Saturday, September 28, 2013

Leeds United director resigns from board

YEP 25/9/13
by Phil Hay
Hisham Alrayes has resigned from the board of Leeds United, according to Companies House.
Alrayes stepped down as a director last week in a move which appears to have ended his short association with the Elland Road club.
Gulf Finance House’s acting chief executive was an influential figure behind the takeover of Leeds by GFH Capital in December and he joined United’s board the following month.
But notice of his exit from Leeds has been published on Companies House’s website along with confirmation that Alrayes is also stepping down as a director of United’s holding company, Leeds City Holdings Limited.
Former club chief executive Shaun Harvey, meanwhile, has also formally resigned as a director ahead of the start of his reign as Football League chief executive next Tuesday.
The departure of Alrayes and Harvey leaves only three members on the United board - chairman Salah Nooruddin, managing director David Haigh and GFH Capital employee Salem Patel.
A spokesman for GFH Capital said the appointment of Nooruddin as chairman and Haigh as MD had established a “clear management structure” at Leeds and allowed Alrayes to focus on other projects.

Long-term contracts put McDermott in difficult position

Square Ball 23/9/13
Amitai Winehouse (@awinehouse1)
I’m not declaring anything a write-off, far from it, but a combination of the economic situation in the Football League and our squad’s contracts means this season was always going to be far more difficult than you’d have hoped. Brian McDermott has the unenviable position of having to deal with a squad bloated by a Warnockian short-termist policy. It’s interesting that we find ourselves in the position of having to count down several contracts signed last summer, given the fact that the situation was already noticeably strained then.¹
Danny Pugh has been on the fringes of the team since Neil Warnock’s arrival, but is guaranteed wages until the end of the season, and has no impetus to move for less than he’s being paid here. Ditto for David Norris, who will be being paid first team wages (given the fact Warnock saw him as a key player) until the end of the 2014/15 season – with other Championship clubs tightening their belts, we’re going to struggle massively to move him on, despite the fact he’s about as far from first team football as Diouf is from a Luke Varney cross. He’ll be 34 before he departs Leeds. The same is true for Stephen Warnock, apparently one of our better paid players, who is tied down until 2015, having signed a 2 and a half year contract last January.² Michael Brown’s only saving grace is the fact he was signed to massively reduced terms last summer, which he probably only agreed to knowing he’d get the required minutes to receive a new deal for this season.
McDermott, therefore, clearly has to manoeuvre in a less than ideal way. He’s tied to the players signed by the previous regime, whilst he would almost certainly prefer to bring in others better built for the style he wants to impose. With us signing 14 players who still receive wages from the club whilst Warnock was in charge, McDermott has to involve several of them, possibly against his desires.³
Assuming things are alright this season, therefore, we have to understand as a collective that transitional seasons do exist and can be fine. Admittedly we’re only able to watch Leeds for a finite period, but it might be worth accepting a single season of near-miss or acceptability in exchange for a more positive one next time around. That said, I’m not calling the season yet, not at all, just saying that if it doesn’t turn out to be a success, it can be counted as another failing of Warnock’s time at the club, that he crafted a squad not good enough for promotion that the club was lumbered with.
¹ Players speaking to The Secret Footballer revealed their contract offers and wages were slashed in the summer of 2012.
² This doesn’t even consider Steve Morison, who will presumably return next season with two years left on his deal.
³ At a guess, the entire situation is somewhat exacerbated by the emergence of young talents like Alex Mowatt. As more come through and get game time, they will start demanding first team squad wages, which will become an issue when we can’t afford them as we’re still paying David Norris.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Leeds United 1 Burnley 2: Narrow Leeds Struggle Onward

Fear and Loathing in LS11 22/9/13
‘Shy, giving, thoughtful, bald 52 year old man seeks young, enthusiastic, creative types for good times. Those not interested in meaningful, long term relationships need not apply. Box no. 4132‘

After looking a little bit short of personnel for most of the season, yesterday marked the first time where frankly, Leeds just looked a little bit awful; in cohorts with a disciplined Burnley outfit, the diamond formation, designed to maximise what we have, served to strangle the life out of any meaningful threat Leeds could muster.
In the middle of the pitch, players stepped on each others toes, but in contrast the flanks remained an abandoned wasteland; tumbleweed danced in the autumn sunshine where once ball players bounded, shimmied and seduced. When the ball did find players in advanced positions out wide, it was typically Varney or Diouf who’d then survey the expanse of the 18 yard box, more often than not to find a dearth of white shirts obligingly queueing up to attack any incoming delivery; McCormack, twitter elected saviour of the masses, remained all too anonymous, offering an option on the edge the box, rather than along the corridor of uncertainty – another player shying away from making things happen in an area where ultimately, most things in football do. The return of Byram (and White, if you’re inclined to still have any faith in him) had too brought with it the promise of greater width, but he was seldom found.
Truth be told, defeat appeared likely from the early exchanges. Leeds despite having much of the ball, looked collectively baffled as a unit in terms of how they could use it. Burnley’s back eight smothered the play with comparative ease as Leeds struggled to find space and stretch play.
Scott Arfield’s 18th minute goal had a touch of inevitability about it. Burnley assumed the mantle of the team ‘most likely’ from the kick-off and it was hard to dispute they merited a lead; the circumstances in which it arrived though were rather less palatable – Paddy Kenny will surely have serious misgivings about how it was possible to concede from such a tight angle.
Yet…yet, it could still have been so different. Just as fine margins decided the destination of three points at the Madejski Stadium, so they could’ve altered the entire mood and course of the afternoon at Elland Road. Only a minute previous, Ross McCormack had made himself some space down the right and swung over a cross for Luke Varney, with time and space both plentiful commodities, there was almost an inevitability about the outcome. A firm header, back in the direction from whence the ball came is all that was required, what Varney produced was something confounding, even by his own standards; a header so harmless and that looped so high, it could’ve afforded him the time to dig a hole on the pitch in which to be swallowed, by time it had completed it’s orbital path and returned to Earth at gentle velocity.
Had Varney’s header not taken on such an unexpected course, then the match could’ve done. Sadly, for all his graft, Varney’s not a natural in front of goal and his chances of converting opportunities appear to recede, the more time he has to think about them. It wasn’t the first time this week I’d visualised the silhouette of a solemn Luciano walking his dog along the beach at Cromer and pondered the futility of club and player’s relative situations.
One more good Varney opportunity apart (a good instinctive turn to get into a goalscoring position, a poor finish once he’d worked the opening), leaving the pitch with just a one goal deficit seemed the best Leeds could realistically aim for, shambolic defending ensured otherwise. This time a throw-in, deep in Leeds territory, Kightly received the ball and delivered it between the two centre halves to an unmarked Vokes, his header was saved by Kenny but Vokes, never the nippiest on his feet still had the time to follow up his initial effort to stroke the ball home.
Where to start? The free header – bad. Kenny’s inability to push away the ball more effectively – very bad. The lack of a reaction to spare Kenny – abysmal. Aidy White, playing at left back took up a reasonable position at the throw-in, on guard to the possibility of the return pass, but once Burnley opted to look infield, where did he go? Back toward a defensive position from where he could cover for Kenny’s aberration? No, when the ball was struck home he was stood 30 yards up the pitch…answers on a postcard.
Minutes later White sought redemption, making a rare positive foray into the opponents box. A hint of a nudge from an opponent followed and White sprawled downward; the Kop cried penalty, I was torn between taking the opportunity to vent at a generally terrible referee and wondering whether White had gone down that little bit too easily. Moments later the whistle sounded, the expected stifled boos for a lame performance giving way to a rather more vitriolic condemnation of officialdom.
The pattern of the first half continued into the second. The introduction of Poleon added a dimension of pace down the left, but the youngster’s profligacy in front of goal and general lack of awareness when better options present themselves ensured Leeds were no more productive in the final third. In the middle of the pitch, the home side were forever more plodding in their play, Diouf and Tonge drifted about in an oneiric manner, their gait and lack of urgency in sharp contrast to what was required; Burnley were able to deal with everything at a canter, rarely stretched.
Matt Smith entered the fray for the final 15 minutes, McDermott’s final throw of the dice and essentially an acknowledgement of a creatively bankrupt showing, passing in harmless triangles was eschewed, route one the chosen option for the final leg of the journey. To a fair degree it worked as Smith won everything launched at him, showing in the process some pleasingly deft touches in laying the ball off to those around him. When his first Championship goal arrived it was wholly merited, as even after a mere 4 minutes on the pitch he’d made a greater attacking impact than any of those present for all 79 had managed.
The goal re-injected a degree of excitement for the final 15 minutes or so of aerial assault, the scale of which would’ve doubtless been enough to have the previous incumbent of the Elland Road ‘hot seat’ self-pleasuring himself at the spectacle. Burnley wobbled and opportunities as came and went, but Leeds failed to snatch a draw that would’ve been as undeserved as the Reading defeat was.
Leeds are really struggling now for goals. We need midfield that plays across the pitch, rather than exclusively around the centre of it, the reinstatement of our only prolific goalscorer to a position from which he can deliver more goals, a partner for him to play off and somebody to provide them both with a degree of service in the first place – on the basis of the last four league games, Leeds really now need a winger and a striker if the momentum created is not to be checked.
Diamonds aren’t forever.

McDermott - Burnley beat us up

Leeds United boss Brian McDermott admitted after the home defeat to Burnley that they were beaten up in the first half.
Leeds trailed 2-0 at the break and McDermott was unhappy with the defending for both goals as Burnley went at Leeds from the off.
Speaking on LUTV, McDermott said, "We were beaten up in the first half and we conceded two soft goals.
"We had to change things around in the second half and launch the ball and it is not how we want to play but we were trying to get a result.
"We created chances but we didn`t take them.
"I cannot complain about the result, they were the better side."
Scott Arfield and Sam Vokes had already had great chances before Arfield opened the scoring for the visitors.
It was a repeat of the midweek defeat at Reading with Luke Varney this time missing a great chance to put Leeds ahead only for the visitors to go straight down the other end and go ahead.
Varney again, Sam Byram, Ross McCormack and Rodolph Austin all had chances to bring Leeds level but Burnley extended their lead just before the break when some woeful defending allowed Vokes to find space in the area before beating Paddy Kenny at the second attempt.
Leeds looked brighter in the second half after McDermott brought on his substitutes and it definitely looked like being one of those days when Tom Heaton in the Burnley goal made a great reaction save to deny El Hadji Diouf.
Substitute Matt Smith gave Leeds hope in the final ten minutes when he headed home but Leeds never looked like finding an equaliser in the remainder of the game.

