, whereas at Leeds we have players living 100 miles or more away.”

Motherwell winger is on Leeds United’s radar

YEP 25/4/13
By Phil Hay
Leeds United could move to sign Motherwell winger Chris Humphrey this summer with the Jamaican international aiming to return to England at the end of his contract.
United are believed to have enquired about 25-year-old Humphrey as they and manager Brian McDermott begin drawing up plans for McDermott’s first full season as manager.
Humphrey – a target for SPL champions Celtic less than 12 months ago – is in the final stages of his deal at Motherwell and will become a free agent at the start of July. Motherwell’s attempts to tie him to a new contract have failed and the Scottish club are resigned to losing him.
They signed Humphrey from Shrewsbury Town in 2009 and his appearances north of the border total more than 150. He has figured prominently in a Motherwell side who, under the management of former Bradford City boss Stuart McCall, are on course to finish as SPL runners-up behind Celtic.
Humphrey came close to a move to Parkhead in August of last year after Celtic manager Neil Lennon explored the possibility of signing him in the latter stages of the transfer window. The sides did not agree a fee, however, and Humphrey was left to see out his deal at Fir Park.
Like Leeds midfielder Rodolph Austin, Humphrey has featured in Jamaica’s national squad and won his first cap in January 2012.
A product of the youth-team system at Walsall and later taken on by West Bromwich Albion, he made his senior debut after joining Shrewsbury in 2006.
United are likely to seek new wingers once the transfer window opens next month, with McDermott looking to restructure a squad who are lodged in a mid-table Championship position after 44 games.
Discussions about the summer were expected to begin in earnest at Elland Road this week with United’s campaign scheduled to end a week on Saturday.
McDermott hinted at substantial changes last weekend, admitting: “I’ll be saying to the board and the chief executive (Shaun Harvey) exactly how I see things.
“I’ve got to take all obstacles away from the players. We’ve got to give them every opportunity to be successful – whoever plays at this club next season.”
United’s interest in Humphrey is not thought to have gone beyond an initial enquiry but Leeds are the subject of an increasing amount of speculation about possible close-season targets.
The Yorkshire side have been linked with striker Adam Le Fondre – a player who McDermott took to Reading from Rotherham United in a £300,000 deal in 2011 – and are also rumoured to be monitoring Billy Sharp, a forward Leeds have pursued before.
Sharp has spent this season on loan at Nottingham Forest and might yet feature in the Championship play-offs but he will return to parent club Southampton next month with two years left on his contract at St Mary’s.
A source close to Sharp said the ex-Doncaster Rovers striker was likely to remain at Southampton until after the start of their pre-season schedule in an attempt to earn the favour of manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Pochettino’s predecessor, Nigel Adkins, allowed Sharp to join Forest in a season-long deal last August, declaring him surplus to requirements in the Premier League.
Le Fondre, meanwhile, looks increasing likely to be made available by Reading having struggled to hold down a place since McDermott’s sacking on March 12.
The 26-year-old, who has scored 12 goals in 33 appearances, voiced his frustration after Adkins declined to use him with Reading trailing 2-1 to Norwich City in a crucial game last Saturday. Reading’s narrow loss all but confirmed their relegation to the Championship.
“We needed goals and that’s what I bring to the table,” said Le Fondre, the Premier League’s player of the month for January.
“I want to play every game and I want to start every game but most importantly I want to come on the pitch, affect things and make an impact.
“At the moment I’m not getting anything. If it continues, I don’t know what will happen. I’ve no idea. It’s in the club’s hands. I’ve had a half-decent season by my own standards.”
McDermott bought Le Fondre from Rotherham in the early stages of the club’s Championship title-winning season.
The striker stuck 16 times over the course of that term, including two against Leeds in a Good Friday match at the Madejski Stadium. United’s boss said last week that he could look to his old club for recruits, though he rejected the idea of a large influx of players from Reading in the coming window.
Several senior professional who played under him are close to the end of their deals, though Le Fondre is not among them. He signed a three-year extension in October.
Asked if he might turn to players he had worked with in the past, McDermott said: “Not necessarily. If we’re talking about Reading players, not necessarily.
“Is there a possibility of that? There could be. But I wouldn’t say I’m going to sign six players from Reading. It won’t happen.”
United’s summer dealings remain dependent on their financial position and the funds provided by club owner GFH Capital. One of the firm’s directors, David Haigh, is in Leeds this week and could be joined before Saturday’s match against Brighton by fellow GFH Capital executives Salem Patel and Hisham Alrayes. The Dubai-based company’s future as owner remains unclear with an offer from local businessman Steve Parkin to buy 51 per cent of Leeds still on the table.
Parkin’s bid – accepted in principle but subject to due diligence – appears increasingly unlikely to reach a successful conclusion but an associate of Parkin’s insisted last night that he has not yet abandoned his attempt to gain control of United.
GFH Capital currently holds a 90 per cent stake after selling 10 per cent to Bahrain’s International Investment Bank (IIB) last month.

