Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Leeds United: Bamba plays down play-off bid but wants to stay

Yorkshire Evening Post 23/2/15
by Phil Hay
Sol Bamba played down the prospect of a late promotion bid from Leeds United in the aftermath of Saturday’s 1-0 win over Middlesbrough but said he was determined to remain at Elland Road and front the club’s charge next season.
The centre-back claimed it was “too soon” to talk about a pursuit of the top six, despite Leeds registering their fifth victory in six league games, but he admitted that the club’s impressive form was increasing his interest in a permanent transfer to Yorkshire.
An early goal from midfielder Alex Mowatt earned United a hard-earned win at The Riverside and knocked Middlesbrough off the top of the Championship, despite Aitor Karanka’s side dominating a pulsating match.
Leeds have taken 15 points from a possible 18 during a spectacular turnaround since the start of January, drawing a line under the threat of relegation and focusing their attention on the top end of the division.
The club are 11th in the table after Saturday’s result but 15 points adrift of sixth place with 14 games left to play.
Bamba, who produced another compelling display in the centre of defence, said he was reluctant to “blow the confidence of the fans” with strong momentum behind United but he gave a realistic assessment of the club’s chances of reaching the play-offs.
“Mathematically it’s possible so I’m not going to blow the confidence of the fans,” Bamba said. “It’s a tough league and we start from far (back) so if we manage to do that it would be brilliant and if we keep on winning we can do it. But I’m not sure it’s realistic.
“When you beat top sides, confidence comes and obviously if we keep going we can think about the play-offs. But I think it’s too soon to be honest.”
Saturday’s result was Middlesbrough’s first defeat at home since August and United’s victory allowed Derby County to replace Karanka’s squad as Championship leaders.
Boro produced almost 30 shots on goal but were unable to find a way past Leeds goalkeeper Marco Silvestri who took the man-of-the-match award afterwards.
“(Middlesbrough) is tough place to come and I don’t think a lot of teams will get points here,” Bamba said. “We can be really happy about the performance.
“You could feel it was our day when the goalkeeper was making a lot of saves and we were making a lot of blocks. We dug deep and managed to win it.”
Bamba joined Leeds on loan from Palermo last month and the 6ft 3ins centre-back has been highly influential during their recent resurgence.
The 30-year-old has carried the armband for the past three games and he was in the thick of a resilient display at The Riverside as Leeds completed a home-and-away double over Boro.
Leeds signed Bamba on a half-season deal and the club have the right to take him from Palermo permanently in the summer.
Bamba, a former Leicester City player, said: “I couldn’t ask for any more here. I’ve come back to a big club like Leeds in a league I know, playing in front of thousands of people. Hopefully I can stay many more years. To be part of it is one of the best feelings.”
The Ivory Coast international, meanwhile, said he would be happy to give up the captaincy away at Brighton tomorrow with Liam Cooper – Leeds’ skipper before his recent injury – set to replace the banned Giuseppe Bellusci.
Bamba said: “It’s no fight. The manager’s obviously going to decide but for me, Cooper is the club captain. It’s no problem if he’s the captain tomorrow.”

Middlesbrough 0 Leeds United 1: Leaders Boro are toppled by Whites

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/2/15
by Phil Hay
Much more of this and talk of the play-offs will start to gain some traction at Elland Road. Time ticks on and from nowhere, Leeds United are in the improbable position of wishing the season was 10 games younger.
There was a stage very recently where the club were anxious to see the back of it; desperate to come through the other side of a campaign which was trying its best to relegate them. Against their own expectations, they are eating through the Championship and eating through some fancied clubs. Middlesbrough came under their spell on Saturday, beaten 1-0 at The Riverside.
The victory required some frantic bailing of water and stoic resistance to the kitchen sink but at full-time it was hard not to think that in the weeks around Christmas, at the height of their festive depression, Leeds would have lost this game and lost it by a street. “The lads have a successful team feel about them,” a glowing Neil Redfearn said. As a way of defining their present state, he couldn’t have put it better.
There is cohesion and understanding about the line-up he is trusting in; enough to see them through a day like Saturday when Boro produced 27 attempts on goal and failed to convert one. Boro’s position near the top of the league is not a mystery – they attack at pace and exploit gaps brilliantly, a quick and aggressive team – but August was the last time a Championship side got the better of them at The Riverside. Leeds were worth their win on the basis of that record alone.
United owed the result, their fifth victory in six games, to goalkeeper Marco Silvestri and, in front of him, the brick wall that is Sol Bamba. Redfearn has not abandoned the Massimo Cellino model completely but the compromise he banked on at the start of January – the balanced blend of old and new – has given the club a viable plan going forward. By rights, this period ought to ensure that when next season starts, Redfearn is at the centre of it.
This season has 14 fixtures left; too few, realistically, to make a top-six finish possible. Leeds’ head coach laughed afterwards when asked if the year might end too soon – “no, not really,” he joked, looking like a man who had toiled through miles of mud to get here – but he knows now that his squad are safe and that United will easily clear 50 points.
“It’s a tall ask (to make the play-offs),” Redfearn said. “But while there’s points to play for there’s no reason why we can’t aim high. That was the message before this game – let’s squeeze as much out of the season as we can.
“This run has taken some pressure off us. Don’t get me wrong, there’s always a pressure but in the Championship at this time of year it usually concertinas up between the teams outside the play-offs and the teams fighting relegation. It’s happening again.”
The telling factor on Saturday – and the fly in Boro’s ointment – was the timing of the winning goal, scored by Alex Mowatt in the third minute and before Aitor Karanka’s side had the opportunity to bed in and turn the screw.
Tomas Mejias, the goalkeeper who sold Billy Sharp his winner during Boro’s defeat at Elland Road in August, aimed a risky throw at Grant Leadbitter who failed to gather possession and watched Lewis Cook sprint away down the right. George Friend tried to cover as Cook pulled the ball back but Mowatt met it with a slick strike which deflected into the far corner of Mejias’ net.
Boro soaked the concession up and came at Silvestri in waves. Before long, the Italian’s saves were mounting up: a two-handed parry from Kike and a better reaction to deny Jelle Vossen. When Vossen’s tap-in squeezed underneath him on 21 minutes, Giuseppe Bellusci was in the right place to hoof a slow-rolling ball off the goalline.
Vossen tested Silvestri again before half-time and the goalkeeper’s fingertips flicked a deflected hit from Kike over the crossbar on the half-hour. It was apparent that Boro were having one of those days, though less so when Bamba glanced Luke Murphy’s corner wide from six yards out in first-half injury-time, an opportunity he should have buried.
“Middlesbrough are a good side, a very good side,” Redfearn said. “If you look at them, they’ve got to be the favourites to go up. They’re complete. But I thought that at every turn there was a Leeds United player in the way. It was a gutsy performance from us.
“Silvestri was probably the best player on the pitch which goes some way to saying how well Middlesbrough played but it was difficult for them and we made it difficult for them.”
Silvestri received the man-of-the-match award but it was Bamba who kept United’s ducks in a line, marshalling players, appearing everywhere and weighing in with a brilliant covering tackle on Kike midway through the second half.
As he left The Riverside, the centre-back had a copy of Sol Campbell’s autobiography under his arm.
The comparison on Saturday was almost fitting, even if Bamba didn’t want to draw it himself. “He used to be a very good player and I looked up to him,” Bamba said. “I’m not at that level yet but I try to be. Him and (Lilian) Thuram, for me, are two of the best defenders.” United are perfectly happy with their equivalent.
Redfearn acknowledged Bamba’s role but argued all the same that Leeds produced “the better chances.” Scott Wootton had one of them, driving a header against Boro’s bar as Murphy hooked another corner into the box early in the second half, but Silvestri’s reactions were still on repeat. Kike brought a diving save from him with a curling finish and Vossen did likewise. The keeper’s body kept out another Kike shot on 50 minutes after the striker turned Bellusci inside out.
Lee Tomlin’s introduction from the bench was soon followed by that of Patrick Bamford. Boro’s head coach Karanka made six changes to his starting line-up, as tends to be his way, but without the desired impact. “I don’t know how we lost this game,” he said afterwards. “But football is about goals and football is about points. We lost.”
Having chipped away so hard and for so long, Boro’s shoulders sagged in the last 15 minutes. A head injury to Vossen with all three substitutes used left them a player short and 10 minutes of stoppage-time slipped away. Wootton could have snatched a second Leeds goal and Austin too, but their chances went begging. It was a game when most chances did.
The final whistle with 100 minutes on the clock sealed another creditable home-and-away double, following on from that inflicted on Bournemouth. The last time Leeds did that to Boro, in 1989, Howard Wilkinson took them out of Division Two. As the table stands it’s a meaningless omen. But at least the club can start to think that way again.

Leeds United: Five observations from the win at Middlesbrough

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/2/15
IF LEEDS UNITED had to cherry-pick a prefered away destination, then a trip to Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium would figure close to the top of the list.
With just one loss in 13 outings since Boro’s stadium by the River Tees opened in August 1995, treks up the A1 have, more often than not, been thoroughly pleasing ones for the United hordes.
Saturday’s 1-0 victory at the Riverside may have shredded the nerves of the 2,690 visiting fans in attendance and many more United followers watching the televised action unfold, but given the elation and ecstatic scenes at the final whistle, it was worth the pain.
Here’s five observations from United’s fifth win in their last six matches.