Leeds United 1 Burnley 2: McDermott rues lack of cutting edge

YEP 21/9/13
by Phil Hay
Sean Dyche wants his Burnley players to keep giving their all after they reached the lofty heights of second in the Sky Bet Championship with a 2-1 win at Leeds.
The Clarets continue to defy those who said they would achieve nothing without Charlie Austin, with this success further evidence of the product Dyche has created.
The former Chesterfield defender is as no-nonsense a talker as he was a player, but his side are certainly not just one-dimensional, as they displayed at Elland Road.
They were outstanding in the first half and got goals through Scott Arfield and Sam Vokes, before they muscled up in the second to restrict Leeds to a deserved Matt Smith consolation.
As someone who tells it like it is, Dyche can be believed when he says he is not looking at the league table, but he added: “I consider us a team that is growing and improving and I want a team who can look down the tunnel and know they’re going to go hard, no matter who’s got the shirt on.
“I made it clear that was a requirement as soon as I came into the football club and that hasn’t changed. The journey can take you anywhere in this division.”
Burnley’s current trajectory will be taking them up - especially if they continue to show the required qualities at both ends of the pitch.
“In the first half we were very good, we kept the ball well. It’s a tough place to come and we dealt with the feel and emotion of the place,” Dyche said.
“We scored two good, effective goals and in the second half we expected a reaction. We had a brilliant chance, Paddy Kenny made a terrific save which revived them, and in the last 20, 25 minutes they got it forward and it was hard to play against.
“I thought our lads stood strong and when needed, Tom Heaton made a truly awesome save.”
One of Leeds’ biggest problems this season has been their lack of goals. They have scored just seven in the league this term and are still searching for an adequate replacement for Luciano Becchio who went to Norwich in January.
Smith at least gave them some punch when he got off the bench to nod in an 80th-minute consolation, but around that Rodolph Austin, Ross McCormack, Dominic Poleon and Luke Varney all floundered in the box.
“We need someone to grasp the nettle and take up the responsibility of scoring,” manager Brian McDermott said.
“We haven’t scored enough goals, especially at Elland Road. It’s a worry because someone has to try and take that responsibility. I said to the players, the worst thing that can happen has happened. They lost. That’s it. I give them the license to make things happen.”
McDermott has had to face few on-field challenges since taking the Leeds job in September, but three defeats out of four could be viewed as one.
He conceded Burnley had presented him with problems he had not faced to date, and wants his players to start showing more creativity in a bid to prevent it happening again.
“We were 2-0 down and we can’t play like that. Burnley were good, credit to them, but they were soft goals for us and good ones for them. We got beat up by their strikers and that’s the first time it’s happened since I’ve been here.
“The midfielders need to get on the ball more. I give them the license. We need to keep working them and drilling them.”

BBC - Leeds 1 Burnley 2

BBC 21/9/13
Burnley sent Leeds to their second Championship defeat of the week with a narrow win at Elland Road.
The Clarets took a two-goal advantage into the break after Scott Arfield beat Paddy Kenny at his near post and Sam Vokes followed up his own header to score a second.
Substitute Matt Smith headed in an El-Hadji Diouf free-kick to give Leeds hope but the visitors held out.
Victory for Sean Dyche's side moves them second in the table.
Burnley were good value for their win and could have taken the lead earlier than they did as Arfield and Dean Marney both went close before Vokes forced a superb save from Kenny.
Wales international Vokes has now scored four goals in 12 games this season. Last season he struck five times in 53 appearances.
The former Republic of Ireland keeper could do nothing to stop Arfield opening the scoring when he reacted quickest to Sam Byram blocking his initial attempt.
Luke Varney had a great chance for Leeds but he hit his shot from six yards straight at visiting keeper Tom Heaton.
The hosts were made to pay for their wastefulness when Kightly picked out Vokes, and, after Kenny saved his first header, he doubled Burnley's lead.
Diouf and Dominic Poleon both found Heaton in excellent form before Brian McDermott's side gave themselves a chance when Smith headed home.
Captain Rodolph Austin and Poleon both had late efforts but Leeds have now lost three of their last four matches to lie 12th.

Leeds boss Brian McDermott said: "We need someone to grasp the nettle and take up the responsibility of scoring.
"We haven't scored enough goals, especially at Elland Road. It's a worry because someone has to try and take that responsibility.
"I said to the players, the worst thing that can happen has happened. They lost. That's it. I give them the license to make things happen."

Burnley boss Sean Dyche said: "In the first half we were very good, we kept the ball well. It's a tough place to come and we dealt with the feel and emotion of the place.
"We scored two good, effective goals and in the second half we expected a reaction. We had a brilliant chance, Paddy Kenny made a terrific save which revived them, and in the last 20, 25 minutes they got it forward and it was hard to play against.
"I thought our lads stood strong and when needed, Tom Heaton made a truly awesome save."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

It’s heaven or hell with nothing in between for Leeds United these days - Hay

YEP 21/9/13
by Phil Hay
Leeds United are part of England’s manic depressive core. Inflated one week, flat the next and never able to settle down. Some would call that the mark of ambition but it makes life hard inside the bubble.
You walked away from Saturday’s win at Bolton thinking all was well in the world; or if not well then satisfactory. But Wednesday brings a defeat to Reading and you flick onto Twitter to find Ross McCormack fielding criticism and responding in kind. No wonder the season feels long when appreciation has a four-day lifespan. Brian Clough did better than that.
A man with his finger on the pulse said to me recently that a consequence of 10 years in the Football League – and in his view, eight-and-a-half in bed with Ken Bates – was the death of the middle ground at Leeds. “There’s no such thing anymore,” he said. “It’s heaven or hell with nowt in between.”
There must have been times when grey areas existed but in seven seasons of following Leeds I’ve never seen them. There’s no mystery to that. Try being philosophical about a kick-in-the-teeth at Reading when you’re already wearing dentures; try seeing this as a turn in the road when Blackwell, Wise, McAllister, Grayson and Warnock shared nothing so much as a Premier League game between them. Optimism is a weak currency with a poor exchange rate.
That attitude is high on Brian McDermott’s list of things he’d like to change. He knows what his job entails and how quickly the ill-wind will take him if United drift on his watch but he uses a stock phrase which comes right to the point: one result can’t dictate your mood. As it happens, one result can. But not for much longer if McDermott has his way.
McCormack’s umbrage on Wednesday was taken with supporters who took in Reading away on the radio and had their say. “I ain’t listening,” he tweeted. “You can’t slag the players off when you haven’t seen the game.” It’s a risky business picking fights like that but he’s not wrong. A high percentage of the 3,300 who beat bad scheduling and heavy traffic to be at Reading would probably agree.
Attending games is not a pre-requisite for holding opinions on United, their players, their manager or his tactics but it helps to analyse the defeat to Reading if you were actually there. From a vantage point in the press box, Leeds were robbed; not in broad daylight but denied a draw they deserved. It wasn’t fair but football isn’t. The uneven balance of the Championship tells you that.
First, the imperfections. Leeds created little and gave Alex McCarthy an easy night. Luke Varney and Noel Hunt fell between stools, desperate for chances but drawn too often into the process of making them. Yet McCarthy was nowhere when Jason Pearce missed an open goal and the tide swung fiercely towards the end of the game. The points were on a plate in the last 10 minutes, without the finesse to serve them up.
And so we return to old ground. There are clubs in the Championship with more about them up front and more aptitude where it matters most. Goals more than anything take teams out of this league. But there is no swift solution at Leeds and no silver bullet.
McDermott can see that the range and variety of his squad is too low but the club think their wage bill is too high. The consequence is that games like Wednesday’s will from time-to-time go begging. Margins count in the Championship. But the shortages at Leeds are not chronic and behind it all are a team who can punch their weight and put 90 minutes together.
Were Reading so superior? Were QPR last month? You’d have their benches in a flash, but still. Matching up doesn’t buy much credit in Leeds but it was always the first step for a coach paraded as the alternative to a one-season wonder (or not, as it turned out).
I’ve followed the crowds with interest this year, particularly away from home. One of the troubling aspects of 14 months with Warnock was the difficulty Leeds had in selling away tickets. The traditional take-up no longer seemed to be there. But 5,000 was too few at Bolton and 6,000 will barely cover it at Newcastle. Reading fell marginally below capacity.
Something engaging is at work here, something more than habitual attendance. The sacrifices involved with long trips and late nights have become less questionable. Did anyone enjoy Adam Le Fondre’s header? As if. But you still sense tangible anticipation about how this will go for McDermott.
It comes down to realism. There are managers with resources he doesn’t have. There are some whose spending requires quantitative easing. He can’t do much about that. But there was optimism on Wednesday. Rare optimism away from home. Then Le Fondre tucks one away and the night is lost. Cracks open, criticism comes. McCormack reaches for his phone.
Neither he nor McDermott can pretend to know what lies ahead. This year could go south like many do. You never can tell with Leeds and frankly you go past the point of second-guessing. But often you ask yourself if the constant fear of worse to come is self-fulfilling.
Will they fall short? Who knows. Anyone drawing that conclusion already probably deserves to. “Enjoy the ride,” McCormack said, “and see where it takes us.”
Amen to that.