2013/14 home kit revealed to mixed reaction

On 24 April 2013, just four days after United’s stay in the Championship for another season was confirmed with both promotion and relegation both mathematically impossible, came the now customary pre-end-of-season announcement of the home kit for the forthcoming season.
The club’s official site announced: “We are proud to reveal the new Leeds United Macron home kit that the team will be wearing for the 2013/14 campaign. The white shirt features retro vertical stripes in blue and yellow which adds a different dimension to the famous white shirt. The collar is ribbed in royal blue and the shirt has micro mesh side panels for better movement. The back neck also features an appliquéd Leeds United rose.
“The shirt is teamed with white shorts and socks which feature details taken from the retro stripe on the shirt. The bespoke kit has been designed by the club and Macron to create a kit unique to Leeds United integrating various different fabrics.
“As per the current season, the Home Shirt is available in a bodyfit style, as worn by Leeds United first team. The bodyfit shirt allows freedom of movement and the jersey weave incorporates elastane which guarantees regular compression and facilitates movements by adhering to the body.
“The shirt features the logos of Main Club Sponsor, Enterprise Insurance, and brand new Secondary Shirt Sponsor, Help Link UK.”
The new kit went on sale on Saturday 27 April at the Elland Road Superstore and online, with the team wearing it for the first time that day in the closing home game against Brighton and Hove Albion.
Adult shirts were priced at £43 for short sleeves and £46 for the long sleeved variety, with shorts costing £19 and socks £10.
The initial reaction from supporters was not overly positive, as the Spoughts website noted: “The shirt has received a very negative response from Leeds fans on twitter… goes against what fans have been demanding for months, which is a standard all-white kit. It can be said that it is very easy to design a good Leeds shirt, but also very easy to ruin one completely. In the future, it would be worth noting that little is needed in the way of incremental improvement.
Leeds fans will likely purchase an all-white shirt over and over, as long as it is nice. It feels ludicrous saying it, but even a return to the 2010/11 home kit would be a vast improvement.”
Under the headline, ‘Why today’s kit is such a disappointment’, another page on the site went even further.
“Leeds is a city with historic ties to the industry of tailoring, with the Montague Burton factory in Leeds considered a city unto itself during its peak of the 1930s. The city’s sizeable Jewish population also had a hand in the tailoring industry, with the industry essentially sustaining the community at certain junctures, with 63% of the male working members of the community employed as tailors in 1901. For a city with such a great past for quality clothing, one of the representatives of the city, Leeds United, should be enrobed in a glorious manner. What has been revealed today is anything but that.
“This coming season is the 54th anniversary of the first time we wore an all-white kit, the transition having been made at the hands of Don Revie. Since then, there’s been some spectacular interpretations of a kit and colour that should ooze class, the footballing equivalent of a classy white collared shirt.
“In the last few years Macron, an Italian sportswear manufacturer, have taken over the license for Leeds kits, and systematically ruined every design. 2010/11 is the only high point, where a team playing beautiful attacking football had a kit to match.
“Today’s announcement is an abomination to the notion of the all-white kit. It would be fine as an AC Milan away kit in 1995, because that’s what it looks like. This is not Leeds United at all. As I said before, it is incredibly easy to design a good Leeds kit – it has to be white, and wearable. It is similarly incredibly easy to ruin one with superfluous additions. It should be basic and simple, and that is always enough.
“Today’s kit is the equivalent of racing stripes on a white Mustang. It’s unnecessary, tacky and makes it look like crap. It also speaks for how out of touch whoever makes these decisions is at Leeds with the fanbase at large – how many people will have emailed repeatedly GFH Capital’s email address for suggestions about Leeds, and how massively must these have been ignored to get today’s result.
“The response has been incredibly negative, and will likely lead to poorer sales than anticipated. With the club probably requiring funds for a promotion push, this is probably not the reception that was wanted. The sad thing is that clearly the fans could do a better job of telling Macron what is actually wanted than whoever selected this design at Elland Road – in 12 months, we’ll have to go again and hope they get it right next time.”
The WeAllLoveLeeds site commented succinctly, Aaaaaaarrrgghhhhhh!!, describing the kit as ‘tawdry’.
TheScratchingShed.com was a little more objective, saying:
“Another season, another Leeds United kit launch, another mixed reaction from fans.
“Following two days of Leeds United posting teaser shots to Twitter – none of which gave much away – today finally saw the new kit unveiled.
“An enormous blue and yellow racing stripe down the centre wouldn’t have been a design recommendation I’d have lobbied for, but for reasons I can’t explain, I actually quite like Macron’s latest effort.
“’Leeds United’s home kit should be entirely white’, argue many fans, and I do agree our best kits (like the ’72 Cup final shirt) have been entirely white. But if people want to make this a purist argument based on club colours and history, Leeds United’s home kit should really be blue and yellow, as per the city’s crest and the club badge. Don Revie introduced the white to copy Real Madrid in a move not dissimilar to the one Cardiff City’s owners pulled last season.
“We’re probably more associated with white than blue and yellow these days, but the trouble with an entirely white kit is there’s absolutely nothing you can do from a design perspective. The only thing that would ever change is the sponsors, no one is going to pay £43 to keep up with the new sponsors each season.
“And it’s not as if the entire fanbase despise the new kit. Seems to me that the latest kit is no different to the reception every kit gets – some like it, some don’t. I doubt there’s ever been a Leeds United kit which pleased everyone.
“If nothing else, the go-faster stripes should at least improve Michael Brown’s speed.”
By 27 April, the poll on the same site had received around 1500 responses, with 35% declaring they loved the new kit, 36% hating it and 29% undecided.

Somma injury may be a knockout blow

YEP 24/4/13
After undergoing knee surgery again last week Davide Somma faces a battle to prolong his United career. Phil Hay reports.
The truth of Davide Somma’s exhausting fight with the surgeon’s knife is that no-one saw it coming. Glynn Snodin remembers the day when the striker suffered his fateful knee injury; innocuous was how it looked and, in Somma’s words, how it felt.
“That sums up his luck,” Snodin says. “We weren’t even playing a pre-season friendly. It was a practice match at the training ground, before the summer really got going. He slipped, went down and that was that.
“I’ve seen horrible injuries before and I’d seen Paddy Kisnorbo do his Achilles tendon a few months earlier. Paddy was in tears. Somma felt pain, obviously, but his reaction reassured you. He wasn’t screaming like badly-injured players do. Then we got the scan results back.”
Those results – revealed in July 2011 – showed a ruptured cruciate ligament in one of Somma’s knees. It was the first piece of bad news in a never-ending stream, the latest coming on Saturday when Leeds’ manager, Brian McDermott, revealed that Somma had undergone another operation, his third in all. This one could end his career at Elland Road.
Snodin was first-team coach under Simon Grayson in 2011 and was on the staff when an unknown Somma signed for United on the basis of a successful trial a year earlier.
The forward cut his teeth on loan at Lincoln City, scoring nine times in 14 matches, and answered questions about his suitability for Leeds and the Championship by amassing 12 goals during the 2010-11 season. Grayson’s side finished seventh in the league and Somma earned his spurs, unaware of how the summer would go.
“He’s a great example of a natural goalscorer,” Snodin says. “You might say that’s a cliché but the thing with Davide was that his game wasn’t perfect. There were things he could do better but give him the ball in front of goal and he knew exactly what he was doing.
“We had a 2-2 draw with Norwich City (in February 2011) when we’d had the better of the game but were losing 2-1. We were both going for promotion so the result mattered. Everyone knows what happened – he came off the bench and scored with his first touch. We’re not talking about a tap-in. It was a 20-yard volley. He was such an asset in that respect. And he was always going to get better.
“I read over the weekend that he’s gone for another operation and I’m gutted for him. Maybe it’s not too serious and I’m crossing my fingers but I know what he’ll be going through his head.
“He’ll be wondering if he’s ever going to play again, never mind just at Leeds. He’s a lovely, honest guy who’ll have worked so hard to get fit, and to be back with the doctor again must be soul destroying.”
Somma’s goal against Norwich was his last for almost two years. Hints at imminent comebacks repeatedly came to nothing until the closing weeks of 2012 when his lengthy rehabilitation began to pay off.
A frozen pitch denied him an appearance in an Under-21s game on December 12 but Neil Warnock, then United’s boss, gave him a break with an appearance as a substitute against Middlesbrough in the last first-team fixture before Christmas. On Boxing Day, he scored the last goal in a 4-2 defeat at Nottingham Forest.
Finding the net has long been Somma’s forte. Chris Sutton saw that talent in him when he took the striker to Lincoln towards the end of the 2009-10 season, a deal which ultimately saved the club from relegation. Minus Somma and ultimately without Sutton, they dropped out of the Football League 12 months later.
Speaking to the YEP in 2010, Sutton said: “He could be stronger in the air and more consistent in his hold-up play but the one thing he does time and again is finish, with either foot and from any range.
“If you get the ball to him in a dangerous position, you don’t hope he’ll score – you think he’ll score. That’s not true of every striker. It’s a nice feeling to sit on the bench knowing a player in your team is blessed with that gift. I wouldn’t say he single-handedly kept us up but he was a major reason for us staying in League Two.” Somma valued Sutton’s input as highly as that of anyone else he worked with. The instruction and guidance of a retired striker whose career played out at the top levels of English and Scottish football seemed to hone Somma’s performances and confidence. South Africa gave him his first cap and United began to acknowledge his value too. The club tied him to a three-year contract in October 2010. That deal expires on June 30 and Somma’s latest operation to remove stray cartilage cast doubt on the possibility of United extending it. He will not play in either of their remaining two games and will have little opportunity to persuade McDermott that he is worth another chance. “It’s very unfortunate for him,” McDermott said.
Somma turned 28 last month and was, to coin Sutton’s phrase, a late-comer to English football. “Get him fit and a lot of clubs would want him,” Snodin says. “Get him fit and Leeds would want him. Everyone there is well aware of what he can do.
“But it’s hard to convince people to stick with you when you’ve been out for so long. He’ll have had great treatment at Thorp Arch because the medical set-up there is excellent. He’ll have had everything he needs. The one thing you can’t buy is luck and the poor lad’s obviously had none. I feel for him, I really do.”
Somma came to the fore at Leeds in the same summer as the club sold Jermaine Beckford, their major supply of goals in League One. Somma scored twice on his full debut, earning a 3-1 win over Millwall and was asked afterwards if he could replace Beckford, by then departed for Everton.
“It’s asking a lot,” Somma said, “but why not? I dreamed of this on Friday night.” Two years on, injury might see to it that the fairytale is over.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Birmingham City v Leeds United: It’s job done for Mac despite away agony

