Neil Redfearn’s young side have developed a taste for upsetting Championship leaders, once again overcoming the odds to secure vital points away to Middlesbrough yesterday afternoon.

No threat of relegation, no real chance of making the play-offs, a Leeds United side with precious little to play for are shamelessly messing with the teams battling for promotion. There’s no wonder no one likes us.

So impressive has Leeds’ 2015 turnaround been, Redfearn’s side have gone from skirting with the relegation zone to the top of the Championship’s form table, our latest victim 24 points ahead at kick-off and as close to a nailed-on certainty for the 3 points as things get in this league.

But it’s no fluke Leeds are suddenly winning games. With the addition of Sol Bamba, The Whites are now a tough team to beat.

Marco Silvestri was called upon plenty to make a series of good saves, but the Italian has been doing that all season. His weakness, the spilled shots and poor command of his area, are less of an issue with Bamba organising and leading the defensive line, he’s taken charge and leads as much by example as he does vocally, his experience helping to provide some much needed guidance and direction to those around him.

Such has been the transformation since Bamba’s arrival, when Alex Mowatt scored the only goal of the game in the third minute, I never doubted we’d be able to hold for victory. Even when events conspired to leave us suffering through a hefty 10 minutes of injury time, there wasn’t that gut feeling an extra time sucker-punch was about to follow.

Leeds have learnt to frustrate better teams, they’ve learnt to keep things tight and ‘win ugly’ – an important trait if we’re to build upon these improvements next season.

Key to all that will be retention. The impressive batch of youngsters and the head coach who’s worked with them all from youth level need tying down. There’s something special about this side, an understanding and togetherness we must take full advantage of, for when you have a strong group of players who’ll run through walls for each other, who’ve become hard to beat under the guidance of a man who knows their game better than anyone, you have the makings of a team who could go on to achieve great things.

And don’t for one second think Byram, Cook, Mowatt and Taylor are all Thorp Arch has to offer. Lewie Coyle got rave reviews in a development match midweek, Lewis Walters is back from injury and ready to stake his claim while Chris Dawson has already shown great potential in first team outings. Leeds could be fielding six or seven homegrown players by this time next season.

The real test now is one of our ownership. Summer can’t be wasted with more punts on random imports, too much of this season has been spent in transition trying to get them up to speed. Leeds have a solid base capable of winning us promotion next season, the summer window is a chance to carefully augment that team with a couple of players to fill the obvious gaps. Players who, like Sol Bamba, have an understanding of the league already.

Cellino must also recognise how important a distraction-free environment is. All too often this club is plagued by chaos and uncertainty and while I don’t think his absence has played a massive part in our improvement, I don’t think it’s hurt either. All the talk has been centred around football for once, there’s been no unsettling sideshow, no arguing the pros and cons of our erratic owner. Ongoing legal dramas and battles with The Football League need to be addressed and dealt with once and for all, and even if that isn’t possible, Cellino needs to keep his head down and stop giving soundbites and making wild promises that fuel the incessant bickering of our fanbase. We don’t need a celebrity owner for the press and fans to crucify, we need one who can quietly get on with the job without adding to the inherent madness of Leeds United Football Club.

But for now at least, all’s well in LUFC-land. We’re upsetting other teams, getting results and the future’s rarely looked brighter.

On and on…

 

  • Irving08

    It’s great being free of real relegation worries. Concur on the home grown players (who may turn out to be the equal of Eddie Gray’s 80’s crop), also on the effect of Bamba (it would have been interesting though to see how Pearce – unfairly unlamented, in my view – played alongside him). Salerno’s recruitment was not random though; it was well though out – you might not rate the type of players or the individuals themselves, but that’s another matter.

    • TSS

      Genuinely think our summer transfer policy was a numbers game, simply signing as many as we could as cheaply as possible in the belief some would work out – as they have. I don’t think there was much more thinking to it than that, if there had been the players would have been better spread across positions. Salerno doesn’t/didn’t really know English football either, i fail to see how he could judge whether these imports would work when he’d not yet learnt the game himself.

      Ultimately though, we could afford that approach last summer. This summer needs to be more surgical. More deliberate.

      • Irving08

        Your view is unsustainable TSS. I suggest you sit down with pencil and paper, write down the names of the players and their positions, then compare these with known quantities as of August, draw conclusions, and see if these correspond to your assertion that the signings were random. There may be a separate discussion to be had about fitness for Championship football, but that’s another debate, though I would take some persuading that Antenucci, Bellusci, Berardi, Silvestri (!), Sloth and even Bianchi are not capable of adapting to the Championship. In any event, they have brought a level of skill and football know-how that we hadn’t seen at Elland Road in such amounts for quite a while.

    • ozwhites

      Was it Gray’s 80s crop or Bremner,s?