Republic of Ireland’s loss is very definitely Leeds United’s gain

YEP 20/9/13
by Danny Mills
The downside of moving from club management into international management is the loss of day-to-day involvement with players, supporters and the game itself.
If that sounds strange, watch Brian McDermott whipping up 5,000 fans after Leeds United’s win at Bolton Wanderers.
He’d get moments like that with the Republic of Ireland but nowhere near as many. When you talk about the next international game, you’re often looking months ahead.
It’s impossible to say whether the Republic were ready to try and take McDermott on but I very much doubt that he was ready for it either.
I don’t mean that in the sense that he’s too inexperienced – although in fairness, perhaps he is – but in the sense that he’d miss everything club football gives you.
When you live and breathe the sport, you need your fix regularly. You need a following of 5,000 on a Saturday afternoon and 3,500 with you at Reading the week after. It’s all day, every day for McDermott and that’s how most of us players and managers like it.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a massive amount of pride to be had in representing your country and its pretty obvious that McDermott wants to manage the Republic of Ireland some day but I see a lot of the England squad first-hand and I know the pitfalls of international jobs.
For instance, if you’re an extremely gifted coach – and McDermott clearly has talent – you could argue that your skill is wasted with England, the Republic of Ireland or most national sides.
Why? Because frankly there’s not a lot of coaching involved. Players join up on a Monday having played at the weekend and they need to rest as much as they need to train. Between all the travelling and the games you’ll get maybe 72 hours tops to run through your plans on the training pitch. That’s next to nothing.
As I see it, international coaches are man-managers more than anything else. Your main job is to keep the camp happy, not least because the players in your squad won’t always be familiar with each other and will, from time to time, see and hear themselves being slaughtered in the media. There must be times when the men at the top genuinely feel like it’s difficult to make an impact.
Look at what McDermott’s doing at Leeds and you can see the reward of a day-to-day job which allows you to put your stamp on a team. He’s got a side who are developing over time – hard to beat, well organised and adapting to the style of football he wants them to play.
At his age and with his experience, I’d honestly say that in my opinion the Leeds job is better than the Republic job. It’s far easier to get your teeth into and make a go of.
That’s why I’m pleased McDermott laid his cards on the table and said he was staying at Elland Road. It’s the right choice for him at this point.
As for Leeds, losing him to Ireland would have been a massive blow. I mean massive. It would have pulled the rug from beneath a side who look like they could be consistent this season and created the usual disruption.
A new man comes in and decides that some of the players aren’t for him.
He changes the style and system. Staff go, others come in. I’ve seen it before and Leeds don’t need any of that.
I go back to the crowd of 5,000 who went to Bolton on Saturday. It seems pretty clear to me that what McDermott’s doing with the team has resonated with the crowd.
New managers tend to find favour early on but he’s five months into the job now and it hasn’t been an easy period. People obviously like his approach.
It helps him and the players to have such big crowds behind them. You might question how much difference it makes because players always try to be right on it every time they’re on the pitch but there are always those moments, the last 10 minutes or whatever, when the energy flags and the legs started to feel heavy.
When that happens, the noise from the stands is what makes you clear your head and think “this is worth fighting for”; like a shot of coffee or Red Bull.
Yes, big crowds bring their own pressure. But a lot of clubs would kill for what Leeds have got.

Hall makes Blades move

leedsunited.com 20/9/13
Winger links up with League One side on month's loan ...
United winger Ryan Hall has joined Sheffield United on a month’s loan. The 25-year-old, who hasn’t figured in the first team this season, linked up with the League One strugglers on Thursday morning.
Hall has made nine appearances - three starts and six from the bench – since arriving from Southend United last season.
United boss Brian McDermott said: “He could go away and do really well and might come back here and do really well, you never know.
"For me, he’s someone who plays off the strikers and we have El-Hadji Diouf and Ross McCormack who play there so it’s difficult for him to play here.
“Sometimes you have to let players go to get their careers up and running.
"He didn’t come back as fit as he could have done, but he’s been working hard and training well. I spoke to David Weir, who wants to take him and I think this is right for his career and is right for us.”

Leeds United: McDermott refuses to put Warnock on the spot

YEP 20/9/13
by Phil Hay
Brian McDermott refused to point the finger of blame at Stephen Warnock after Leeds United’s defeat to Reading, despite admitting that the left-back needlessly invited the killer goal and a late red card.
Warnock apologised to United’s dressing room for the foul on Adam Le Fondre which led directly to his dismissal and a 1-0 loss in the sixth minute of injury-time on Wednesday night.
The defender felled Le Fondre as Reading launched a final attack, incurring his second booking of the game after an earlier caution for a late tackle on Reading right-back Stephen Kelly.
Warnock, who will serve a one-match ban during tomorrow’s clash with Burnley, had barely left the field when Le Fondre met a free-kick from Royston Drenthe and beat Paddy Kenny with a glancing header deep into stoppage-time.
The dramatic goal inflicted Leeds’ second defeat of the season and soured an otherwise pleasing return to Reading for McDermott, who managed the Berkshire club for three-and-a-half years.
But Leeds boss said: “There’s no blame attached to anything that went on.
“Sometimes you give a free-kick away unnecessarily and the first person to hold his hand up in the dressing room was Stephen Warnock. He’s a good guy.
“If it happens to us and someone makes a mistake then we have to make up for that mistake. That’s what we’ll be trying to do.”
Reading broke up-field moments after United defender Jason Pearce missed a glorious chance to win an open match with a close-range header and Warnock was tempted into a sliding challenge outside his own box with fully five minutes of added-time played.
“He stays on his feet in that situation,” McDermott said.
“If he stays on his feet then (Le Fondre) doesn’t go anywhere. Stephen knows that, he’s an experienced player.
“If he’d stayed on his feet then the referee would probably have blown up before they had a chance to score.
“But referees don’t tend to blow up when there’s a free-kick and a chance for a team to stick it in the box. They let the game go.”
Leeds dropped to 11th in the Championship after Wednesday’s loss, a point beneath the division’s play-off positions.
But McDermott drew confidence from a spirited performance against his former side.
The 52-year-old returned to the Madejski Stadium for the first time since he and Reading parted company on March 13 and he thanks Reading’s supporters for a warm reception after heavy traffic delayed the arrival of him and his players until 45 minutes before kick-off.
“We were late getting there,” McDermott said.
“We were only two miles up the road but the traffic was horrendous.
“By the time we got to the ground we just wanted to get out and do our warm-up and I was only able to concentrate on the game.
“But I do appreciate the reception I got.
“The Leeds fans were excellent too.
“They travelled in numbers and I was gutted for them at the end.
“It made for a decent atmosphere and I just thought that at 0-0 after 95-odd minutes, the game was done. But that’s life. I thought Jason was going to score for us and his was a great chance, a free header.
“It actually looked to me like it was in and if that goes in then the game’s finished.
“It’s tough to take when late goals go in against you but we did it to Brighton on the first day of the season when we scored really late on.
“We’ll do it to other teams in the future.”

Leeds United v Burnley: Warnock’s suspension leaves door open for White

YEP 19/9/13
by Phil Hay
Aidan White could make his first league start in more than five months tomorrow, just three weeks after rejecting the chance to leave Leeds.
The 21-year-old is bidding for a rare opportunity after the dismissal of Stephen Warnock at Reading forced Brian McDermott to rethink his defence for United’s clash with Burnley.
White is likely to be Leeds’ only recognised and available left-back this weekend with Warnock on a one-match suspension and Adam Drury injured.
McDermott named White on the bench for Wednesday’s defeat to Reading, his first appearance in a matchday squad since Barnsley failed to sign him on loan in the transfer window.
United’s manager was willing to sanction White’s departure to Oakwell on a temporary basis but McDermott said: “Aidy’s been here since the age of nine. He loves Leeds United and he wants to give himself every chance of cracking it at Leeds United. If that’s the case, I want to make sure he gets every opportunity.”
Drury, meanwhile, has a calf strain and asked if the former Norwich City player was likely to be in contention for tomorrow’s meeting with Burnley, McDermott said: “I really don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Leeds must move on swiftly, insists McDermott

Yorkshire Post 20/9/13
by Leon Wobschall
BRIAN McDERMOTT has urged his crestfallen Leeds United players to move on quickly following their shattering late defeat at his former club Reading.
Former Rotherham United goal-poacher Adam Le Fondre headed home in the sixth minute of stoppage time to secure a 1-0 win for the Royals on Wednesday – McDermott’s first return to the Berkshire club after being sacked six months ago.
It inflicted a first seasonal defeat on the road for United, who are still without a win at the Madejski Stadium, but McDermott – despite obvious disappointment on his Royals reunion night – maintained an admirable sense of perspective following the game.
The Leeds chief, whose side host surprise packages Burnley tomorrow, said: “Over 40-odd games as the season is, you are going to get knockbacks. I’ve lost a play-off final which was horrendous. That on Wednesday wasn’t horrendous.
“We just move on from that quickly. I just said to them, ‘Get on with it’. You can wallow in results like that as long as you like, but it’s not my cup of tea to do that. We move on to the next game against Burnley and let’s make sure we get it right and do what we’ve got to do against them.
“The division is very tight. We played QPR and got done on a free-kick again, which was annoying. We got done on a free-kick again at Reading, beaten that way by a team with good players.
“We didn’t deserve to lose but we did. But it’s a results business at the end of the day.
“Our goalkeeper didn’t have too many saves to make, but the issue is that their goalkeeper didn’t either. We have to take that on board. We have to make the opposition goalkeeper work more.”
McDermott thanked both his club’s supporters – and Reading’s – for the ovation given to him before the kick-off.
The two sets of fans then took it in turns early in the first half to hail the popular manager in song.
McDermott, who spent 13 years with Reading before being controversially sacked in March, had been too preoccupied with merely getting to the ground ahead of kick-off – United’s arrival was delayed due to heavy congestion approaching the stadium – to indulge in lengthy pleasantries or speak to well-wishers.
Issuing his gratitude yesterday, he added: “We were only two miles away up the road and the traffic was horrendous. We wanted to get out and do our warm-up so I only concentrated on the game.
“But I appreciate the reception I got and I thought the Leeds fans were excellent, too. It made for a decent atmosphere. But at 0-0 after 95-odd minutes, I just thought the game was done.”