1: Sol Bamba is looking different class.
After joining Leeds, the word from the Leicester press, with the Foxes being his previous club in English football, was that Bamba was an affable character and decent enough defender, but one who ‘took risks’ at times. A footballing centre-back who had a tendancy to overdo it at times. What we have witnessed so far is that Bamba seems the redoubtable and imposing centre-half that Leeds have lacked for a good while. The smart money is on Neil Redfearn and Steve Thompson having told Bamba to keep it simple, win his headers and tackles and clear his lines - as a defender, you are there to defend. He is following that advice to the letter. Leeds have looked markedly more organised at the back since his arrival and he is clearly a communicator. Maybe over thirty, but still has a yard of pace and his positional sense and timing represented a true masterclass at the Riverside. An outstanding performance.
2: Leeds’ fitness and organisation is commendable.
For all Boro’s pressure and the fact that they laid siege on the United goal in the first half and for spells on the restart, Leeds finished the game the stronger and not just because the Teessiders ended the game with ten men after Jelle Vossen was stretchered off with Aitor Karanka having used his three substitutes. The likes of Rudy Austin were still bombing forward deep into stoppage time and Leeds, despite having to withstand considerable pressure, possessed menace on the counter. Leeds have found a successful way of playing away from home and the work that Redfearn has done at Thorp Arch has obviously been painstaking, but he is now getting his rewards.
3: The team ethic and spirit is mightily impressive.
Rewind to the Derby County game on December 30 when Leeds looked disjointed and a team of individuals in a sorry show when the Rams hardly had to break sweat to achieve a comfortable win. From that adversity, Leeds have drawn strength with the likes of Luke Murphy and Steve Morison brought in from the cold and doing their bit for the collective cause. Leeds look an honest, together and thoroughly organised side all of a sudden and while they may have been a little fortutious to triumph on Teesside, as the old adage goes, the harder you work, the luckier you become. All this against a side renowned for their work-rate and organisation in Boro. It was the sort of performance when every Leeds player was willing to help their mate out, there were countless last-ditch challenges and blocks and the team spirit was palpable.
4: Steve Morison’s goal drought may continue, but he is playing a vital role.
Yes, Morison may not have netted for Leeds since hitting a brace against Crystal Palace in March 2013, but he is proving a vital component to the team. He kept Boro’s centre-halves occupied on Saturday and worked his socks off for the team and chased back continually with his industry appreciated by the visiting supporters. Got through plenty of work and is vital to the way Leeds are playing at the moment. Once he does score, you suspect he will be mobbed by his team-mates, no-one deserves a goal more than him.
5: Winning at Boro is a massive confidence booster - but play-off talk is a little premature.
Speaking about the prospect of Leeds amounting a surprise play-off push, it was perhaps Sol Bamba who got it on the button. Realistic? No. Mathematically possible? Yes, while adding the caveat that it is ‘a little too soon’ to be talking about it. But one thing is for sure, not too many sides at the top will want to play United in their current form. Becoming the first side to triumph in 13 matches at Middlesbrough, who were previously unbeaten at home since being beaten by Reading on August 30, is the sort of result that resonates across the Championship - as did the victory over Bournemouth. Leeds need to continue to enjoy the ride and show the same traits and they will get their rewards. Next season is most likely the time, let’s not get too giddy though. As Bamba also alluded, games at home sides at the top don’t carry too much pressure, a bit more expectation will be on for the game with Brighton. But Leeds head south with a spring in their step and are top of the Championship form table in the past six games.

Middlesbrough v Leeds United: Redfearn hails ‘outstanding’ Whites

Yorkshire Evening Post 21/2/15
LEEDS UNITED head coach Neil Redfearn saluted an outstanding performance from his Whites side after a famous 1-0 victory at title-chasing Middlesbrough.
United, who went ahead in the third minute following Alex Mowatt’s sixth goal of the season, withstood everything that Boro threw at them to claim their fifth win in their past six outings as their blossoming New Year renaissance continued.
It helped Leeds record a third successive win away from home in the league for the first time since November 2011 on a remarkable afternoon for Redfearn’s side, who became the first visiting team to win at the Riverside Stadium since the end of August.
On his side’s showing, a delighted Redfearn said: “It was an outstanding performance and I think that was down to the work-rate, diligence and organisation.
“I also felt we played some great football in between and if you at it, on the face of it, we could have had two or three more goals with the chances we made.
“But they are a good side, no two ways about it. They had us on the ropes at times and we had to defend - and we did.
“The stat that mattered is 1-0. That’s the most important stat and it’s another clean sheet, which is important.
“There was a real togetherness and desire to want to win. To be honest, if we’d played on another ten or 15 minutes, I don’t think they would have scored because we had that desire about us.”
Leeds handled a siege at times from Boro and despite nine minutes of stoppage time following a late injury to home striker Jelle Vossen, the Teessiders, previously unbeaten in nine outings in the league and seeking their sixth successive Championship win, could find no way through.
Leeds’ resolve was typified by an outstanding defensive display by Sol Bamba, with several others not far behind, with Marco Silvestri also in excellent form between the posts.
Redfearn said: “I looked at all of the players and the chasing back and covering back and somebody filling in when someone went forward was terrific.
“There was a real togetherness and we sensed danger and when we were under pressure in the box, we got bodies in the way and blocks in and people were brave.
“That is what being a successive side is all about.”
The only downer to the afternoon was Giuseppe’s Bellusci’s tenth yellow card of the season, which rules him out of United’s next two matches.

Leeds United topple Middlesbrough with smash-and-grab victory

Guardian 21/2/15
Aitor Karanka urged Middlesbrough to bounce back immediately after a 1-0 home defeat by Leeds United hurt their Championship title hopes.
Alex Mowatt’s third-minute goal meant Boro, who started Saturday’s early kick-off one point clear at the top of the table, slumped to a first home defeat since August. While frustrated that his side failed to take any points from a game they dominated, Karanka knows his men have a chance to make amends when Bolton Wanderers visit the Riverside Stadium on Tuesday night.
“Today is the kind of day you cannot explain,” he said. “We are frustrated because we have done everything to win this game and we haven’t won it. I can’t say anything bad about my players because they have done their best. We now have to think about Tuesday, against Bolton.
“I thought the performance was very good. I don’t know how many chances we had. However, we have an important game on Tuesday.
“The best thing is to play again on Tuesday, especially at home. This team always reacts very well after a defeat.”
The game was doubly frustrating for Karanka given that Middlesbrough only rose to the summit of the Championship after Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Birmingham City. “It’s difficult to get into first and it’s difficult to stay there,” he said. “But we have two months ahead and we are capable of doing this job [gaining promotion]. We have to keep working in the same way because we’re doing really well.”
Karanka’s disappointment was exacerbated late on in the game when Jelle Vossen was taken off on a stretcher with what appeared to be a serious head injury. Asked about the Belgian’s condition, the Boro manager replied: “I don’t know. The doctor is with him, so we don’t know whether it’s going to be something serious at the moment. Hopefully it is nothing serious and he is better soon.”
Neil Redfearn called on Leeds, who have an outside chance of securing a play-off place, to keep their feet on the ground. United have now lost just one of their past eight fixtures, with this a third successive win.
“It’s very satisfying,” the Leeds manager said. “But we have to make sure we don’t get carried away with ourselves. We are a young side and we have been through a lot of adversity. We are going to get better and better.
“We are enjoying what we’re doing at the moment, but we know you cannot take anything for granted in this division.
“It’s a tough division to get out of. I think Middlesbrough are the favourites; they are a complete side.
“[Reaching the play-offs] is a tall ask, but, while there are points to play for, there is no reason not to aim as high as you can.”

Middlesbrough 0 Leeds Unted 1: Mowatt shocks leaders Boro

Yorkshire Post 21/2/14
by Leon Wobschall
AN EARLY strike from Alex Mowatt secured a remarkable smash-and-grab victory for Leeds United, who withstood everything that promotion-chasing Middlesbrough could throw at them to claim a famous 1-0 win.
Mowatt was on hand to fire home just three minutes into a pulsating content, with Leeds somehow managing to hold onto that advantage for the rest of the encounter and claim their first double over Boro since 1989-90.
Some truly heroic defending continually denied Boro, unbeaten in their previous 12 home matches and seeking a sixth successive Riverside success.
When the back four was breached, Boro found a competent last line of defence in Marco Silvestri, who thwarted the hosts at several key junctures.
Mowatt’s sixth goal of the campaign helped Leeds become the first side to triumph at the Riverside since Reading won by an identical single-goal margin on August 30.
The win also extended Leeds’ excellent sequence at the Riverside, where they have now been beaten just once in 13 matches at the north-east venue.
The win was Leeds’ fifth in six outings, with Neil Redfearn’s side having travelled the equivalent of a million miles in a footballing sense since their previous visit to a promotion-chaser in Derby County on a bleak end to 2014 on December 30.
Leeds’ resolution, so lacking at Derby, was immense, although on another day, Boro could have been easily celebrating victory with nothing quite falling their way.
But credit was due to the battling qualities of Leeds, who look a side transformed this calendar year, which has since them claim noteworthy doubles over the top two of Bournemouth and now Boro.
The work ethic throughout the Leeds line-up was magnificent and while luck went their way on a few occasions, they certainly earned it.
The tone was set in a first-half in which Boro laid siege on goal at times, but United’s lead remained intact, thanks to a combination of some stoic last-ditch defending, impressive saves from Silvestri and some profligate finishing from the hosts.
While the majority of the play was in the Leeds half, with Boro posting all manner of efforts of goal, Leeds could have taken in a two-goal lead, with Sol Bamba spurning a great chance to put them 2-0 ahead moments before the break following Luke Murphy’s corner.
United, unchanged from the side who beat Millwall seven days earlier, were afforded the perfect start with a third-minute opener to rock the majority of the Riverside Stadium.
Tidy build-up on the right saw Cook burst forward and his intelligent cut-back was seized upon in a flash by Alex Mowatt, whose low shot whistled past Tomas Mejias, with the home keeper barely having time to react.
It ensured Boro experienced the rare sensation of being behind on home soil for the first time since way back on August 30, but their reaction was swift.
A smart free-kick from skipper Grant Leadbitter saw found Jelle Vossen, playing just behind lone forward Kike, but his fresh-air shot when well placed summed up a frustrating half for the Belgian and table-topping Boro.
Bamba had to be alert to deny Kike before the Spaniard soon saw his effort blocked by Silvestri after being played in by Albert Adomah.
Leeds possessed poise on the break in Cook, with Rudy Austin’s energetic thrusts also hinting at danger, but it was a half when the visitors sought largely to protect their precious gains.
Silvestri was forced to show his mettle again on 19 minutes when he turned away a well-struck near-post volley from Vossen after good play on the right by Emilio Nsue.
Boro soon went desperately close to a leveller, when Adam Reach’s cross-shot found Vossen, who couldn’t get a telling connection to divert the ball into the net, with Giuseppe Bellusci clearing in the nick of time.
Some of Boro’s build-up was of surgical precision, but Leeds survived the onslaught just about.
Leadbitter fired wide after more neat build-up before Kike’s shot on the turn was tipped over adeptly by Silvestri, who earned his corn during the first half.
At the other end, a good move involving Cook and Sam Byram found Steve Morison free down the left, but his cut-back couldn’t be dispatched by a visiting player before play switched back to the Leeds half.
A strike from ex-United midfielder Adam Clayton was then turned away before the half ended with a great chance to Leeds when Bamba headed wide in splendid isolation following Murphy’s corner.
The pattern of most of the first half continued on the restart, with Kike denied by Silvestri before a free-kick on the right almost resulted in a second for United, when Murphy’s delivery was met by Scott Wootton, whose header cannoned off the bar.
Kike then saw his low shot turned away with the impression that it might not be Boro’s day starting to generate.
A cross-shot from Adomah was soon tipped away by Silvestri, but while Leeds’ attacks were infrequent, they still possessed danger with Boro’s backline not looking wholly convincing.
A clearance from Ben Gibson denied Mowatt in the nick of time, with Leeds mindful that a second goal would effectively kill the game, with their threat on the break, if not exactly potent, at least prevalent.
Boro threw on Lee Tomlin on 57 minutes, with top-scorer Patrick Bamford also entering the fray seven minutes later, with all of the hosts’ attacking armoury now in the mix.
A brilliant challenge from Bamba, outstanding at the back, denied Kike in the nick of time as Boro launched another assault on the Leeds rearguard.
Vossen’s shot was then turned away by Silvestri before a saving challenge by Charlie Taylor thwarted Leadbitter.
As the clock ticked, so a sense of dispondency started to set in among home supporters in the 25,531 crowd with Leeds going close to sealing it from an unlikely source when Wootton arriving at the far post, couldn’t convert a low cross from Byram.
The seal on a difficult afternoon for Boro arrived late on when Vossen came off second best in a challenge in midfield with Cook, with the Boro forward receiving lengthy attention before being stretchered off.
It left Boro to play out the game with ten men, having used all their substitutes.
After a long delay, Leeds were left to negotiate nine minutes of added-on time, but it was they who come closest to another goal when Austin’s shot was tipped over.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Leeds to sign Sol Bamba on permanent deal in the summer