      • Irving08

        Definitely Eddie’s crop – Sheridan, Sellars, Wright, Irwin, Phelan …….I think the first four would definitely get into today’s team.

  • oldschoolbaby

    I would say the “random imports” have made a massive contribution. They have come because they want to pull on the white shirt and revel in the English experience. They have replaced journeymen looking, primarily, for a post retirement payday. They have recalibrated the pay structure at the club stemming the haemmorage of money. The newly discovered levels of morale, passion and commitment cannot be coincidental. We now have players who love football more than the trappings of football.
    With the threat of relegation having receded the remainder of the season should be used for further squad assessment. There is a good deal of scope for discarding those of the foreign legion who aren`t making the grade at the end of the season.
    And, of course, for further rebuilding with a view to a promotion push next year.
    Sorry 08 but Bamba is everything Pearce isn`t. I love it that he barely gets out of third gear as his positioning means he has it covered. Out of curiousity I would like to watch Palermo`s first choice centre back pairing.

    • Irving08

      I said alongside, not instead of Bamba, on the left. I’m a Bellusci fan but, unless Pearce wanted to go, I’d have kept him for his different qualities, which have served us well over the past season or so. He was also a handy reserve left back.

      • oldschoolbaby

        It is possible for us to enjoy a run of wins in the Championship as the division is largely much of a muchness. There is a gulf to the PL. I, like a lot of fans, find something pleasing about being in the Championship. Perhaps it`s a feeling of moral superiority over the greed diminished, money tarnished PL. BUT we`re Leeds United. We should be at the top table and we should assess our players in terms of their potential ability to function at a higher level.
        I admired JP but he certainly didn`t pass this test. I`d take a massive amount of persuading that Bellusci will. Cooper, if he works extremely hard, may. Del Fabro is young and shaping well. We need a look at Berardi, if that`s at “reserve lest back” at least he`s getting game time. JP had an opportunity at Wigan. I wish him all the best. There was no need at all to stand in his way.
        I worshipped John Sheridan in my youth but he always needed that little extra time and space to be at his devastating best. He would have struggled at the highest level.

        • Irving08

          I share your ambivalence about promotion, but I wouldn’t want to deny the fifth generation of family LUFC supporters the satisfaction of supporting the best team in the land (being a Northern version of Spurs has absolutely no appeal). But if we are to assess Saturday’s team by Premiership criteria, probably only Byram, Taylor, Cook, Silvestri and maybe Bamba (who could be 33 by then) would make the cut. My hunch is that Dawson would too, but he desperately needs game time. Sheridan, you may recall, did play at the top level: it’s faster now, but I don’t see him as being in any way inferior to Silva, say – not that I see much Premiersip footsie (frankly only interested in us).

          • oldschoolbaby

            Largely agreed. The academy has to keep working hard and Salerno has to keep doing his thing to increase that number. Unfortunately, for the likes of JP, that necessitates letting people go.
            A sadly brief career zenith in Sheffield does not make you Silva, he is world class. My abiding memory of Sheridan is the anticipation when he picked the ball up deep in his own half, his range of passing was exceptional. However, he didn`t appreciate being closed down quickly which is the norm these days if you have that ability. I still maintain he would struggle in the modern PL

          • Irving08

            I’d say Salerno (or similar) was indispensable in helping the club to manage and hopefully synthesise the short-term goal of promotion and the medium-term objective of supremacy. None of our Divisional rivals have this kind of pressure and level o f expectation. A successful resolution is far from being assured. We must agree to differ on Sheridan.

    • Irving08

      But take Samba with you OS – it can get a bit hairy in downtown Palermo.

  • Helen LUFC

    Reason we’ve started winning is because Cellino cant interfere with Redfearns team talks and tactics, and Thompson assisting him. Sol Bamba showed the sought of commitment that has become a distant memory at ER. lets hope Cellino sells up and clears off. Good riddance I’d say.

    • poppy 38

      Sought idiot! Sort Cellino is the best thing that’s happened to us in a long time! Without him we would be nowhere now Bates and GFH full of promises but empty handed, get a grip idiot!!!!!

      • Helen LUFC

        Sought idiot! Sort Cellino…are you special needs from Gipton by any chance? Defo a saddo…sought!

        • poppy 38

          No just not a brainless dickhead like you, don’t even know you’re brainless!

          • Helen LUFC

            Oh, but you do come across as a sad dickhead with zero intelligence…ha,ha! Your parents are no doubt related! Nice!

          • poppy 38

            Incredible response, you really are thick, and not a clue about the Mighty Whites

          • Helen LUFC

            Far more intelligent than an ignoramus such as yourself! you are a complete simpleton! Ha, ha!

    • Irving08

      We have had a number of committed players in recent years. It’s just not true to say that Bamba – because he seems to be a very good central defender – brings a higher level of commitment than, say, Aidy White, Tom Lees, Snoddy, Pearce or McCormack. I knew from decades of watching Leeds that our fans could be picky beyond reason – when not just plain curmudgeonly – but you, my dear, take the biscuit.