Gutted - Gaffer's reaction

leedsunited.com
Brian McDermott reflects on Wednesday's late defeat at Reading...
United manager Brian McDermott spoke of his disappointment after Wednesday’s late, late defeat at Reading.
Adam Le Fondre scored the only goal of the game – six minutes into stoppage time – after Stephen Warnock had been sent-off for a second yellow card.
It was a cruel ending from a game that looked destined to end in a 0-0 draw.
“I felt gutted,” said the boss. “It was a draw for definite and maybe a game we could have won.
“We had an opportunity ourselves just before their goal and if that goes in, we’ve won the game. Where the extra 2 minutes of stoppage time came from I don’t know, but they did, and this happens.
“We shouldn’t have given away the free-kick, Stephen put his hands up straight away and apologised, and we should have defended the free-kick better.
“I was gutted for the fans. They were tremendous and didn’t deserve that right at the very end.”
It was the manager’s first return to the club where he lost his job earlier this year, and the evening had started on the wrong foot when the team were delayed in traffic and didn’t arrive until 45 minutes before kick-off, but the boss was pragmatic in defeat.
“It was difficult,” said the boss. “We were late getting here, but I wanted to come and win the game. We spoke at half-time about getting on the ball more, and we did. We created more and I felt we could win it 1-0 and at worst get a draw, but you take these things on the chin.
“One result like that doesn't change what we’re trying to do. We're trying to evolve as a group. It won't shape our season. You can wallow for as long as you like. They'll be pleased with themselves, we're disappointed, but we’ll get on.”

Reading 1 Leeds United 0: Mac feels sick at late drama

YEP 19/9/13
by Phil Hay
Leeds United manager Brian McDermott faced up to an “awful feeling” after Adam Le Fondre struck deep into injury-time to ruin his return to Reading.
The United boss watched Le Fondre – a player he signed for Reading in 2011 – guide home a header in the sixth minute of added time to inflict Leeds’ second defeat of the season and wreck McDermott’s night.
Leeds were on the cusp of a deserved goalless draw when a foul by Stephen Warnock on Le Fondre earned the left-back a red card and created the chance which Reading’s dangerous forward dispatched clinically.
Moments earlier, Jason Pearce had come within inches of snatching a victory for United on McDermott’s first appearance at the Madejski Stadium since Reading sacked him as manager in March. Pearce’s last-gasp header flew wide of a post, giving Reading time for one last attack, and McDermott said: “It’s difficult to take. I thought we’d win it with 10 minutes to go, never mind lose the game. I didn’t think in a million years we’d lose it and we didn’t deserve to. It’s an awful feeling.”
Referee Neil Swarbrick indicated four minutes of stoppage time but allowed the match to run on following an injury to midfielder Danny Guthrie.
McDermott said: “We gave a soft free-kick away but the referee’s still playing at 95-and-a-half minutes for some reason. I really can’t understand that. There we go. We have to defend the free-kick better and I’m gutted for our fans because they travelled such a long way for this and they were excellent. No-one can tell me we deserved to lose that game but we’re in a results business. I thought it was done at 0-0. It just shows you what 30 seconds more can do.”
Warnock will serve a one-match ban during Saturday’s clash with Burnley following his two bookable offences last night.

Reading 1 Leeds United 0: Le Fondre strikes cruel late blow to deny Leeds

Yorkshire Post 19/9/13
by Leon Wobschall 
at the Madejski Stadium
BRIAN McDERMOTT already knew plenty about late finishes involving former club Reading and his current one at the Madejski. And one man in particular.
Step forward Adam Le Fondre, who after breaking 10-men Leeds’s resistance with two goals in the final six minutes to put the Royals within touching distance of the top-flight in the pair’s last fixture on Good Friday 2012 when McDermott was manager, produced another choice late offering.
Last night’s decisive denouement arrived even later in the piece than the former Rotherham United man’s late blast that spring Friday.
With almost the last kick of the game, the man they called Alfie won it from Royston Drenthe’s free-kick – all this coming after big defender Jason Pearce spurned a golden chance to do just that at the other end for Leeds.
It was Reading’s evening on what McDermott hoped would be his special night back ‘home’ in Berkshire.
The game looked like boiling down to a tale of two centre-halves, with Pearce’s miss adding to three occasions in which 6ft 4in defender Sean Morrison spurned point-blank headers from set-piece chances.
It took a classic old-fashioned goalhanger in Le Fondre to show the pair the way as Leeds’s unbeaten seasonal away record ended in heartbreaking fashion.
It was a blow to Leeds and their manager, who were seconds away from pondering another welcome result on the road – at a far from happy hunting ground.
McDermott never attempted to gloss over the personal significance of last night’s Royals return, but the consummate professional in him always dictated that business was paramount.
Strictly Leeds business, with the former Reading boss only interested in seeing old friends and acquaintances once the final whistle had gone.
For large parts, it was a diligent, if understated performance from his side, perhaps in keeping with McDermott’s demeanour.
Most things in the Championship are unpredictable, but McDermott’s warm ovation from the Reading fans who managed to make it to the ground and beat the congestion in time for kick-off was wholly expected, with the Leeds team and many of their fans also late arriving in Berkshire.
Not that fans who got to the ground belatedly missed a great deal in the early stages, other than an impromptu singing contest between Leeds fans and their Royals counterparts extolling the virtues of McDermott on his big night.
After the appreciation album had ended, the night somewhat ended prematurely for a home player who spoke warmly of McDermott in the build-up to the game in Jem Karacan, stretchered off following considerable attention after coming off second-best in a challenge with Ross McCormack.
It took 17 minutes for the first telling chance to arrive with Paddy Kenny showing good reactions to turn away Danny Williams, with the United goalkeeper then making a more routine save to hold Hal-Robson Kanu’s shot.
Leeds’s first effort of note saw ex-Elland Road loanee Alex McCarthy save Varney’s low shot before Rudy Austin’s blockbuster crashed just wide into the hoardings.
Reading, possessing pace and trickery in the final third in the likes of Robson-Kanu and Drenthe, if no genuine fox-in-the-box, upped the ante before the break and forced the United back four into overtime.
Two excellent chances were forged in quick succession, but fortunately the beneficiary on each occasion was a defender with a wonky radar in Morrison.
The home captain, who came of age in a loan spell at Huddersfield in 2011-12, twice found himself unmarked in the box following free-kicks, only to head both efforts off target.
After a half in which Reading brought more to the table and showed more poise, if not too much punch, up front, Leeds had a question or two to answer in the second period.
But it was the Royals who carried on from where they left off, more especially Morrison with the stopper heading another decent opportunity over when well placed.
After struggling to piece together any cohesive moves for much of the contest, it potentially looked a long second half for the visitors, whose previous win at Reading arrived at the now long-gone Elm Park when the late Billy Bremner was Leeds manager in December 1987.
When scant offerings did arrive with Leeds attacking a considerable presence in the away end, either the wrong option was made or a clearing defender nipped matters in the bud, although you still got the impression that Leeds could make the profligate hosts pay if they could manufacture one good opportunity.
That finally arrived in the 65th minute and to the player Leeds fans would have wished it to in McCormack, who benefited from a split-second of hesitancy in the Reading backline before firing a 20-yarder a whisker over the crossbar.
In a bid to sharpen up Royals’ blunt attack, Nigel Adkins threw on a natural-born goalscorer United knew plenty about in Le Fondre.
But it was Leeds, who had thrown on a speedster in Dominic Poleon for Noel Hunt on the hour, who suddenly started to find some belated assertion, with the hosts’ fires starting to fade.
A header from Varney flashed over, while substitute Hope Akpan went close at the other before Le Fondre took centre stage.
leon.woschall@ypn.co.uk

Reading 1 Leeds United 0: Whites broken by a Royal kick in teeth

YEP 18/9/13
by Phil Hay
Brian McDermott has had more infuriating nights at Reading but not so many that he can remember.
A game that looked destined to end in a satisfactory draw resulted instead in an injury-time defeat, with a red card thrown in for good measure.
The dream scenario for Leeds United’s manager, much as he refused to say so, was to go back to the club who sacked him six months ago and take them to the cleaners.
For his replacement, Nigel Adkins, there was scope to prove that swapping coach-for-coach as Reading did in March was a clever and calculated move.
Neither boss made a point to the other but Adam Le Fondre’s late, late header prevented an equal share of the honours.
Leeds have been here before with Le Fondre, beaten by two headers from the striker on their last visit to the Madejski Stadium.
McDermott was in charge of Reading then and knew what to expect when Royston Drenthe swept a free-kick onto Le Fondre’s forehead in the sixth minute of added time.
The forward glanced the ball and the pace of the delivery did the rest. United’s players looked genuinely crestfallen.
The dispassionate side of McDermott’s character would have been happy with a goalless draw.
For all that his history dominated a regular Championship match, a Wednesday night at Reading is the definition of a difficult away fixture.
Leeds were on the cusp of a good point when a foul by Stephen Warnock earned him a second booking to add to one he received in the first half.
Graver consequences came seconds later.
There were relatively few occasions when Leeds looked like taking more than a draw home with them and Adkins was able to argue that the better performance came from Reading.
There was no question that the better chances were theirs, though Jason Pearce should have forced the issue moments before Le Fondre did. Leeds had conceded four league goals before last night and were again hard to beat, as McDermott would say. Le Fondre simply has their number.
McDermott’s attempts to paint his time as manager of Reading positively were reciprocated by a matchday programme in which the 52-year-old was everywhere; pictured with the Championship trophy and made to feel that his time in Berkshire was good for everyone concerned.
He was not allowed to have it all his own way, however, and heavy traffic delayed the arrival of him and his team at the ground, denying him the chance to flick through Reading’s programme. The waves parted 45 minutes before kick-off and Leeds squeezed their warm-up in.
It helped McDermott that little in the way of reorganisation was needed.
The injured Lee Peltier stepped out of United’s team and Tom Lees stepped in, a simple swap at right-back.
McDermott restrained himself and did not involve Sam Byram at all though, as it happened, the game and the space available out wide would have been perfect for him.
The complications for Adkins developed early on.
Jem Karacan invited injury by clattering Ross McCormack as the Scot pounced on a loose pass and Karacan was stretchered from the field with seven minutes played.
The home crowd chanted about dirty Northerners, ignoring the self-inflicted nature of their midfielder’s wound.
The loss of Reading’s protective point was a potential bonus for McDermott but Leeds made only bits and pieces of it.
Rudy Austin hacked a distant free-kick over Alex McCarthy’s net with the first chance of the night and Lees appeared in a position on where United would have wanted McCormack, running unmarked onto Varney’s 12th-minute cross and shanking it as defenders do.
There was evidence early on of a lack of pace affecting Reading centre-back Sean Morrison and fragility on the right side of their backline but Leeds were not flawless either.
Paddy Kenny pulled off a two-handed save to deny Danny Williams as the midfielder attempted to pick out the corner of his net, then positioned himself well to hold Hal Robson-Kanu’s attempt to beat him on 22 minutes.
The game flowed openly and without restraint as a contest between McDermott and Adkins was always likely to.
There were moments of impact too as Danny Guthrie felled Austin and Alex Pearce slid through McCormack from behind.
Both players were booked.
Varney drilled a low effort at McCarthy and Hope Akpan – Karacan’s replacement – raised Kenny’s hackles by erroneously claiming for a penalty.
McCarthy cut an anxious figure when Austin let his right boot swing and lashed the ball past a post on the half-hour.
It seemed impossible after 30 minutes that the game could finish goalless.
There was no suggestion on the part of either team at playing for a draw.
Reading, with Le Fondre on the bench, lacked a fox in the box to finish off their work on the wings.
Morrison wasted their best chance by failing to bury Guthrie’s free-kick with a free header from close-range.
Leeds kept much of the game in Reading’s half but wrong-footed their defence infrequently before half-time.
They were glad of the chance to regroup by the time the interval came, squeezed by a strong finish from their hosts.
Jason Pearce stuck a leg in to prevent late chaos in United’s box after Robson-Kanu turned Scott Wootton inside out on one touchline.
The second half did not let up and Morrison completed a hat-trick of miscues with another point-blank header sent high into the crowd.
Leeds threw men at Stephen Kelly, Reading’s right-back, and were a precise cut-back away from a goal three times in quick succession.
Before long, the changes came. Noel Hunt, who made little impact against the club he left on a free transfer in July, made way for Dominic Poleon on the hour and McCormack whipped a shot inches over the crossbar as the substitute’s run made space for him. Le Fondre followed soon after. In the time that remained, both teams were a deadly final ball away.
Gareth McCleary’s arrival brought back memories of a grim night at Elland Road involving Nottingham Forest and his right foot but Leeds pinned him down and Pearce should have buried Reading when he knocked an easy header past McCarthy’s goal.
McDermott looked on in a familiar pose, hands in pockets, believing that an emotional reunion been safely negotiated with pride intact. Le Fondre’s goal turned his night upside down, a dramatic twist was not in the script.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Leeds United: Brian McDermott recreates "scary" rituals