Here is the City 19/2/15
Mathew Nash
One of Leeds United's winter signings has certainly caused a buzz, with Ivorian Sol Bamba in terrific form since his arrival.
The former Leicester City man arrived with Palermo team-mate Granddi Ngoyi at the Yorkshire club and slotted straight into the first-team at Elland Road.
With impressive Championship experience from his time at Leicester, it is perhaps no surprise to see him doing so well at his new club. In fact, he is doing so well that he was even handed the captaincy for a recent win at Reading.
Bamba has played in four games for Leeds this season. Victories against Huddersfield United, Reading and Millwall as well as an unlucky defeat against promotion-chasing Brentford at Elland Road.
Considering however, the fact Bamba had only played one game for Palermo this season and therefore seriously lacked match fitness upon his Leeds arrival, his form since joining the club has been tremendous.
So tremendous in fact that reports claim this morning that Leeds are already beginning to put the wheels in motion for a permanent deal for Samba.
Tutto Mercato Web report that Leeds are sufficiently impressed with Samba and that a deal to bring him in permanently is now in the works and seemingly ready for completion.
This will no doubt please Leeds fans, who have been impressed by the cultured yet strong defensive style of the former Leicester man in his brief stint at the club so far.

Ex-Leeds Utd boss loses damages claim over naked shower photos sacking

Yorkshire Post 19/2/15
LEEDS United’s former technical director has lost his High Court damages claim over his dismissal for sending an email containing “obscene” images of naked women in the shower.
Gwyn Williams, 66, who was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct in July 2013, was seeking up to £250,000 in compensation for breach of contract.
Mr Williams claimed the email he sent to ex-Chelsea colleague Dennis Wise, Gus Poyet - now head coach of Sunderland - and Carol Lamb, a receptionist at the club, in 2008, was part of a “dirty Leeds” joke, referring to the club’s reputation for heavy tackling in the 1970s.
But dismissing his case today, Mr Justice Lewis of the Queen’s Bench Division said sending the “obscene and pornographic e-mails” was “a sufficiently serious breach of the duty of implied trust and confidence as to amount to a repudiation of the contract”.
He said: “The Club was entitled to rely upon that conduct as justifying the summary dismissal of the Claimant on 30 July 2013. The claim is therefore dismissed.”
Despite ruling against Mr Williams, the judge found that the club had started looking for evidence of gross misconduct so it could sack him without notice a month before his contract was terminated.
He ruled that the club had already decided not to pay him his salary during his notice period before they were made aware of the obscene emails.
The judge said he did not believe Mr Williams’s explanation for sending the photographs to Miss Lamb, who he claimed would appreciate them and “have a giggle about them”.
He said: “The photographs do more than depict a group of muddy women showering. They involve displays of female genitalia and breasts and scenes of simulated sexual activity between women.
“It is also difficult to understand why, if forwarding the e-mail and attachments was intended to do no more than share a verbal joke about Leeds, he should chose to send the e-mail to only one employee, a junior female employee.”
The judge said the images sent by Mr Williams were “a breach of the term of trust and confidence implied in the contract of employment.”
He said he “occupied a very senior management post” at Leeds United and that the images were “viewed objectively and, indeed, by the Claimant’s own admission, pornographic and obscene”.
Mr Justice Lewis added: “The Club’s reputation is important in terms of securing and retaining sponsors and supporters. The dissemination of the images was readily identified with the Club.
“They were sent via an e-mail address which had the phrase ‘leedsunited’ in the address. The accompanying text in the e-mail itself referred to dirty Leeds.
“The media were likely to be interested in stories involving the distribution of such material within the world of professional football. “If the fact that a senior manager had sent such images to a junior female member of staff became known, particularly if it led to a claim for harassment, the media might well have been interested in publicising those events.
“More generally, the sending of pornographic images by a senior manager at the Club to relatively well known persons active in professional football might itself have led to media interest and possibly publication of potentially negative press.
“That, in turn, might well adversely affect the reputation of the Club and, in turn, might well affect its ability to find or retain sponsors or supporters.”
In his ruling, Mr Justice Lewis said the club made Mr Williams redundant on July 23, 2013, but the two parties disagreed on the notice period that should be served.
The club initially claimed he should only be given a notice period of three months, but Mr Williams said he was entitled to 12 months because of an oral contract agreed with former owner Ken Bates.
The judge said the club later accepted that he was entitled to 12 months’ notice “unless the contract was terminated earlier by reason of gross misconduct”.
He added in his ruling: “The Club had already decided by at least 18 June 2013 that they would start investigations in relation to a number of senior managers at the Club to see if evidence could be discovered to justify dismissing them on grounds of gross misconduct.
“Certainly by no later than 20 July 2013, and in my judgement, probably as early as mid to late June 2013, the Club were actively seeking to find evidence which they could use to justify a dismissal of the Claimant on the grounds of misconduct.
“The claimant...invites me to infer that managers at the club, including [former managing director David] Haigh, knew of the fact that the claimant had forwarded the e-mail to Mr Wise before the decision had been taken to give notice of the termination of the Claimant’s contract.
“In my judgment, the evidence does not support such a finding and, on the evidence before me, I find as a fact that neither Mr Haigh nor any other person involved in the decision to give notice of termination of the Claimant’s contract on 23 July 2013 knew at that time of the 28 March 2008 e-mail from the Claimant to Mr Wise before notice of termination was given on 23 July 2013.”
The judge added in his ruling that “a decision was taken on or before the 22 July 2013 not to make any payments of salary to the Claimant during his notice period”.
He said: “Further, the managing Director, Mr Haigh, and, the acting chief executive officer, Mr Hunt, both knew on 22 July 2013 that such a decision had been taken and that that decision involved a breach by the Club of the Claimant’s contract.”
The judge said there was no evidence the club already knew about the obscene email when it gave Mr Williams notice of termination on July 23.
He said: “The more likely sequences of events, in my judgment, is that the Club had decided to give notice of termination to the Claimant on grounds of redundancy with three months’ notice; they had decided that they would not pay him any salary in any event; and they were actively looking for reasons to dismiss him on grounds of gross misconduct, and shortly after giving notice of termination, the managers saw the e-mail and wrote the letter dated 24 July 2013 making disciplinary allegations against the Claimant.”
Evidence submitted by Mr Williams’s legal team included an email sent by forensic investigators to then-managing director David Haigh.
It said the investigators had “analysed some 6,000 images attached to the Claimant’s e-mails and conducted targeted keyword searches for potentially offensive language.”
During the hearing, Mr Williams’s counsel, Daniel Barnett, told Mr Justice Lewis at London’s High Court that an attachment to the March 2008 email contained some images of a “Benny Hill” or “saucy postcard” nature while others went a little further, showing genitalia and women hugging and caressing each other.
“But they fall considerably short of hard-core pornography, or images that are likely to shock and disturb. They are innocuous in nature,“ he said.
Mr Williams, who joined Leeds in August 2006 at an annual salary of £200,000 plus benefits, argued that forwarding the email to three friends was not sufficiently serious to amount to a repudiatory breach of contract - while the club says it was.
He says that five years and eight months elapsed before it was discovered by the club, while allegedly conducting a forensic examination to find a reason to justify not paying him his notice.
Mr Barnett said: “The sole remaining issue is whether forwarding an email containing vulgar images goes sufficiently to the root of the employment contract to justify dismissal without notice.”

