Wednesday, December 24, 2014

‘We know we’re underachieving’ - Liam Cooper comments on Leeds United’s season

Here is the City 24/12/14
Billy Hawkins
The Whites have suffered a season of confusion and uncertainty, with managerial changes and ownership problems evolving into an impending transfer embargo.
Having started the season with Dave Hockaday in charge, before moving through Neil Redfearn as a caretaker manager, and Darko Milanic for a short spell, the Yorkshire-based club have finally found some stability under Redfearn in his first full-time role as head coach of the Whites.
Results are still not overly forthcoming - with no win in three games - and Leeds sit in 18th place, just five points off the final relegation place.
A chance of securing a play-off place is looking increasingly distant with each passing week - with a 14 point gap now opened up on 6th place Watford - and it looks as if the rest of this season will be used to continue stabilising the club before building ahead of a promising season next year.
Redfearn has done much to work on a number of the problems surrounding the club at the beginning of the campaign, deciding on a fairly consistent first-team and allowing a number of outcast players to leave the club on loan to reduce the wage bill of the club already hit by FFP restrictions.
But the former academy coach will be judged on his results, and central defender Liam Cooper is keen to see the Whites kick-start their season on Boxing Day, when Leeds host Wigan at Elland Road - knowing that the club have underachieved so far this term.
Speaking to the official Leeds website, Cooper said: “I think anybody would say in this league that there’s no easy game. We’ll certainly approach it [the Wigan game] in the right way.
“We want to climb that table. We know we’re underachieving and we want to be higher.
“The fans need that as well so hopefully we can push right up the league.”
Thankfully for Redfearn, his previous roles at Elland Road have given him the backing of the fans, and his willingness to utilise the youth produced by the Whites has made him a crowd favourite.
He will be given more time to turn around results in Yorkshire, and it could be this support which sees him turn things around, and finally lead the club up the Championship table - and back into the Premier League.

Leeds United: ‘I will be back’ says Cellino

Yorkshire Evening Post 23/12/14
by Phil Hay
Massimo Cellino’s disqualification as owner of Leeds has been delayed until the end of his appeal, scheduled for January 15.
The League announced yesterday (Dec 23) that Cellino’s appeal hearing would be staged next month and confirmed that it had agreed to postpone punishment of him until after a verdict was returned.
The governing body will allow Cellino to remain as a Leeds director while his appeal is being considered by its Professional Conduct Committee (PCC), despite initially ordering him to resign before the end of this month.
Cellino was disqualified from owning United on December 1 due to a tax conviction imposed on him by a court in Cagliari.
The 58-year-old is challenging the decision but the Football League informed him at the outset that he was required to quit the board at Elland Road within 28 days, a deadline which fell on Monday of next week.
Cellino was due to regain control of Leeds on March 18, 2015, the date on which his conviction for tax evasion is spent under UK law.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Football League said: “The original decision required Mr Cellino to resign as a director of Leeds United and cease acting as a ‘relevant person’ in line with Football League regulations by December 29. The League has agreed to defer that deadline until two days after the handing down of the final decision of the PCC. As a consequence, the parties have agreed that if Mr Cellino is unsuccessful in his appeal, any disqualification period will be extended by an amount equivalent to the length of time between December 29 and the deferred deadline.”
Cellino admitted a fortnight ago that he was prepared to quit on December 29, telling United’s directors that we would stand down to prevent the club facing further sanctions from the League.
“I don’t want to bring any problems on the club so if I have to resign in 28 days and then wait to finish my appeal, I will,”
Cellino said. “I’m fighting this and we think we will win so after the appeal I will be back.”
The delay will allow Cellino to actively control Leeds throughout the January transfer window, with a verdict from his appeal expected to arrive up to three weeks after the hearing.
Neither Cellino nor United have outlined a contingency plan for managing the club if he is forced to step away.
The League, meanwhile, has made no comment on whether it expects Cellino to attempt to sell his and Eleonora Sport Ltd’s 75 per cent stake in United should his disqualification stand.
Cellino’s legal representatives want his appeal to be heard by a three-man PCC panel made up of two Football League directors and an independent barrister.
The Football League has confirmed that the committee will again be chaired Tim Kerr QC, the man who overturned a bid by the League to block Cellino’s takeover of Leeds in March.
The appeal is likely to be heard in a single day.

Leeds’ Giuseppe Bellusci charged with racist abuse of Cameron Jerome

Guardian 22/12/14
Louise Taylor
Leeds United’s Giuseppe Bellusci will contest a misconduct charge from the Football Association following allegations that the central defender directed a racist comment towards the Norwich City striker Cameron Jerome.
The incident occurred during a 1-1 Championship draw at Carrow Road in October and involved Jerome making a complaint to the referee, Mark Clattenburg, in the wake of a first half confrontation between the two players.
Jerome told Clattenburg that he had been verbally abused by the 25-year-old Italian and the referee temporarily stopped the game before exchanging words with both dugouts.
After the match, Neil Adams, the Norwich manager, brought the issue into the public domain.
“Cameron has alleged that he was the subject of a racist comment,” he said. “Mark Clattenberg spoke to Cameron because of the way he had reacted. He spoke to the players at half-time with a representative from each club. Bellusci is the player who was alleged to have made the remark.”
The FA have now confirmed they have been investigating Cameron’s complaint and in a statement alleged that Bellusci’s language “included a reference to ethnic origin/and or colour and/or race”. This language constitutes an “aggravated breach” of their rules regarding abusive and insulting language.
The defender, who was signed from Catania for £1.6m in the summer, has until 2 January to respond to the charge and will be backed to the hilt by the controversial Leeds owner, Massimo Cellino, who says he maintains a zero tolerance policy towards racism at Elland Road and suggested things have got lost in translation.
“Bellusci is no racist,” Cellino told the Yorkshire Evening Post. “I spoke with him and he said: ‘You must be joking, I said nothing like this to him.’ He is surprised by this. He is shocked.
“I don’t allow racists at this club and I won’t allow racists at this club ever. If one of my players is a racist, I’ll kick his arse and kick him out before the FA has a chance.
“Bellusci says he spoke [to Jerome] in Italian. I don’t know if [Jerome] speaks Italian too but Bellusci swears to me he said nothing racist.
“He was pissed off, sure, because he got hit in the neck and the face but he denies anything racist. I believe him and I’ll support him. If any Leeds player was shown to be a racist, he’d be out. That’s my philosophy and my promise.”
Citing what they believe is a lack of witnesses to the incident, Leeds also released a statement confirming Bellusci – a one-time team-mate of Mario Balotelli during the pair’s time in Italy’s Under-21 squad – would be challenging the charge.
“The player has consistently made it clear to the club that he did not use racist language,” it said. “The club understands that there is no third party evidence supporting Mr Jerome’s allegation. Accordingly, the player will be contesting the charge.”

Head coach Redfearn full of praise for young midfielder Lewis Cook 22/12/14
Head coach Neil Redfearn hailed the importance of Lewis Cook to his side after another impressive display from the 17-year-old midfielder.
Cook has been a regular fixture in a youthful-looking United midfield ever since Redfearn handed him a first Championship start in August’s home win over Bolton.
The Academy product, who now has 21 first-team appearances to his name, stood out again during Saturday’s 1-1 draw away to Nottingham Forest.
"Lewis Cook, 17-years-old, he was the best player on the pitch by a mile," said Redfearn. "There were some good signs for us on Saturday.
"He’s one of ours and he wants to play for Leeds United, that’s all he’s known.
"He’s a massive influence on us and how we play. Even at the tender age of 17, there’s a maturity about him.
"He’s got this strength in character and he’s getting better and better."
Redfearn was also full of praise for goalkeeper Marco Silvestri, who pulled off a number of fine stops to help secure the point.
"Some of his saves were out of the top drawer," said the head coach. "The shot from Michail Antonio that was curling in and he got right across – how he got to it I don’t know.
"They’re young guys and they’re outstanding young talents."
The game at the City Ground saw goalscorer Billy Sharp make his first start for the club since September, while the likes of Steve Morison and Michael Tonge were introduced off the bench after finding themselves limited to appearances in recent weeks.
"I said to the boys right from the off, ‘we’ve got a big squad and everybody’s involved’, Redfearn explained. "Sometimes the lads that are out of the picture find it difficult to take on board but they are. Steve Morison came in and did a good job for us.
"Sharpy came in and did a good job for us; Tongey came off the bench and did a good job for us.
"These are players that we’ve got to use and make sure that we get the benefit of them."

Nottm Forest 1 Leeds United 1: Sharp proves spot on as fortune favours Leeds

Yorkshire Post 22/12/14
NEVER mind Strictly for Saturday night viewing, it was more the Ex-Factor at the City Ground.
The one basking in the limelight was Billy Sharp, who netted against one of his former clubs, although he did have to share star billing with team-mates Lewis Cook and Marco Silvestri.
Some choice contributions from the officials also drew top marks from Leeds supporters, entitled to reflect on things going their way on the road for once.
Sharp was on hand to cancel out Matty Fryatt’s opener just before the break, with the striker, making his first start since September 16, assuming penalty-taking duties after Danny Fox brought down Sam Byram in the 54th minute.
Sharp, who spent the 2012-13 season on loan at Forest, blasted the ball past Karl Darlow, and there was more drama to come
 It arrived just after the hour mark when Fryatt, after having a 21st-minute ‘goal’ ruled out for offside when replays showed he was played onside by Byram, was again forced to rue his misfortune after having another legitimate effort chalked off.
This was the cue to a cascade of boos from angry Forest supporters following a video replay of the ‘goal’ along with a chorus of “You don’t know what you’re doing” to the officials.
Not that Sharp or Leeds were complaining and while they rode their luck at times, their application and overall resilience deserved a point with Cook further enhancing his reputation with a masterful display and Silvestri making some key saves.
On the two disallowed ‘goals’, Sharp, who struck for just the second time for United, said: “The linesman got the first one right. I think that one was offside, but obviously we have seen on the big screens that he got the second one wrong. But it evens itself out through the season.
“There was a penalty in the game at Blackburn which wasn’t a penalty and decisions even themselves out over the season and I am glad that one went in our favour.
“It was important we did get something out of the game as our away performances aren’t good enough at the minute. I think everyone would have taken a point before the game at Nottingham Forest. Hopefully, the fans are happy with the character we showed in getting a point at the end.”
On claiming the penalty, Sharp added: “I was selfish but I am a striker and I want to score goals and get the team back in the game. Mirco (Antenucci) wanted the penalty as well, which was good. It is good to have people who want the penalty.”