BBC 17/9/13
Leeds United manager Brian McDermott is looking to the past in his determination to make Elland Road an intimidating venue for opposing teams.
McDermott's players are recreating some of the pre-match rituals made famous by Don Revie's side in the early 1970s.
That includes walking out and waving to the crowd in the manner pictured above.
McDermott said: "I distinctly remember that team walking out like a group of soldiers, it was bordering on being a little scary and I liked it."
"We are fortunate to have people from that era around the club, like Norman Hunter and Eddie Gray and Peter Lorimer, and now Dominic [Matteo] from another successful era when they did really well in the Champions League.
"I have great respect for what they achieved and I have no interest in diluting that."
McDermott said the club's fans were responding to the idea.
"We sat down, all of us, and had a discussion about the past and the history of our club.
"I remember very, very distinctly years ago, when Leeds United used to walk out on to that pitch and wave to the crowd. I remember the socks, and the tracksuits with the name on the back, and as a group you have to respect that great tradition and history.
"And we just felt as a group it would be a nice touch, because some of the players are too young to remember that.
"So we are trying to get the music going before the game in the warm-up, just little things that can make a difference, just trying to add them up to get to where we want to get to.
"There would have been a lot of supporters in the ground who picked up on it, because they know this club.
"We have a lot of supporters aged 45, 50, 55, my age, where they know what's gone on here in the past. We're not doing it for a gimmick, it just sends a tingle down the spine."

Leeds' major honours under Don Revie (1961-1974)
  • League champions - 1969, 1974
  • Second Division champions - 1964
  • FA Cup winners - 1972
  • League Cup winners - 1968
  • Fairs Cup winners - 1968, 1971

Different mindset pays dividends

leedsunited.com 17/9/13
United striker Luke Varney on change in away form…
Saturday’s goalscorer Luke Varney believes that a change in mentality and way of thinking is the reason for United’s early season away form.
United have picked up seven points after three away games this season, at Leicester, Ipswich and Bolton and remain undefeated on the road.
Reading is the next destination for United on Wednesday evening (8pm) and the striker feels a change in attitude could be key to the trip.
“The dressing room on Saturday was similar to after the Ipswich game,” he said. “It was another great away performance.
“To get the three points really adds to it. We’re delighted and very pleased and we can now look forward to another tough game on Wednesday.
“It shows the mentality and the different way we are thinking this year.
“We are keeping solid and if we keep that clean sheet you know that you have got a chance of winning games.
“I think too many times last year we went under too softly and then got buried. That is something we have addressed and it is just a never die attitude really.
“It shows that the players , staff, the gaffer and the fans are all pulling in the same direction. If we can get things going at home and make that a fortress we’ve got as good a chance as anybody.”
Luke was full of praise for the travelling United supporters at Bolton saying it was a shame he couldn’t reward them with another goal at their end of the Reebok.
“It was unbelievable on Saturday and it gives us a great chance,” said the striker.
“They put their song on at the start and our fans started singing the Brian McDermott song so the Bolton fans didn’t know what to expect.
“It gave us a great lift and it was just a shame we couldn’t score in front of the away end."
United currently sit in sixth position in the Sky Bet Championship after six games and the striker feels that is achievable come the end of the season.
“We don’t want to be seen as one of the favourites, we’re just trying to stay under the radar, keep putting solid performances in and I’m sure we’ll be there or thereabouts,” said the striker.
“It’s a great dressing room and we’ve just got to keep that mentality and believe that we can keep picking up away points. The home form will look after itself.
“Reading will be a tough game but off the back of two good away performances we’ve got nothing to worry about going there.”

Reading V Leeds United: Fit again Byram back in contention

YEP 17/9/13
by Leon Wobschall
Sam Byram has put himself in contention for a first-team return in Leeds United’s clash at Reading tomorrow night with another ninety-minute run-out for the development squad.
The highly-talented right-back, who turned 20 yesterday, featured in the 2-0 loss at Birmingham City and could be handed a belated birthday present if Lee Peltier is ruled out of the Royals clash – a first Championship appearance since April 20.
Byram, who is reportedly being monitored by Newcastle United – the latest in a long line of Premier League clubs who are tracking his progress – followed up his first full ninety minutes of the season in a behind-closed doors friendly against Sunderland at Thorp Arch at the start of last week with another against Blues.
While keeping coy on the subject of a first-team comeback for Byram, boss Brian McDermott has spoken about his return “getting close” – and his availability this week could be particularly timely with former skipper Peltier limping out of the weekend win at Bolton with a groin strain, centre-back Tom Lees coming on to replace him.
McDermott has spoken about the pending return to first-team action of Byram – following a five-month battle with a hip problem - equating to a major new signing, while being loathe to put a date on it.
Meanwhile, McDermott has hailed the impact made by new signing Scott Wootton and feels the central defender will get even better when an extended run of games.
The 22-year-old already looks to have formed a solid partnership in the heart of the defence with Jason Pearce, with the pair in resolute form in Saturday’s 1-0 victory at Bolton.
McDermott said: “Scott Wootton was excellent on Saturday. He was a class act. He’ll get stronger with games and he looks to be a really good acquisition.
“But the clean sheet was not just about the back four, it’s about the front three too. We’re looking for them to work hard and if they don’t then you don’t get clean sheets.”
Saturday’s goal hero Luke Varney insists competition for places is bringing out the best in United, with the unity and sense of purpose shown by everyone connected with the club at the Reebok Stadium - players, staff and 4,800 travelling fans - also a hugely positive sign for the weeks and months ahead.
He said: “You look across the squad, we’ve got good strikers such as Dom Poleon and Matt Smith and we’ve got competition all over the place.
“That’s healthy and whoever comes in, we’re all trying to pull in that right direction.
“The support we had on Saturday was magnificent. I didn’t realise we had fans in the top tier too and that makes it all the better. It’s fantastic support and to get a win made it all the better.”
Goals from giant striker Nikola Zigic and Akwasi Asante saw Birmingham prevail 2-0 in United’s return to action in the Under-21 Professional Development League North yesterday afternoon.
United: Grimes, Byram, Killock, Taylor, Denton (Coyle), Lenighan, Norris, Hall, Dawson (Stokes), Parkin (Cook), Walters. Subs not used. Atkinson, Philips.
Tomnorrow’s opponents Reading will be without the services of Russian international striker Pavel Pogrebnyak following his dismissal for the Royals in Sunday’s home stalemate with Brighton.