Leeds United: Walters is waiting in wings for debut

Yorkshire Evening Post 19/2/15
by Phil Hay
Talented teenager Lewis Walters is tantalisingly close to making his Leeds United first-team debut after recovering from injury on the back of a six-month rehabilitation programme. Phil Hay reports.
Lewis Walters knows that in this climate and with this head coach he’d have made his Leeds United debut by now.
He would have made it, were it not for the injury in July that set his development back six months.
The 19-year-old was as involved in the club’s pre-season friendlies as his contemporary, Lewis Cook, but the difference between them was that Cook made it through the summer unscathed.
Walters had one leg in a cast as the Championship term got underway.
He remembers the incident leading to his injury as wholly innocuous.
Walters was 25 minutes into a 2-0 defeat at Mansfield Town when he tweaked his knee and called for treatment.
In the absence of any severe pain he played on for a few minutes before collapsing in Mansfield’s box after jumping to head a corner kick.
The damage to cartilage required surgery and Walters has hardly kicked a ball since.
His outing in Tuesday’s development-squad game against Sheffield Wednesday was his first 90-minute appearance for, well, longer than he can remember.
And so it begins again: the patient wait for his chance to come.
Walters is optimistic that it will.
He has several reasons to think so. The striker made the bench for Leeds’ 4-1 defeat at Bournemouth last March and has been on the cusp of the first team for the best part of a year.
Neil Redfearn, United’s head coach, worked with him in the academy and is fast-tracking prospect after prospect from the development side.
Walters is not presumptuous but Redfearn would say that the teenager’s debut is an inevitability.
“I think I’d definitely have had my opportunity already if I’d stayed fit,” Walters said.
“I was doing really well in the summer and when I started against Mansfield I thought ‘I’ve got a really good chance here.’
“It’s strange because at first I didn’t think anything of the injury.
“I was running, I twisted and my knee clicked twice.
“I thought ‘that’s not right’ but it stopped hurting so I carried on. I went up for a header and as soon as I landed, the knee gave way. It stuck. I couldn’t move it.
“To begin with I didn’t think it was going to be so bad. I thought it was a little bit of cartilage, no more than that. Then we got the final analysis and I was gutted. I couldn’t believe it.”
Walters was told to prepare for several months of rehabilitation.
“Before we got the analysis the physios didn’t want to put negative ideas in my head,” he said.
“That would have made me feel crap. There was no timescale so I was gutted when I found out. I didn’t really expect it.”
As Walters inched towards full fitness, Redfearn made the effort to push him as much as possible. Last weekend the forward took part in the warm-up before Leeds’ 1-0 win over Millwall, despite being left out of the matchday squad.
He was put through 90 minutes against Sheffield Wednesday’s Under-21s on Tuesday – used as a winger – and looked visibly relieved to have a full game behind him.
Walters’ talent is not much of a secret. He was a reliable goalscorer in the Under-18s side that won their league title two years ago and he has an ounce of pace which Redfearn wants to try on the left wing.
United’s head coach has tried and failed to sign players in that position and Alex Mowatt, another of Walters’ ex-academy team-mates, has been asked to adapt to that role.
“I just need to work on my fitness,” Walters said.
“When I’m fit, that position will be a lot easier for me.
“At the moment I’m finding it a bit hard but I do like it out there.
“As long as I’m on the pitch, I’d play anywhere – up front hopefully – and it would be a dream to play at Elland Road in front of 25,000. I can’t picture that at the minute because the opportunity hasn’t come.”
They say that United’s self-produced players are a tight, sociable and supportive bunch. That much is evident in Walters’ comments.
This season he sat with a leg up while Cook and Charlie Taylor forced their way into Redfearn’s senior side.
Mowatt progressed ahead of him last year and Sam Byram’s emergence in 2012 was spectacularly quick.
On the bad days – “to be honest I didn’t have to many of those” – Walters must have felt like the train was leaving him behind.
Even so, he sounds anything but bitter.
“It doesn’t make it frustrating because I like to see my friends doing well,” he said.
“I’m really pleased for them and for what they’ve done. I hope when I get my chance I do exactly the same.
“(Redfearn) has told me to keep going, keep doing what I’m doing and my chance should come.
“He knows me better than anyone at the club because he’s been my coach all the way up.
“I think that’s why I think he’s making me feel better and giving me self-belief.
“He’s been a massive influence and he’s got the other young lads to where they are now.
“He’s pushing them on and look how well they’re doing.
“It’s an incentive for all of us.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Leeds United: “Consistent evidence” saw Bellusci cleared of racism

Yorkshire Evening Post 18/2/15
by Phil Hay
The “consistent evidence” put forward by Giuseppe Bellusci led an FA disciplinary commission to clear the Leeds United defender of racially abusing Cameron Jerome, according to the panel’s written judgement.
In a document published by the Football Association this morning, the three-man commission outlined their reasons for rejecting allegations that Bellusci aimed a racial slur at Jerome during a Championship game between Leeds and Norwich City at Carrow Road in October.
A misconduct charge brought against Bellusci by the FA was dismissed on February 6, almost three months after the alleged incident occurred, but today’s publication has explained in detail the claim made by Jerome and the crux of Bellusci’s defence.
The 25-year-old Italian was accused of calling Jerome a “negro”, a charge which would have landed Bellusci with a minimum five-game ban if the FA’s commission had found him guilty.
Bellusci was also alleged to have made an ‘aggravate breach’ - using a racist term more than once - but the panel accepted his argument that he said the word ‘nero’, the Italian term for black, in threatening to give Jerome “a black eye”.
The pair were involved in a spat midway through the first half of Leeds 1-1 draw at Carrow Road on October 21, prompting Jerome to lodge a complaint with match referee Mark Clattenburg.
The FA commission heard that Bellusci told Jerome “ti faccio un’occhio nero, pezzo di merda”, an Italian phrase which translates as “I will give you a black eye you piece of s**t.”
Jerome’s version of Bellusci’s remarks differed, alleging the repeated use of the word ‘negro’, but the commission’s findings said the striker’s “understanding of Italian was much more shaky and incomplete than the sense conveyed by his initial reporting to the match officials.”
It added: “Mr Jerome had learned some ‘choice’ Italian words during his time at Cardiff City from an Italian player whom he befriended.
“Mr Bellusci has been consistent throughout in his evidence as to the words used by him and that he said the word ‘nero’ only once in a particular context. He maintained that case during his evidence before the commission.”
The report concluded: “Mr Jerome’s evidence has been inconsistent in certain material respects which inevitably have an adverse affect on the reliability of his evidence as a whole.
“Accordingly, where their recollections differ, the commission prefers the consistent evidence of Mr Bellusci to that of Mr Jerome, specifically in relation to the word that forms the basis of the alleged aggravated breach.
“On the balance of probabilities we find that Mr Bellusci used the word ‘nero’ once, in the context that he claims, and that Mr Jerome misheard or misinterpreted what was said as ‘negro’. Once that misapprehension was planted in his mind, Mr Jerome’s reaction to it was entirely understandable.
“We therefore dismiss the charge in its entirety.”
According to the findings, Bellusci’s evidence was strengthened further by the fact that he told a member of United’s staff that he had threatened to give Jerome a black eye before he became aware of the precise nature of Jerome’s allegations.
The report said: “Any suggestion that Mr Bellusci has used the word ‘nero’ in order to ‘manufacture’ a case to fit in with ‘negro’ is undermined by the timing of his reporting to a Leeds’ official what he claims to have said, which preceded him first becoming aware of the racially abusive word that he was alleged to have used.”
The commission, however, absolved Jerome of acting maliciously in making allegations against Bellusci, saying: “The commission reiterates that we found Mr Jerome to be a truthful witness who honestly believed that he had been racially abused. He may well continue to do so.”
The three-man panel which cleared Bellusci was made up of barrister and chairman Craig Moore and FA representatives Keith Allen and Peter Clayton.

No room for complacency - Assistant head coach Steve Thompson

leedsunited.com 18/2/15
Assistant head coach Steve Thompson says "confidence is high" within the squad but insists there will be no room for complacency despite impressive recent results.
Thompson, who joined Neil Redfearn’s backroom staff midway through December, has helped oversee a dramatic turn in form which has seen United climb to 12th in the Championship table following four wins from five.
"The confidence is high after some good wins," said Thompson. "We’re under no illusions that we’re on a good run but we won’t change.
"We’ve got to make sure that we don’t slip back down there, we’ve got to be looking forward.
"We’re playing quite well at the moment and we’re creating chances, we’ve just got to make sure that we’re killing teams off.
"There’s a good atmosphere around the place and a good work ethic.
"The team is gradually gelling together and it’s a start for us."
Thompson’s impact since arriving at Thorp Arch from Huddersfield Town has not gone unnoticed, with Luke Murphy crediting the assistant as a big factor in his recent resurgence.
Thompson said: "I try and keep as many problems away from Redders as I can, that’s what a number two does.
"I work on players. I’ve said that to the lads – I’ll stay all afternoon.
"Murph was one – I’ve always rated him. He listens, he’s got great potential and he’s getting his rewards now for hard work.
"And I still think there’s more to come. That’s what it’s like with everyone.
"We’ve got a good bunch of lads – they’re buying into what myself and the manager tell them.
"It’s good at the moment, we’ve got some good players here."
United’s Under-21s battled out a 0-0 draw with Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday afternoon and Thompson, who was present in the Elland Road dug-out, was encouraged by the second-half display.
"The second half was a lot better than the first. In the first half we had no intensity, we just looked lethargic and everything was one-paced," he said.
"We got the expectations into them at half-time – play with a tempo and quick passing, driving through the thirds. It was better in the second half.
"We had some young lads out there and some lads who needed it for different reasons. It was a good workout and a good 90 minutes because you can’t replicate that in training.
"But I’ll take the positives out of the second half more than the first."

Leeds United: Future is bright if Whites can keep stars

Yorkshire Evening Post 18/2/15
Academy products Sam Byram, Lewis Cook, Charlie Taylor and Alex Mowatt have become the backbone of the Leeds first-team but predators could still take advantage of their contract situations. Phil Hay reports.
There’s a photograph doing the rounds on Twitter of the moments after Alex Mowatt’s winning goal against Millwall. It shows the midfielder sliding in front of the Elland Road crowd with Sam Byram, Lewis Cook and Charlie Taylor running in behind him; the academy frozen in time.
At certain clubs those four players would make up one third of a development-squad line-up but at Leeds United they have become the spine of the first team. In the remainder of a season which is suddenly stable and in control, attention will turn to the job of keeping that spine intact.
United’s forward-planning does not stop with the playing squad – at some stage in the near future, the club must decide if head coach Neil Redfearn has earned himself a second season – but the core of academy footballers in Redfearn’s side are not as secure as they could be.
Mowatt has been approached about a new deal but he and Taylor are reasonably well protected, under contract until the summer of 2017. Mowatt received improved terms 14 months ago and Taylor signed a three-year contract at the end of last season, one of the few commitments made by Massimo Cellino to existing players after his takeover of Leeds in April.
Cook and Byram are different. Both players negotiated deals running to 2016 prior to this season but neither contract has been extended despite recent discussions between the club and their representatives. Further negotiations will be necessary as Leeds inch towards the summer transfer window.
Cook’s reputation has been on the rise since he featured in England’s tournament-winning squad at the European Under-17 Championship last May.
Staff at Thorp Arch were keenly aware of his potential at the time but did not tout it openly and the midfielder took up a professional contract amid very little publicity.
United spoke with his agent around the turn of the year and their conversations are said to have been productive. It was agreed however that Cook – a player who turned 18 a fortnight ago – would not consider signing an extension while Cellino was subject to the ownership ban imposed on him by the Football League in December.
Cellino is disqualified from running Leeds until April 10, the consequence of his conviction for tax evasion in Italy last March. The 58-year-old has been absent from Elland Road for the past month and he flew to Miami on Sunday after belatedly deciding not to attend Saturday’s 1-0 win over Millwall. He is expected to remain in the USA for at least two weeks. The message from Cook’s camp was that they would be more willing to commit to another deal once the situation surrounding Cellino became clearer.
The Italian has resigned from the board of both United and Eleonora Sport Ltd – the UK firm which led his 75 per cent buy-out of Leeds – but his ban is temporary and the Football League has not ordered the sale of Eleonora’s majority stake.
Cellino does, however, face further tax charges in Italy and could find himself in breach of the League’s Owners and Directors Test again. His next case – concerning the alleged non-payment of VAT on a car – is due to be heard in Cagliari four days after his present disqualification ends.
Cellino met face-to-face with Byram’s agent before Christmas, though their meeting did not go well. It is understood to have ended abruptly after a disagreement, with Byram’s agent asked to leave. Byram, nonetheless, says he is happy at Elland Road. “I’m actually looking to buy a house in the area,” he told the YEP last month. “I live here, I’m from here and all my friends are here. But I’m back in the team and enjoying my football and that’s really the main part of it.”
There is satisfaction too in the en-masse progression of players from Leeds’ academy. Byram was an isolated representative of United’s youth-development scheme during his first season as a professional – a season when Neil Warnock was manager – but Mowatt emerged under Brian McDermott and Cook and Taylor have benefitted from Redfearn’s long-standing faith in them.
Redfearn was Leeds’ academy boss before his promotion to the head coach’s job and Cook’s involvement has been consistent ever since his appointment in November. When Leeds chose to allow former club captain Stephen Warnock to Derby County last month, Redfearn’s solution at left-back was to give 21-year-old Taylor an immediate chance. United’s line-up is increasingly home-grown.
Speaking after Saturday’s victory over Millwall, Mowatt said: “We’re a tight group, all the young players. You can see in the warm-up that we’re all together and we all get on really well. It’s nice to have all of us all out there and it’s better to be playing week in, week out (at a club).”
Gareth Southgate, the England Under-21 coach, was at Elland Road for Leeds’ 1-0 defeat to Brentford on February 7, hinting at possible call-ups for some of United’s players. Cook is an established youth international and Byram and Mowatt have both been selected by England at various age levels. The Under-21s play Germany and the Czech Republic next month.
Taylor, meanwhile, has been capped by England’s Under-19s and of all the youngsters in United’s line-up, Redfearn has been most quietly impressed by him.
“Charlie goes a bit under the radar,” Redfearn said. “People spot you more easily when you’re scoring goals or getting forward like Sam, Alex and Lewis do. Those three have been fantastic for us.
“But if you think about the time Charlie came into the team – a time when we needed results and things weren’t going great, a time when he hadn’t played for a while – his performances have been top draw. He’s good enough for the Championship and he’s shoulder-to-shoulder with the other young lads. It becomes a bit of a competition. They’re pushing each other to play well.”

