Following the draw on Saturday, it appeared that Luke Ayling was the latest in a long line to be hounded on twitter about how poor he was (and much worse). This follows attacks on pretty much all the team within the last 12 months from ‘fans’ who think it’s their right to actually tag the players in to ensure they see the messages of hate. I’m sorry, but I just cannot get my head around that mentality. Here we are, sat in an automatic play off position, with a squad that was expected to finish mid table. The players (with the obvious help of Bielsa) are out performing to a ridiculous level. They have bought into everything that the manager has asked – extra training, gruelling drills, analysing recordings of their performance and so much more. We are having the best season, and playing the best football since we were relegated, and still these ‘supporters’ have a go. This is the one time we should be absolutely together. Us against the world as rival managers, the EFL, opposition fans queue up to have a dig. Now more than ever we should be United, but few morons seem to want to alienate the players. I don’t get it, I really don’t. What is it going to achieve? How is it possibly going to help? I’m not suggesting players should be except from (constructive) criticism, but there’s a line and a few seem intent on crossing it. We, as fans, have a massive part to play – and the vast majority do it – packing out ER, selling tour away allocation all the time – lets not let a few idiots spoil it.. and if you are one of those idiots…belt up, unfollow and have a word with yourselves.
A couple of days after the event, and a good time to reflect on the Norwich game and ask, was it really that bad? The answer, for me, is yes and no, or actually, no and yes. The first half was all about fine margins, with some if’s and and’s thrown in. We started very brightly – 4 shots in the opening 12 minutes, and we looked right up for the fight. Nothing clear cut, but Alioski’s volley was the nearest we came… a deflection on that and we would have taken a deserved lead. However, two individual error’s were to turn the game on it’s head. First, Jansson was caught in possession – that happens with the style we play. The bigger error though, was getting frustrated and giving away a foul when there was plenty of cover around. A deflection on the free kick and suddenly we were a goal down. We kept pushing, but Norwich are good sat on a goal lead, and the second mistake effectively killed the game – this time Forshaw caught on the ball – again, I accept that happens, but he lost his shape completely, dropping 10 yards behind the defence, and sod’s law – a lucky deflection fell to the striker who easily scored – when he would, and should have been yards offside. Forshaw has had some stick, some deserved, some harsh. I believe Bielsa played him over Phillips to keep hold of the ball better – his ball retention is second to none, and I imagine Bielsa didn’t want to give a creative Norwich too much possession – with hindsight, a mistake – Phillips has been arguably our best player this season, and he was missed. The rest of the half saw a penalty appeal incorrectly turned down for Leeds, a yellow card for Krul that could have been red, and Ayling’s goal incorrectly chalked off for a foul – we were 2-0 down, but on another day, could have been 2-0 up.
The second half, however, was poor. We lacked shape and ideas, and Norwich soaked it up and hit us via a third deflection – Bamford’s late goal just a consolation.
Whilst incredibly frustrated afterwards and still without a cat to kick, I’m more optimistic now. I don’t think we were blown away by an amazing side – we didn’t get the rub of the green first half, and panicked a bit second. WBA are still, IMO the only team that has turned us over.
Onto Middlesboro on Saturday – and it could be all change, or just tweaked. Corps and Jansson are nailed on, as is Pablo (if fully fit). After that, there are some choices for Bielsa – Shakelton or Ayling at full back – Jamie is pushing for a start with ailing not looking good for a while now, but against a physically strong Boro, with the ball in the iar none stop, I would expect Ayling to hold hios place – at let back, Douglas or Alioski? Alioski for me… In the middle you would expect Phillips back in the place of either Forshaw or Klich, with Forshaw favourite for the chop. Wingers and number 10 could be any 2 to partner Hernandez, but again, wouldn’t surprise me to see Harrison and Roberts kept in. Up top, Roofe or Bamford? Plenty of strength in depth now the injury situation is easing, but personally, only see Phillips coming in for Forshaw, with the rest given another chance..
Hot on the heels of probably the greatest ever Leeds United press conference, where Bielsa gave the waiting media, the media pundits, the fans and Frank Lambard a master class in tactics in response to the #spygate nonsense, the Championship club are hitting the headlines again, announcing the arrival of Kiko Casilla from Real Madrid.
The keeper joins on a four and a half year deal having signed on a free transfer after bought himself out of the remaining 18 months of his contract abroad. It is the first time the keeper has left Spain and is indicative of the pull that Leeds, and probably the tactical genius of our manager can have.
Bailey Peacock-Farell is expected to make way for the new signing, having played 31 times. There is no doubting the youngsters ability. He has pulled off some outstanding saves this season, however he is inexperienced and has made a couple of errors, and having an experienced professional like Casilla at the club will not do his development any harm.
The signing not only gives Leeds strength in goal for the promotional push, but secures a healthy future for the club in between the sticks.
Part 3 of our look at the fantastic talents in the u23’s sees us run the rule of Bulgarian striker Kun Temenuzhkov
Kun joined the fabled Barcelona academy in 2014 as a player they had tracked for some time. Whilst small in stature, the 18 year old makes up for it with acceleration, speed of thought and finishing. This season has seen him move up from the under 18’s to become a big part of the very successful under 23’s, whilst also making his senior debut, coming off the bench in the recent FA cup game at QPR. Kun has come with a weight of expectation on his shoulders – featuring in the Guardians’ top 60 European youngsters to look out for.
His style of play, partly due to his size, is that of an Aguero or Luis Suarez. He has spent the last year or so getting used to the physicality of the English game, but there are hopes that this season could see him feature again as his impressive performances for the u23’s have him knocking on the door. He is a Bulgarian youth International, all the way up to under 19’s
Woke up Friday to the ‘spygate’ story and had a little chuckle – seemed a bit of harmless fun. Fast forward 24 hours and I was looking for effigies of Bielsa hanging from lampposts. In all my time, I have never seen an overreaction like this.
It was something I thought would be pretty standard practice, and whilst the majority of the football world accepts it is, there are some who seem outraged beyond belief. Some, are fighting for column inches. Slate Leeds on social media/the press etc and you’ll have your name all over – profile raised. The others, I cannot figure out – with the utmost respect, some must be a little thick – there is no other reason I can think.
Jermaine Jenas suggested we must be docked points – before back tracking to a heavy fine when he realised how stupid that was. The most bizarre for me was Stan Colleymore – ‘the match should be replayed’. Is that a serious thought? We should replay the game because someone looked over a hedge?
Diving is cheating
Appealing for a throw in when you know you kicked it out, is cheating
Feigning injury, is cheating
Grabbing someone’s shirt in the box from a corner, is cheating
Watching a training session from public land – IS NOT CHEATING.
Whilst loads of work has been done to stamp a lot of issues out of the game, let’s not kid ourselves that there are some massive problems – racism, homophobia, tapping up players, financial fair play (what a joke that is), illegal approaches and historical sexual abuse need everything throwing at them – but Jenas, Lampard, Colleymore, Andrews et all seem to think ‘spying’ (we call out it scouting) is where we need to focus our attention. If this was Lincoln or Morecambe (no offence to those clubs), would it be national news? No chance. But you know what – all it’s done is increase the siege mentality-something we thrive on. I didn’t think I could love our manager any more – then he does this, and my love has gone up a notch.
*subnote to pay respect to little Toby Nye who sadly passed on Saturday, and Phil Massinga, a true gent. RIP and thoughts and love with both of their families*