Nottingham Forest 1 Leeds United 1: Away point is timely boost – Sharp

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/12/14
by Phil Hay
Billy Sharp claimed his first goal since August to earn Leeds United a point at Nottingham Forest and claimed he and his team-mates should take confidence from a rare and battling point away from home.
Sharp’s 54th-minute penalty – his first effort for Leeds since scoring on his debut against Middlesbrough four months ago – secured a 1-1 draw in Nottingham on Saturday, putting more ground between Leeds and the Championship’s bottom three.
United fought back from a Matty Fryatt strike in first-half injury-time to avert an 11th league defeat of the season, surviving two further finishes from Fryatt which were controversially disallowed for offside.
Leeds’ woeful away form – showing six points from 11 games – led to a rethink by head coach Neil Redfearn, who recalled Sharp in place of Souleymane Doukara at the City Ground and initially used a 4-3-3 formation in place of his usual midfield diamond.
Sharp said: “I was playing a bit wider than I usually do and Forest were forcing me to go back. I had to do a job for the team and it was tough but if we’d got in at 0-0 at half-time then the game plan would have worked.
“Once we got back into the game in the second half we grew in confidence, got further up the pitch and looked more dangerous.
“Not having won away from home since Bournemouth (in September) is a long time so it was important to get something out of the game.
“Our away performances aren’t good enough at the minute but everyone would have taken a point before the game. Hopefully the fans are happy with the character we showed in getting a point at the end.”
Sharp – a former Nottingham Forest player – insisted on taking United’s penalty ahead of top scorer Mirco Antenucci after Daniel Fox tripped Sam Byram inside Forest’s box.
The striker beat goalkeeper Karl Darlow with a firm finish high into the net.
“I was selfish with it,” Sharp said, “but I’m a striker and I want to score goals. Mirco wanted the penalty as well which was good. It’s good to have people who want to take it. I’ve played with Darlow and I’ve taken a few penalties against him. I was a little bit nervous so I thought I’d put my foot through it and hope he dived out of the way. That’s what happened. I was just happy to see it go in the net.”
Forest boss Stuart Pearce bemoaned his side’s misfortune afterwards following Fryatt’s two disallowed efforts.
The forward saw one close-range finish ruled out midway through the second half and had another disallowed shortly after Sharp’s equaliser.
Forest broke from convention by replaying the second incident in slow motion on their big screen, leading the crowd at the City Ground to vent their frustration at the match officials.
Sharp said: “The linesman got the first one right. I think that one was offside. Obviously we’ve seen on the big screens that he got the second one wrong. But it evens itself out through the season.
“There was a penalty in our game at Blackburn which wasn’t a penalty so I am glad one went in our favour.”

Nottingham Forest 1 Leeds United 1: Redfearn hails Cook display at Forest

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/12/14
by Phil Hay
Neil Redfearn described Lewis Cook as the “best player on the pitch by a mile” after a 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest and warned rival clubs that Leeds United would not welcome any bids for the 17-year-old when the January transfer window opens.
Cook’s mature performance was the stand-out display in a tight game at the City Ground on Saturday and Redfearn believes the teenager is set for a long-term career at Elland Road, saying: “He’s a Leeds lad and he wants to play for this club.”
The England youth international – part of the international squad who won the European Under-17 Championship earlier this year – is halfway through his first season as a senior player at United and has consistently met the standards of the Championship.
His contribution at Forest helped Leeds ride their luck and claim a precious point away from home on an evening when Forest saw two legitimate goals from striker Matty Fryatt ruled out for offside.
Cook, who came through United’s academy at Thorp Arch, is under contract at Leeds until 2016 and has rapidly become one of the most valuable members of Redfearn’s squad, despite his young age.
Asked if he was worried about approaches for Cook in the January transfer window, Redfearn said: “If we’re going to be great again, if we’re going to be successful again and climb the table, then we’ve got to keep these lads.
“That’s what football’s about – keeping your top players and your top young players and then adding to the squad.
“You don’t ever want to let good players go.
“He was the best player on the pitch by a mile and you have to remember sometimes that the guy’s only 17 years old.
“I look at him and see this maturity. His touch and his awareness is there for everyone to see. He’s going to get better and the good thing is he’s a Leeds lad. He wants to play for this club.”
United are planning signings of their own next month after a difficult first half of the season but the result in Nottingham on Saturday moved them six points clear of the Championship’s relegation zone ahead of a meeting with 23rd-placed Wigan Athletic on Boxing Day.
Leeds have been troubled by poor away form all season, winning only one of 11 fixtures, but a Billy Sharp penalty on 54 minutes cancelled out a goal from Fryatt seconds before half-time, securing a valuable point.
Redfearn said: “The home form we’re getting right.
“We’ve been picking up points at home and the performances have been good but I have to say that the performances away from home have been getting better as a whole, without us getting results. There was a resilience about us (at Forest) and a will to get something.
“In the end the point was richly deserved. We needed a performance like that and a bit of belief.”
Midfielder Rodolph Austin and defender Giuseppe Bellusci missed United’s trip to Nottingham with minor injuries but both players are due to return for Friday’s meeting with Wigan at Elland Road.
Austin underwent fitness work at Thorp Arch on Saturday and is all but recovered from his ankle injury.
Summer signing Bellusci is also close to overcoming a hamstring strain and should resume full training ahead of the clash with Wigan.
Sharp, meanwhile, left the field with cramp midway through the second half at Forest but is not carrying an injury.
“Rudy could possibly have been on the bench but I thought it was right for him to get a bit more training under his belt,” Redfearn said. “It would have been wrong for me to put him in a position where there was some doubt about him.
“Giuseppe will probably go back into full training this week so he’s on the mend too.”

Nottingham Forest 1 Leeds United 1: Whites ride their luck for rare away point

Yorkshire Evening Post 21/12/14
by Phil Hay
It’s been creeping up quietly but Leeds United’s game against Wigan Athletic on Boxing Day is shaping up to be their most consequential for a while. Win it and the club will have clear water to swim in. Lose it and their position in the Championship will look more than a little dicey.
Leeds lightened the mood in the week before Christmas with a draw away to Nottingham Forest, and a precious draw at that, but their season is crying out for a rise in the win-rate. On Saturday they showed again that they have the wit to take points off useful teams in the Championship. The question in the second half of the season will be how many and how often.
Billy Sharp’s 54th-minute penalty forced a 1-1 draw at the City Ground and the scoreline was all Leeds wanted to think about. Forest complained about the tackle leading to Sharp’s goal and two Matty Fryatt efforts disallowed for offside but United have had bad luck when they’ve had any this season. Without an away victory since the middle of September, the result counted. As far as Neil Redfearn was concerned, everything else was white noise.
United’s head coach will have the same mindset when Wigan come to Elland Road on Friday. Last season’s play-off semi-finalists are hopelessly lost in the relegation places, six points from safety and seven behind Leeds. It’s a pressure game but an opportunity too – a potential lifeline for Wigan but a chance for United to edge further from harm’s way. Six wins from 22 matches have made it that sort of delicate campaign but the walls are not caving in yet.
Stuart Pearce, Forest’s manager, was philosophical about offside decisions afterwards and honest about his side’s mediocre position in the league. “It’s a congested division,” he said, “and a lot of teams behind us will fancy their chances. We’re still waiting for Brighton and Wigan to get moving too but they will.” His last comment hung in the air. As the two sides in 22nd and 23rd place respectively, Leeds do not want to be within reach if or when that resurgence comes.
A six-pointer against Wigan then? “We’ve just got to take every game on its merit,” Redfearn said. “We can’t assume anything about anyone.
“The only way we’ll get better and more consistent is by concentrating on our own game. In this division every side is capable of beating one another. You can’t take your eye off the ball.
“But a draw at Forest is a good result for us and our home form’s been good. So we got to capitalise now.”
It is that which Leeds have been unable to do – turn the screw whenever the impetus has swung their way. As resounding as their win over Derby County was last month, it was also one of two in their past 14 games. “Like I’ve said before, the 10 games when I wasn’t in charge here got us six points,” Redfearn said. “That’s a problem. It means every time you take a step back, the league table looks much worse. But to be fair, an away performance has been coming and this point was richly deserved.”
Leeds had two of the better chances before half-time but Forest got the goal, on the cusp of half-time. Prior to it, a deflected shot from Alex Mowatt slipped beyond a post after Tommaso Bianchi sent Sam Byram down the right wing, and an off-balance volley from Jason Pearce flew over an exposed net from close range soon after. Forest’s keeper, Karl Darlow, was stranded on his back having blocked Mirco Antenucci’s strike with his legs.
There was nothing in the half and not a huge amount in the whole game, much as Forest felt aggrieved at full-time. They had cause for complaint after 23 minutes when Fryatt stabbed Michail Antonio’s cross into the net, only to turn and see an offside flag waving at him. The linesman failed to spot Byram playing him on.
In amongst those moments of fleeting drama, more entertainment came from a lone and half-hearted pitch invader, a Forest supporter who fancied spending the last weekend before Christmas in the cells. Half-time had almost arrived when Forest raised the noise with the opening goal.
It relied on little creativity – Michael Mancienne rising to head a corner towards goal and Fryatt arriving unmarked to knock the ball over the line – but there was familiarity about the manner of the concession.
Leeds have an inherent weakness under high balls, a weakness that has cost them too often this season. Giuseppe Bellusci was injured again on Saturday and Liam Cooper led the fight alongside a partner in Pearce who would benefit from an injection of confidence. You wonder if a new centre-back will be on United’s list of requirements for January.
“They hadn’t deserved to score when they did and we’d defended well up until then,” Redfearn said. “We tracked players and we got bodies in the way so the goal was disappointing but it was important at half-time to give out the right message.
“You can flatten all the good work you’ve done by dwelling on one bad thing but the bottom line was that we’d played well. And at 1-0, you’ve always got a chance.
“That dawned on us in the second half and I think it crept into Forest’s game too. They’ve had a dodgy run at home and we played on that a little bit. We had a strong 20 minutes.”
Half-time still brought a shift in United’s formation. Sharp for Souleymane Doukara was the only change of personnel before kick-off – the physical Rudy Austin might have played too had he been fit – and a 4-3-3 system was Redfearn’s initial answer to his side’s vulnerability away from home.
At the start of the second half, with Fryatt’s goal on the board, he turned back to a midfield diamond and teased an equaliser from the match on 54 minutes. Byram, who fought a terrific battle with Antonio throughout the evening, took a pass from Antenucci inside Forest’s box and drew Daniel Fox into a trip with a quick change of feet. Referee Roger East awarded a penalty and Sharp, playing against one of his former clubs, smashed the ball high into the net.
Fryatt found the net again when he eased through the middle of United’s defence in the 62nd minute. A flag rose against him again. “It’s not a case of ‘he might have scored a hat-trick’,” Pearce said. “Matty did score a hat-trick.” Fryatt got the man-of-the-match award but the player who presented it to him, United’s Lewis Cook, deserved it more.
Marco Silvestri kept the match level towards the end by pulling off excellent saves from Robert Tesche and Henri Lansbury and Sharp almost beat Darlow with a well-hit volley.
Souleymane Doukara came off the bench and drew Darlow into a low parry as Forest found themselves short of numbers.
The game seemed to have a winning goal in it but time ran out as Britt Assombalonga, a Forest substitute, nodded a header inches wide.
Redfearn painted a positive picture afterwards, a picture of a squad who are gradually feeling their way into some rhythm. “I see belief developing in what they’re doing,” he said. “These guys have beaten Bournemouth and Derby and those clubs have been top of the league. So we are very capable. We just need some consistency and some space to relax.” A win over Wigan would see to that.

