McCormack-PearceA loss is a loss no matter how you cut it, but in the moment, when you’ve paid your money and travelled to see a game, it’s never quite that simple.

Though there’s been a definite uptick in sarcastic cheers and booing recently, Leeds United fans aren’t prone to such behaviour. From my more than two decades experience following this club all around the country (and Europe) I can tell you that the result is rarely the most important thing to our regulars. I’ve seen us cheer the players off the pitch after absolute hammerings, simply because they gave it their all and tried to play a game of football we wanted to see.

You could be Don Revie reincarnate, 2 wins in 16 games is going to cause unrest. But what’s really frustrating fans is the lack of a discernible gameplan from Brian McDermott, the formation is switched almost every week and there’s little difference in the style of football we’ve played to the dross we witnessed under Neil Warnock.

I’m all for patience and 2/3 year plans, but there should be a noticeable, if somewhat gradual, change in our style of play, and above all else, the squad should be enthusiastically embracing this new direction for the club and giving everything to see it succeed. Instead we’ve had confusion and a total lack of effort.

While our performance at Turf Moor yesterday doesn’t justify use of football’s maximum percentage of effort (110%), it was certainly an improvement on recent performances and did show the team are still capable of putting the effort in for this manager.

As far as a discernible gameplan goes, we switched formation again and did the basics better than we have been, but there was no indications that this was the start of a footballing revolution for Leeds United.

Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing though.

We know this team can play better than they have been because we saw it during the first half of the campaign when there were gradual signs of Brian McDermott’s influence, since then however, we’ve been all over the place.

At their best, the squad has looked like eleven professional footballers put together at the last-minute who’ve no experience playing alongside each other. At their worst, they look like eleven men drawn at random from the crowd.

The fact is, whatever Brian McDermott has attempted to put in place hasn’t worked. The players either lost faith in him or their own ability, but whatever it is, a back-to-basics approach may be the best we can hope for at this juncture.

Back-to-basics will only take you so far of course, and even when the Championship’s second placed team are having an off day (as Burnley undeniably were), they’re still going to get the better of us more often than not, as was the case here.

Leeds started brightly enough though, Matt Smith firing the first shot of the game tamely at the keeper from a difficult angle following good work from McCormack. That effort was followed by a dreadful back-pass from Burnley which McCormack intercepted. One-on-one with the keeper, the Leeds end was already cheering as McCormack’s lobbed effort beat the keeper, only for the ball to bounce back off the post.

The early pressure paid off for Leeds though when a long-throw from Connor Wickham was flicked on by Matt Smith for Ross McCormack to head home. 0-1.

No matter how well Leeds start and how much effort they put in, it’s hard to believe this defence will ever hold out with a one-goal lead and it didn’t take long for those fears to be realised, Burnley’s quick break led to a low, hard cross hit across the area from Kieran Trippier which Jason Pearce tried to put wide for a corner, but instead put into his own goal. 1-1.

An unusual substitution came early in the second half from Brian McDermott who replaced Alex Mowatt with Dom Poleon. While it’s always nice to see Poleon get a run out, Mowatt had been performing well on the right-hand side of midfield with Sam Byram for support and while McCormack and Wickham had done their part in defending from the front, we only had two orthodox midfielders shielding our backline at this stage.

It wasn’t long after that change Burnley took the lead, a deflected shot from the corner of the box bouncing back off Leeds’ defence for Arfield to take a second stab at it, this time beating everyone to make it 2-1.

I mentioned the unusual substitution above because Burnley’s second goal started down the right hand side of pitch where Mowatt had been operating. It’s impossible to say whether the change cost us, but the space Burnley found wasn’t there earlier in the game. Still, the goal itself didn’t come close to the sloppiness of some we’ve conceded recently, so that’s something…

From there, Burnley sat back and absorbed pressure making it difficult for Leeds to find space and the game ended 2-1 to the home side.