YEP 22/4/13
By Phil Hay
Whatever ambitions occupy Brian McDermott’s mind, managing in League One is not one of them. “Nothing’s beneath me,” he said after Saturday’s defeat to Birmingham City but coaches in their prime have a lower limit. The Championship is surely his.
When McDermott signed a three-year deal with Leeds United, the risk was entirely his own at a club where the walls were closing in. He spoke about relegation with a casual air but the truth emerged at St Andrews. “We’ll definitely be playing in this league next season,” he said. “I can sleep tonight.”
Leeds reached a position of safety by default at the weekend, eradicating any doubt in spite of losing their 44th league fixture. In reality they were assured of another season in the Championship by the outcome of McDermott’s first two games in charge, a home win over Sheffield Wednesday and another against Burnley. Mathematics aside, it did not seem feasible that the club would be relegated ahead of their match at Birmingham.
McDermott nonetheless oozed satisfaction and relief. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s job done,” he said, for the time being anyway. So fickle is football that the depths of United’s anxiety two weeks ago are easily forgotten but there was a reason why the search for Neil Warnock’s replacement moved from a patient process to an urgent appointment in a matter of days. Relegation crept up on the board at Elland Road.
Their choice of manager was the boss who won the Championship title at Reading last year. McDermott’s reputation went before him and it was naturally assumed that he would sew this season up but he was alone in asking whether the last five games might drag him beneath his class, into League One.
“The most important thing for me when I turned up here two weeks ago, putting my reputation on the line, was to make sure Leeds stayed in this division,” he said. “It’s really important that we are where we are.
“I’ve no disappointments whatsoever. We’re in this league, we knew what we had to do and the lads have given me everything.
You’re always unhappy when you don’t win a game but when you look at where we could have been three games ago, compared to where we are now, this gives us the opportunity to build and do what we have to do.
“We had five games to go when I came in and you can say ‘oh, it (relegation) won’t happen’ but that’s just talk. You have to produce it on the pitch and the players have done that. I’m delighted with them.
“They had two games under me at home and we won them both. They were pressure games. I’d never have said that beforehand but anything can happen in the space of five games. If you’ve got 40-odd games then you know where you’re going to end up. I had five and for me to come in and put my reputation on the line, I had to think long and hard about it.”
The five games in question are McDermott’s opportunity to analyse Leeds in the flesh but their form over the previous 41 matches gives him more to ponder. So too does an horrific away record which shows 12 defeats and compares to the worst in the division. No United manager has ever won his first three league fixtures so, to an extent, McDermott was fighting with history on Saturday. But as telling at St Andrews were the weaknesses and shortcomings which brought about his appointment in the first place.
It was, in its entirety, a 50-50 game from which United should have taken no less than a point. A goalless period at the start of the second half when the match ran further and further into Birmingham’s half of the pitch was a critical spell, particularly once Hayden Mullins poached the only goal with a 72nd-minute tap-in. City found an advantage through the skill of Nathan Redmond and Ravel Morrison, two young prodigies who have bothered Leeds before. Both were a class apart.
McDermott was asked afterwards if players of that ilk and pace were the sort of targets he would set himself in the summer transfer market. “I think so,” he said. “You need pace and power in this league, especially over 46 games. We need to address that.
“We do need a bit more pace but, more than that, we need additions to the squad which will help to make a difference. We need to recruit as well as we possibly can. Recruitment is vital and I’m working on it. It’s what I did for almost 10 years.”
Morrison struck United’s crossbar with a chipped finish over Paddy Kenny in the 13th minute and Redmond’s 20-yard strike – parried weakly by United’s goalkeeper – presented Mullins with his simple goal. On his 550th league appearance, the midfielder scored for only the 32nd time. “I didn’t put him in there to score,” joked Birmingham’s boss, Lee Clark. Leeds did not regain their hold after that.
Before Mullins’ strike, United’s chances were as plentiful as Birmingham’s if not quite so glaring.
McDermott’s midfield diamond struggled for possession, highlighting an area which requires attention in the summer, but Luke Varney almost scored after a first half error by City keeper Jack Butland, and Michael Tonge’s long-range shot was palmed over the crossbar.
In reply, Morrison whipped a shot inches wide of Kenny’s net and Mullins wasted an opportunity to bury the ball from close range.
As he had in his previous games as manager, McDermott digested a steady first half and inspired more from the second. Three quick chances fell to Ross McCormack, all of them difficult and all of them missed, and Butland’s poor handling in the 64th minute gave Sam Byram the sight of an open goal. The angle of the defender’s finish was impossibly tight and the ball smashed into the side-netting.
Birmingham rarely ventured into United’s half in that passage of the match but when Redmond used a sudden attack to spin a shot off Kenny’s hands, Mullins ran in unmarked to dispatch the rebound. The final 18 minutes offered no reprieve for Leeds as Steve Morison entered the fray and the energetic Rodolph Austin was lost to injury.
“We had a few players who were struggling with 10 minutes to go,” McDermott said. “We’ve played three games in a week and it was a big ask. Next season we want to make sure that we play three games in a week and it’s not a big ask. But we definitely should have got something out of the game. At 0-0 we were on top and they scored with a goal from nothing. I’ve absolutely no disappointments.”