Reading v Leeds United: Mac’s certain to get a standing ovation - Williams

YEP 17/9/13
Former Reading captain Ady Williams reveals to phil hay that brian mcdermott will enjoy cult status on his return to the club.
Time will tell whether Reading took a prudent course of action by replacing Brian McDermott with Nigel Adkins. Relegated from the Premier League and ninth in the Championship, the jury is yet to deliver a verdict.
The two men will avoid that debate and shake hands warmly at the Madejski Stadium tomorrow. This is not Dennis Wise meets Kevin Blackwell or a horribly bitter reunion. When Adkins was offered the Reading job in the aftermath of McDermott’s sacking, McDermott told him to take it. “He’s a top man,” said Adkins. “We’ll always welcome him back here.”
Adkins was not the sole beneficiary of McDermott’s demise on March 13. Reading’s cull of their previous coaching team offered Leeds United a manager who, at a time of dire straits in West Yorkshire, they were lucky to find available. There are some at the Madejski who would argue now that the 52-year-old should never have been cut loose in the first place.
Ady Williams, the former Royals captain, is undecided about the wisdom of Reading choosing to twist when they had the option of sitting tight. “Reading aren’t really firing on all cylinders,” he said, “so it’s too early to say if they made the right decision. That’s a hypothetical opinion.
“I like Nigel Adkins a lot and with Brian gone I felt he was the perfect replacement. He’s a similar breed and I think they both fall bang in the middle of the category of managers Reading need. I can see it working out.
“But there are fans here who think Brian should still be in the job – not because they’ve got a problem with Adkins but because they don’t think Brian deserved to be sacked. He got the club out of the Championship once and I’d have backed him to do it again.
“Even those people who thought it was time for a change took that view reluctantly. It was one of those situations where everyone felt sorry so see Reading reach the point where someone as loyal as Brian left. He’s a Reading legend and I don’t use that word lightly. He’ll get a standing ovation tomorrow.”
McDermott was less sure about that, or at least a little coy, when his mind turned to United’s game against Reading after Saturday’s 1-0 win at Bolton. “I haven’t thought about it,” he said when asked was sort of reception he would receive at a ground he knows well. “I honestly don’t know.”
He has not been back since his dismissal by Reading owner Anton Zingarevich, partly because protocol prevented it initially but largely because he was out of work for only a month before taking charge of Leeds on April 12.
Any bad blood that existed between him and Zingarevich has been cleansed already. The Russian sent McDermott a text to congratulate him on the day that United appointed him. The Leeds boss remembers his three-and-a-half years at Reading as a “good time for me” – promotion from the Championship in 2012 ranking above all else.
He and assistant Nigel Gibbs were cast out after four straight defeats with Reading four points from safety in the Premier League.
“It was always going to be a bit of a struggle last season,” said Williams. “Brian would say himself that football’s a results business but I just think there’s a question mark over whether Reading were ever likely to stay up and whether Brian really needed to go.
“But the bottom line is that when you’re near the bottom of any division, your job’s going to be under threat. You see it all the time. Adkins could equally argue that he was seriously unlucky to go from Southampton when he did and I think they’ll both do well at their new clubs.
“Brian seems to be changing a lot at Leeds and Nigel’s implementing a very different style at Reading. They both need time. But if they’re given it, I can see Reading and Leeds doing nicely out of everything that’s happened. It’s funny how things work out.”
Leeds are suitably content at this stage. Their victory over Bolton moved them up to sixth, three places and two points ahead of Reading. There is a spring in United’s step ahead of a fixture tomorrow which, from McDermott’s perspective, would have been difficult enough to negotiate without his history.
McDermott is one of just two managers who have taken Reading into the Premier League, Steve Coppell the other. The significance of that can be found in the fact that none of Williams’ 400-plus league appearance for the club were made in that division. Reading have more often than not been a lower-league side; McDermott was part of a dramatic shift in power and ambition after the turn of the Millennium.
“He’ll be proud of the fact that he left Reading with his record and his reputation intact,” said Williams. “I don’t think he’s coming back with anything to prove or any criticism to answer.
“There were times in my career when I played against a club who I’d been with previously and made no impact at. For any number of reasons it didn’t work out. You always have it at the back of your mind that you’ll show the players, the manager, the owners, whoever, that actually you were better than they thought.
“With Brian, he doesn’t have a point to make. People know what he did at Reading. They respect what he did at Reading. He’ll not be short of fans trying to shake his hand and the reception he gets will be impressive, I promise you. It’ll be quite emotional for him.”
McDermott is not prone to open displays of emotion and nor does he make cheap headlines. It would be untypical of him to admit that a win tomorrow would carry a higher value for him than the victory Leeds took from Bolton.
“His motto here was always ‘I can only affect the next game’,” said Williams. “He doesn’t seem to have changed much at Leeds. “He’ll play things down and he’ll tell you that winning at Reading would mean no more to him than winning anywhere else. Maybe that’s true. I don’t see this being personal for him, or certainly not in a negative way, and I don’t see the occasion distracting him. He’ll just have to put up with a hundred and one text messages in the next 24 hours.”

LUFC: Time to Reclaim our Identity?

Fear and Loathing in LS11 16/9/13
The following piece was written for the latest issue of The Square Ball, just prior to the QPR home game; the decision that day to clad the players in tracksuit tops, complete with names and have them perform a pre kick-off wave to the crowd suggests I’m not alone in advocating the club embrace its past, I only hope this marks the start of something more substantial as outlined in the piece that follows…
In an era where ‘brand awareness’ supersedes tradition, where market savvy moves steamroller seemingly lesser concerns like identity, where Hull City have become ‘Tigers’, where the Bluebirds of Cardiff now bow in deference to the Red Dragons, football now, more than ever stands accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder.
From the Far East to the Middle East, players arrive at clubs, often recruited as much for their potential in increasing market penetration as their prospects of breaking into a starting XI. Pre-season tours serve primarily as a tool for clubs to expand into ‘new territories’, bolster club TV subscriptions and shirt sales…and those shirts, (Disclaimer: any similarity to any previous traditional kit, in colours or style, is merely coincidental) putrid polyester personified in promotional campaigns, ill advised attempts to reflect fashion rather than club that fail through their malodorous garishness on every level.
These are trends, or what the money men have you believe, the products of progress in the evolution of the modern game, where the survival of the fittest is construed as forsaking all you’ve had in a futile attempt to compete for what you’ll never attain. But maybe in this all-consuming stampede to raise profiles there is another way, a niche in the market, a non-conformist route? And maybe, just maybe, Leeds United is better placed than any other club to take this alternative path?
Almost a decade under the dark rules of tyranny of Bates left a club that was on its knees; financially on the brink, out of the public consciousness and out of touch with a divided fan base. Reminders at Elland Road of what makes the club special to so many proved as rare as rocking horse s*** during that time, with banks of blue seats and apathy the abiding memories of an almost universally awful period in our history. Only on our travels did salvation offer its ever present shoulder to cry on; the unity to be found on away trips, of it being Leeds against the world – that is how it’s always been, that’s how we like it, so should that not be our blueprint for the future?
While David Haigh, having first heroically appeared on his noble steed atop Beeston Hill last summer, metaphorically resplendent in his gleaming chainmail, hasn’t brought the riches hoped for amongst his company of ‘White Knights’, he and his fellowship have at least accomplished a great deal off the pitch to bring back together club, fans and community. On the pitch, the story is very much the same where Brian McDermott is yet to put a foot wrong in building a team, a spirit and expectations of better times ahead. Now for the next step…
Leeds United has come a long way in a short time over the last few months, suddenly Saturday’s inspire anticipation rather than dread, pride rather than mere defiance is driving fans to buy tickets, the club feels as if it’s starting to get its identity back – but why stop there?
There is a pride and devotion, unique within English football, that is to be found amongst Leeds fans; no other club could still inspire so much hatred in so many, having fallen so far, then anonymously shuffled around in the Championship en route to recovery. We remain English football’s black sheep, the reviled, whose lowly status seemingly does nothing to inspire any greater degree of ambivalence across the nation. Leeds United has always dealt with the haters with a trusty two fingered, two word response… We’re Leeds United, we don’t give a f***! But Leeds United at it’s very best has done so with a swagger, a cockiness and a sense of pride; that is what we need to get back.
To do that, is it time to build on what makes our club special? To draw a line in the sand, shake a fist at the rest of modern football with its goal music, clapper boards and disregard for history and tell them all we’ll be doing it our way? We’re the biggest single city club in England and just happen to be based in Yorkshire – if that shouldn’t imbue a streak of arrogance, I don’t what could.
It’s a mantle, a birthright that the club has inherited, something to stand it apart from the rest, something that should be exploited. The club already sits alone in the kitchen, knocking back pints at football family gatherings, like some exiled brother with a criminal record; the fans have always thrown it back in the faces of those prudish relatives by reaffirming their pride in our identity, those at the top should grasp the mettle, cherish and utilise this.
Let’s lose the home shirts that resemble a packet of Regal King Size, the beige abomination we sport on the road; they say a horse is a camel, designed by committee, the Leeds shirts more than anything prove that, football fashion gurus and marketing whizz kids combining to spawn Macron sponsored monsters. Let’s return to a purity of vision, an all-white home kit, all-yellow away from home and blue for the arbitrary third strip. Let’s make Leeds United instantly recognisable again.
In fact, let’s go further. Let’s reinstate the smiley badge, or the peacock, or even the Yorkshire rose; iconic images, indelibly connected with the club, as opposed to the soulless, corporate crest of today, an emblem wholly tainted by reckless excess then stifled ambitions. Bring back names on tracksuit tops, the sock tags, the team saluting the crowd before the kick-off as if in expectation that all present will genuflect in acknowledgement…all the things that once can set us apart, inspires that pride, that swagger and makes the rest seethe.
Let’s make this football club as unique and self-reverential as it can be, even more special to its own supporters; in taking this stand, by cherishing and enriching it’s identity, by defiantly standing apart from others, it may not win any friends among opposing fans, but will doubtless win the begrudging admiration of many who despair the way the modern game is going.
Let’s be the no-conformists, the club that doesn’t play ball, the institution that cherishes its tradition and identity as much as its supporters; let’s be the club for the outsiders, the one that offers a different philosophy, a fresh perspective rooted in heritage. Let’s stand for something!
Even allowing for a return to the top flight, Leeds cannot hope to compete in a global market with the Premier League’s leading lights for many, many years, based on success and superstars. So maybe trading on a fiercely strong and proud identity could prove to be our best option?