Nottingham Forest v Leeds United: Redfearn hails dogged Whites

Yorkshire Evening Post 20/12/14
NEIL REDFEARN hailed a dogged performance from his Leeds United side, who started to put several painful recent episodes on the road behind them with a gritty point in a 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest.
Leeds battled back from a 1-0 interval deficit to claim a share of the spoils in front of the TV cameras after Billy Sharp, playing against one of his former clubs, netted a 54th-minute penalty in his first start since September 16.
United started the game in 20th position in the Championship and suffered a further blow moments before the break when Matty Fryatt latched onto Michael Mancienne’s header to net from close range.
It was another poor concession from Leeds, but to their credit, Redfearn’s side manufactured a leveller in the second half with Roger East showing no hesitation in pointing to the spot after Danny Fox brought down Sam Byram.
Sharp blasted home the penalty, just his second goal since joining Leeds.
That said, Leeds were indebted to a couple of controversial calls from the officials with goals in the 21st and 61st minutes from Fryatt chalked off due to offside, with replays showing that both goals were onside.
But even accounting for that controversy, Redfearn felt his side were full value for a point, with the head coach believing that in Lewis Cook, Leeds possessed the stand-out player on the pitch on the day by a country mile.
Redfearn said: “I thought the players were excellent with the way we applied ourselves and competed and battled and fought.
“I thought we deserved to keep a clean sheet in the first half and the goal wasn’t good from our point of view.
“But I thought the overall performance and the diligence and the way we went to a 4-4-2 to see out the game made it a really good away performance.
“We have got it right at home and have picked up results and played well. But we were dogged today, which was a good sign. What you will find is that eventually you will turn those draws into wins away from home.
“We came in at half-time and it was a positive spin as we had done well. We were upbeat and wanted to make sure we were on the front foot and positive in the second half and we did exactly that.
“It was a great run from Sam Byram to get brought down for the penalty and I was pleased for Billy Sharp. I thought he earned his penalty as he worked so hard for the team.”
Saluting the performance also of keeper Marco Silvestri, who made some key saves, particularly in the second half, he added: “Some of the saves were out of the top-drawer. We have some young guys who are outstanding talents.”

Match report: Nottingham Forest 1 Leeds United 1

Yorkshire Post 20/12/14
BILLY SHARP’S second goal of the season ensured Leeds United secured a welcome point on their travels at the City Ground, ending a run of three successive Championship defeats on the road.
Sharp, taking the field against a side who he played for on loan throughout the 2012-13 campaign, fired home from the spot nine minutes after the interval after Sam Byram was felled by Danny Fox to cancel out Matty Fryatt’s opener moments before the break.
It ensured Leeds took something tangible home from an away game for the first time since drawing 1-1 at Norwich on October 21, although they were indebted to two big pieces of fortune during proceedings in the East Midlands.
Both revolved around goalscorer Fryatt, denied by a linesman’s flag on 21 minutes and shortly after the hour mark, with replays seeming to show that both efforts should have been given.
Both decisions provided plenty of talking points following the final whistle - with the officials booed off by disgruntled home fans, but Neil Redfearn will be far more concerned lauding a hard-earned point after seeing his side come from behind.
Marco Silvestri showed his mettle on occasions to make some important saves, with Lewis Cook also adding to his reputation with another accomplished performance, with Leeds grafting hard to claim a deserved point.
Much pre-match conjecture centred on whether Redfearn would elect to ring the changes after last weekend’s lame performance against Fulham.
But in the event, the United head coach, accompanied by assistant Steve Thompson in the technical area for the first time, made just one change, with Sharp handed his first start since September 16 in place of Souleymane Doukara, demoted to the bench.
Steve Morison was named as one of United’s replacements, with Giuseppe Bellusci and Rudy Austin remaining sidelined with injury.
Forest surprisingly dropped 12-goal top-scorer Britt Assombalonga to the bench, with Fryatt taking his place in a starting line-up which also contained former Whites loan players Dexter Blackstock and Eric Lichaj.
After some aberations in their recent away games at Ipswich and Blackburn, the onus was firmly on Leeds keeping their discipline and above all, cutting out unneccessary errors, which they managed to do for virtually all of the first period before fatally blotting their copybook again shortly before the interval.
It provided Forest, who turned in a pretty low-key performance for the vast majority of the first period, with an early Christmas present, with the beneficiary being Fryatt on 45 minutes.
The former Hull City striker, stationed near the far post, converted from close range after Michael Mancienne was left unchallenged in the box following a corner on the right, with the Forest captain’s header falling invitingly into his path.
It was another rank-bad concession from Leeds, who had their moments in the first half, particularly early on, playing a 4-3-3 system, with Sharp and Mirco Antenucci supporting Adryan, operating in a central role.
Forest, fielding a 3-5-2 system, with Michail Antonio and Jack Hunt operating as wingbacks and Mancienne playing in a holding midfield role, struggled for rhythm for much of the first period, with Leeds producing the more accomplished football.
An early chance saw Tommaso Bianchi supply Sam Byram on the right and his cut-back was latched onto by Alex Mowatt, whose shot was deflected just off target.
Then on 15 minutes, a very presentable chance fall Leeds’ way with Karl Darlow blocking Antenucci’s shot, with the rebound falling into the path of Jason Pearce, but he ballooned the loose ball off target in wasteful fashion.
Leeds were indebted to an offside flag seven minutes later, when Fryatt diverted Antonio’s cross into the net, only for any impending celebrations to soon be cut short.
The first booking then arrived when Mancienne felled Adryan before Byram was also handed a caution for bringing down Antonio.
Play began somewhat more fragmented for much of the rest of the half, with Forest forced into making a change on 41 minutes when Blackstock, struggling with a knee problem, saw his evening cut short with Assombalonga coming onto replace him.
Then came the decisive moment of the half when Fryatt tucked away a gift-wrapped opener - his fifth goal of the campaign for the Reds.
Forced to do things the hard way on their travels again, Leeds were assigned with another examination of character for seemingly the umpteenth time this term.
But redemption was at hand with a leveller arriving on 54 minutes from the penalty spot.
A raking pass from Mowatt saw the Forest rearguard on the back foot with Antenucci latching onto the throughball before supplying Byram, who showed nifty footwork inside the box ahead of being bundled over by Fox, with referee East pointing to the spot.
Sharp assumed responsibilities and blasted the ball home emphatically to put United on terms.
Rattled they may have been, but Forest soon poured forward in a bid to regain the initiative with Hunt meekly firing a lame volley at Silvestri with plenty of the goal to aim at with Leeds’ defence opened up.
Another scare arrived shortly before the hour mark when Antonio’s long-ranger was tipped over one-handed by Silvestri before a linesman’s flag again came to the Whites rescue.
Again, the unfortunate party as far as Forest were concerned was Fryatt, with the hosts, once again, left to rue their luck.
Fryatt latched onto Mancienne’s finish to fire the ball home, with replays showing the striker was level and therefore onside.
Video evidence drew a cascade of boos from Forest’s irate supporters, complete with a Chorus of You Don’t Know You’re Doing in the direction of the officials.
United also rubbed salt into the wounds for Forest fans when a telling break led by Lewis Cook ended with the teeanger picking out Sharp, whose angled volley was blocked in the nick of time, although not exactly convincingly by Darlow at his near post.
But by and large, the pressure was applied by the hosts, with Silvestri scrambling across goal to block Robert Tesche’s effort before producing an acrobatic save to deny Henri Lansbury, whose curler seemed destined for the net.
An Antonio header was then blocked as Forest continued to carve out opportunities with Leeds increasingly in retreat.
Three minutes from the end, sub Doukara saw a low shot beaten away by Darlow while at the other end, Forest failed to conjure a winner, with the closest they managed coming when Assombalonga headed wide just before the final whistle.