Saturday, April 20, 2013

McDermott close to spelling out Leeds transfer plans

Yorkshire Post 19/4/13
LEEDS United manager Brian McDermott has hinted that he could look to his former club Reading for signings this summer.
The Elland Road is boss set to begin laying out his transfer plans for United next week.
But McDermott dismissed the possibility of a mass influx from the Madejski Stadium, saying: “That won’t happen.”
The 52-year-old is two games into his reign at Leeds and will reach the end of the season in a fortnight’s time, throwing him into his first transfer window as United manager.
McDermott won the Championship title with the Royals last year and will find several of the players who worked under him – former Leeds United left-back Ian Harte, Simon Church, Noel Hunt and Alex Pearce among them – out of contract in little over a month’s time.
Asked if he will consider raiding the club who sacked him last month after three years in charge, McDermott said: “Not necessarily. If we’re talking about Reading players, not necessarily.
“Is there a possibility of that? There could be. But I wouldn’t say I’m going to sign six players from Reading. It won’t happen.
“We’re talking about it all now but it’s been difficult this week because we’ve had a few games in a short period of time. Maybe next week will be the time to have a little bit more of a talk.”
Questions remain about the financial support which McDermott will be given by United owner GFH Capital, the Dubai-based firm which bought Leeds in December but has been in talks about selling the club again.
“One of the owners (director Salem Patel) talked to me after the game against Burnley on Tuesday and said thanks for everything,” McDermott said. “He said they’re going to support me and I’m sure that’ll be the case.
“But this is never going to be about me. It’s never going to be about the club backing me. The club aren’t backing me. The club are backing themselves. I don’t ever want it to be ‘we’re backing you.’ No - you’re backing the players, the staff, everyone together.
“There are other things we need to do too. We need to improve the training ground and the infrastructure. That’s important to me. Our travel needs to be top-notch and we need to look after the players. The players are special and it’s really important that they get the best. These players should be treated like the best.”

Mac’s footballing philosophy lifting the gloom

YEP 18/4/13
Boss Brian McDermott’s passing style will help to dispel thoughts of ticket prices and unattractive football. Phil Hay reports.
The reasons for declining attendances at Elland Road are varied and well-documented: ticket prices too high, the standard of football too low and – in the past two years at least – a lack of faith in Leeds United to the meet the public’s idea of ambition.
On Tuesday night, the crowd fell once more to its lowest level since October 2006, dropping beneath 17,000 and equating to the levels of support seen during Leeds’ most destructive season.
The contradiction was that those who attended the win over Burnley were unusually satisfied with the value for money offered by United. This was not a night when the club’s football sold their supporters short.
In the past two months, Leeds and their owner, GFH Capital, have tackled one of the arguments for non-attendance by significantly cutting the cost of season tickets. With the initial deadline for renewals and new applications falling this weekend, whispers at Elland Road say that sales for the 2013-14 term have been less than brisk. Meaningless though Tuesday’s Championship game was, a crowd of 16,788 suggested that the reluctance to pay continues to run deep.
Increasingly, complaints about the cost of seats have been usurped by claims that the management of and investment in United’s squad is not worth the expense of season or match-day tickets. By the time Leeds sacked Neil Warnock on April 1, dissatisfaction with his tactics and his choice of teams was palpable both at Elland Road and in the aggressive world of social media. Warnock’s football did not appeal; but by appointing Brian McDermott, United appear to have ticked another pertinent box.
There was a moment in the second half of Tuesday’s defeat of Burnley when the Kop began an impromptu chant of ‘we’re passing the ball.’ United’s fans do sarcasm as well as most supporters these days but there was a degree of surprise in the realisation that Elland Road was being entertained. McDermott’s approach was fluid and methodical and, for the second time in two games as manager, the patience of his team found the opposition wanting. Reading played that way under him to great effect in the Championship. Rodolph Austin eventually settled the game with what might prove to be the goal of the season.
If McDermott continues to mould his team in the same flowing vein, the argument about unattractive football will go by the wayside with the argument about excessive ticket prices. All that remains is the wait to see how heavily GFH Capital supports him in the transfer window, another source of perennial angst. The evidence of the past three years, never mind the past week, is that McDermott is a manager worth supporting.
“The lads have played without any pressure in the last two games,” McDermott said. “If they want to play with pressure and put it on themselves then that’s up to them but I feel football’s there to be enjoyed. Go out and play.
“The crowd are a good crowd to play for and I’ve been saying to the players that they really want to get behind us. They want to see football they enjoy and they want success. We’ll try and give them both.
“I’ve come here to enjoy myself and so have my staff. I want the players and the fans to enjoy themselves too. That’s what life’s about.
“I’ve told the players to have no fear about a game of football because I want them to have that philosophy. I’ve learned an awful lot in the last three or four weeks from what happened to me at my previous club (Reading) and I hope that Leeds have got a better manager on the back of what happened to me.”
McDermott employed a midfield diamond against Burnley, using Paul Green to protect his defence and El-Hadji Diouf to support Ross McCormack and Luke Varney. It was, in no small way, a means of compensating for the obvious lack of width in United’s squad. Leeds are not blessed with Jimmy Kebe or Jobi McAnuff, two of the players who underpinned McDermott’s formation at Reading, but Burnley were comprehensively outplayed once McDermott moved Diouf up front and dropped McCormack into midfield. “Apart from a late flurry, they were the better team,” admitted Burnley’s manager, Sean Dyche.
“I try to play a system that suits the players we’ve got,” McDermott said.
“When I was at Reading we had two wingers and we had to play a certain way – a pressing game.
“We got out the league playing that way. We won a lot of games 1-0 and we were difficult to play against.
“This team here have players who can pass the ball and who can keep the ball so we play the way we have to play. But I’m enjoying watching them and we had a lot of the ball against Burnley.
“The players looked comfortable on it and they looked like they wanted it. That’s the most important thing. You have to be brave to play football and they were. To look at the possession stats, we were well out in front.
“We changed the system a little bit in the second half. We talked about Ross (McCormack) dropping into the hole where Diouf was and Diouf playing up front.
“He might be a good manager one day, Ross.
“He’s got so much ability, he can see a pass and he’s going to get better and better. I can see that. He’s a super player.”
McDermott admitted after full-time on Tuesday that he regretted the fact that the season was ending in a fortnight’s time.
The benchmark for sixth place this season will be no higher than 73 points and all of the clubs competing for that position are struggling to clear 70. Should United’s strong start under McDermott develop into a sustained surge, it might still come too late to make the play-offs attainable.
That ship sailed with Warnock two weeks ago.
McDermott’s immediate task this weekend is to produce a first league win away from home since December against a rapidly improving Birmingham City team who lie 12th in the table after relegating Bristol City at Ashton Gate on Tuesday evening.
The 52-year-old insisted he was unaware of United’s woeful record, saying: “I don’t know anything about the away form and I’m not even going to look at it.
“I’m just going to look at getting another result.”