Toon track Leeds youngster Byram as they aim to fill defensive hole

Mail 16/9/13
By Neil Ashton
Newcastle are monitoring Leeds’ highly-rated right back Sam Byram as he continues his recovery from injury.
Byram, who turned 20 on Monday, is the best full back in the Championship and was being watched by a number of Barclays Premier League clubs before injuring his hip at the end of last season.
The defender continued his rehabilitation when he appeared for Leeds’ Under-21 development team against Birmingham.
Byram won five separate player of the year awards last season and is valued by Leeds at around £6m.
Newcastle signed Mathieu Debuchy to play in the position last season, but they are short of cover after losing Danny Simpson to QPR.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bolton Wanderers 0 Leeds United 1: Striker Luke’s gone from zero to hero

YEP 16/9/13
by Phil Hay
Brendan Rodgers’ opening gambit as Liverpool manager was to put the names of three players in envelopes and claim that the individuals concerned would “let us down this year – the cause, the fight, everything.”
Leeds United’s own Irish ringleader took a different tack and kept his glass half-full.
Speaking in July with signings scarce, Brian McDermott predicted that “someone will come from within this squad and surprise you. I’m convinced. It happens a lot.”
McDermott named no names but he would single out Luke Varney now. There are others too who for reasons of fitness, tactics or attitude look more comfortable in Leeds United’s skin than they did six months ago.
McDermott asked for their effort and promised loyalty in return. It is a healthy and fertile arrangement.
Leeds were in the habit of muddling through at grounds like the Reebok Stadium when McDermott stepped in to clean up the car crash but Varney’s sixth-minute goal and the aggressive sparring which followed it on Saturday was the work of a squad with clear direction and no divisions.
Therein lay a lesson for Bolton Wanderers, depressed by the realisation that the time to panic will soon be upon them.
United’s players have taken McDermott’s message and run with it; so too the away crowd who prevented the Reebok from drowning in awkward silence.
Bolton did not bother announcing Saturday’s attendance – a sensible policy when their own supporters numbered fewer than 15,000 – and Leeds were left to their own exuberant devices at full-time. “To come to Bolton and win 1-0 is a great result for us,” said McDermott after a packed stand emptied reluctantly.
Dougie Freedman took the defeat with good grace, like the affable coach he is. There were penalty claims – numerous penalty claims – and chances at both ends but Leeds showed an underlying vein of confidence which was not apparent in Freedman’s team.
“The referee didn’t decide that game and you can always talk about statistics,” he said. “We got beat 1-0 and that’s a fact.
“Maybe last season when we finished well, one or two players thought our form would automatically carry on. But it doesn’t. You’ve got to fight for everything. That’s what Leeds did.”
The application of McDermott’s squad is strengthening his commitment to them.
Varney – a player who could not buy a start around Christmas – is suddenly the striker who starts without question. McDermott persisted with Noel Hunt on Saturday when many were clamouring for the Irishman to be dropped and watched Hunt turn in his most proficient performance yet.
United’s boss is a man of the people but not a populist. His activity in the loan market in the weeks ahead might make that clear.
McDermott has focused attention on transfers by speaking candidly about the deficiencies at Elland Road but talk of loans and incoming players is starting to wear his patience thin.
After a victory which edged Leeds to sixth in the Championship, he all but admitted that the option of working with his existing resources appealed to him more than injecting fresh blood.
“You can’t keep talking about players you haven’t got – that constant wish for another signing,” he said. “I’m working with a good bunch and I’m enjoying working with them.
“I’ve got Alex Mowatt here, for example, and Paul Green didn’t play on Saturday. Michael Tonge came into the team. I’m trying to find a way to make it all work and I want to use the players who are here.”
Mowatt and Green were among his substitutes, along with El-Hadji Diouf, Matt Smith and Dominic Poleon, but McDermott hardly looked to his bench and might have ignored it altogether were it not for the groin strain suffered by Lee Peltier after half-time. Cover was provided by Tom Lees, United’s England Under-21 international.
Peltier is in that category of players who have emerged from their shell this season and the addition of Tonge to the midfield – more proficient with the ball than Green – allowed Leeds to vary their play and avoid the predictability which plagued them against Queens Park Rangers.
Their first few knocks on Bolton’s door exposed gaping cracks and badly crossed wires between Zat Knight and Matt Mills in the centre of Bolton’s defence.
Presented with the option of signing Mills this summer, McDermott should pat his back for ploughing money into Scott Wootton instead. Neither Knight nor Mills were anywhere to be seen when Varney applied a glancing header to Luke Murphy’s corner and beat goalkeeper Adam Bogdan.
There was enough of a wobble in United’s backline to keep Bolton keen but their spells of pressure were burst by convictionless football and a misfiring David Ngog. The former Liverpool striker clipped a 12th-minute shot beyond Paddy Kenny’s far post and missed a far better chance towards the end of the game, hooking the ball wide after Bolton substitute Robert Hall skipped away from Hunt.
Bolton were lucky to be in the game at that stage, kept alive by Varney curling the ball past Bogdan’s goal in first-half injury-time and driving another opportunity straight at the goalkeeper with Bolton stretched late in the game.
Jermaine Beckford took to the field after an hour but the lure of a penalty was the only likely salvation for Freedman’s side. They claimed for an alleged trip by Stephen Warnock on Hall and again when Darren Pratley collided with Wootton with 90 minutes up.
Referee Andy D’Urso shook his head twice. When Kenny was called upon at the death, his fingertips turned Pratley’s strike onto a post. Driven towards the finish by the 5,000 whose appetite they fed, Leeds ran the clock down. There were boos at the final whistle but the noise from one end of the ground made them largely inaudible; noise which reminded McDermott why the Republic of Ireland job he was linked with last week can wait for now.
“That crowd...it’s why we play,” he said. Or to put it another way, if you can’t turn it on for a following like United’s, what can you do?

Bolton Wanderers 0 Leeds United 1: Hunt gets a pat on the back from Mac

YEP 16/9/13
by Phil Hay
Brian McDermott praised Noel Hunt for facing down criticism of his recent form after the Leeds United striker showed signs of rejuvenation in a 1-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers.
Hunt reacted to a vote of confidence from McDermott by shining in Saturday’s win at the Reebok Stadium, emerging from a spell in which he openly questioned his own performances.
The Republic of Ireland international – a consistent and effective player during McDermott’s successful tenure at Reading – voiced disappointment with himself after struggling to settle into United’s team during the first month of the Championship season.
Hunt joined Leeds on a free transfer from Reading in July and has yet to score a competitive goal for the club.
But McDermott resisted the temptation to drop him at Bolton, saying the continued selection of Hunt was a “no brainer”, and the 30-year-old’s lively outing amid much scrutiny drew a nod of respect from his manager.
“Picking Noel was a 100 per cent no brainer,” McDermott said.
“People might turn round and say things about him but I spoke to him about his performance against QPR, we had a good chat and there were reasons for it – other things (outside of) football. That’s sometimes the way it is.
“Him playing was a no brainer for me because I know what he gives us. He was excellent. He worked really hard for the team and he’s fronted up to all this as well.
“He hasn’t hidden away from the fact that he knows he can do better. I’m pleased for him. He’s a great guy.”
Hunt saw only one real chance against Bolton, scuffing a shot wide from the edge of the box during a counter-attack in the first half, but he figured impressively in a spirited display in Lancashire.
Leeds were supported by a crowd of 5,000 away fans – a quarter of the entire attendance – and Luke Varney’s header after six minutes was enough to earn United their second away win of the season.
The club’s weak results away from home were severe a hindrance last season but McDermott said: “We’re trying to get a group together who are difficult to play against.
“We also trying to get a group together who can control games with the ball. That takes a little bit of time but there were points on Saturday when we did that quite well.
“We could have gone in at half-time two or three up which is good because it means we’ve created chances. We played between the lines, got ourselves in and played some really good stuff. But when we had to make headers and when Paddy (Kenny) had to make a great save at the end, we made them too.”
Asked about United’s raucous travelling support, McDermott said: “That was something else.
“If you put in the right effort, the right commitment and try to play, look at the backing you’ll get. There’s no doubt that our supporters want to back the players. I’ve always thought that about them.”
The win at Bolton set Leeds up for another challenging away fixture at Reading on Wednesday, a return for McDermott to the club who sacked him as manager in March.
The United boss could be forced to alter his defence after right-back Lee Peltier limped out of Saturday’s game with a groin strain.
Peltier, who was replaced by Tom Lees on 53 minutes, was due to be assessed by United’s medical staff this morning but could yet be included in the squad who travel south tomorrow.
Sam Byram, meanwhile, is also hoping to put himself in contention by coming through a development league game against Birmingham City this afternoon.
The 19-year-old is on the verge of a first-team return after a five-month battle with a hip problem.

McDermott making Leeds difficult to beat

Leeds United boss Brian McDermott reflected on a great result after Leeds won 1-0 at Bolton Wanderers.
Leeds won thanks to an early header from Luke Varney and McDermott says he is making Leeds difficult to play against.
Speaking after the game, McDermott said,'To come away and win 1-0 at Bolton is a great result.
'We're trying to get a group together that's difficult to play against but also we're trying to get a group that can control games better with the ball.
'We've been working at our set plays because they've been really important to us and it was a great delivery and a really good header from Luke (Varney).'
After a poor season on the road last season, Leeds remain unbeaten in their first three games on their travels this term.
The clean sheet at Bolton was their second in three games on the road this season having managed just one last season.
McDermott will now take his Leeds team to Reading on Wednesday night looking to put one over on his former club.

Bolton 0 Leeds United 1: McDermott hails “great result”

Yorkshire Post 14/9/13
Dougie Freedman believes Bolton can still win promotion after Luke Varney’s header saw Leeds claim a 1-0 win and condemn the Trotters to their fourth straight defeat in the Sky Bet Championship.
Wanderers have not won a league game all season and remain level on points with Millwall, with a slightly better goal difference meaning they move up to second bottom.
But Freedman is not concerned with the Trotters’ current position and hopes that a much-needed victory can help spur them on.
He said: “Have we given up on automatic promotion? We’ll never give up. Anything can happen in professional sport.
“Obviously we’re disappointed with the result. To concede a goal after seven minutes was disappointing but we didn’t have too many clear opportunities and that’s the biggest disappointment.
“Leeds are a very experienced side and they held on well but we didn’t hit the target enough.
“I’m certainly not worried because this is professional sport. You have your ups and downs but we’ve really got to start games better.
“We showed that we’ve got the players at the top end who are able to play well in this division. We created enough chances to make things happen and for some reason they just didn’t.
“The players need to remain strong to get out of this. I think we just need that first win to get ourselves going.
“You need to fight for everything you get in this division which Leeds did and I believe that once we do there we’ll start to really get going.”
Leeds manager Brian McDermott declared he was delighted with his side’s performance after they bounced back from their defeat against QPR.
The result sees United climb into the play-off places as they continued their unbeaten start away from home.
McDermott said: “To come away and win 1-0 at Bolton is a great result.
“We’re trying to get a group together that’s difficult to play against but also we’re trying to get a group that can control games better with the ball.
“We’ve been working at our set plays because they’ve been really important to us and it was a great delivery and a really good header from Luke (Varney).”