The latest formation experiment worked to an extent, Leeds managed to apply sustained pressure for a time and McCormack and Wickham (playing wide roles either side of Matt Smith, who was effectively a lone striker) worked hard to ensure the midfield wasn’t overrun.

I wouldn’t say Mowatt’s substitution was a turning point to the game, but he and Byram worked well together on the right while Dom Poleon didn’t have much of an effect. It was certainly a strange decision under the circumstances.

But while Leeds lost this game and the dreadful run continues, I didn’t leave angry at the performance for a change. In fact, the only thing I was really riled by the whole day was the cringeworthy banner someone brought into the away end, begging Cellino to take over (as if a badly written banner would influence his decision). Have we lost all self-respect at this club?

On and on…

 

  • Matthew

    I suppose on the brightside our next 4 games are against average/poor sides. While we’ve been average/poor ourselves, the next 4 games should give us a chance to pick up some much needed points.

  • henrymouni

    As the season fades away, with no progress made, it is difficult to be optimistic for the future.
    Indeed it feels like every season for the last 10 years.
    Burnley are not a great team, but they have got the best out of their squad.
    Not one of their players are good enough for the Prem, and their crowds are poor.
    Without the Leeds contingent, they had 14,000 turn up, and they are second and may well get promoted.
    Our squad have been pathetic, without passion or skill.
    Our fans have been fantastic & loyal!
    We were OK against Burnley, but defeat is our constant companion.’
    I hate to hear “we have to take ‘the positives’ from the defeat”.

  • Ev

    Lots of fans are………sympathetic to Brian M, “poor Brian” “isn’t he nice” “hes been shafted” ” the club needs stability”
    Yes to all
    BUT THESE ARE NOT A REASON TO KEEP A MAN AND A COACHING TEAM WHO ARE OBVIOUSLY NOT UPTO THE TASK…………..
    When we leeds fans wake up to this ??? Is it really going to take another season…….another year of our lives, more valuable money and more valuable time before the majority of leeds fans realize that this guy isn’t up to the task. >>>>????
    It took a long time for many fans to realize what Ken bates was doing and this feels like that again.
    Leeds have never played this badly over a season before……..EVER, im not sure how many horrible records BM is breaking….perhaps TSS can list them for us ? Burnley completed a record against us yesterday………..
    I was a BM supporter but the style of play and his loyalty to certain players was starting to annoy me, then after Xmas its been just horrific. A complete shambles and there is no excuse for it.
    I really can understand why fans are becoming so apologetic or accepting of bad performances, demoralized players, poor play
    I question their ability to coach these players let alone provide intelligent and clever strategies……..
    Do you all really want to waste another season with BM in charge ?? Can we really risk it ???
    The long we are out of the top flight the more generations of kids we lose, the more of our cudos we lose………

    • TSS

      There’s pros and cons to this takeover chaos for McDermott. I mean, sure, it’s definitely had an effect on the team, but every other manager has had to deal with similar things and never have we gone 2 wins from 16 games, that has to be one of our worst runs in history. And there’s been some very heavy defeats in that time too.

      But there’s no real power structure at the club, GFH can’t make the decision to fire a manager when Cellino’s takeover could be approved any day because it’ll leave him entering the club in complete chaos, nor can they hire someone to replace him because Cellino will want to make that call himself. That’s what has saved Brian this far, not good faith or confidence in his ability, just circumstance. Football is a results business, it doesn’t matter whether the owners buy into a 2 or 3 year vision and wish to support a manager through it all, if said manager goes on a run like this, he gets fired.

      Cellino could ask GFH to fire McDermott of course and then name his own replacement, but the takeover could then fall through and GFH are left with a manager they had no interest in hiring. It’s a very strange situation we’re in, the O&D test doesn’t usually come into consideration, people usually pay the money and the club changes hands.

      As I’ve said all along, we should have kept Larry. He never had a run of results anything close to this bad, we always came back fighting following a humiliation too. I like McDermott and appreciate the difficult situation he’s been in, but Leeds are usually at their strongest when our backs to the wall. I’ve never known us cower in the face of adversity, not this badly.