    • oldschoolbaby

      With all the conflicts ongoing globally at the moment your sublime diplomatic skills are rather wasted on a football blog, Helen.
      So delete Cellino and insert who exactly ? In this equation the replacement would be significantly more important than the replaced. Therefore, IMHO you haven`t even thought this half through.
      Belated Valentine`s greetings BTW

    • ozwhites

      SORT of commitment (so basic).
      Who do you think brought (not brort or brung) Bamba to Leeds?

      • Helen LUFC

        Saddo. I left it like that to wait and see which one of Uncle Ken’s morons would find it – congratulations! You are the winner!

        • Ozwhites

          Outwitted by you? Now that would be a worry!!!

          • Helen LUFC

            But you won first prize?! You should be pleased?! Outwitted, too!

          • ozwhites

            Sought of pleased.

          • ozwhites

            I saw you with Ray shouting on Barnsley

    • henrymouni

      It is interesting to see what a superstitious man like Massimo will do now, if we keep winning?
      Will he stay away?
      He has no one to sell up to, Helen.
      I am sure Redders & Thommo have a better idea on players that will improve the squad.
      The players Masssimo brought in have quickly faded from the scene and apart from the goalkeeper and maybe Sloth, the rest may be gone at the end of the season?

  • LeedsBowyer

    Can’t remember a more intense 90 minutes! What a performance from the team on the whole. Without being instantly negative I think it’s clear where we need to strengthen our starting 11.

    I think Wooton is our weakest link. He is not a right back and the fact he gets in ahead of Berardi says it all about Geatano. I can’t see him getting any games at centre half with the depth we have there, so despite his good performances think he should be moved on to make room for a top right back to come in and give a youngster a chance.

    The other obvious problem is left wing. Mowatt is obviously on fire and doing a job there, but we need a left sided winger. This would give us more pace and a balanced squad as well allowing Mowatt to play a more central role.

    I think the other two problems are Austin and Morison. They are both doing great at the moment but Austin is not skilled enough to play as a number 10 and between them they don’t score goals. They are both also getting on a bit, so do we stick or twist??

    Ei!ther way, we need quality not quantity. “The icing on the cake” as we’ve heard so many times before, although this is the first time we’ve got a cake to ice!

    • henrymouni

      As the team is set up now, Morison is a vital cog in the machine.
      We don’t, first and foremost need a prolific scorer leading the line.
      We need a strong character who can fight for every ball and win most 50/50 tussles.
      Who can hold the ball up and lay it off.
      Who can force defenders into mistakes to keep us upfield.
      Who can defend when needed – he made 11 clearances again Boro!!!
      Sharpe and Antenuccii are goalscorers, but they cannot do the job required as lone striker!!
      He is a top man!!
      His goals will come!!!

      • Irving08

        You could well be right Henri. We could do with someone like the lad Wolves just signed from MKDons – our South of England recruitment, where there other lads like him, needs beefing up (if you’ll pardon the pun). I like Antenucci but it’s hard to see him fitting in with new strategy (not a fan of the other fellow, as you know).

  • PMH

    Nicely written piece. I have thought for a long time that the most desperate need was for a strong and wise central defender. I am stunned that Leeds managed to find one. Sol Bamba is a great find. Seems like a very intelligent and well spoken person too. Solid at the back provides a great foundation for midfielders and strikers to get creative up front without having to look over their shoulders all the time.

    Comment: There are differing opinions about Cellino, but let’s agree to disagree and cut out the childish name calling (see below). Please allow your fellow fans to be wrong without insulting them.

    • Helen LUFC

      I think you meant to say right, as well. Makes it more balanced that way, I believe.

  • Mike

    I think the retention of the Academy kids that are currently first teamers will focus solely around the re-signing of Redders, I think they’ll stick around for another year at least as long as he’s still the gaffer. That in my opinion would be the most vital signing Cellino can make at the end of the season. I really think they should tie the lads down and reward them all with new contracts as incentive as well mainly to let them know that they’re important to the team.

    I can’t believe i’m saying this but the key area that needs strengthening now isn’t our defense(assuming we sign Bamba perm). We sorely need some left side attacking width and if we’re being honest we need at minimum one striker who can put away 20+ since right now we’re thriving off of midfield scoring which cant last forever. Don’t get me wrong i appreciate what Morison has done but strikers have to be finishers as well, that’s the main thing they get paid to do last i checked.

    • Helen LUFC

      I think you meant to add right, as well. Makes it more balanced that way, I believe.

      • Mike

        Byram is out right, might not hurt to have a backup though.

  • Smiths Fan

    I’ll take winning ugly 1-nil all the way to the playoffs and dare I say it the PL lets get the you no what out of obscurity

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