Nottingham Forest 1-1 Leeds United: Billy Sharp returns to haunt his old club as his second-half penalty earns United a draw

Mail 20/12/14
Matty Fryatt had two goals ruled out in controversial fashion as Nottingham Forest were denied a Sky Bet Championship victory over Leeds at the City Ground.
The Reds striker had given Stuart Pearce's side the lead in first-half injury-time - but either side of that he had two efforts ruled out for offside, with television replays suggesting they should have stood.
And Neil Redfearn's side secured a 1-1 draw as former Forest player Billy Sharp netted emphatically from the spot in the 54th minute, after Sam Byram had been tripped by Danny Fox.
Leeds goalkeeper Marco Silvestri produced a string of outstanding saves to hold Forest at bay as the home side pushed for a winner.
The two major incidents of the first half both involved Fryatt prodding home from close range.
In the 22nd minute, the striker found the back of the net from close range, when he deflected a Michail Antonio cross-shot beyond keeper Silvestri - only to see his effort ruled out for offside. It looked a close decision and replays suggested that it was a wrong one, as Byram looked to have played Fryatt onside.
The former Hull man was not to be denied for a second time, however, and when he forced the ball home in similar circumstances at the end of the first half, this time there was to be no intervention from the officials.
This time it was a header from Michael Mancienne that Fryatt steered into the back of the net, from close range, to give the home side the lead.
While Forest will have felt a sense of injustice at having a goal ruled out, Leeds will themselves have been scratching their heads over how they had not scored.
In the 14th minute, Alex Mowatt saw a driven shot, from the periphery of the box, take a massive deflection that sent it spinning inches wide of the post.
Almost immediately afterwards, Mirco Antenucci's shot was brilliantly saved by Karl Darlow, who should have been beaten when the ball rebounded to Jason Pearce, just a few yards out - but the defender skied his shot wildly over the bar.
Leeds did draw level after the break, as Danny Fox stuck out a leg to trip Sam Byram, with referee Roger East pointing to the spot. Sharp blasted the spot-kick down the middle.
This sparked Forest into life, with the home side coming close to scoring three times.
Jack Hunt shot straight at the keeper when he might have done better, Antonio forced a superb save with a driven shot and Robert Tesche sent a free header over the bar.
Then came another moment of controversy, as Fryatt had another goal chalked off for a debatable offside decision, again Forest thought the goal should have stood.
In the space of a few minutes Tesche, Henri Lansbury and Antonio were denied by outstanding stops from Silvestri, who was in inspired form.
However, Darlow had to make a strong save of his own at the other end in the closing stages, to prevent Sharp snatching all three points for the visitors.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Leeds United: Redfearn’s expecting new arrivals

Yorkshire Evening Post 20/12/14
by Phil Hay
Neil Redfearn is confident that Leeds United will sign new players next month, with the club optimistic about their chances of securing a deal for Sassuolo striker Leonardo Pavoletti.
Redfearn said he and owner Massimo Cellino had held talks about their plans for the January window and discussed ways of working around the transfer embargo imposed on the club at the start of this week.
Leeds will be banned from paying transfer or loans fees next month – their punishment for breaking Financial Fair Play regulations – but loopholes in the Football League’s rules should allow them to sign players for a maximum of £600,000 a year in salary costs.
Pavoletti, 26, would fit into that bracket and is on United’s radar again after the club failed with an attempt to recruit him before the end of the summer window.
Leeds were in talks with Sassuolo – a club from whom they signed midfielder Tommaso Bianchi in July – on the night of September 1 but could not agree the terms of a move.
United sporting director Nicola Salerno said he was hopeful of reaching a deal with Sassuolo next month but admitted that the transfer would depend on the forward’s willingness to move to England.
Salerno told Italian media: “I’ve liked this player for years and he has been considered by Leeds already in the past.
“I get along well with him and the president (Cellino) and I have a good relationship with Sassuolo.
“We could close a deal without any problems. It depends on the guy because I don’t know what he wants to do.”
Pavoletti has spent most of his career in Italy’s Serie B but he scored his first top-flight goal in a game between Sassuolo and Palermo last weekend. Palermo are also said to be interested in the 6’2” forward.
An imposing striker is one of United’s priorities in January, along with an experienced central midfielder.
A total of three Championship clubs were hit with embargoes for breaching FFP rules – Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers, along with Leeds – but the restrictions do not prevent signings altogether.
Head coach Redfearn said: “We’ve still got the facility to bring some signings in.
“There’s an embargo but we’ve identified areas that we need to strengthen.
“I spoke to Massimo about the potential players we could get so we’re well aware of all that. It’s being dealt with.”

Redfearn readies changes at Leeds as squad look to ‘bigger picture’

Yorkshire Post 19/12/14
NEIL REDFEARN has urged Leeds United’s squad to believe in themselves and focus on the “bigger picture” when they go in search of a sorely-needed away win at Nottingham Forest tomorrow.
The club’s head coach held his hands up to a bad fortnight in which Leeds were heavily beaten at Ipswich Town and edged out by a single goal at home to Fulham but he insisted again his side had shown steady improvement since his full-time appointment eight weeks ago.
United fell to 19th in the Championship after Fulham’s 1-0 win at Elland Road last weekend and the five-point gap between Redfearn’s squad and the bottom three could shrink ahead of their game tomorrow with Leeds due to kick-off a televised fixture at the City Ground at 5.15pm.
Redfearn is preparing to make changes to his starting line-up in response to the club’s last two results and a poor run of away form which has hampered their league position throughout the season.
United’s win at Championship leaders Bournemouth in September is their only away victory of the team and the likes of Michael Tonge and Rodolph Austin could be in line for a rare start at Forest as Redfearn attempts to tighten up his team.
His seven matches as full-time head coach have yielded seven points but the 49-year-old, who unveiled new assistant boss Steve Thompson yesterday, said: “The players have done really well. It’s easy to look at the last result or the last thing that’s happened but we’ve got to look at the bigger picture.
“Since we changed it (the head coach’s position) we’ve got better. That’s got to be the overriding feeling. It’s not right yet and we’re not where we need to be but we are getting there.
“After I came in the performances got better, culminating in the result against Derby a couple of weeks ago.
At Ipswich we didn’t play anywhere near like we can and we huffed and puffed against Fulham.
“If we’d won against Fulham nobody would have batted an eyelid because of the number of chances we had but that wasn’t us. It didn’t look like us. We just ran out of steam.
“We’re getting out of a fragile period and it does take time but the signs have been good. I’ve said before that we’ve got to be strong at this club.”

Thompson ready for challenges at Leeds United

Yorkshire Evening Post 19/12/14
A former manager of Leeds United was once heard to say that an assistant should be as loyal as his wife.
It helps to have someone watching your back, without the fear that they might stick a knife in it.
In Steve Thompson, Neil Redfearn has an assistant he can trust. The two men go back a very long way, to a time when they were teenagers chasing playing careers at the same English club. That they are close friends still, 30 years later, says a lot in an industry which tests and breaks the best of relationships.
Thompson’s appointment as United’s number two, confirmed by the club yesterday afternoon, felt almost as long in the making. Redfearn asked Leeds to tie him down immediately after his own appointment as head coach on November 1 and he has worked a hard and lonely shift in the weeks since then.
“I like putting out cones,” Redfearn joked last month but the lack of support for him was glaring, at a stage where the club’s season was listing.
With Thompson in place – on a deal which, in line with Redfearn’s, runs to the end of the season and offers the option of a second year – United’s boss has the staff he needs.
“It’ll be much easier in training now,” Redfearn said. “We can break things down and work on specific areas, rather than just giving the players a generic message. You need a specialist and you need to work as a pair.”
Redfearn never toyed with the idea of approaching someone else, even as Thompson’s arrival from Huddersfield Town dragged. Huddersfield played hardball when Leeds first asked about him, demanding compensation for one of their two first-team coaches, but they blinked eventually and let the 50-year-old leave for nothing in the end. Thompson watched United train at Thorp Arch for the first time yesterday morning.
“It must have been quite tough for Neil,” Thompson said. “He’s been on his own, dealing with a big squad and lot of players. It’ll be my job to take a bit of pressure off him. The two of us can bounce off each other.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for me. When a manager wants you and it’s Leeds United, all the signs are there. No-one had to persuade me. The only thing I wanted was for it to be done in the right way and it was. I thank Huddersfield for that.
“I know this division (the Championship) and I know what it takes to get out of it so hopefully I’ll be a good asset – firstly for the manager to take a bit of weight off him, and also to develop the players we’ve got here. For my first day I said to Redders ‘let me look at the players and get an opinion of them.’ From what I saw, there’s some fantastic ability out there.”
In employing a good friend (the best man at his wedding), Redfearn did not have to convince Leeds or the club’s owner, Massimo Cellino, that Thompson was qualified. Prior to joining Huddersfield this summer, Thompson worked as a first-team coach at Blackpool for eight years, promoted to that position by former Blackpool and Leeds manager Simon Grayson.
When Grayson left Bloomfield Road to take charge of Leeds in December of 2008, Thompson was expected to follow him here. Instead, Ian Miller and Glynn Snodin joined United’s backroom team. Six years on, the chance came again.
“There were negotiations back then but there was a breakdown between the clubs,” Thompson said. “There was a chance I could have been coming but unfortunately it fell through.
“Simon promoted me from within at Blackpool and I still speak to him regularly. I had some great times there.”
Thompson’s record at Bloomfield Road shows two promotions: one from League One during Grayson’s tenure and another, more unlikely rise into the Premier League while Ian Holloway was manager. Blackpool also reached the Championship play-off final in 2010. From time to time Thompson would step in as caretaker. Blackpool like Leeds have seen some upheaval.
Earlier this year he accepted an invitation to work as assistant to Mark Robins at Huddersfield. Huddersfield lost the first game of this season, 4-0 at home to Bournemouth, and Robins quit the following morning. From then on, Thompson was been part of a gang of four under Chris Powell; one coach too many in some people’s eyes. Alex Dyer replaced him as number two.
“It was a strange start,” Thompson said. “Robbo brought me in and then left after one game. I hope that wasn’t down to me! Chris came in next with Alex Dyer and they’ve been great with me but sometimes when you’ve got four around the first team, it’s a lot of numbers. They’ve got Steve Eyre there too. You don’t get to do as much as you would like. “So this is a great opportunity for me. Leeds are the original sleeping giant. People say that about other clubs but this is the one.”
It’s a sleeping giant that suffers from day and night terrors. Thompson won’t need Redfearn to tell him how perilous coaching jobs at Leeds have been since Cellino’s takeover in April. “I’ve been used to a few rollercoasters in my career,” Thompson said. “Don’t worry. We all want the same thing. We’ll try to galvanise the lads here and make sure they to enjoy coming to work. We want to do the best for them and we want them all to go on and make life-changing money – hopefully with Leeds.
“It’s about natural progression. The young lads – as good as they are, sometimes they’ll feel strong as a bull and sometimes they’ll feel weak as a kitten. Sometimes you need to pull them out and recharge their batteries a bit.
“But from watching training, they can all handle the ball and their technique’s fantastic. With a little bit of guidance, we can get the place going again. You just have to set realistic targets.
“The good thing about me and Neil is that we’re not yes-or-no men. If he asks for my opinion then I’ll give it to him. But once we come back out the door, we’ll agree on everything.”
Redfearn called Thompson’s arrival a “fillip for the club”. It is certainly a relief for him. United’s head coach has been isolated since taking on his job, lacking proper, backroom support. For the past two months he has sought help from goalkeeping coach Neil Sullivan and fitness coach Matty Pears, and some from senior players in his squad. None of that is a substitute for a bona fide assistant, especially with Leeds 19th in the Championship.
“I’ve leant on some of the senior lads, like Stevie Warnock and Michael Tonge,” Redfearn said. “Michael Tonge’s been different class. But they’re players and they need to concentrate on playing.
“Sometimes you can miss things that are right in front of your nose and you need eyes and ears on your side to point them out. You need an extra opinion and Steve brings a wealth of experience. He’s knows this division and he’s been promoted from this division. I know the type of guy he is. Anyone else wouldn’t have been right for me.”