      • Ev

        Its obvious the FL are just holding out for the court case…….my major concern though is what their motivation is……..to be SEEN doing the right thing at Leeds expense or because they are motivated to help fellow “old boy” Mike Farnans bid….. I remember Farnans comments that “it wasn’t over yet” and also the fact that they went to the FL directly over this.
        As for Grayson, I agree, I didn’t agree with his sacking. I liked Grayson and id have him back with out a thought
        I just cant understand why some fans seem to accept the standard of performances under BM and make excuses for him….. I mean I showed the Shefeild Wednesday game to some mates who support other clubs and they were gob smacked. It still makes me shake my head now thinking about it. A pub side could have scored against Leeds, I truly mean that. That has been the case time and time again.
        I hope Cellino sacks BM if he gains control, sticks a interim coach in.,……id even accept Festa, at least he was a defender and I cant see how he can do any worse than what we have already seen

      • Matthew

        I felt sorry for Grayson at times personally, the teams performance dropped with every decent player sold, and with no money to replace the irreplaceable we naturally lost games we should have won.

        • TSS

          Grayson was the best manager we’ve had in years, Bates scapegoated him to distract from the real problems we we’re having, namely, funds disappearing into the East Stand black hole and key players constantly sold with no money to replace. Yet Grayson still had the remaining players performing better than McDermott has managed these last couple of months, his sacking was a disgrace (as I said at the time).

          • Matthew

            Spot on. I think this if anything was why some of our players wanted out of the club. Not through a lack of loyalty but simply being tired of the shit going on at the club at the time. It’s exactly as you said, he had quality sold from beneath him and was expected to deliver promotion in a highly competitive league. It’s insanity but we’ve come to expect that from Bates. I respected the fact Grayson stayed on as long as he did, most managers would have walked in his position.

          • Dr Zen

            Definitely agree. Imagine if Grayson had been given ten mill to build on the very decent team he had created, instead of having it sold from under him.

          • Irving08

            He did not need ten million, a couple or so would have done, to buy a centrel defender and a full back. Though he did not help himself by recruiting two (more or less) non-playing strikers, he still merited more support in our first season back. What I liked about SG was, (a) he did not have tactical pretensions , (b) he had the right amount of personal authority, (c) did not talk too much and (d) communicated passion.

          • TSS

            Agree with the tactical point, people get too hung up on tactics when they’re pretty trivial if your team aren’t performing for you. Grayson wanted his team to attack, pass the ball around and run at opposition defences. It sacrificed the defence a fair bit, but they believed in the system and knew they could score almost at will.

            Positioning is instinctive for most players, and indeed, some teams. Players comfortable playing alongside each other tend to know where their teammates are without really looking, because they’re all playing on instinct – where the space is going to be, what needs covering, where a player needs support. Spend too much time thinking about where you should be according to the manager’s tactics and you start to second-guess your own decisions and movement, which can be suffocating to a team who’ve found a comfortable system of play – as Grayson’s had.

          • Irving08

            Well put.

    • almacat450

      could not agree more ,before mcdermott had a good / lucky season with reading i don’t think many leeds fans had heard of him , then all of a sudden he is supposed to be our saviour ,thought he was a bad choice from day one , and have said so on many forums etc, and have taken the stick for saying so, which is all part of football banter..but , if a manager can’t get HIS players to perform with pride and passion then something is seriously wrong , regardless of the quality of your players…too many fans saying its the players fault , this is McDermotts team , no one elses, all true leeds fans support the team whatever the results, but to see a ‘ team ‘ with so much lack of effort and fight is disgraceful…Brian your time is up…!!!!!!!

      • Matthew

        It’s obvious the only reason why he’s still here is because GFH don’t have the money to pay him off via sacking. They clearly don’t want to spend their own money here and saddling us with more debt won’t solve anything. Only at Leeds can you get 2 wins from 16 games and still be in the job. But on the Brightside as said below we have some shit teams coming up and a good chance to pick up some wins.