Leeds United: All to play for - Thompson

Yorkshire Evening Post 18/2/15
by Phil Hay
Leeds United number two Steve Thompson believes the club would be wrong to think they are safe from relegation – but says the play-offs should not be seen as an impossibility either.
Neil Redfearn’s assistant wants Leeds to show “no complacency” after surging away from the bottom end of the Championship last week but previous promotion bids during his time as coach at Blackpool have made Thompson reluctant to give up on a top-six finish.
United are 15 points adrift of the play-offs with 15 games to go and more attention is being given to the small margin between Redfearn’s squad and the relegation zone ahead of Saturday’s visit to Championship leaders Middlesbrough.
Leeds climbed eight places to 12th last week with wins over Reading and Millwall.
Rotherham United manager Steve Evans, however, warned Redfearn on Monday that his team were still at risk of the drop.
“I keep hearing that they’re mid-table but it goes all the way up to inside the top half,” Evans said. “I don’t think anyone on 38 points or below is not part of the battle.”
Thompson, who is two months into his role as assistant to Redfearn, agreed with Evans, saying assumptions about Leeds’ survival were “the last thing that’ll happen here.”
Asked if United’s players felt safe, Thompson said: “Not at all. We’ll never get complacent about that, and that’s not me being negative. It’s just the last thing that’ll happen here.
“Until we’re mathematically safe we’ll continue to strive. We’ve had good results and we want to keep on getting results. The more we have, the better we’ll become and the more it’ll take us up the league. We don’t want to be looking behind us.”
Leeds’ 1-0 win over Millwall last Saturday was their fourth victory from fifth games, the club’s best spell of the season and a passage of results which has transformed the table.
United are still 40/1 to reach the play-offs but Thompson recalled his involvement in Blackpool’s 2006-07 campaign when 10 successive wins under Simon Grayson carried the club into the League One play-offs and up to the Championship.
He was also part of the coaching team who oversaw strong finishes in 2009-10 and 2011-12 and guided Blackpool into the Championship play-offs on both occasions. “We want to get as many points as we can,” Thompson said. “I was at a club where we went 10 (wins in a row) and got into the play-offs so anything can happen.
“Realistically we’re a way back but you take every game as it comes - nick points here, grind results out there. Until it’s impossible, until it’s gone, you keep striving for it.”

Leeds United: Adryan and Cani feature as Under-21s draw with Wednesday

Yorkshire Evening Post 17/2/15
Neil Redfearn gave several fringe members of his senior squad a run-out as a development league game between Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday ended goalless this afternoon.
Adryan, Casper Sloth and new signing Edgar Cani were included in a highly-experienced Under-21 line-up at Elland Road.
All three players were looking to catch Redfearn’s eye ahead of Saturday’s Championship match at Middlesbrough but a tight contest failed to yield any goals.
Brian Montenegro and Dario Del Fabro - both of whom are into the second half of year-long loans at Leeds - also started against the joint league leaders.
A fast-paced but uneventful first half produced only three chances of note, the first falling to United forward Lewis Walters. The 19-year-old - returning from major knee surgery - drew a parry from Wednesday goalkeeper Cameron Dawson with a rising shot from the edge of the box.
But the visitors went closer on 33 minutes when Paul Corry’s sweetly-struck effort beat Stuart Taylor and clipped the top of Leeds’ crossbar.
Taylor then pulled off a diving save to keep out a strike from Wednesday forward Johnny Fusco just before half-time.
Adryan almost forced the opening goal early in the second half with a 30-yard lob which Dawson kept out with his fingertips, redeeming his own poor clearance, and the Brazilian should have won the match 16 minutes from time when he nodded a free header straight at the Owls keeper.
Substitute Luke Parkin threatened a late winner but pulled a shot on the turn narrowly wide while at the other end, Taylor’s low, one-handed stop kept out Fusco’s last-gasp attempt.

Leeds United: Taylor praises class of 2015

Yorkshire Evening Post 16/2/15
RISING star Charlie Taylor says there’s “no limits” to the potential of Leeds United’s exciting class of 2015.
The defender has backed the Whites to make a last-gasp Championship play-offs push between now and May – and either way believes Leeds could be good enough for promotion next term.
Taylor, 21, is the latest Whites Academy graduate to become a first team regular with the left-back joining 18-year-old Lewis Cook, 20-year-old Alex Mowatt and 21-year-old Sam Byram in helping United to 14 points out of a possible 21 since the turn of the year.
Improving Leeds have zoomed from 20th to 12th in table and regardless of how this season concludes, Taylor feels United now have the raw talent to become a Premier League force again by 2016. Taylor told the YEP: “It might be a tough ask now this season but I can’t see no reason why we can’t do it next season. Things are very exciting here.
“You can see the potential in Cooky and Sam and Alex and if we can keep hold of everyone, everyone is only going to get better really. There’s no limits really as to how far everyone can go.”
Saturday’s 1-0 victory against Millwall at Elland Road took United into the Championship’s top half – 15 points off the play-offs and eight points clear of the dropzone.
Leeds visit second-placed Middlesbrough this Saturday and Taylor enthused: “Middlesbrough are a top side and it will be a good challenge but it’s one we are all looking forward to.”

Leeds United: Mowatt aims high after match-winning display

Yorkshire Evening Post 16/2/15
Alex Mowatt marked the end of his teens with a match-winning strike against Millwall and then focused his attention on taking Leeds United as close to the Championship’s top six as possible.
The midfielder turned 20 on Friday and put the gloss on his weekend 24 hours later, dispatching a deflected free-kick to inflict a 1-0 defeat on Millwall and carry Leeds into the top half of the division.
United were languishing in 20th position a week ago but successive victories over Reading and Ian Holloway’s Millwall raised the club to 12th at full-time on Saturday.
An eight-point gap between Leeds and the bottom three has eased fears of relegation to League One and a mammoth gap of 15 points to the play-offs is likely to limit United’s target to a top-half finish. But Mowatt said: “You never know and that’s this league.
“If you get a good run of games going then you see how high you can climb up. A couple of weeks ago people were saying relegation and things like that but now people are talking about getting near the play-offs.
“We’re in good form and if we keep winning games we’ll see where we can get to.”
Mowatt has been a prominent member of United’s squad for the past season-and-a-half despite his young age and head coach Neil Redfearn described him as the “best player on the pitch” at the end of Saturday’s game.
The former academy player has improvised as a left winger in Redfearn’s current formation and he said: “In the last couple of weeks I don’t think I’ve been at my best. I’ve been playing in a different position.
“But now I’m starting to get to know that position and it’s working because we’ve had a few results. I felt (against Millwall) that I was getting back to playing my best. It was a great win.”
Asked about his goal, Mowatt said: “That’s what I was after on Friday night.
“I was thinking it would be nice to get a goal for my birthday. It was the perfect birthday present.”
Leeds, who go to joint league leaders Middlesbrough this Saturday, have turned a troubled season around by winning four of their seven league games in 2015.
Mowatt claimed a team-bonding session had helped to drag Redfearn’s squad out of a patch of poor form, saying: “There’s a togetherness now and everyone is starting to get along better.
“We had a team night out and a meal and I think that got us all together. Since then we have been in good form.”

Leeds United: Dynamic duo Morison and Mowatt are praised by Redders

Yorkshire Evening Post 15/2/15
by Phil Hay
Neil Redfearn said Steve Morison would continue to receive his full support after the striker was again denied his first goal of the season in Leeds United’s 1-0 win over Millwall.
Redfearn vowed to be “tough” in his backing of Morison and talked up another committed display from the forward as United moved into the top half of the Championship with a fourth win in five games.
A first-half free-kick from Alex Mowatt gave Leeds the honour from a key relegation battle at Elland Road on Saturday, establishing an eight-point cushion between United and the league’s bottom three.
Morison has been a permanent fixture in Redfearn’s line-up during a resurgent spell and Leeds have lost just once since the 31-year-old was recalled for a 1-1 draw away at Bolton Wanderers on January 10.
The ex-Millwall striker has gone 13 games without a goal, however, and he failed to open his account at the weekend as chances in each half were dealt with by quick reactions from visiting goalkeeper David Forde and defender Alan Dunne.
But Redfearn refused to waver in his support of the forward, saying: “I do think he’ll score. I genuinely believe that he’ll score. Back when things weren’t so good for the team I said that it’s important that I’m tough for them. Sometimes you’ve got to be tough for individuals too and Steve’s a case in point at the moment. I thought he was outstanding again and he defended from the front. That’s what we wanted.”
Mowatt forced the issue on Saturday with his fifth goal of the season, converting a deflected freekick to extend Millwall’s woeful record at Elland Road. The Bermondsey club have won only once in Leeds since 1988.
The midfielder briefly lost his place in Redfearn’s line-up at the end of December and he has operated out of position on the left-side of midfield since regaining his spot but United’s head coach said: “He was the best player on the pitch. His touch and awareness were good and it was a great free-kick. The play down the left from him and (Charlie) Taylor was excellent and these young players are growing all the time. We’ve got loads of scope to work with them.”
Millwall came into the match in the second half, going close to an equaliser through Martyn Woolford and substitute Ricardo Fuller.
But Redfearn was pleased to see his side climb up to 12th position in the league top half of the table having watched them stumble into a relegation fight before Christmas.
Redfearn, who expects centre-back Liam Cooper to return to full training after a hip injury this week, said: “We created chance after chance but at 1-0 they were always in the game. In the second half we had to tough it out but that’s two clean sheets on the bounce now and that’s pleasing for me.”