Leeds United v Burnley: McDermott’s Whites are quick to convince

YEP 17/4/13
By Phil Hay
A consistent mark of Brian McDermott’s Reading was their ability to finish each season strongly. So it might prove at Leeds United: two games, two wins and a crowd convinced after less than a week in his new job.
It took the 52-year-old two-and-a-half years to get Reading where he wanted them so McDermott will welcome the length of contract he signed at Elland Road, and he has seen himself the scope for rebuilding and long-term planning.
But he has found an ounce of encouragement too, with a full summer almost upon him.
There are signs of what McDermott intends to do with Leeds and the necessary break from direct, easy-to-read football has already been made, much to the approval of those who have seen both brands of performance this season.
The reasons for United’s position in the Championship are more deep-seated and fundamental than their ability to pass the ball – impossible to cure without money and time – but the evidence of Saturday’s derby against Sheffield Wednesday and a persistent defeat of Burnley is that the crowd will give him the latter. Transfer funds, on the other hand, are the responsibility of his club.
There was tolerance last night of a performance which in parts would have earned McDermott’s predecessor, Neil Warnock, no great credit.
There was noticeable appreciation too of the effort made to avoid route one, even when the match ran into its final half-hour without a goal to show for the effort.
It is far from certain that this squad are capable of doing what McDermott wants them to do but in this short window of fixtures, he is finding out.
And when the only goal of the evening came on 63 minutes, it was beautifully created by two exact passes from El-Hadji Diouf and Ross McCormack and finished on the run by Rodolph Austin 10 yards from goal.
“We’re passing the ball,” sang the Kop, a mark of how badly this season has annoyed them.
Ordinary results and ordinary football; two things McDermott expects to change.
There is only so much he can do in the winter of a season which ends in a fortnight but his blueprint was evident in the second half of Saturday’s win over Wednesday.
The surge in impetus inspired by Luke Varney’s goals and Diouf’s appearance as a substitute essentially picked last night’s team, with Varney playing as a striker and Diouf profiting from his influence at the weekend. Steve Morison’s absence from the squad was explained on the grounds of injury but could have been justified in other ways.
While Leeds replaced one out-of-form striker, Burnley were forced to compensate for the loss of the only player who regularly scores their goals. Charlie Austin, with 28 to his name, underwent emergency surgery to remove his Appendix yesterday and was a glaring omission from the Burnley teamsheet. It left Sean Dyche to duel at Elland Road without a pistol.
The lack of cordite was tangible in general. McDermott’s presence might have increased the gate slightly but a mid-table fixture at the end of a term when both Leeds and Burnley have fallen between two stools got the attendance it deserved, some 16,788. There were blue seats everywhere and a murmur in the air throughout the first half.
The game took the same sort of tone, with fleeting chances and immediate debate over the judgement of referee Fred Graham. His early booking of Sam Byram for handball as a throw-in dropped over his head was unforgiving and made to seem more so when Dean Marney went unpunished for a lazy foul on Diouf. Graham had no choice but to show his yellow card again when Ben Mee committed an identical foul on Rodolph Austin in the 13th minute.
Chris McCann made the first positive impression by curling a shot over United’s goal as Paul Green attempted to shield the edge of the box and Michael Tonge’s searching run into Burnley’s box was met by Jason Shackell’s anxious clearance.
McDermott tackled Burnley with a midfield diamond, using Green as the defensive tip and Diouf as the support for Varney and McCormack. In between, Michael Tonge and Rodolph Austin had the best of a first half but the first half did not display the best of Leeds, despite their concerted attempts to spread the ball around.
Their patience needed precision and even their manager – a calm, considered figure – showed minor pangs of frustration as promising situations petered out and Lee Grant went untested in Burnley’s goal. The solution to mediocrity at Elland Road will not be found overnight.
In their more dominant spells, McCormack sliced a volley wide and Varney was penalised for a foul as Diouf’s cross from the right caught Burnley’s backline stretched.
But it took until the 30th minute for United to come good and leave Grant relying on the woodwork to protect his clean sheet.
Stephen Warnock dribbled his way into space on the right wing and put up a cross which Jason Pearce headed against Shackell on the goalline. Varney met the rebound with a nodded finish, striking the top of the crossbar as Grant moved to guard his net. The goalkeeper would not have stopped a more accurate finish.
For Burnley, their opportunity of note did not materialise for another 12 minutes, though Paddy Kenny’s dive to his left was urgent enough to suggest that Ross Wallace’s low shot had him worried.
Replays appeared to show the effort clipping the outside of a post, the product of Burnley’s aggressive finish to the half.
After so much huffing and puffing, the ease with which Leeds cut Burnley open in the first 20 seconds after half-time caught the entire stadium by surprise. Diouf’s cross was an invitation for Varney who appeared unmarked but connected weakly with the ball, skewing it away from Grant’s net.
When Grant punched the forward goalbound header over the bar five minutes later, it was apparent that this would not be Varney’s night but Leeds began to turn the screw as they had on Sheffield Wednesday. Varney saw another shot blocked and Stephen Warnock’s deep, curling delivery was flicked away from under his own bar by the tireless Shackell. When McCormack’s pass to Diouf was lobbed with precision towards the penalty spot, even Shackell found himself a yard out of place as Austin buried the dropping ball with a sweet finish.
Like Wednesday three days earlier, Burnley rode a few more minutes of pressure and tried to spoil the scoreline. Danny Ings hammered a volley wide but came no closer to a goal than McCormack’s late free-kick which Grant appeared to tip around one post.
This was United’s evening; in all, it has been McDermott’s week.

Brian McDermott enjoying life at Leeds after a winning week in charge

Bradford Telegraph & Argus 17/4/13
Leeds United 1 Burnley 0
Leeds manager Brian McDermott does not want the season to end after steering his new club to a second vital Championship win in the space of four days.
The former Reading boss replaced Neil Warnock last Friday in time to take charge of Saturday’s derby win over Sheffield Wednesday and last night saw Leeds play with a freedom seldom seen at Elland Road this season.
Rodolph Austin struck his first goal since September, sweeping the ball home first time following a perfectly-weighted ball from El-Hadji Diouf in the 62nd minute.
The Jamaica international’s fine finish was scant reward for some of the passing football Leeds served up, with Saturday’s two-goal hero Luke Varney going close on three occasions – one header hit the crossbar – in the first half.
“We’re pleased,” the 52-year-old said after Leeds had climbed to within six points of the play-offs and seven above the bottom three.
“We controlled possession really. We had a few opportunities and I thought the goal was excellent, a really good bit of skill by Dioufy and that was a really good finish.
“I’ve come here to enjoy myself, the staff want to enjoy themselves and I want the players and the fans to enjoy themselves, that’s what life’s about.
“I’ve told the players, I have no fear about a game of football and I want them to have the same philosophy.
“I’ve learned an awful lot in the last three weeks from what happened to me at my previous club and I hope Leeds have got a better manager on the back of what’s happened.
“I think there’s something tangible left this season. Every game there’s something tangible. When you’re stood on that line and it’s 1-0, it’s definitely tangible in my heart, so every game there’s something to play for because you’re playing for your fans.
“You want to finish the season strongly. You want to do as well as you possibly can.
“I’m just a bit upset there’s only three games left, it’s a shame there’s not six.”
Burnley were not completely overrun but were restricted to several half-chances in the absence of leading goalscorer Charlie Austin.
The 28-goal striker is out for the rest of the season after undergoing emergency surgery to have his appendix removed after falling ill during training on Monday.
The Clarets have won only two of their last 15 league games and after this latest setback lie just three points above the relegation zone.