Leeds United ‘biggest sleeping giant in football’ - Thompson

Yorkshire Evening Post 18/12/14
by Lee Sobot
NEW assistant coach Steve Thompson described Leeds United as the biggest sleeping giant in football as he outlined a plan for Whites players to make “life-changing money” with elevation to the Premier League.
Former Huddersfield Town first team coach Thompson was finally confirmed as Neil Redfearn’s assistant coach on Thursday, ending weeks of speculation in time for Saturday’s trip to Nottingham Forest.
And while Leeds sit only 19th in the Championship table and just five points off the drop zone - Thompson is in no doubt whatsoever as to where the Whites belong.
Thompson, 50, knows United have no divine right to dine back at English football’s top table and the new Whites assistant said it was important to set “realistic targets”, especially for a young side.
Yet there is no denying where Thompson sees Leeds United’s long term future with the former midfielder saying he is honoured to become the club’s new assistant, desperately hoping that long term he can help United back to the Premier.
Thompson told the YEP: “Leeds are the original sleeping giant.
“People mention it about other clubs and all that but this is the one with the support.
“They get fantastic support, you’ve got a chairman that is hopefully going to back us and we’ve got these young lads coming through as well.
“We want the players to make life changing money and hopefully it’s with Leeds.
“From what I have seen today you have got some fantastic ability out there.
“When Leeds and Neil showed an interest, it’s a fantastic opportunity for me.
“When someone wants you - and it’s Leeds United - it’s just a great opportunity to work for this fantastic club.”
Hailing the appointment of his new number two, who helped Blackpool to promotion to the Premier as coach, Redfearn said: “It’s great news for me, great news for the club, and the club have done it in the right way.
“He knows this division, he knows how to get promoted out of it and he’s come at the right time for us.”

Former Huddersfield man Steve Thompson appointed Neil Redfearn's assistant 18/12/14
Leeds United are delighted to confirm the appointment of Steve Thompson as the club’s new assistant head coach.
Steve joins Neil Redfearn’s backroom staff with immediate effect after signing a contract until the end of the season, with the option of a further year.
He arrives at Elland Road from Huddersfield Town, where he held the position of first-team coach under Chris Powell after initially assisting Mark Robins earlier this season.
Steve will be assisting on all first team matters, with his first game in the United dug-out coming away to Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
Steve and Neil have known each other for over 30 years, having both started their professional careers together at Bolton Wanderers back in 1982.
The 50-year-old brings a wealth of experience having made over 650 senior appearances in a 20-year playing career before beginning his coaching career in 2005 with Blackpool as Head of the Youth Department.
He then worked as first-team coach under former United boss Simon Grayson, helping the Seasiders secure Championship promotion, before becoming assistant boss to Ian Holloway following Grayson’s move to Elland Road in 2008.
Steve is credited as playing a key role in Blackpool’s promotion to the Premier League in 2010, where he assisted Holloway throughout their season in the top-flight.
Redfearn said: "Steve comes with vast experience – a lot of experience in the Championship. He got promoted out of this division with Blackpool so he knows how to get out of it.
"From my point of view, and definitely from the players’ point of view, it’s another experienced pair of eyes and ears to help and work through the week.
"We can start concentrating on more specific areas of the side now. It’s important.
"He’s very bright and bubbly, he knows the game. He works the way I like.
"He understands about having to deal with the ball and play, he’s been brought up like that and was like that as a player.
"He’ll go straight down the same line of thinking. The message will be the same. It’s come at the right time and will just give everybody a lift."

Leeds United: Status quo likely to cramp Whites style

Yorkshire Evening Post 18/12/14
by Phil Hay
Head coach Neil Redfearn reckons now is the time for leeds to mix things up a bit in terms of team selections.
Phil Hay reports.
Neil Redfearn, like most coaches, knows his preferred starting line-up but the bout of cramp suffered by Stephen Warnock last weekend reminded Leeds United’s head coach that squads make seasons.
Warnock is the club’s most dependable player, an established left-back with no better alternative, and he blamed his substitution during Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Fulham on illness suffered during the game. Redfearn wondered if Leeds’ relentless use of Warnock was actually taking its toll.
The 33-year-old is not the only fixture in United’s team. Since Redfearn’s appointment on November 1, the changes to his side have been fleeting and usually enforced. Redfearn had stability on his mind when in charge of a club which was badly out of form; a settled line-up and points on the board. Seven games on he is well aware that a shuffle of the pack is needed.
Leeds were always likely to be changed in shape and style at Nottingham Forest this weekend, a response to away form which is giving their season no chance to blossom, but defeat to Fulham in a flat contest at home was a red flag in itself. During training on Tuesday, Redfearn arranged an 11-v-11 match between his players with his thoughts and options very much open.
“When I first took the job there’d been a lot of unrest here and too many changes,” he said. “The team wasn’t settled as such and we’d gone quite a while without a win.
“My first thoughts were ‘let’s get a line-up and a shape in place and let’s get a few results behind us.’ We’ve done that, albeit with some poor results along the way, but the time’s probably right to mix it up.
“Steve (Warnock) is fine, he’s not injured, but he’s maybe an example of where a few of the lads are at. We’ve relied on some of them very heavily and I thought we looked a bit off it against Fulham. We still got ourselves in front of goal, we were still right in the game, but I’d be lying if I said the usual spark was there.
“We did 11 v 11 in training on Tuesday and my message to the players was that they’re all in contention. This weekend might be one for them. We’ll be different at Forest – we’ll look different and think differently. It’s the right thing to do.”
Leeds have not won away from home since beating Bournemouth at Dean Court on September 16, a result which looks more and more astounding as Bournemouth’s year flourishes. That game apart, United have not won away from home at all.
Under Redfearn, the club had three points within their grasp at Blackburn Rovers last month but contrived to lose the game with a bad error and a contentious late penalty. At Ipswich Town a fortnight ago, United led after three minutes but caved in rapidly once Ipswich levelled the match. They were beaten 4-1 and beaten easily.
Forest – a club which, like Leeds, faces a Financial Fair Play transfer embargo next month – have been up and down all season but solid in the main.
Their tally of draws is more of an issue than their tally of defeats; the reason why Stuart Pearce’s squad are outside the play-offs. They also have a 12-goal striker in Britt Assombalonga.
“They’ll give us no quarter but I want the players to be ready for what they throw at us,” Redfearn said. “When the pressure comes on, and it’s going to come on, I’d like to see us stand up to it. It shouldn’t be a surprise.
“I do think this is where experience comes in. At Ipswich we got our noses in front and what we should have done from then on was break the game up and cut it into blocks – get through 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there and give them nothing. Let them get frustrated and punish them when you can.
“I want us to play football and that’ll always be the case but common sense comes into it too. We can’t expect to go to places like Forest and play them off the park. We can go there expecting to win, provided we apply ourselves in the right way. We need the penny to drop but I’m sure it will.”
This might have been a weekend for Rodolph Austin, United’s physical, box-to-box Jamaican, but the midfielder cried off with an ankle injury during the warm-up before the Fulham game and is still a doubt. Redfearn planned to use his running power in the latter stages of the defeat to Fulham, a means of keeping Leeds in the ascendency.
“Rudy’s a ball carrier and you need an option like that,” Redfearn said. “With someone like Adryan, he’s all touch, craft and creativity. He’s a massive asset but you can’t have a team full of that sort of player alone. You want a blend and sometimes you’re looking for the dynamic running a lad like Rudy gives you.
“It was unfortunate with him last weekend. To be fair to Rudy, I think he thought he could play through his injury and he’s the sort of player who’ll do that. I’m sure he’s done it in the past. He went out to warm up and realised he had a problem. It’s not ideal but it was a genuine mistake.”
Games between Leeds and Forest tend to be open. They always produce goals. The past seven meetings between the club’s have yielded a remarkable average of almost five a match – a figure skewed by Forest’s 7-3 win at Elland Road in 2012 – but Redfearn is looking for a tighter and more measured afternoon on Saturday.
“We can score goals,” he said. “There’s no doubt that we’ve got goals in the team. And as we showed at Blackburn, we can cause teams a lot of problems away from home when everyone’s at it. But we need to start showing some resilience. We’ve got to be organised from the start and brave if we go behind. I keep reminding the lads that we’re a match for anyone on our day – that’s proven by the fact that we beat Derby County a couple of weeks ago.
“There were no complaints after that result but the last couple of weeks have been tough. This has been a good time to step back and take a fresh look at things.”