Leeds United 1 Millwall 0: Redfearn says “milky” streak has gone from Leeds

Yorkshire Evening Post 14/2/15
HEAD coach Neil Redfearn praised the newfound steeliness of Leeds United as the Whites moved eight points clear of the Championship dropzone with a 1-0 defeat of Millwall at Elland Road.
Redfearn has previously lamented a weakness in the Whites that he described as “milky” but United dug deep to move into the division’s top half with their third win in four games.
Leeds now sit 12th in the table thanks to Alex Mowatt’s first half winner and Redfearn insisted: “There’s nothing milky about us now.
“We’re tough and we’re tough to play against and we’ve got a resoluteness about us that’s in keeping with this football club.
“The supporters expect that - it’s a given - and I think we are playing some good stuff as well.
“If we’re all honest I think we deserved to win and I think if it had been 3-0 at half-time I don’t think anyone would have argued with that.
“It ended up tougher than what it should have been. In the first half we were outstanding and I thought we were going to blow them away. It’s probably as dynamic and as well as we’ve played at home for a long time.
“We created chance after chance but at 1-0, they’re always in the game. In the second half we had to tough it out but that’s two clean sheets on the bounce now and that’s pleasing.
“We’re not going to get carried away with ourselves because there are clubs who can go on similar runs.
“But for the first time in a while, we can start looking up at the sides above us. We can maybe try and make some ground and get as much out of this season as we can.
“I think what we’ve got to start doing now is talking about the top half and getting further up the table. If we can keep this run going and string more runs together we’ll see how far we can get.”

United's resilience pleases Redfearn

leedsunited.com 14/2/15
Neil Redfearn was delighted with his side’s resilience following the 1-0 win over Millwall – a game in which the head coach admitted United needed to "scrap it out" to secure the three points.
Alex Mowatt’s first-half free-kick proved to be the difference at Elland Road, despite a number of nervy moments in the second half as the visitors pressed for an equaliser.
But the United defence held firm and could have added to the scoreline themselves as Scott Wootton, Sam Byram and Steve Morison all came close to making it two.
"It was a tough game - we had to scrap it out in the end," said Redfearn.
"I thought we were brilliant in the first half, I thought we murdered them but we didn’t put it away.
"At 1-0, they had a chance but there’s a resilience about us now, you can see that – our goals against is gradually improving bit by bit.
"We look like a tough Championship side to beat."
United have now won four of the last five league games and have suffered Championship defeat just once in 2015, a run which has seen Redfearn’s side climb to 12th in the table.
"We’re on a good run and they’re getting confidence from it," said the head coach. "In the last couple of performances, we’ve toughed it out.
"We’ve been difficult to play against. This was always going to be a tough game for us today, just the magnitude of it.
"It’s built up in the press as a six-pointer but we know there’s a lot of football to play yet. We did what we needed to do today.
"If we’d have been two or three-nil up at half-time, I don’t think it would have been unfair because of how we played in the first half.
"In the second half, we have to give them credit as well. He changed it around and they came into it.
"It was always going to be a nervy, jittery affair at 1-0 but I just think there’s a real resoluteness about us now."
Redfearn also praised the importance of Steve Morison to his team, with the striker putting in yet another tireless performance despite still being in search of his first goal of the season.
On Morison, Redfearn said: "What he needs is one to go in off his backside – a scruffy one. But he’s a big plus for us.
"There aren’t many good, big target men out there but he leads the line well and he’s mobile.
"He holds onto the ball and brings people into the game. He’s aware and he’s got a good touch for a big man.
"I thought he was excellent today."

Eight points clear of drop zone after Millwall victory

Yorkshire Evening Post 14/2/15
LEEDS UNITED moved eight points clear of the Championship dropzone as Alex Mowatt’s first-half free-kick sunk third-bottom Millwall 1-0 as part of a nervy afternoon at Elland Road.
United dominated the first half but were made to sweat in a tense, end to end second half in which Millwall’s Martyn Woolford - a January target for Leeds - blazed a golden chance to equalise over the bar.
Whites head coach Neil Redfearn made one change to the side that triumphed 2-0 at Reading on Tuesday with Rudy Austin returning from illness to replace Tommaso Bianchi in midfield.
Bianchi was taken off after half an hour against Reading after sustaining cruciate ligament damage to be replaced by Casper Sloth who impressed but Sloth remained on the bench, alongside Brazilian Adryan who was recalled.
In keeping Steve Morison in a lone striker role, Redfearn opted for the 4-5-1 system that had been working so well away from home.
But any concerns about United not being enough of an attacking force were dispelled from the off with the Whites beginning brightly backed by vociferous home support.
Morison and Alex Mowatt both forced early corners on opposite flanks while a jinking Sam Byram was already threatening down the right.
At the other end, a Millwall counter ended with Sol Bamba hacking away for a corner but Lee Martin’s set piece was curled straight out of play.
Leeds hit back with Rudy Austin powering down the right hand side and the Whites then went agonisingly close to taking the lead through Byram after eight minutes.
Mowatt fed an advancing Charlie Taylor down the left hand side and his low cross found Byram whose side-footed effort went inches wide of the right hand post.
Millwall had to wait another six minutes for their next chance as Stefan Maierhofer fired straight at Marco Silvestri from 20 yards.
The Lions then forced two corners with Joss Hooiveld heading the second over just after Mowatt had left the field injured though the midfielder thankfully returned to the field unscathed.
The tiny away support of 234 Millwall fans then thought the Lions had taken a 14th-minute lead through Diego Fabbrini but his shot from Maierhofer’s pull back hit the side netting.
Nevertheless, Millwall were now looking more threatening as the tie turned scrappy but Leeds hit back with Byram winning a left flank free-kick that Luke Murphy crossed forvBamba to head just wide after half an hour.
A fine cross from the impressive Taylor then forced another Whites corner but Murphy’s inswinger was easily held by David Forde.
Millwall’s Maierhofer - who was having a bad afternoon - then hauled down Murphy in midfield to become the first player to enter referee Paul Tierney’s notebook.
And it was from another careless Millwall foul that United went on to take the lead.
Shaun Williams hauled down Byram some five yards outside the area on the right hand side and up stepped Mowatt to produce a fine curling free-kick into the top right corner, albeit with a bit of a deflection off the wall.
The effort sent the home faithful wild and Leeds continued to attack after the goal with an acrobatic Austin effort saved.
From a dangerous corner, Leeds then worked the ball to Lewis Cook who had acres of space in the penalty area but opted to cross rather than shoot.
Amidst a frantic end to the half, Austin was then mystifyingly booked for diving and from the resulting Millwall free-kick Morison had a great chance to double the Whites lead as Joss Hooiveld was dispossessed but Forde rushed out of his area to thwart the former Millwall man.
At the other end, Millwall had a decent chance to level when a cross found Angel Martinez but he opted for a high volley which went wayward when a header looked the better option.
And that proved the last chance of a half that provided an entertaining start and conclusion, sandwiched by 20 minutes of scrappy play in the middle.
Millwall unsurprisingly withdrew Maierhofer for Lee Gregory at the interval and the second half began as the first half did with Leeds applying early pressure and Murphy crossing for Morison whose header sailed over on 51 minutes.
Millwall’s Williams then woefully gave the ball away in defence but the Whites failed to capitalise and the Lions hit back by forcing a free-kick and corner and Leeds began to look a tad shaky at the back.
Austin ballooned over at the other end as the second half began to turn into a bit of a non-event with Millwall boss Ian Holloway using his last two substitutes on the hour in swapping Fabbrini and Martinez for Ricardo Fuller and Edward Upson respectively.
And Millwall then missed a golden chance to equalise after 62 minutes through January Whitestarget Woolford.
Woeful Leeds defending allowed Millwall to counter three on two and Woolford was presented with a one on one situation with Silvestri but blazed over with the goal gaping.
Leeds had been majorly let off the hook - the need for a second goal was clear - and Morison almost provided it when fizzing wide from an angle.
Millwall responded with Woolford shooting wide from 25 yards before Leeds made their first change after 70 minutes in bringing on striker Mirco Antenucci for Austin who left the field to huge applause.
But the Whites were continuing to sit worryingly deep and it was from a rare break away that Byram blazed powerfully over from Antenucci’s left flank cross.
For Leeds, these were becoming nervy times and Martin’s free-kick went agonisingly wide after a touch from Hooiveld.
But Leeds hit back with a powerful Murphy shot saved after which Mowatt was booked for diving inside the area which proved hugely unpopular with the incensed Whites faithful.
The game started to swing from end to end and Woolford’s volley went just over as Millwall pressed for a leveller which was becoming deserved.
But United then squandered two gilt-edged chances to seal all three points when first Mowatt blazed over from inside the area and then Scott Wootton headed an even easier chance over the bar from an 86th-minute corner.
Millwall nearly made Leeds pay as Fuller fizzed just wide with three minutes remaining but Morison then had the chance to seal the dream conclusion when breaking into the area but he was denied by a fantastic block from Lions skipper Alan Dunne after cutting inside.
By now the game was approaching three minutes of injury time and with Millwall bombing forward in numbers United messed up two glorious opportunities through counter attacks with Morison again blocked out in the second of them.
But one goal would prove enough for Leeds to register a crucial victory and their second in a row to leave them eight points off the relegation zone and up to the dizzy heights of 12th.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Phil Hay – Whatever his cost, Murphy now showing his true value for Leeds United