Blast from the pass: Leeds United 1-0 Burnley

Scratching Shed 17/4/13
The long forgotten passing game returned to Elland Road last night as Leeds United cruised to a 1-0 victory over Burnley.
The Whites dominated most of the game, playing short measured passes, retaining possession and patiently trying to create openings.
A far cry from the hoofball days of Neil Warnock, Burnley manager Sean Dyche summed up the change;
“That group of players weren’t playing like that two weeks ago. I know because I saw them.”
Despite all the changes, Leeds United extended a run of games without scoring in the first half to 19. The Whites best chance had fallen to Luke Varney who somehow managed to head over the bar from 4 yards when it looked easier to score.
Varney missed another good chance at the start of the second half, but his overall performance can’t be faulted. He looks a player transformed in his new centre-forward role, a tirelessly hard-working individual whose aerial dominance is something Leeds United have missed since the departure of Luciano Becchio.
Meanwhile, Rodolph Austin was playing an absolute blinder. While always strong in the tackle, the Jamaican has taken some criticism in recent weeks for his wayward passing and careless pot-shots, but last night, he looked like the Rudy of old.
The strong tackles and surging runs forward remained, but gone were the forty yard potshots and misplaced passes. Austin’s 63rd minute goal, a well-taken volley which came via an exquisite chip from El-Hadji Diouf, was just reward for his man of the match performance and the perfect finish to an excellent passage of play from the Whites.
Rudy wasn’t alone in upping his game, the entire team did. As a unit they looked cohesive and more comfortable playing the style Brian McDermott has adopted. Every player wanted the ball and was working hard to create space for themselves, giving their team-mates options when in possession. There was no moaning when someone lost the ball either, they simply re-organised and fought to get it back.
Joyfully, the absence of moaning on the pitch seemed to transfer to the stands too where the 16,788 who had bothered to turn up were enjoying the new style of football Brian McDermott was directing. “We’re Leeds United, we’re passing the ball” was sang with so much enthusiasm, the players must surely have taken encouragement from it.
The match wasn’t entirely one-way traffic though, Burnley did enjoy brief spells of sustained pressure towards the end of each half, but this was as comfortable a 1-0 victory as Leeds United have produced in some time.
Changes to personnel and the style of play certainly helped matters, but the biggest contributing factor to this win was Leeds United’s togetherness. In five short days, Brian McDermott has replaced hunched shoulders, frustrated sighs and dropped heads with an enthusiasm and self-belief we’ve lacked in recent months. The players looked to be enjoying themselves, and most importantly, the crowd was too.
There’s work to be done of course. We still lack creativity, width and could use a heavy-hitter upfront. But these are areas to be addressed in the summer, for now, you have to applaud Brian McDermott for getting the best out of the players at his disposal.
On and on…

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Leeds 1 Burnley 0: McDermott strikes again as Austin gives new boss second win

Mail 16/4/13
By Mark Walker, Press Association
Rudy Austin struck his first goal since September as Leeds registered a second npower Championship win in four days under new manager Brian McDermott.
Jamaica international Austin latched on to El-Hadji Diouf's excellent pass just after the hour-mark and swept the ball home first time.
A second straight win lifts Leeds further away from relegation trouble and marks an impressive start for former Reading boss McDermott, who replaced Neil Warnock on Friday in time to take charge of Saturday's derby win over Sheffield Wednesday.
Some of Leeds' football, particularly in the second half when they showed more of a cutting edge, belied the gloom that had enveloped Elland Road when Warnock departed following four straight defeats 16 days ago.
Burnley were by no means over-run, but in the absence of leading goalscorer Charlie Austin created little in front of goal and are now looking nervously over their shoulders after slipping to within three points of the relegation zone.
England Under-21 international defender Tom Lees, plus midfield pair Diouf and Michael Tonge, returned for Leeds, while Burnley recalled striker Martin Paterson and Alex Kacaniklic, on loan from Fulham.
The visitors' 28-goal leading scorer Austin had emergency surgery to remove his appendix this morning after falling ill on Monday and will miss the rest of the season.
Burnley midfielder Chris McCann's curling effort and Leeds striker Ross McCormack's volley were all either side had to show for an enterprising first 25 minutes.
But Leeds twice went close to taking a deserved lead in the 30th minute when defender Jason Pearce's header from Stephen Warnock's cross was blocked on the line by Burnley skipper Jason Shackell and Luke Varney headed the rebound on to the crossbar.
Burnley served warning of their capabilities with a strong finish to the first-half, first Ross Wallace shaving the foot of the post with a drilled effort from outside the penalty area and Paterson lashing an angled drive wide.
Varney, Leeds' two-goal match-winner on Saturday against Wednesday, spurned a golden chance within seconds of the restart as he steered Diouf's right-wing cross off target.
Varney was then denied by Burnley goalkeeper Lee Grant, who tipped his far post header from McCormack's free-kick over the crossbar.
Leeds fans were audibly appreciative of the fare on show as their side continued to pass the ball with patience and purpose and they were duly rewarded in the 62nd minute.
Diouf showed fine technique to control McCormack's cross-field pass and clipped a perfectly-weighted ball over the top for Austin to run on to and convert with a first-time side-footed finish.
Burnley responded through McCann's low long-range effort and substitute Danny Ings volleyed wide soon after.
McCormack almost made it 2-0 with a blistering free-kick that whistled inches wide and although Leeds looked anxious at times in the closing stages, Burnley could not capitalise.

