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.

  • RiktonLUFCElite

    great post !

    • TSS

       @RiktonLUFCElite It was comparing Michael Brown to a salad that did it for you, right? 

      • RiktonLUFCElite

         @TSS
         Haha yes mate  and 2-0-9 all-out-attack days of Simon Grayson. It made me chuckle, Keep up the good work. MOT

  • number1inyorkshire

    Those pros who are at the twilight of their career and still playing at  a relatively high level ,do so because they have something to offer i think warnock realises that you need experience and youth ,Brown ,Robinson ,o’Brien and some of the older end have a lot to offer at leeds .
    Robinson .and Brown were arguably m o m  together .
    It is however man management that gets them there in the 1st place
    £90 a week for fowler anyone ???? lol

  • Northernoctopus

    I’m not sure I agree with this notion of it being ‘Anti-football’ i’ve seen a few people talking as if we are winning (or drawing in most cases) ugly under Warnock. subsequently there seems to be this misplaced fondness for a really elegant style of play under O’leary. This isn’t my recollection. I seem to remember fast and direct passing….not too dissimilar to the recent exploits of Bilbao on thursday where we harried, bothered and chased every ball until we won it back. then we would pass the ball up field in a really positive attacking manner relying on the tough tackling Dacourt, Batty and bowyer to really get under the oppositions skin. Under Venebles, we saw this dissipate into tippy tappy football, passing the ball back and forth as England do. For me it was the lack of urgency that really took us down under Venables. The great Leeds teams of old have always had this aggressive, attacking and exciting mentality. Opposition fans misunderstand it as dirty, i look upon it as determined and I think it it bloody brilliant to watch!! I want to feel breathless after watching football, living and breathing every attack, grinding my teeth in true Yorkshire fashion. And I have to say, after watching the blood on your boots displays by Clayton and Brown followed by the quick link up play between ,Snodgrass,Mcormack,Becchio  and Webber in Warnocks new team, its hard not to reach for the inhaler! (and i’m no asthmatic) Trust me….if you want anti-football….observe West Ham on Saturday!

    • TSS

      I agree. I don’t see it as anti-football either, I see it as Leeds’ style of play. I was addressing the suggestion more than stating as fact. 

  • Tare

    This tag of the Whites to be a dirty team well I have watched them since 1972, I have never seen any sign of dirty play. Just hard and willing to win. If that is negative so please tell me about it. It is true though that the innosence of “the golden years of British football” was gone but that was inevitable progress anyway.DR’s band of brothers was the one of a kind and this inheritance has lead us on! Tare, so belief in NW is strong as it was in HW era. 

  • TimPM

    I think “Dirty Leeds” is a tag it’s easy to equate us to for shorthand even though it doesn’t necessary reflect us.
     
    We do play dirty in a way – the odd kick, the odd moan to the refs. So do most teams. The difference is I think we’re smarter with it now than a lot are. We saw the odd sign in the old days – think Beckford with Gunter at Forest or Kilkenny & co swamping refs. It works and that’s why people go back to it frequently. Just think of refs: Fergiescum will complain about refs even when they’ve bent over backwards for him, and then he gets “Fergie time” as a result. Wenger complains like crazy. These are the managers who get the decisions. It’s easy to complain about it, but unless you can change the refs you have to go with the flow.
     
    Gary Neville & co. always had sky commentators round and now he’s assistant commentator despite every non scum fan thinking he’s sh*t. One of the refs said how players get reputations and how if Lampard did something wrong he’d think “good old Lamps” – well that sums it up for me! Refs at the top level in general are fame-hungry and pretty poor in my view.
     
    Agree with NorthernOctopus on the style – sums it up very nicely for me.

  • morleywhite

    Anybody heard anything on any potential signings?i know it keeps popping up but ive got a feeling we wil end up with Alan smith next season,i remember warnock just after smith went to MK Dons commenting on what a good signing it was for a club at that level,I can also remember Alan Smith in a newspaper interview when Warnock was still at QPR saying he could still cut it at the top level and could see himself doing a job at QPR which was maybe a come and get me plea to Warnock knowing Warnock was a fan???
    wouldnt be surprised if Warnock was monitering Smith for rest of season to maybe offer a contract in the summer?he would prob fit in as 1 of the 2 holding midfielders in warnocks 4231 formation maybe next to Clayton.
    Realy can not make my mind up if i want him or not 1 minute i think if he stays injury free for us he could thrive in that role maybe wanting to pay back the leeds fans but the next minute i remember how he pissed off over the pennines and kissed the badge of you know who.

