Keep Fighting Mentality Returns To Dirty Leeds TSS March 13, 2012 Leeds United 25 Comments Under Neil Warnock, Michael Brown has pulled off a transformation of Michael Jackson proportions; barely recognisable from the has-been midfielder Simon Grayson brought in who seemed incapable of timing a tackle correctly and struggled to make any kind of positive impact on the team. When Brown signed in the summer I was quite optimistic about the kind of impact he could make, citing his wealth of experience as a potentially huge asset to our young midfield. In my head, I’d devised a system wherein Brown would play a holding role in a 4-5-1, allowing Jonny Howson to roam free and bag another 15 goal season haul. Instead, a flat 4-4-2 became the norm and Brown no longer had the pace to play that system effectively. The problem was, Ross McCormack was firing on all cyclinders in attack, but whenever Grayson tried to play him as a lone striker, the system invariably failed – a target man, Ross McCormack simply is not. He needed that support alongside him. This meant the 4-4-2 remained and Michael Brown was left to wither away, his usefulness desperately misplaced like a salad at McDonald’s. Just when all hope for a triumphant final bow seemed lost, in came Neil Warnock who instantly recognised the problem. No longer would the salad be placed atop a quarter pound of grease-covered beef, it would instead sit majestically, positioned perfectly within a healthy recipe for satisfaction and success. In a well-organised line-up, Michael Brown doesn’t need the pace he once had. Instead of expecting him to play a box-to-box role, Neil Warnock positions him as an edge-of-the-box enforcer – approach at your own peril. And his influence seems to be rubbing off on Adam Clayton too. Middlesbrough are a team whose front six is used to playing patient attacking football, but the midfield combination of Brown and Clayton never gave them time to think about their next pass. They were harried throughout, constantly dispossessed or forced into clumsy passing errors. By half-time at the Riverside, Leeds United were walking off the pitch with devilish smiles spread across the faces of eleven warriors. Middlesbrough meanwhile looked positively victim-like in their exit – they looked tired and confused. They’d played the same game all season, and not once had they been so comprehensively overrun. Even when Middlesbrough did find a way through our warrior-esque midfield, they still had “Paddy” O’Dea, Tom Lees, Paul Robinson and Paul Connolly to contend with, none of which were in the mood to let them through without a fight. By the closing stages I was actually starting to pity our opposition. When they made it to the wing, wounded and struggling to draw breath, in came Paul Robinson to deliver the knock-out blow. Middlesbrough had been beaten mercilessly into submission. To put this entire transformation down to a knock-on effect of Michael Brown’s newly-restored confidence would be unfair on the efforts of everyone involved, but Brown’s transformation is indicative of the team at large. To a man they’ve been tireless, determined and lacking any sympathy for their victims – many more of which will follow. Anti-football? Maybe it is, but isn’t that what Leeds United’s legacy has been built on? For every 7-0 whitewash, there were 200 results ground out by a team of warriors. It’s not just Revie’s team either, Howard Wilkinson’s side stands testament to the “keep fighting” philosophy demanded by our supporters. Very few people came out of a midfield battle with the likes of Gordon Strachan, David Batty and Vinnie Jones unscathed. Strange though it is for a Sheffield man to remind us of who we are, maybe Leeds United lost sight of our true nature amidst the stylish play of David O’Leary’s kids and the 2-0-9 all-out-attack days of Simon Grayson? The fact is, Leeds’ football team reflects the area in which it’s housed – tough and uncompromising with a touch of class around the edges. Keep fighting Leeds.