McDermott: My agenda for Leeds

Yorkshire Post 16/4/13
By Leon Wobschall
BRIAN McDERMOTT is backing Leeds United striker Steve Morison to come good – despite a slow start to his career at Elland Road.
The newly-appointed Whites boss enjoyed the near-perfect start to his managerial tenure on Saturday, when United turned around an interval deficit to see off derby rivals Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 – and is hoping that the new manager ‘bounce’ continues in tonight’s Roses clash with visiting Burnley.
The priceless weekend win over the Owls has all but secured United’s Championship status after a run of four successive defeats had seen them plunge too close to the relegation zone for comfort, with the one slightly disappointing aspect of a memorable afternoon seeing Morison endure another inauspicious outing in United colours.
The former Norwich City and Millwall man was substituted just past the hour mark, with Luke Varney switching to centre forward with impressive effect – netting both home goals in quick succession and strengthening his claims of starting in his preferred position of central striker in the process.
All told, Morison, assigned to fill the goalscoring void vacated by Luciano Becchio at the end of January, has found the net just three times in 14 appearances for Leeds.
But despite the barren statistics, McDermott feels the 29-year-old has the qualities to ultimately prosper at Elland Road as he bids to rediscover the form that persuaded Norwich to stump up an undisclosed six-figure fee for his services from Millwall in the summer of 2011.
McDermott said: “I have known Steve Morison from my scouting days when he was playing for Stevenage. He works really, really hard.
“He had a tough time at Norwich and did not play too many games or have too many opportunities.
“He has come here and played all the games under the previous manager and I know he is a good player and a good lad.
“We will get him to be in the right place for Steve Morison because that is really important for us. If Steve is in the right place, it is really good for Leeds United.”
Meanwhile, McDermott has revealed that Academy boss Neil Redfearn will continue to work with the first-team squad in the coming weeks – hinting at a promotion for the 47-year-old following two separate stints in charge of United on a caretaker basis.
McDermott envisages Redfearn working closely on the training pitch with his number two Nigel Gibbs, concentrating on first-team matters.
On the future of Redfearn, who he first got to know when they were doing their pro-licence together, McDermott, not plotting any changes to his backroom staff as it stands, said: “I want Neil to be with us and Nigel and Neil to be together with me. “(Youth coach) Richard Naylor is also obviously on the staff with Leigh Bromby and they are all good people. I know that after only being here a short space of time.”
Saturday’s victory pushed United up to 11th spot, six points above the relegation zone with four matches to play, but McDermott insists his planning for next season - with United virtually safe - won’t begin in earnest yet, with his sole concern being to finish an inconsistent season with a bit of a flourish to enable supporters to head into the summer with a bit of renewed hope.
McDermott said: “You want to finish the season on a high and I am not looking at the squad. The squad is our squad at this moment in time. All we are doing is concentrating on our training and on what we have to do in the Burnley game. Nothing else matters; that is the only thing that matters.”
On tonight’s clash, he added: “First and foremost, you want to win. But I also want the team to play well and pass the ball and enjoy the game.
“I also want the crowd to get into the game and enjoy the experience.
“You want to win with a certain style as well. But if you can’t, then win.”

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Leeds United 2 Sheffield Wednesday 1: Varney double rescues Whites

Yorkshire Post 13/4/13
A PRICELESS two-goal blast in the space of six second-half minutes from Luke Varney cast aside Leeds United’s relegation demons in a dramatic Yorkshire derby at Elland Road.
Varney - who spent two loan spells at Hillsborough earlier in his career - cancelled out Jermaine Johnson’s 27th-minute opener with a bullet header three minutes after the hour mark, with referee Neil Swarbrick awarding a goal after the effort smashed off the underside of the bar and bounced over the line - before another well-placed header settled the contest on 69 minutes.
The result means that Wednesday, who went into the game as the form side of the division and were seeking victory to rubber-stamp their safety, still have work to do to stave off the drop as they succumbed to just their second away league defeat since the start of December.
In truth, they could few complaints after paying the price for a subdued second-half, with several changes from new Whites manager Brian McDermott paying off impressively.
The introduction of El-Hadji Diouf at the interval for David Norris proved a masterstroke, as was McDermott’s decision to switch Varney to centre forward after replacing the ineffectual Steve Morison with Aidan White on the hour mark.
The first-half proved a muted affair with an early chance fluffed by Morison, who cashed in on Lewis Buxton’s failure to clear a free-kick from skipper-for-the-day Stephen Warnock with the former Milwall man miscuing when well placed, with his meek effort blocked by Chris Kirkland.
Aside from that and a few long-range efforts, United brought little to the table before the break, with Wednesday forging the lead after seizing on some dithering home defending three minutes before the half-hour mark.
Kirkland’s punt forward was headed on by Jeremy Helan, when no home player challenged, with Jermaine Johnson latching onto it in an instant, stealing a march on Warnock before lifting the ball expertly over Paddy Kenny.
At the other end, Ross McCormack’s free-kick was cleared close to the goaline by Miguel Llera before Leroy Lita went close at the other end.
The half ended with Llera testing the reactions of Kenny with a free-kick as the visitors sought to double their tally.
On the restart, no doubt cajoled by some words from McDermott, United looked a totally different and transformed side. Four minutes into the second period, Morison spurned a great chance to level after being profiting from Anthony Gardner’s error, but he criminally delayed too long in front of goal, with Reda Johnson making a saving tackle.
Soon after, the hosts went close again, with Gardner this time saving the day after making vital clearance after Varney latched onto the rebound after Kirkland expertly parried a goalbound shot from McCormack.
Leeds continued to press and they got their just desserts with a leveller on 63 minutes.
McCormack’s cross was met with a firm header from Varney, whose effort bounced off the bar, but over the line with Kirkland helpless.
United went for the jugular with Varney plundering his sixth goal of the season with just over twenty minutes to go after another impressive assist from McCormack.
The Scot’s cross was headed in clinically by the former Portsmouth frontman - to the ectascy of most of the 23,936 crowd.
After a limp half hour, the Owls gradually stirred into life and laid siege for a spell ten minutes before the end, which almost yielded a leveller following a frenetic mini-spell of action.
First, a brilliant swivelled volley from sub Steve Howard after good work by fellow sub Chris Maguire hit the post before Reda Johnson went desperately close to a scrambled equaliser as the visitors laid siege.
Despite a tense denouement, it proved United’s day as they ended a four-match losing streak with a welcome victory.

Leeds 2 Sheffield Wednesday 1: Varney double gets McDermott off to perfect start

Mail 13/4/13
By Wayne Gardiner, Press Association
Brian McDermott savoured 'a really big win' after a triumphant start to his reign as Leeds United manager.
The former Reading boss must have feared the worst as Jermaine Johnson fired Wednesday into a 27th-minute lead, but two secondhalf goals in six minutes by Luke Varney handed the home side the Yorkshire bragging rights.
McDermott said: 'I was really pleased. It was hard in the first half and we knew we shouldn't have gone in a goal down, but there was a good response after the interval, which was really important.
'We needed to pass the ball and create things, and I thought the players were really brave in the second half.
'I told them at half-time that the crowd really wanted to get behind them. I've been at places where that hasn't been the case, but when we got to 1-1 it made a real difference.
'They were two very well-worked goals. The first was just over the line so I'm glad the referee and linesman spotted it, and the second was a fantastic bit of skill from Ross McCormack and a really good header by Luke Varney.'
McDermott added: 'Wednesday have been on a good run. You have to give them credit for that, so it was a really big win for us.'
Sheffield Wednesday manager Dave Jones suffered verbal abuse from Leeds supporters despite a vain plea in the match programme for both sets of fans to 'keep it clean and respectable'.
Jones said: 'We should have won. We switched off for 15 minutes and allowed two goals which we should never have allowed.
'You can't give somebody free headers in your box. It's frustrating because they caused us no hassle, apart from a 15-minute period. We had a few injuries and had to change things around but we made some basic errors.
'Jermaine Johnson had a knee injury but the referee missed that one.
'Giles Coke was injured as well, that's why he went off. There were a couple more including Reda Johnson with his foot.'
Wednesday took the lead when goalkeeper Chris Kirkland's long kick was headed on by Jeremy Helan for Jamaica international Johnson to race through and tuck away his fourth goal in as many games and his seventh of the season.
But, with El-Hadji Diouf leaving the bench at the start of the second half, Leeds were a transformed attacking force.
McCormack crossed from the right in the 63rd minute and Varney rose to head in via the underside of the bar.
Then McCormack and Varney worked their magic again, this time Varney's close-range header flying directly into the net.
Leroy Lita wasted a glorious chance for Wednesday, but Leeds held out for their first win in eight games, and give McDermott the perfect start barely 24 hours after his appointment as Neil Warnock's successor.

