Stopping the rot at ‘crisis club’ Leeds United TSS December 16, 2014 Leeds United 23 Comments Leeds United, the original ‘crisis club’. No one does it better than Leeds, which is probably the only thing we can claim to be maintaining a competitive edge in these days. As we head into the latter half of the 2014/15 campaign, the club is surrounded in ownership, legal and financial chaos, while performances on the pitch are inconsistent and our league position is starting to become a genuine concern. Here we take a look at some key areas the club need to address if we’re to stop the rot and get things back on track. Leadership Hardly a new problem, but it’s still noticeably lacking at Leeds. Stephen Warnock aside, Leeds don’t have an experienced head who’s been around the block a few times and knows how to turn games in his side’s favour. There’s an art to managing a football match. Leeds need someone in a key position (preferably central midfield) who can dictate tempo and instinctively knows when it’s necessary to suck the life out of a game for a few minutes when the opposition are getting a head of steam or to push on and apply heavy pressure when they’re vulnerable. He’d be the type of player who knows how to frustrate the opposition by working the referee and winning fouls, someone who gets under the opposition’s skin and becomes the focal point for their ire. He’s a man who can identify areas of weakness and instruct one of the younger players around him to adjust his game accordingly while simultaneously ensuring the rest of the team keep their shape and cut threats out at source. I know what you’re thinking, ‘we need Gordon Strachan!’ and that’s exactly right. But in today’s terms, Howard Wilkinson’s capture of the fiery Scot would be like Neil Redfearn signing Steven Gerrard – an exceptionally talented and successful Premier League player who’s coming towards the end of his career at the top. That seems somewhat unlikely… Width Over the summer Leeds signed a lot of new players. This was in part due to the understanding we’d be embargoed by The Football League for failing to comply with FFP regulations and unable to act in January. Luckily for us, the embargo borders on laughable and restrictions leave plenty of room to get new players in. You may feel that adding more new players to a squad who’ve yet to find their groove would compound the inconsistency issues for Leeds and there’s certainly a case for that. However, Leeds have high concentrations of players in central areas and very little in the way of width making us one of the least adaptable teams in the division. This isn’t just an issue from an attacking point of view, it prohibits a change of shape Neil Redfearn may use to ‘match-up’ and nullify the opposition threat when his side are being overrun. Perhaps most crucially, it makes us less predictable. Leeds only really have one way of playing and if our opposition can deal with that, there’s precious little we can do to surprise them. Redders He has to stay. Bad results will see pressure mount on the Leeds boss, but replacing him won’t help matters. We’d probably see a brief up-tick in form before things got even worse and we started to regret the decision in what is oh-so-typically the ‘one step forward, two giant leaps back’ existence of Leeds United Football Club. Besides, Redders is giving the fans what we wanted. As noted above, the youngsters need a leader on the pitch to guide them but they’re at least getting the game time now. It’s only worked for us in patches, but there’s no hoofball or ‘crabbing’, Leeds are at least trying to play the right way and when it does click together, we’re a genuine pleasure to watch. The reality is, Leeds are a team in transition surrounded by constant off-field chaos and struggling for consistency. This season was never going to be our promotion year, we’re simply laying the foundations and working out the kinks – on and off the field – for a genuine push next year. No distractions It’s easier said than done, but resolving the conflict with The Football League and moving the conversation from our owner, financials and legal troubles needs to happen ASAP, we simply can’t afford all these distractions again next season. Both Watford and Blackburn Rovers have been in a situation where the club’s were too distracted by the chaos and their owners for football to register as the priority but they’ve managed to put most of that behind them and are now quietly getting on with things. Both teams currently occupy places in and around the play-off zone, some dozen places above lowly Leeds and whatever new crisis has befallen us since I started writing this piece. If the off-field dramas can be set aside and Leeds can break free of our crisis club tendencies, what you’re left with is a young and inexperienced side who are predictably inconsistent but require nothing more than time and a bit of reinforcement. We don’t need major surgery or a complete overhaul, just a little fine-tuning and an improved environment. The team gelling together and cutting out the individual errors which have been a feature of recent games will take care of itself, it just won’t happen overnight. But bringing in a leader to guide the players, protecting youngsters from being overrun by having the players to facilitate a system change, keeping someone in place they trust and admire and cutting out distractions to allow the team to focus on football will all help to expedite the team’s progress.