Yorkshire Evening Post 14/2/15
The peculiarity of Luke Murphy’s £1m transfer fee is that it was seen as his problem.
If anyone was going to carry that cross it was the player who Leeds United chose to court, chose to bid for and chose to sign.
It never occurred, or not often enough, that in paying seven figures for a footballer and writing him off after 12 months, the cost and the joke would be on the club. The Premier League does not get out of bed for £1m – the Premier League gets out of bed for £5.1bn – but it is real money to Leeds, the sort of fee they rarely cough up.
Murphy represents one of football’s truisms: that a player is worth what a club values him at. It was his decision to join Leeds at a time when Blackburn Rovers wanted him but not his decision to set the price or to stretch either team to a certain sum. No doubt GFH liked the headlines (“a £1m deal”, this loan should cover it) but Leeds evidently thought he was worth it. The guilt here is not Murphy’s.
That said, the midfielder is worth it when he plays as he has since the start of January. Whether he looks like a £1m player is a moot point – no-one knows the definition of that anymore – but he has crossed the boundary between that grim world where people hang on your deficiencies to a place where they talk about your strengths. In this form you’d have him, whatever his true stock.
There is something about cash which skews perception. Matt Smith cost nothing so last season was a free run for him, a toe-in-the-water year. Murphy came in at the highest cost of any Leeds player for almost a decade and did not dare talk about settling in slowly. But they were both the same; signed from League One and hardened at a lower level in the Championship.
Smith and Murphy shared a room during United’s summer tour of Slovenia in 2013. Smith would talk about the culture shock of a Championship training schedule; of how he and Murphy spent “most of our free time sleeping” as they tried to adjust, recover and keep pace. Smith went onto have the better first year, in part because goals were the only thing of merit at Elland Road. If you weren’t scoring last season, you weren’t doing much.
There is nothing new to Murphy’s game now or nothing that wasn’t there at the beginning. He has a wider range of passing than any other Leeds player – short balls, crossfield switches, those long, hanging chips which have become his trademark – and a nose for the odd goal.
His reputation when he first joined United was that of a goalscoring midfielder, implying a level of prolific finishing which has never really been seen. One every 10 games was his rate at Crewe Alexandra so four for Leeds last season was standard. With Murphy, his strength is his string-pulling; the ability to nail Michael Hector, as he did at Reading on Tuesday, and set Leeds three-on-two with one look and a quick release of the ball. Neil Redfearn says Rudy Austin epitomises United’s resurgence. Murphy epitomises a team who have started to play forward.
Only Murphy knows where his form is coming form. He has kept his counsel recently, though an interview with him will run in today’s match programme. In footballing terms, there are some obvious factors: a proper period of acclimatisation in the Championship and the fact that Murphy patently has talent. It will help too that a front six made up of Lewis Cook, Sam Byram, Austin and Alex Mowatt has legs and the pace that he doesn’t.
The midfield picked by Brian McDermott on the final day of last season combined Murphy with Austin, Michael Tonge and Michael Brown. Certain individuals would outrun it backwards.
But there must be something in Redfearn’s comments about confidence and support. Before the new year there was nothing for Murphy to take encouragement from. Leeds would have let him leave in the last emergency loan window. They would have let him go had he not clicked so dramatically at the start of last month.
Every coach who works with Murphy says the same thing – he never sulks, he never moans, he never downs tools and never hides – but players can read signals and you wonder when Murphy was last told (or even given the impression) that he was better than a player who cost £1m and couldn’t cut it. You wonder when it was that Murphy last felt properly managed.
To have forked out and made nothing of him would have been a severe indictment of United’s recruitment and their ability to hone a footballer with potential. It would also have been symptomatic of the extreme levels of impatience at Leeds which manifest themselves in an obsession for change; a new squad and a new way each summer as the last batch of willing victims falls short.
If a Championship club spends £1m on a player, only to think about cutting their losses a year or so later, whose failure is that really? It sounds outdated or at odds with the modern transfer market but investment on that scale should be backed by a commitment to make the investment work, and to persevere when it looks like it won’t.
Murphy has plenty of quiet admirers – not least Steve Thompson, Redfearn’s assistant – and has done from the start.
They can’t all be wrong.

Leeds United embroiled in fresh legal battle

Yorkshire Evening Post 13/2/15
by Phil Hay
The long-time parent company of Leeds United is fighting to reverse a winding-up order issued against it by the High Court this week.
A judge in London ordered Leeds City Holdings Limited to be liquidated on Monday over a debt claimed by former club solicitor Mark Taylor.
Taylor - a lawyer who acted on United’s behalf during much of Ken Bates’ time as chairman - sought payment of £45,000 for work carried out in December 2012, the same month that Bates sold Leeds to Gulf Finance House.
A winding-up petition was served on Leeds City Holdings before Christmas and a receiver has been appointed to liquidate the firm following Monday’s court hearing, a hearing which officials from United failed to attend.
Speaking today, however, club chairman Andrew Umbers said attempts would be made to overturn that ruling.
Umbers said: “The debt is a solicitor’s bill which is incapable of founding a winding-up order. LCH is now taking the appropriate action.”
Leeds City Holdings (LCH) was incorporated in April 2006 and acted as the parent company for Leeds United throughout Bates’ reign as club chairman and latterly owner.
The firm remains part of Leeds’ corporate structure but the club’s financial accounts for the 2013-14 year stated that Leeds United Football Club Limited had been passed to a new parent company, Eleonora Immobiliare SPA.
Eleonora Immobiliare is an Italian entity based in Milan with connections to Massimo Cellino, United’s former president who is currently banned from running the club by the Football League.
The accounts read: “On June 27, 2014, subsequent to a share issue, Eleonora Immobiliare SPA became the immediate parent. Until this date, Leeds City Holdings Limited was the immediate parent.”
A source close to United told the YEP that LCH was effectively a “dormant parent” and said the company held only a small shareholding in Leeds United, around five per cent.
LCH was “toxic with liabilities and no value” to the club and was likely to be set aside in the near future, the source said.
The overall split of shares at Elland Road continues to see 75 per cent of the club owned by Cellino and his associates and 25 per cent controlled by Gulf Finance House.
Cellino has been faced with numerous liabilities and winding-up petitions since leading his takeover of Leeds from GFH last year.
In a radio interview broadcast yesterday, Bates claimed he had spoken to Cellino in August in an attempt to resolve the issue over Taylor’s £45,000 bill.
Bates told Radio Yorkshire: “Mark Taylor is a lawyer, he used to act for Leeds United when I was chairman.
“He did some work for us in December 2012 and the bill was due until January, February 2013. GFH just ignored his bill.
“I met Massimo Cellino on August 1 in London when we resolved our differences outstanding from GFH’s days and I raised the subject of Mark Taylor and him being owed £45,000. Massimo said ‘if he’ll take £40,000 I’ll pay him now.’ I rang Mark Taylor who accepted it and thought that was the end of the matter. Unfortunately it hasn’t been paid.
“What Mark Taylor then did was petition the court to bankrupt Leeds City Holdings as a last resort. Nobody turned up from Leeds United for the hearing even though a proper notice had been served so the judge wound up LCH and appointed an official receiver to liquidate it.”

Leeds were crying out for player like Bamba – Redfearn

Yorkshire Post 13/2/15
NEIL REDFEARN has hailed the influence of Sol Bamba since the defender returned to the Championship with Leeds United.
The 30-year-old moved to Elland Road shortly before the end of the January transfer window and has made an immediate impact.
United have taken six points from the three games that Bamba has played, the latest of which was Tuesday’s tremendous 2-0 win at Reading.
Redfearn is in no doubt that the former Leicester City defender, whose last game in England before joining Leeds was, coincidentally, at Elland Road in May 2012, has played a major part.
The Leeds head coach said: “Sol has been the type of player we have perhaps been crying out for. He has got leadership and he has galvanised the back four. He was outstanding again the other night.
“He has been massively important and instrumental in the run. He has experience, he has given us a physical presence that we were maybe lacking. But along with that height and strength, he can play.
“He understands his position and he’s been a fantastic addition. The transfer deadline was an important time for us in the sense of keeping our better players. The club showed a willingness to do that.”
Bamba will again be at the heart of the United defence tomorrow for the clash with Millwall.
United will be buoyed by a run of six games since the turn of the year that have yielded 11 points. It is a return that has helped take Redfearn’s men clear of trouble, but the head coach realises no one can rest on their laurels, especially with the Lions sitting just five points behind the Yorkshire club going into tomorrow’s game.
With that in mind, Redfearn is keen to add at least one new face during the emergency loan window and former Scunthorpe United man Martyn Woolford is believed to be on the radar.
He said: “We are definitely looking. I have mentioned certain players and we know the areas we are targeting.
“It is not a secret. But it is about getting the right ones in.
“If you can’t, you might as well persevere with the ones you have got.”
On Woolford, he added: “He has got Championship experience, he scores goals and he gives you physical presence on the left. He gives you that balance and he is the type of player we are looking for.”

Leeds United: Midfielder Bianchi out for the season as he awaits knee operation

Yorkshire Evening Post 13/2/15
Leeds United have confirmed that midfielder Tommaso Bianchi will undergo surgery on a knee injury, ruling him out for the rest of the season.
Bianchi suffered medial ligament damage during Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Reading and is not expected to play any further part in United’s Championship term.
The Italian, 26, was injured in a first-half challenge with Reading’s Danny Williams, leaving the pitch on 30 minutes having initially attempted to play on.
Bianchi’s appearance at the Madejski Stadium was his first for more than a month but he is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines and will go under the knife shortly.
Head coach Neil Redfearn said: “He’s going to be out for a while. It’s a medial ligament injury and he’s going to need an operation.
“We’re looking at a couple of months so he’s perhaps out for the season. It’s disappointing for him because he’s a really good kid who works hard and tries his best.
“He’s been out the picture but he came back in the other night and I thought he was doing okay. But he’s only young so he’ll be back.”
Bianchi joins Aidan White and Zan Benedicic on the list of long-term absentees. White and Benedicic are also likely to miss the rest of the season.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Leeds United: Adryan must earn recall - Redfearn