Official: Steve Thompson named as Leeds assistant coach

Yorkshire Post 18/12/14
LEEDS UNITED have officially unveiled Steve Thompson as their new assistant coach today, ending Neil Redfearn’s long wait for a key addition to his backroom staff.
Leeds and Thompson had been in direct talks since Huddersfield Town revealed last week that they were willing to allow their first-team coach to move to Elland Road for no compensation.
The 50-year-old – formerly a team-mate of Redfearn’s at Bolton Wanderers – finalised his appointment on Thursday in time to join United’s boss in the dug-out for Saturday’s game at Nottingham Forest.
His contract with Leeds runs to the end of the season and includes the option of a second year, in line with Redfearn’s own deal as head coach.
Redfearn has been looking to add Thompson to his coaching team since taking charge of United’s senior squad from Darko Milanic at the start of November.
Huddersfield initially asked Leeds for compensation but relented after United owner Massimo Cellino refused to meet their demands.
Thompson joined Huddersfield as assistant manager to Mark Robins in June but Robins was sacked a game into this season and replaced by Chris Powell.
Powell promptly moved Thompson into the position of first-team coach and named Alex Dyer as Huddersfield’s number two instead.
Thompson was receptive to Redfearn’s interest from the outset and Powell admitted last month that he would not block a move which took the ex-Rotherham United midfielder to Elland Road.
Speaking prior to Leeds’ 1-0 defeat to Fulham on Saturday, Redfearn said: “The club know what I feel and the person I want. I’ve got to be patient. It does get frustrating but it’s important that it’s done the right way.
“We’ve got to be respectful of other clubs.”
The delay in securing Thompson’s signature left Redfearn without an assistant for seven consecutive league games.
United have been aided by goalkeeping coach Neil Sullivan and fitness coach Matt Pears but Thompson looks likely to be alongside him at the City Ground this weekend.
Thompson has many years of coaching experience behind him, much of it gained at Blackpool where he worked for a while under ex-Leeds boss Simon Grayson and acted as caretaker twice.

Can Leeds United sign up Pavoletti for a song?

Yorkshire Evening Post 17/12/14
There is room at Leeds United for four new signings next month – and more again if the club can cut certain players from their squad – but in the circumstances they would settle for two.
Back when the summer transfer window closed, two signings in January was more than Leeds expected to make. The club were resigned to an embargo as punishment for losses of £23m last season and only in the past six weeks did it become clear that the Football League’s regulations are full of holes.
Leeds have been assessing the transfer market since the latter stages of October, the point at which their owner, Massimo Cellino, began to realise that the League’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) penalty was not an embargo in the strictest sense.
There are limits to the amount of money Leeds can spend and the number of players they can recruit but they are permitted to maintain a squad of 24 players who are either over 21 or have made five competitive appearances for the club. Twenty of the professionals at Thorp Arch fall into that criteria. Two of them, Noel Hunt and Scott Wootton, are elsewhere on loan.
More room will be created in the squad if other players depart before January ends. Leeds were ready to listen to offers for Luke Murphy during the recent emergency loan window and will make him available again next month. David Norris, Zac Thompson and Steve Morison have also been deemed surplus to requirements.
United, nonetheless, have two priorities – a striker in a different guise to any of those already on their books and at least one central midfielder to reinforce and tighten up the pivotal area of Neil Redfearn’s team. Saturday’s defeat to Fulham, Leeds’ 10th loss of the season, underlined Redfearn’s belief that his inexperienced team “need help”.
The club’s head coach bemoaned a lack of “genuine width” over the weekend and said a squad built to suit a diamond midfield was lacking in versatility. “Sometimes the problem for me is changing it from the bench,” Redfearn said. “We’ve got one or two options but we do lack genuine width. It’s difficult to go 4-3-3 or to use a flat 4-4-2 if we need to.
“But the overriding feeling is that the lads need some help. It’s a young side and we need some Championship experience down the middle of the team. That’s an important factor for us.”
Leeds’ established style, with Lewis Cook as a defensive midfielder and Adryan at the front tip of the diamond, has not been a problem at home. Fulham negated it and worked it out on Saturday but United’s results at Elland Road have been reliable.
Away from home, and in the face of seven league defeats, the need for a revised strategy has become obvious, as has the need for new signings in specific areas of the team. Leeds have no fewer than five forwards but most are of a similar size and build. The sale of Matt Smith to Fulham and the failure of Morison to stick in either the starting line-up or United’s matchday squads has made a rugged, imposing goalscorer a key target next month.
Cellino came within hours of signing Leonardo Pavoletti from Sassuolo in September and is likely to revisit that option again in January. Pavoletti, 26, has been prolific in Italy’s lower leagues and scored his first Serie A goal for Sassuolo against Palermo over the weekend. He remains on the fringes of the club’s starting line-up, however.
His proposed move to Elland Road in the summer ended in peculiar circumstances. Pavoletti emerged as a late target for Leeds but, with Cellino abroad in Miami on deadline day, silence developed and the deal ground to a halt in the final hour of FIFA’s window. Staff at Elland Road were prepared to announce a last-minute arrival but saw 11pm come and go without further news.
Sassuolo’s chief executive, Nereo Bonato, claimed afterwards that the transfer had collapsed over United’s insistence on signing Pavoletti permanently. Sassuolo were unwilling to discuss anything other than a loan. “Leeds wanted him outright,” Bonato was quoted as saying. “But we have always been clear.”
Pavoletti reportedly earns in the region of £5,000 a week at Sassuolo. His wage would fit comfortably into Football League rules preventing clubs under an FFP embargo from paying players more than £600,000 a year – the equivalent of over £10,000 a week. A loan might be more appealing to Cellino with Leeds banned from paying fees for any of the players they recruit in January.
Cellino and his sporting director, Nicola Salerno, have looked at other strikers aside from Pavoletti. They also have ideas about the sort of proven player who would help and support a midfield in which Tommaso Bianchi at 26 is by far the most experienced footballer. Cellino has said more than once this season that Leeds are a team “without a general”.
Redfearn is involved in those discussions and insisted recently that he was happy with a situation in which his owner suggested and recommended targets. “He knows his football,” United’s head coach said, “and if you look at the players who’ve come in so far, a lot of them have been very good.” Redfearn will still look for someone with a background in English football, though. Leeds were heavily linked with Leicester City’s Anthony Knockaert towards the end of November.
Sources at Elland Road insist that signings will be made next month, despite United’s embargo and despite the fact that Cellino is embroiled in an appeal against a Football League directive banning him from running the club. The 58-year-old, who has been ordered to resign from the board at Leeds until March of next year due to a tax conviction, submitted his appeal on Monday night and expects to be told by the end of this week when his challenge will be heard.
At the outset, the Football League gave Cellino 28 days to step down – a deadline which falls on December 29 – but said it would attempt to have his appeal decided within that timeframe. It is not yet clear if the governing body will able to meet that deadline.
In the meantime, United are continuing to finalise the protracted appointment of Steve Thompson as Redfearn’s assistant.
Thompson – a first-team coach at Huddersfield Town – was due to be offered a contract by Leeds this week with a view to tying up his arrival before Saturday’s game at Nottingham Forest.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Leeds United: Whites and League in Cellino talks

Yorkshire Evening Post 17/12/14
Leeds United and the Football League are likely to agree a schedule for Massimo Cellino’s appeal against his ownership disqualification before the end of this week.
The club and the governing body are working to finalise a timeframe for Cellino’s hearing after United’s owner lodged an appeal a few hours before the deadline set for him to contest the ban.
Cellino was disqualified by the Football League 10 days ago and barred from acting as owner or director of Leeds until March of next year due to tax conviction imposed on him in Italy.
The 58-year-old was found guilty of evading VAT owed on a private yacht nine months ago, a conviction which the Football League believes is in breach of its Owners and Directors Test. Cellino was given 14 days to accept the ban or confirm his intention to fight it and the Football League received an appeal from his legal team shortly before the cut-off point on Monday night.
The League had initially hoped to see any appeal arranged and heard before December 29, the date on which Cellino has been ordered to formally resign from the board at Elland Road, but the case could now run into the new year.
The League, however, still expects Cellino to quit as a Leeds director by Monday, December 29, regardless of whether his challenge is pending.
Cellino told the YEP last week that he was willing to leave United’s board within the League’s timeframe to avoid the club incurring further punishment.
“I’m prepared to resign if it’s what I have to do,” Cellino said. “‘I said to the other directors that I don’t want to bring any problems on the club so if I have to resign in 28 days and then wait to finish my appeal, I will.
“I’m fighting this and we think we will win so after the appeal I will be back.”
In his challenge against disqualification, Cellino will argue that his punishment for tax evasion is not classed as a conviction under Italian law until it has passed through two stages of appeal.
The case, in which Cellino was found guilty of failing to pay more than £300,000 of tax due on a yacht called ‘Nelie’, is presently in the first stage of appeal.
The Football League’s Professional Conduct Committee will be given responsibility for upholding or quashing his ownership ban but a decision in favour of the League would have profound consequences for both Cellino and United.
His tax conviction will be spent under UK law on March 18, allowing him to regain full control at Elland Road in three months’ time, but he is facing two similar tax charges in Italy, both of which could lead to further 12-month disqualifications under Football League rules.
Cellino has repeatedly insisted that he will not be forced into selling Leeds but he is yet to comment on who will run the club in his absence if he steps down in the short term.
He bought a 75 per cent stake in Leeds through a UK firm, Eleonora Sport Limited, in April. Cellino attended an unrelated Football League function at Wembley yesterday, alongside the governing body’s chief executive, Shaun Harvey. Harvey - the former Leeds CEO - was present to award a £250,000 January transfer fund to one of nine clubs shortlisted by Football League sponsor Sky Bet.
Leeds were in the running for the prize despite the Football League announcing 24 hours earlier that United would face a transfer embargo next month due to financial losses of almost £23m last season. The £250,000 was won by Nottingham Forest, another Championship club who will be subjected to an embargo in January.

Redfearn: This is when Leeds fans will see team's best football

Here is the City 16/12/14
Lewis Doe
Leeds United boss Neil Redfearn has explained when he feels fans will start seeing the best football from his team.
Redfearn believes that his side will start producing good football once they have moved up the Championship and into a good position, which allows them to look forwards rather than backwards.
“The ideal scenario to really bed things down is to be in a position in the league where you can relax into games and go and play good football,” he told the Leeds website. “We’re still in a position where we’re looking over our shoulders all the time.”
One of the problems for Leeds has been consistency in all aspects. It’s been a problem for the side to bed in under a new manager, with Redfearn’s permanent appointment the fourth change the players had been forced to endure this season.
There’s been a lack of consistency from a playing point of view with positive performances such as the win against Derby, mixed in with disappointing results such as the defeat against Fulham.
Redfearn clearly believes he’s got a very young side that is full of potential. He’s already commented several times that he wants to give them the space and freedom to play entertaining and attacking football and he’s right to suggest that’s more likely to happen when Leeds are a bit safer.
The mentality in his younger players is different.
On the one hand, they will want to play with freedom but on the other hand, they will be wary of the pressure of playing for the club and nervous about making mistakes.
That will create potential problems in terms of the side tensing up and it’s important Leeds focus on a couple of positive results over Christmas, which will get the side off to a good start in the New Year.