Sunday, September 15, 2013

An honourable and honest man but Leeds United must keep him happy - Hay

YEP 14/9/13
by Phil Hay
Who knows if the Republic of Ireland wanted Brian McDermott? All we do know is that John Delaney, the Football Association of Ireland’s chief executive, identified him as a candidate on Wednesday without being prompted.
Delaney was asked directly about Martin O’Neill, Mick McCarthy, Chris Hughton and Roy Keane. He threw in McDermott’s name himself. A Freudian slip or a man who’d been watching the betting markets closely? Leeds United drew their own conclusions and were not at all impressed.
They are lucky to have a manager who prides himself on straight dealing. McDermott’s press conference on Thursday was an exhibition in honesty and class, killing the story dead without upsetting the club he works for or the country he intends to manage one day. Leeds looked for a categorical statement and got it within 24 hours. There is no reversing out of that one.
You suspected from the outset that the Irish vacancy would not suit McDermott – too early in his career and too soon after he and United shook hands in the nick of time last season. It still needed him to say so. His remarks were hypothetical without any indication of what the FAI actually intended to do but McDermott seemed aware of the damage he would cause by walking out on a transitional club. Who at Elland Road is prepared for that scenario?
The events of this week might encourage United’s board to consider contingencies in the event of losing McDermott but it is inconceivable that a Plan B was in place when Delaney lit the fuse. United’s manager is five months into his job and part of a plan which extends beyond this season. He has acclimatised to the nuances and limitations of his post and, as much as a manager can, sought to embrace them. He is a good match for a club who rarely find good matches.
Take an overview of United and you will find a bunch of loose threads. There is the training ground at Thorp Arch, a facility which compares to most but has not really moved with times. The complex was upgraded at McDermott’s request during the summer and will probably be tweaked again at future points in his tenure.
There are, for the first time, barriered fields with suitable drainage for development squad and junior fixtures. Even the media have more elbow room. To McDermott’s own ends, the work would have been rendered pointless by him sweeping in and out inside six months. Better off throwing the money at a winger.
The academy too is being moulded in his fashion, primarily by the change in role that gave development-squad manager and first-team coach Neil Redfearn a foot in both camps. It was McDermott’s way of smoothing an unhelpful divide at Thorp Arch, allowing two camps to more closely resemble one. The staff in the academy like the set-up; without any obvious exceptions, they like McDermott. You sense a purple patch coming in a system that meandered for a while.
There are no grounds yet for saying the same about United’s first team. McDermott has signed only four players and will need at least another transfer window to morph Neil Warnock’s squad into his own. Noel Hunt aside, he has taken the visionary route with the money available, signing younger players whose reputation and pedigree he believes he can rely on for several seasons. Other coaches might feel differently.
It adds up to a manager who plans to be in situ for a while. And in that respect, the premature loss of McDermott would have left United in disarray. They do not want a fourth boss in two-and-a-half years, given control of a squad with remnants of all three of his predecessors. Cutting players from the wage bill has been hard enough. There are many threads to pull together but McDermott has the advantage of knowing how the end product should look.
The circumstances at Elland Road mean suitable fallbacks – good managers willing to work as United need them to – are few in number. There is Gus Poyet, out of work after leaving Brighton, but he and his entourage do not come cheap and the way in which he came to blows with Brighton depicted the Uruguayan as high maintenance.
He had a new stadium on the south coast and a new training ground on the way. Albion’s playing budget was reasonable. Not enough, apparently, and journalists in Brighton were predicting a parting of ways as long ago as February. How would GFH Capital’s policies sit with him?
McDermott understands the reality and tolerates it. It would have shocked everyone to see him throw his hat Ireland’s way. But Delaney’s comments will remind Leeds that a productive environment is essential for a manager who others patently admire. McDermott has shown himself to be an honourable coach. United should never take him for granted.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Leeds United: Sam Byram ups recovery

YEP 13/9/13
by Phil Hay
Sam Byram is on the verge of a first-team comeback for Leeds United – but the club look likely to delay his return until after Saturday’s clash with Bolton Wanderers.
Manager Brian McDermott said Byram was “close” to putting himself in contention following a long fight with a hip injury but he is due to be given a final run-out with United’s Under-21 squad on Monday.
The teenage right-back completed his first 90-minute appearance since April during a friendly against Sunderland at Thorp Arch this week and he will feature again in a development-league match against Birmingham City.
McDermott, who takes his senior squad to Bolton this weekend, said: “He’s close. He’s getting there.
“He played 90 minutes on Monday and he’ll play another 90 minutes next week, then we’ll see where we are.
“I’m not rushing him and I want to make sure he feels comfortable and up to speed. Once he tells me he’s right then he’ll be right.”

Steve Parkin: Rising from the coalface to change Leeds’s skyline

YEP 13/9/13
Steve Parkin used to be a miner but now he is a man with a vision to give Leeds the iconic building it so nearly gained before the recession struck. Jayne Dawson talks to him.
There was a time when the skyline of Leeds was full of cranes. They were everywhere, soaring high, a symbol of our prosperity. Then the recession happened and they disappeared, leaving empty sky and the city ...unfinished.
In particular there was one big hole, literally a hole. The foundations of the two glass towers known as Lumiere - the greatest symbol of the city’s big bold future - had been months in the drilling, but no towers ever rose.
The site became an eyesore. Instead of a building to be proud of, the people of Leeds found themselves complaining about the ugliness of it all.
All was stagnant.
Until now.
Now, there is talk of what can only be described as a phoenix rising from the ashes - thanks to a former miner from Middleton.
Steve Parkin is that man, an old-school entrepreneur and capitalist who started at the bottom and worked his way to a place where he can now talk in very big numbers indeed.
In terms of distance, he has not travelled that far. Steve began life in Middleton and now he is based on Gelderd Road - a mere cough and a spit away - but separated, in his case, by several hundred million pounds.
Steve has come forward with a plan to develop a new iconic building for the city, and he is not shy about making his intentions clear.
The scheme isn’t firmed up yet and Steve doesn’t know if his towers will be glass like the original Lumiere concept, but the idea is that, within two and a half years, two towers of around twelve storeys each will exist.
“I want it to be a landmark building because I recognise the site’s symbolic value. It’s a good business deal but it’s also about putting something back.”
But how did it come to this? How did the miner from Middleton come to be the man with a plan to rescue our civic pride?
Basically, Steve is a walking template of how to leave school with no qualifications and then turn yourself into someone who thinks bigger than most of us would ever even dream -but he’s a bit of a contradiction too.
His personal wealth was last estimated at £102m, and that didn’t even include his string of around 40 racehorses from which he has made millions, nor his property portfolio and investment business.
In terms of flashiness, he has just ordered a red Ferrari F12 and has years of driving Aston Martins under his belt, but he is also a private man and says talking to the press is the worst part of his job.
“When I was on the way up I wanted everyone to know about it, but now I try more and more to go under the radar. I’ve been asked to do everything from Secret Millionaire to Dragon’s Den, but I won’t. But I admit there is a contradiction in what I do and my desire to stay away from publicity.”
Back in the beginning, he joined Asda as a trainee butcher straight from school, but then he discovered he could earn more money as a miner in the pit at Rothwell, so he left to do that.
But, good money or not, eighteen months was all he could stand, so he gained an HGV licence. By the age of 21, he was delivering fish from Aberdeen to Yorkshire.
Eventually he branched out in the delivery business from fish to fashion and started working for a fashion wholesaler in Leeds.
By the age of 28 he was a man with a van running his own business, driving the length of the country - but gradually, the work built up and turned into what is called “logistics”: taking stock out of the box, putting it on a hanger, ticketing it and delivering it to the store.
He reckons the entrepreneurial streak came from his dad, who had a fish business in Leeds market. He has two brothers, one a banker and the other a builder, and a sister who works for Burtons. He is the strange, entrepreneurial one.
By 1992 he had formed his present company, Clipper Logistics, and soon had a turnover of several million pounds and a workforce of 200 people. It wasn’t all straightforward though. Business is a roller-coaster and strictly for people with nerve - and sometimes a bit of luck.
When one of his biggest customers got into trouble, it looked like Steve’s success could be over and his business would go under, but then he bumped into Philip Green, a man whose business sense means he runs Arcadia, a company which owns many of our high street shops.
Steve already knew the retail king, and told him his business was about to go bust. The result was six postdated cheques, each for £50,000, to cover rent and wages. It took three years to pay him back, but it was a lucky break.
By the millennium, when most of us were wondering if computers would go into meltdown as the year 2000 began, Steve had different thoughts on his mind; he was busy buying companies and acquiring the right staff.
Now he runs a business with a turnover of £220m, employs three and a half thousand people and works with the county’s biggest companies.
“What we do isn’t rocket science, I just want to keep it simple,” he says.
Away from work, he lives in a seven-bedroom house in north Leeds with his wife Joanne and their four children, aged 11 to six.
He met Joanne in a pub in Guiseley one Sunday afternoon and they have been married for 12 years. The couple share five cars between them, the children are all in private school, and Steve worries about their future for slightly different reasons than most of us.
“It makes me anxious when I think of all the money there is,” he says.
Those who don’t know Steve’s name from the business world may well know him from the world of football, because that is the other passion in his life. He owns Guiseley Football Club and has always been a Leeds United fan.
He failed a trial there aged 14 and it broke his heart, he says, but it’s fair to say he bounced back. In fact, he has tried to buy the club more than once, and his name has been in the ownership frame for the last ten years.
“I am a lifelong fan. I used to play truant from school to go watch them train.
“When the club hit the buffers in 2003 I had a plan with three other businessmen to acquire it in a deal that would have cost £5m, or so we thought.
“But it turned out to be a lot more money than that, and I just didn’t have the financial firepower.”
This year he again went into negotiations, this time with the aim of buying a 51 per cent stake in the club. Steve is the kind of man who, if he likes the product, really does want to buy the company.
He travelled to Dubai for talks and the legal work got under way, though negotiations eventually stalled.
He said: “Any deal you do with Leeds United is played out in the spotlight. I could buy a controlling share, that isn’t the problem, it’s the money that would need to be spent after that to make the club the success I know it can be.
“It has been underfunded for so long, it would need £40-£50m. I would be mad keen to get involved but my family would not be happy if I put that amount of money into the club. I wouldn’t, it is just too risky.
“You have to have nerve to do what I have done, but the risk has always been calculated. My headmaster wrote on my final school report that he struggled to imagine what I would do with my life, but that my one saving grace was that I was a born leader. I have never followed anybody, that is just how I am.”