Yorkshire Evening Post 11/2/15
by Phil Hay
Neil Redfearn says he will not bow to external pressure to reinvolve Adryan in Leeds United’s season, insisting the Brazilian needs to “start playing well” to justify a recall.
Redfearn left the door open to Adryan after last night’s 2-0 win at Reading but said a team minus the 20-year-old was being chosen “on merit” and “looked like a side, rather than individuals.”
Adryan has been sidelined from United’s Championship term for a month-and-a-half, dropped by Redfearn after his appearance in an FA Cup tie against Sunderland on January 4, and he failed to make the squad at Reading despite a spate of absentees and a bench featuring four strikers.
The midfielder - midway through a season-long loan from Flamengo - played instead in a development squad game at Sheffield United this afternoon, completing 90 minutes as Leeds’ Under-21s lost 2-1.
Redfearn admitted last month that Adryan “needs time” to adapt to English football, saying the youngster could be “a big player for this club in the future.”
Leeds, however, have taken three wins and two draws from a run of six league matches without Adryan and their head coach turned to alternative options at Reading, giving fresh chances to Casper Sloth and Tommaso Bianchi.
Second-half goals from Luke Murphy and Sam Byram sealed a deserved victory, moving United up to 17th in the Championship.
The Elland Road club meet Millwall on Saturday - another side in the middle of a tight relegation battle - but Redfearn indicated that he would resist public clamour for Adryan to return to the fold.
“He’s got to start playing well to get in,” Redfearn said. “It’s that simple. He’s got to do well and play well.
“What’s happening here now is that everyone realises you’ve got to compete and play well to be in our squad. We’ve been striving for that for the last two or three months and it’s the only way you make your team and your club better.
“The lads who were on the bench (yesterday) have worked really hard in training and if you look at our performances, we’ve rejuvenated some players. We look like a side, rather than individuals, and we look like a team who’ll compete.”
Asked if he felt his side was being chosen on merit, Redfearn said: “Definitely.
“But that doesn’t mean to say Adryan’s out of the picture. He’s just got to do a bit more. He needs to do well and if he does well, he’ll get his chance again.”
Sloth played for an hour at the Madejski Stadium after replacing the injured Bianchi as a substitute, the Dane’s first extended appearance in a Championship fixture for a month.
The midfielder - a £600,000 signing from Aarhus last summer - has spoken repeatedly in the Danish press about his frustration over his lack of chances at Leeds but he caught the eye last night, contributing heavily to a disciplined but ambitious performance.
The 22-year-old is looking to retain his place against Millwall and make only his second league start since early October.
“When I came here I played in the first games and I was happy with my performances,” Sloth said. “We got some results as well but then I was out of the team, which is how it is in football sometimes.
“But of course I want to play every game and I do my best when I get the chance.”
Kalvin Phillips claimed United’s only goal as the club’s Under-21s suffered a late loss in Sheffield earlier today.
Forward Lewis Walters was included in the development squad line-up after his recent return from knee surgery.

Leeds United: Let’s put relegation battle to bed - Redfearn

Yorkshire Evening Post 11/2/15
by Phil Hay
Neil Redfearn called on Leeds United to aim for the jugular and put their Championship relegation battle to bed after an inspired win at Reading.
Leeds rose to the occasion on a pressurised night in the Championship as another brave performance away from home kept Redfearn’s squad five points clear of the relegation zone.
Second-half goals from Luke Murphy and Sam Byram earned a 2-0 victory at the Madejski Stadium, matching a rare win for Millwall over Birmingham City and easing the tension surrounding Saturday’s meeting between the clubs at Elland Road.
Leeds would move eight points clear of the bottom three with a win over Millwall this weekend, stabilising a season which has been fought out in the lower half of the Championship ever since United’s defeat at The Den on the first day of the campaign.
Redfearn was hampered by the loss of Liam Cooper, Rodolph Austin and Gaetano Berardi to injury and illness ahead of last night’s match, and midfielder Tommaso Bianchi could be set for knee surgery after limping out of the first half.
But a 25-yard strike from Murphy –his third goal since returning to United’s line-up last month – and a last-gasp header from Byram secured a deserved win over Steve Clarke’s Reading.
United’s head coach said: “From one to 11 we defended really well and the goals were the icing on the cake. We countered so many times towards the end of the game.
“It’s taken us up to 17th and that looks a lot better, a lot healthier. But the more important thing is that we’re up to 35 points, much closer to that 50-point mark. A lot of clubs are bunched together and a lot are floundering.
“The season’s still well alive for us and in the last six or seven games we’ve been playing proper Championship football. We’ve been difficult to beat and we’ve come out the right side of most of the games. We’ve got go on from here now.”

Reading 0 Leeds Utd 2 : Murphy on target to pull Leeds away from trouble

Yorkshire Post 11/2/15
Leeds UNITED claimed a valuable three points in their fight against relegation with a deserved victory at Reading.
Luke Murphy’s speculative effort from long distance appeared to deceive home goalkeeper Adam Federici and gave Leeds the lead midway through the second half. Sam Byram then sealed the win in the last minute when nodding in unmarked at the far post.
Leeds have stuttered all season and the permanent appointment of manager Neil Redfearn in November had not seemed to have improved matters.
Prior to the visit to the Madejski Stadium, Redfearn had overseen just four wins in his 15 matches in charge.
Neither of the teams were able to muster any worthwhile attempts on goal in the lacklustre opening exchanges.
Reading did most of the pressing, mainly through the right-wing runs of Garath McCleary, but could not produce any end product.
Pavel Pogrebnyak also tried to pierce the Leeds defensive cover but was thwarted by an excellent tackle from Tommaso Bianchi.
Leeds replied through Steve Morison but his low cross from the byline was scrambled clear by Federici and his defenders.
Bianchi tested Federici soon after with a firm drive but played little further part. He injured a knee in a collision with Danny Williams and was replaced by Casper Sloth on the half hour.
Lewis Cook broke clear and found Morison but the striker’s low effort struck Federici’s left-hand post and bounced to safety.
After a poor first half from both sides, Reading set about making amends after the interval. Stephen Kelly crossed from the right but Blackman’s header was weak and carried little danger for Leeds goalkeeper Marco Silvestri.
It was against the run of play, though, when Leeds went ahead in the 63rd minute.
There appeared little threat when Murphy gathered the ball 35 yards out but he unleashed a fierce drive that Federici seemed to see late and could only help on its way into the net. Byram sealed a much-needed Leeds victory in the 90th minute when nodding in from Morison’s far-post cross.

Leeds United: Regal Leeds dig out a right Royal win

Yorkshire Evening Post 11/2/15
A huge win over Reading in the bag and Millwall on Saturday looms with less intent than it might have done. What was billed as a game with everything riding on it could finally burst Leeds United out of the Championship’s relegation fight.
The club have kept themselves about the waterline all season and they are safer than ever after leaving the Madejski Stadium with endless credit for an immense job on a big night. Another Luke Murphy goal, the currency which holds most value at Elland Road these days, and a Sam Byram header claimed the result which the outside of a post had threatened to deny them.
While Murphy is finding the net with most of what he touches, Steve Morison cannot buy an appearance on the scoresheet from anywhere. The goal Morison seems destined never to score eluded him again when his first-half shot struck a post but Murphy’s bullet on 63 minutes took a scalp which was begging to be taken from an early stage. Byram prevented a late kick in the teeth with a euphoric, point-blank finish at the end of normal time.
United’s head coach, Neil Redfearn, might have settled for a draw beforehand and moreso when illness began eating away at his squad but news of Millwall’s win at Birmingham City – the sort of result the south London club have been struggling to turn up – made a similar result in Berkshire essential.
Leeds’ advantage over the bottom three, over Millwall themselves, remains at five points. It could be eight by 5pm at Elland Road on Saturday.
For a while, the scoreline at St Andrews cast Morison’s effort in a costly light; a glorious chance to take the initiative in a match which Leeds had more than enough of. The striker was on hand to take a flighted pass from Lewis Cook with Reading at sixes and sevens in the 36th minute but his attempt to place the ball into the far corner of the net failed to nestle in it.
There was ample adventure from Leeds regardless and as the pressure built again, Murphy beat Royals goalkeeper Adam Federici with a firm hit which the Australian reached but could not stop. Federici had no chance at all on 90 minutes when Byram ran in to nod home Morison’s cross. The winger’s reaction told a thousand stories. Hope springs eternal.
For Redfearn, last night’s victory came in spite of awkward and disrupted preparation. He gambled unsuccessfully with his formation against Brentford on Saturday, removing his sitting midfielders to United’s cost, but Reading away on a midweek evening called for a tighter set-up.
The reorganisation should have been straightforward enough – Alex Mowatt in, Billy Sharp out, and a line-up which Redfearn might have used at the weekend given the chance again – but illness accounted for Rodolph Austin and Liam Cooper ahead of kick-off.
Tommaso Bianchi and Giuseppe Bellusci stepped into the breach – Bianchi for all of 30 minutes before injury claimed him too – and the loss of Gaetano Berardi to a fever of his own led to the inclusion of four strikers on the bench. It would have been a forthright policy had it been entirely unenforced. Adryan, again, was left outside the 18.
The circumstances were not conducive to Leeds’ first-ever victory at the Madejski and nor was a badly-scuffed pitch but Reading attempted to press Leeds without success in a first half which amounted to little more than an agonising near-miss from Morison.
Steve Clarke’s players tried repeatedly to pass, chip and force their way in behind Redfearn’s full-backs but the game did not see a shot on goal for 17 minutes. The save which Bianchi’s volley brought from Federici was the first anxious touch for either keeper.
Federici had been more seriously exposed seconds earlier, however, as Cook’s driving legs took him quickly over 20 yards and worked Morison into space inside Reading’s box. Byram stood three yards from goal waiting for a cut-back but Morison’s pass got caught in the legs of Michael Hector before Byram could finish it off.
That opportunity came and went quickly but it encouraged Leeds to think that Clarke’s defence was less than impenetrable. For much of the opening 45 minutes, the visitors were more disciplined and accomplished. Reading found Leeds as aggressive as themselves and a heavy, 50-50 tackle between Bianchi and Danny Williams left both players limping around shortly before the half-hour. Redfearn was forced to replace the Italian with Casper Sloth soon after.
Only on rare occasions did United switch off and find themselves backtracking. Nathaniel Chalobah, the on-loan Chelsea midfielder, caught Redfearn’s defence asleep in the 29th minute when a quick free-kick ran into Marco Silvestri’s box but his cross had no hope of finding a deadly touch inside a packed area.
When Sol Bamba committed himself upfield and allowed Nick Blackman to break away, Bellusci covered in time to stick a foot out and turn the winger’s shot behind.
Leeds, nonetheless, had the chance that mattered when Morison struck the woodwork on 36 mins.
The striker was picked out by a beautiful pass from Cook after Oliver Norwood passed to no-one in the centre-circle. Morison took time to control the ball and cut inside before curling the ball off the outside of Federici’s left-hand post from 14 yards.
His first goal of the season refuses to come.
The second half started as loosely as the first had finished and there was no inclination on United’s part to dig in. With 63 minutes gone, a spell of pressure paid off with another priceless goal from Murphy, enough to settle the game at a stroke.
The midfielder was given time to collect possession, steady himself and beat Federici from 25 yards with a driving shot which smashed through the keeper’s right hand. As United’s players massed around Murphy, Reading’s number one had the sheepish look of a keeper who should have done better.
Leeds could not have asked for more of Silvestri when, with 17 minutes left, he dropped down to meet Danny Williams’ shot with his legs after United’s defence lost track of the forward. Yakubu, Reading’s new and ageing signing, was on the field by then and the hosts were going for broke but United had the bit between their teeth and seemed to grasp the urgency of the evening.
Murphy displayed it again with a fine tackle on the halfway line, causing havoc and sparking the attack which ended with Byram heading in Morison’s dinked cross before diving into the away end as the clock moved into injury-time.
Leeds will treasure this result like few others.