Leeds United set to let midfielder leave in January

Football League World 16/12/14
FLW understands that Leeds United are to let midfielder Rudy Austin leave in the January transfer window.
The 29-year-old central midfielder has found playing time hard to get under manager Neil Redfearn, and according to FLW sources, the Yorkshire club are set to let the Jamaican leave in January.
As reported on FLW earlier this month, Championship strugglers Brighton and Hove Albion are interested in the combative midfielder, and are considering making a January bid for the Leeds player.
However, it is uncertain who will be in charge of the Seagulls come the start of the January transfer window, with current boss Sami Hyypia on the brink of getting the sack.
Leeds United boss Neil Redfearn has introduced an influx of youth into his starting eleven, subsequently meaning Austin has been sidelined more often than not.
The Jamaican international has made 15 appearances for the Whites this season, scoring once, but has recently fallen out of favour with most of his appearances coming from the substitute bench.
The Elland Road outfit currently lie in 19th position in the Sky Bet Championship table, having accrued 23 points from 21 league games.

Leeds United miss out on £250,000 January transfer pot

Yorkshire Evening Post 16/12/14
by Phil Hay
Leeds United have narrowly missed out on a January transfer pot of £250,000 - just 24 hours after being hit with a Football League embargo.
United were short-listed for the Sky Bet-sponsored prize despite learning yesterday that they would receive a January embargo as punishment for a financial loss of £23m in the 2013-14 season.
But in an ironic development this afternoon, the £250,000 prize went to Nottingham Forest - one of three Championship clubs who breached Financial Fair Play rules and will have their transfers heavily restricted next month.
Regulations governing Football League embargoes contain major loopholes which will potentially allow Leeds and Forest to sign new players regardless.
Neither club will be allowed to pay transfer or loans fees in January but the Football League has confirmed that the £250,000 transfer pot can be spent on players’ wages.

Leeds’ Massimo Cellino appeals against Football League’s ownership ban

Guardian 16/12/14
James Riach
Massimo Cellino has appealed against the Football League’s decision to disqualify him as owner of Leeds United under the organisation’s owners’ and directors’ test.
Cellino, who took control of Leeds in April following a protracted appeal against the League’s initial attempt to block his purchase, was disqualified earlier in the month after a conviction for evading import duty on a yacht was deemed a “dishonest” offence.
The Italian, whose company Eleonora Sport owns a 75% shareholding in Leeds after buying a majority stake from the previous owners, Gulf Finance House Capital, had two weeks to appeal against the decision and formal representations were made to the League on Monday evening.
Cellino’s legal team have consistently argued that the tax evasion case, for which the former Cagliari owner was fined €600,000 (£477,000) for failing to pay €390,000 import duty on his boat the Nelie, is a first-grade conviction in Italy and should not be regarded as final while an appeal continues in Sardinia.
Cellino’s conviction is spent in the British legal system in March and he could potentially be removed as Leeds owner for a short period before returning, should the appeal prove unsuccessful.
Leeds are one of three Championship clubs who were on Monday hit with a transfer embargo for the upcoming January window after breaching the League’s financial fair play (FFP) regulations. Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers have also been penalised with all three teams recording losses of more than £8m during the 2013-14 season.
It means none of the clubs are permitted to sign anyone permanently or on loan for the rest of the season, unless they have 24 or fewer players in their respective squads who are regarded as established – ie older than 21 and have made more than five starts for the club. In these circumstances clubs are allowed to make additional signings where the employee costs of a player being signed are less than £600,000 per annum.
A League statement read: “Blackburn, Leeds and Forest all exceeded the maximum permitted deviation of £8m – consisting of a maximum adjusted operating loss of £3m plus a further maximum of £5m of shareholder investment – during the 2013-14 playing season. Each club will have the opportunity to have its FFP embargo lifted at the end of the season by demonstrating that it has stayed within the maximum permitted deviation of £6m (£3m operating loss plus £3m shareholder investment) for the 2014-15 season.”
The League will now consider submissions and assess the three clubs promoted to the Premier League last season – Leicester, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers – and the three relegated to League One – Doncaster Rovers, Barnsley and Yeovil Town.

Are Leeds United Broken Beyond Repair?

Sabotage Times 15/12/14
by Paul Sherman
Losing at home to a Fulham team with the 19th worst away record in the Championship brought Leeds United’s current plight into stark contrast and begged the question, is the club broken irreparably?
10,000 more fans were at Elland Road to witness the debacle than watched Boro beat Derby to go top of the table. If the team were as passionate and committed as the support we’d be top of the league by a country mile.
We played some nice football again but with no cutting edge, no bite and a soft centre of Quality Street proportions in defence.
Following last week’s capitulation at Ipswich we can only imagine the Forest forwards salivating at the prospect of running amok against us live on telly next week.
The club is perfectly balanced – shot to hell both on and off the field, with little hope of improvement. A likely transfer embargo awaits in January, thanks to the gross incompetence, negligence and greed of GFH, the minority shareholders with whom Cellino inexplicably has re-engaged with.
The recent costing up of the two ownership parties was cringeworthy and the result of their union, a joint cash injection of £25M is now on hold pending Massimo’s appeal against his latest banning order from the Football League.
GFH sold Cellino the biggest pig in a poke in history, had he done due diligence then even he and his massive ego would have realised the rape and pillage inflicted on the club by Bates, his puppet Harvey and subsequently GFH made Sodom and Gomorrah look like a tea party at the Women’s Institute.
The company figures released recently made frightening yet unsurprising reading but falling turnover and rising costs are a recipe for financial disaster.
The vultures were circling on Friday night with the odious Mike Farnan engaging with fans on Twitter discussing the laughable proposition of fan ownership and the ridiculous proposal that LUST could actually organise, motivate and commit it’s membership to raise capital.
The reality is that we have a disjointed, dictatorial and egocentric ownership structure that looks like it has all the chance of delivering a long-term plan as Tommy the turkey has of making it to January.
Right now teams fancy playing us because we have a squad full of football and fancy movement but no leadership. We lack a backbone and need a no-nonsense centre-half, a midfield general with the cojones to make it happen and a physically imposing centre forward.
Neil Redfearn is Leeds to the core and a top quality coach who has been given a job way beyond his experience without the assistance of an gnarled seen it all number two.
I have been a supporter of Cellino from day one but his managerial decision making has been disastrous. We really need an experienced manager, not just a coach. Player recruitment has been blinkered, appearing to rely purely on Salerno who knew nothing of this league. His approach has patently not worked off the field where we look a total shambles.
I’ve deliberately not gone into specifics on players or the finances because they are well covered by other people and blogs. This piece is my heart and gut talking. My biggest fear is that the club I love is broken, beyond repair.

Nottingham Forest, Blackburn Rovers and Leeds United given transfer embargoes after breaking financial fair play rules

Mail 15/12/14
The Championship trio will be unable to sign players from January 1 2015
All three have been punished for breaking Financial Fair Play rules
However the clubs can still make signings if certain criteria are met
They can have their embargoes lifted at the end of the season if they prove they have stayed within the maximum deviation of £6million
Blackburn, Leeds and Nottingham Forest will all have a transfer ban for the January window after breaching the Football League's financial fair play (FFP) rules.
The League announced that the three clubs all incurred financial losses more than the £8million permitted during last season.
Submissions from QPR, Leicester and Burnley - who were all promoted to the Premier League - plus the three clubs relegated last season will now be considered by the Football League.
A statement said: 'An initial analysis of FFP submissions from the current 24 Championship clubs has indicated that three clubs - Blackburn Rovers, Leeds United and Nottingham Forest - have failed to meet the fair play requirement under the division's FFP rules.
'Consequently, all three will be subject to an "FFP embargo" under Football League regulations from January 1, 2015 for the remainder of the current campaign.'
Under the transfer embargoes, the three clubs will be prohibited from signing any new players - either on a permanent or loan deal - unless they have 24 or fewer 'established players', which is described as 24 players aged 21 or over that have made at least five starts for the club.
Blackburn's managing director Derek Shaw said in a statement: 'Whilst the ruling will clearly present some difficulties, we will of course respect the rules of the Football League.
'A lot of effort and hard work has been done to reduce player costs over the last two years, but we have wanted to rebuild and challenge in this division at the same time, and we will continue to do that.'
The clubs will have their embargoes lifted at the end of the season if they can demonstrate they have stayed within the maximum permitted losses of £6million - £3m losses plus £3m covered by shareholder investment - for the current season.
Clubs will be prohibited from registering any new professional players (permanent contract or loan) unless they have:
• 24 or fewer established players (players aged 21 or over that have made at least 5 starting appearances for the club).
Where clubs have fewer than 24 established players, they will only be permitted to sign players in the following circumstances (with the player in question being added to the club's list of established players regardless of his age or previous playing experience):
• Where the employee costs of a player being signed are less than £600,000 per annum (or pro-rata if signed on a shorter contract).
Where clubs have 24 established players, they will be permitted to trade on a 'one out, one in' basis but only if the employee costs of the player coming in to the club are no more than whichever is the lower amount of:
• 75 per cent of the equivalent costs of the player going out.
• Or a maximum of £600,000 per annum (or pro-rata if signed on shorter contract)
In addition:
• Clubs under an FFP embargo will be permitted to sign a goalkeeper on an emergency basis (in line with existing regulations).
• Clubs under an FFP embargo will not be permitted to pay transfer fees or compensation fees for professional players.
• Clubs under an FFP embargo will not be permitted to pay a loan fee to another club, they may only pay the player's wage (or a contribution towards it).
• For incoming players, clubs can only pay agents' fees as a benefit in kind to the player in question (as long as they do not exceed the £600,000 employee costs limit).