  • Helen LUFC

    Seems ironic that the only victory we have had recently McDermott had been sacked and the players played with of confidence. What is the difference in the action of the fans and the club to Cdermott than is to Warnok last year when he was producing awful footballs? He got the boot, McDermott gets sympathy and praise. WHY? The evidence of his work is on display week in week out on the pitch. It is dreadful what he has produced with the players, and still he is not held to account? IF WE had some off days, fine, but the reality is that we have players that don’t even do their weljobs properly. This has to be down to leaking goals li water down a drain is awful, but fans are paying a lot of match some of the worst performance ever seen,mans yet Brian gets away without any criticisms? I don’t understand hey Warnock got criticised, but McDermott is treated as the messiah?

  • john palmer

    I’m sure BMCD s round of drinks he bought in friendly gave him excemption from abuse, can’t think what else has. Grayson sacked 4 pts off p. offs ??,anyone noticed we were 5pts off Leicester at xmas we are now 36pts off them. bring in Cellino and new coach quick

    • Matthew

      At the time of Graysons sacking if memory serves me correctly other teams had games in hand over us and our position wasn’t a secure one. While that’s not me agreeing with him being sacked because of the position we were in, we could have easily lost this position quickly enough.

      • TSS

        It was a miracle we were in the position we were after Bates had sold the majority of his team to cream clad our East Stand.

        It just goes to show that every recent manager has worked under unfair conditions, but the trouble with McDermott is, he’s moaning about it and letting it be used as an excuse. Other managers have fought on regardless. That’s what really annoys me.

        We got relegated during administration chaos and never hit a patch of form this bad, I like McDermott as much as the next fan, but he seems incapable of riding out the storms Leeds United are regularly hit by. Bizarre power situation we’re in is the only thing that’s kept him in a job no matter what the club, GFH and Cellino say, no manager performs this poorly and keeps his job.

        • Matthew

          I agree, at the time I never expected us to pick up the number of wins we had done, we were getting results against much better sides than us and had decent little cup runs. Anyway I think if anything McDermott is hugely out of his depth here, he doesn’t have the ability to rally the troops and pull us out of this slump. That is painfully clear. Managers live and die on the results of the side they manage and at any other club he would have been shown the door long ago.

    • TSS

      Another stat for you, in the relegation season of 2006/07, our worst run of form was 2 wins in 11 games. We’re currently on a run of 2 wins in 16.

  • Irving08

    The only explanation I can come up with for Brian’s inability to settle upon one gameplan is that he carries too many options in his head.

  • RoystonLUFC

    TSS, thanks for the objective review of the match – almost. You know what? In a different context this result would have seemed positive. A narrow away loss to a promotion-hopeful team who hasn’t lost at home all season – we would have accepted that. And I think we have to be aware of this fact when we discuss this particular game. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to defend BMac and the recent performances. I’m aware that less illustrious clubs than ourselves are doing well on a much lower budget. But I still think that individual match performances should be regarded precisely as that. Any other time this result would be regarded as positive. And after the previous drubbings I actually do regard this as positive. I don’t want to excuse the team/club/franchise for the previous showings but credit where credit’s due – at least we tried and we even took a rare, early lead. In the grand scheme of things that doesn’t change what needs to be done, but let’s at least acknowledge the improvement from earlier performances: and hope we can build upon that in the future. OK,l so I’m woefully optimistic, if I wasn’t I’d support one of those crap sports where “it’s the taking part that counts, not the result…” TOT (trudging on together)

    • henrymouni

      A single result means nothing. (We lost AGAIN).

      Even if we had won it would not have meant anything on its own.

      It was another poor performance, even if less poor than some.

      First half we played OK.

      Second half we were mediocre .

      Even teams who are relegated have the odd good game heralding a false dawn.

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