  • Tyler75

    Have to seriously disagree with the ‘anti-football’ tag – there was very little banging the balls into space and aimlessly running after it or ‘playing for territory’ rugby style (we’ll see plenty of that from West Ham on saturday). As we did against Soton, we kept and passed the ball better than supposedly superior passing teams. The harrying and willingness to win the ball back was a joy to watch – less ‘anti football’ more a Yorkie Barca !!  

    • Tare

       @Tyler75
       I do not know anything  (almost) of rugby but I do have some hell of the the things of football rules. To believe and have this attitude for the matter is like spring rain time rain here in Finland.
       
      To believe and not to believe, that is the case for the Othello maybe? I believe in LU and stick to it, But we will see this this season, I think still it will be next season. Tare

  • lufc_chat

    I too disagree with the anti-football tag, but I think I understand what you’re getting it.
     
    Brown and Clayton bossed their midfield all game, and Robinson was sheer Dirty Leeds, I especially appreciated his no nonsense sorting of Emnes.
     
    But we did play some good football too.
     
    A nice combination of good football and tough tackling which we’ve not seen from a Leeds team for a few years 

    • Tyler75

       @lufc_chat Agreed about Robbo – ‘No Nonense’ doesn’t get close to doing him justice I enjoyed his cleaning out of Emnes and ball, nearly as much as the two goals !

  • Colin

    I thought it was very interesting that Mick Jones (assistant) told LUTV today that Warnock tried to sign Becchio 3 times. Now that had to be under the QPR reign. When Becchio joined us, that coincided with Palace’s financial demise and administration. In addition, it makes you think if the QPR approach was a driving factor in giving Becchio a new contract (very rare!). It suggests to me that QPR made 3 approaches last season. Now that’s interesting, because 1) it never got out – I don’t remember any rumours about Becchio to QPR, and 2) QPR had money and we didn’t take it and 3) it’s the sort of thing that Ken would have droned on about – how other clubs are trying to steal our better players but we said no, no, no.
    Rather strange. Anyways, seems like Becchio is a Warnock favourite.

    • TimPM

      Yeah, it’s quite encouraging. We did know a few clubs were in for him, though?
       
      On Aidy White – as Irving wrote about him earlier up – I think NW said something about not paying over the odds to keep him. So, I don’t think he sounds unhappy at the backing he’s receiving on that front?

      • Irving08

         @TimPM
         What would be over the odds ?  Though I think they should all be paid roughly the same – allowing only for differences in the amount of work they do – if they must be paid unequally, I would put White on the 4-5 K mark.

        • TimPM

           @TimPM That’s the question, isn’t it? If Prem clubs are in for him – and some top ones have been rumoured – then we’d not be able to pay him what he’s worth, because he’d get more than that elsewhere if he’s lucky…

  • Irving08

    McCormack owed much of his early season success to Keogh’s selfless work upfront. Grayson could and should have played Keogh as the lone striker, moving McC to one of the outside positions and then, to accommodate McC’s tendency to move towards the centre, just adjusted his tactics, playing a narrower game. This is not hidndsight; it was view taken, at the time, by several observers. Leeds: a ‘tough’ and ‘uncompromsing’ place – also debatable; anyhow, certainly less so than Manchester and Liverpool – flower. The toughness of the side, more often than not, has comprised North of the Border products. Madeley and Howson seem more typical local products than Batty. And from where does Monsieur Brown hail ?   

  • Irving08

    PS Last night’s results couldn’t have be been better !

    • Tyler75

      Absolutely ! Just thinking that myself – momentum is building nicely as clubs above us start to feel the pressure. Interesting that all the non-Leeds fans where I work have taken a real interest since NW took over and seem to think we’ll now go up this season – I’m pretty much the only one saying we’ll miss out !   

  • Irving08

    TSS please do a piece on why we have to keep Aidy White……for me, he is the one local product of the past few years that is indisputably top drawer. Hell, I would even go on a march for him ……. 

    • Tyler75

      He’s still got a lot to learn(particularly in his decision making) but I hope he does it with us rather than someone else. However left-footed players with his pace are much sought after commodities.

      • Irving08

         @Tyler75
         He has to do it with us ! When he gets going the ball, no-one can in this division can touch him. Of course this creates a bit of a problem, since no-one can keep up with him, which makes his decision-making look worse than it really is. He should not be on less than Howson was by the time he left, in my view (see response below to tim.)  

        • Irving08

           @Tyler75
           typo ! – apologies

  • 20raza98

    Am I the only one who thinks Michael Brown played better under Grayson during that spell of great games (Leicester, Forest, Millwall ect) until he got injured along with Jonny vs Millwall. I’ve watched both the Southampton and Boro games from the stands and he hasn’t been especially impressive I don’t think or atleast not as good as he was vs Forest when we won 4-0 where he was spectacular.