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Leeds United v Fulham: Redfearn bemoans lack of quality in final third

Yorkshire Evening Post 13/12/14
LEEDS UNITED manager Neil Redfearn was left to bemoan a lack of cutting edge in the final third as his side frustratingly went down 1-0 to Fulham at Elland Road.
It was a day when it didn’t happen in the final third for Leeds, who suffered their second successive defeat following last weekend’s 4-1 loss at Ipswich.
Redfearn felt several of his players looked tired and he admits that he will consider freshening up his side ahead of the festive programme.
The only goal of the game arrived on the hour when Hugo Rodallega converted from close range.
On the result and performance, Redfearn, who admitted that he was unhappy that Rudy Austin pulled out just before kick-off with an ankle injury after he was named on the bench, said: “It is disappointing. I thought we lacked conviction like in previous home games, which have been good and we have looked dangerous in front of goal and had a cutting edge.
“But today, we huffed and puffed a bit, without having the quality to score.
“They rode theur luck a bit and defended well and got bodies in and we had an outstanding moment from (Alex) Mowatt’s header which was touched onto the bar. But for the amount of play we had in their final third, we needed more quality.”
Redfearn, who felt the performance of Sam Bryam was one of the main positives to take, added: “We looked a little bit anxious in the final third.
“We need to maybe look to freshen things up.
“One or two looked a bit jaded and ‘leggy’.”
Redfearn says the club medical staff will assess Stephen Warnock’s hamstring injury on Monday with the United captain substituted late on.
He added: “It’s his hamstring and might be a bit of tiredness as well. It is something we will assess on Monday.”

Leeds United: Redders planning new away strategy

Yorkshire Evening Post 13/12/14
Neil Redfearn is ready to change Leeds United’s approach to away games in a bid to rectify their poor run of form – but the club’s head coach says he will not give up on his commitment to building a “passing side”.
Redfearn admitted that United’s failure to pick up points away from home this season was demanding a rethink of his strategy and the 49-year-old thinks further additions to his squad are necessary to deliver more consistency.
Leeds suffered their seventh away defeat of the Championship term at Ipswich Town last weekend, losing 4-1 just seven days after a rousing win at home to league leaders Derby County, and Redfearn said the result had highlighted the need to “play a little differently” on the road.
Most of United’s points this season have been collected at Elland Road and United have not been beaten at home during Redfearn’s spell as full-time head coach or his four-game stint as caretaker earlier in the year.
Leeds’ squad has undergone sweeping changes since the end of last season, with 15 new players arriving during the summer transfer window, but Redfearn is looking for more resources to tweak his style away from home.
Any plans for recruitment are being complicated, however, by both the Football League disqualification hanging over owner Massimo Cellino and the expectation that Leeds will be hit with a transfer embargo in the January window, their punishment for breaking Financial Fair Play rules.
Redfearn, whose side were 16th in the league ahead of today’s clash with Fulham, said: “We have to look at things away from home. We might have to play a little bit differently away until we get into a position where we’re a little bit stronger in the league with a bit more about us.
“When you’re changing things round and changing a squad round, although it might be a big squad you’re not necessarily looking to involve all the players you’ve (inherited). Not if you’re looking to take the team in a different direction.
“But the message is clear. I see us as footballers. I see us as a passing side.
“We need to get some strength and steel in our performances, particularly away form home, but as I’ve said before that’s going to be a process.”
Redfearn is believed to be on the verge of finally securing an assistant, with Steve Thompson now expected to join from Huddersfield. United’s boss has been looking to bring Thompson in for the past month-and-a-half and an impasse appears to have broken following fresh talks between Cellino and Redfearn and an admission from Huddersfield that they no longer want compensation.
Redfearn stressed the importance of strong management at Leeds, saying: “It’s up to me and Massimo at the top to be tough.
“We’ve got make sure we send the right message and say the positive things the players need to here, to keep on down the right road.”

Leeds United: Loopholes may allow Whites to do deals - Hay

Yorkshire Evening Post 13/12/14
Leeds United will be hit by a transfer embargo – but it may not be an outright ban on signing players during the upcoming January transfer window.
Nothing at Leeds United is ever black or white. Massimo Cellino is proof of that. Will he sidestep his Football League ban or will this disqualification stick? Is he here for the foreseeable or is the club on the road to another sale?
Next month’s transfer embargo is equally devoid of clarity.
It’s coming – without question it’s coming – but the belief at Elland Road is that the January window will not be an entirely closed shop. It will not be a free market either but the scope for new signings could exist, in a certain fashion and at a certain price.
There’s a caveat to any conjecture about squad-building, forward planning or future objectives: the glaring possibility that Cellino will not escape the corner he is in.
Earlier this week he made it clear that he is prepared to resign from United’s board while he fights his disqualification.
The £23.5m injection he and Gulf Finance House announced as recently as last Thursday has been suspended pending the outcome of Cellino’s appeal.
Leeds cannot carry on regardless, presuming the net will untangle itself.
All the same, the club are speaking about transfers and thinking about the January window.
They won’t be free to deal as they please next month but there’s a heavy suggestion that the embargoes handed down by the Football League will be laced with loopholes.
In effect, Leeds expect to be able to make a small handful of signings.
That the club are destined for an embargo is not in dispute.
The Football League is yet to determine which sides are in breach of its Financial Fair Play rules but United’s accounts show a loss of almost £23m last season, a figure far in excess of the FFP limit.
No amount of clever accounting would fudge the issue and Leeds have not even tried. Part of the reason why 15 new players came to Elland Road in the summer window was because Cellino expected to have his hands tied in January, if not exactly in the way they are now.
The grey area which Leeds might seek to exploit is complicated.
They anticipate that in tandem with an embargo, the Football League will soften the impact by allowing clubs to maintain a squad of a certain size.
The players who count towards a set quota will not include any under the age of 21 or any who have made a small number of appearances this season (five, for the sake of argument).
As big as the squad at Elland Road is, there are numerous professionals who fall into one or both of those categories.
The club would almost certainly be prevented from paying fees for any signings but they suspect that the League will permit the arrival of players whose individual wage packages costs the club no more than £600,000 pro rata (around £300,000 at the midway point of the season). That sum equates to more than £10,000 a week.
Cellino is not in the habit of paying high wages.
The contracts he gives out tend to be incentivised – sweetened with goal bonuses and other add-ons.
Over the past month he and his sporting director, Nicola Salerno, have spent some time looking at the transfer market, despite the knowledge that an embargo is coming.
The Football League was asked by the YEP to explain how tightly its embargoes will be enforced and to clarify any loopholes or exemptions.
A spokesman said the “specific embargo arrangements” would be outlined to clubs once the League confirmed which of the 24 were in breach of FFP rules.
It remains to be seen whether the uncertainty surrounding Cellino leaves any real appetite for immediate investment in players but the club are being linked again with Leonardo Pavoletti, the Sassuolo striker who almost joined the club in the last hour of the summer transfer window.
Pavoletti is 6’2” and a variation on the forwards Leeds already have. United did not fight hard to keep Matt Smith at Elland Road but despite Cellino’s concerns about Smith’s agility and versatility, he suspected that Leeds might miss his height. United have a tall forward in Steve Morison but coach after coach is declining to play him. Mirco Antenucci, Souleymane Doukara and Billy Sharp have different strengths but much the same build.
In the context of United’s meek away form, variety is what they lack.
There is real promise in the squad at Elland Road, some natural ball-players and a healthy mentality, but the club lack bite away from their own stadium.
Tommaso Bianchi embodies that problem – in his element at Elland Road, more passive and fragile elsewhere.
Neil Redfearn has harder midfielders in Rudy Austin and Michael Tonge but you sense they are not the options he wants.
Jamaica international Austin is out of contract next summer and has not been offered a new deal and Championship rivals Brighton and Hove Albion are being credited with an interest in him again.
For United’s squad to evolve properly it needs the right tweaks at the right times.
Leeds have the numbers to cope with a quiet January but the club are not in a position – in the Championship or otherwise – where they can afford to stand still; not when their away record shows five points from 10 matches and everyone from the owner down knows the jigsaw is incomplete.
It feels churlish to think about new signings when so much is hazy and an embargo awaits but the plea is the same as every other day of the week – that in the midst of everything else, the football does not get entirely forgotten.
Much ado about Steve Thompson, the first-team coach at Huddersfield Town who has been waiting for more than a month to up sticks and join Leeds United.
He and Neil Redfearn are former Bolton team-mates and close friends – Thompson was best man at Redfearn’s wedding – and Redfearn, inset, singled him out as his preferred assistant as soon as Massimo Cellino named him as head coach on November 1. Since then people on both sides of West Yorkshire have been waiting for the appointment to happen and wondering why, six weeks on, the arrival of Thompson at Elland Road has become so protracted.
At the outset Huddersfield asked for compensation for Thompson. Leeds refused to pay, believing that he was largely surplus to requirements. Thompson was named as Huddersfield’s assistant by Mark Robins in June but Robins survived for only one game this season and Town are now in the hands of Chris Powell. Powell’s number two is Alex Dyer.
As time went on Huddersfield’s demands dropped and then gave way altogether. As Powell admitted at his weekly press conference on Thursday, Huddersfield’s board are now willing to allow Thompson to leave for nothing and told Leeds that more than a week ago. Meanwhile, up at Thorp Arch, Redfearn said he was still waiting for a deal to fall into place.
It made for a weird and unfathomable impasse but the YEP understands that later in the day Redfearn and Massimo Cellino discussed Thompson’s situation again and agreed to get the appointment finalised. Leeds have been drawing up a contract in readiness for the 50-year-old to sign. A straightforward job made strangely difficult but perhaps Redfearn finally has his man.
There is irony aplenty in the list of potential winners of Sky Bet’s ‘transfer fund’ – a raffle which will award £250,000 to one lucky Football League club to spend in the January transfer window.
Leeds United have two supporters amongst the 10 competing for the cash on their club’s behalf.
A Nottingham Forest fan is also included. No matter the fact that both sides are heading for a transfer embargo and look likely to be prevented from doing much business next month.
Other Championship teams in with a shout might be better placed to use the money.
Wigan Athletic, Huddersfield Town, Cardiff City, Fulham and Watford were also selected at random for the shortlist.
The draw takes place at Wembley this Tuesday.
In a press release, Sky’s Jim White was quoted as saying: “You can only imagine how the chairman, manager and players of the winning club are going to react when they hear the news.”
That rather depends on the outcome.