I just wanted to get on with job!

YEP 13/4/13
By Phil Hay
Brian McDermott revealed today how the challenge of managing Leeds United sucked him in, claiming he would not have taken any other job with five games of the season to go.
The former Reading boss was poised for a dramatic baptism in this afternoon’s derby against Sheffield Wednesday, 24 hours after replacing Neil Warnock on a three-year deal at Elland Road.
McDermott and Leeds shook hands yesterday (April 12) after intensive discussions earlier in the week and he was persuaded to take the post with immediate effect having initially planned to delay his appointment until the end of the season.
The 52-year-old was sacked by Premier League club Reading on March 13 and did not expect to return to the dug-out until next month at the earliest.
But he answered United’s plea with Leeds five points above the relegation places and took the reins from caretaker manager Neil Redfearn after meeting with United’s squad yesterday morning.
Redfearn will still be part of McDermott’s staff at Elland Road today, alongside new assistant manager Nigel Gibbs.
Talking ahead of an important Yorkshire derby, McDermott told the YEP: “I wasn’t coming 10 days ago. We’d talked about the summer, when to come and when not to come.
“But I spoke to Neil Redfearn and he was going to do the game tomorrow and I think he wanted the new manager to come in. I spoke to (chief executive) Shaun Harvey and the club really wanted me to come at this stage. I had a long think and thought ‘let’s get in amongst it. Let’s do it now.’
“It felt right and I probably wouldn’t have done it for any other club apart Leeds United. It felt right and I do a lot of things on gut feeling.”
Harvey admitted that United’s league position had hastened the appointment of McDermott but insisted that McDermott was always high on United’s shortlist of candidates to replace Warnock.
“We need to make sure we don’t get relegated,” Harvey said. “We want to stay up and we don’t want to take a gamble if there’s a positive way we can act.
“But if anyone thinks this is a knee-jerk reaction, the only person we offered the manager’s job to was (McDermott). That’s why we’re absolutely delighted with the appointment.”
McDermott is under contract until the summer of 2016, a long-term agreement in response to the failed plan for Warnock to win promotion to the Premier League in his only full term as boss.
McDermott said: “Coming in now isn’t about relegation. It’s more about the fact that it’s Leeds United. I had the opportunity to take this club on as manager.
“It took me about three days to move on after Reading. I went away for three or four days and moved forward.
“Everyone’s got to move on with their lives and this is where we are. I definitely wouldn’t have come if it didn’t feel right. But it does.”

McDermott’s arrival at Leeds is brought forward to ease nerves

Yorkshire Post 13/4/13
BRIAN MCDERMOTT last night admitted to taking the Leeds United job earlier than planned following an appeal from the board sparked by fears the club could be dragged into a relegation fight.
The former Reading chief has signed a three-year deal at Elland Road and will be in charge of today’s derby with Sheffield Wednesday.
Talks first took place between Leeds and McDermott in the wake of Neil Warnock’s departure on April 1 and a deal was struck that would have seen the 52-year-old appointed in the summer.
However, following last weekend’s defeat to Charlton Athletic – United’s fourth in a row – the timescale was suddenly shortened to ensure McDermott and assistant Nigel Gibbs could be in the dugout for the lunchtime meeting with the Owls.
The new Leeds manager said: “I wasn’t coming 10 days ago. We had talked about the summer, when to come and when not to come.
“But then I spoke to Shaun (Harvey) a few days ago and he said the club really wanted me to come in at this stage. So, I had a long think about it and thought, ‘Let’s get in amongst this and let’s do it now with five games to go’.
“It just felt right and I probably wouldn’t have done it for any other club apart from Leeds United.”
In becoming United’s sixth permanent boss in nine years, McDermott has returned to management a month on from his shock dismissal by Reading.
His arrival has helped appease fans increasingly worried that Leeds, who sit just five points clear of the bottom three, could yet become embroiled in a relegation fight.
In most seasons, the Yorkshire club’s 52-point haul would be enough to guarantee survival.
This year, however, is likely to be different with the near title-winning form in recent weeks of the teams near the bottom of the Championship making it likely that a new record will be set in terms of points for a side demoted from the second tier.
McDermott insists relegation is not something he has even considered for his new charges, but chief executive Shaun Harvey has hinted that yesterday’s appointment was made in an attempt to ensure the club does not become embroiled in trouble.
Harvey said: “We need to make sure we don’t get relegated. We want to stay up and we don’t want to take a gamble if there is a positive way we can act.”
In offering McDermott a three-year deal, the Leeds board clearly see the former Reading manager as the man to bring to an end an exile from the Premier League that currently stands at nine years.
To do so, of course, it is likely funds will have to be provided – particularly as next season the parachute payment for clubs relegated from the top flight will be £23m.
McDermott, a former chief scout at Reading before being appointed manager in 2009, is regarded as one of the best unearthers of previously unmined talent in the country.
A CV with such quality was always going to be of interest to United’s owners, GFH Capital, and the new manager is looking forward to being able to implement his own plans.
He said: “Transfer policy is one thing we really need to get right. Recruitment is key. (Director of football) Gwyn Williams is here. I have known Gwyn for many, many years.
“When I used to turn up at a game, he was already there. And then I’d get to a game and Gwyn would arrive. He does his graft and works hard. I am sure the scouts work really hard at Leeds.
“We need to look at it and how we recruit. What is really important is getting the right person and the right characters to this football club.”
Asked if he had been given any assurances by the club on what budget he will have to work with come the next transfer window, McDermott said: “That question will be answered in the summer.
“I don’t know the answer to that. I have come here on a lot of good will. I spoke to Shaun and I had a lot of assurances. I have spoken to one of the owners who has given me reassurances that they want to take the club forward with me as manager.
“That was really important to hear. I wouldn’t have come to a football club where that wasn’t the case. You need to have a chance.
“I got a good vibe and there is an awful lot for the owners to gain if the club is successful. That is a key point. They have got an awful lot to gain if they can back the football to the best of their ability.”
McDermott and Gibbs, his assistant at the Madejski Stadium, will be joined in the dugout today by United Academy manager Neil Redfearn, who took charge of the first team at Charlton last week along with Under-18s coach Richard Naylor.
Both Redfearn and Naylor met the new management duo yesterday at Thorp Arch, as did the first-team squad.
McDermott, who led Reading to the Championship title last May, said: “I felt really comfortable in that dressing room (yesterday). Just looking at the players and being around the training ground gave me a good vibe.
“I enjoy the company of players. There was an awful lot of respect at the training ground and that was tangible. To take the club forward, not one person will do that on his own.
“It is a group situation where everyone needs to go in the right direction.
“I do a lot of things on gut feeling. This isn’t about (fighting) relegation, it is more about the fact it is Leeds United. I had the opportunity to become manager of this club and it just felt right.”
richard.sutcliffe@ypn.co.uk