Disastrous, despicable, indefensible and tragic. Not the start to the New Year celebrations the Leeds United fans had in mind, but getting absolutely battered by our South Yorkshire rivals was nonetheless predictable.

Losing Robert Snodgrass, Jonny Howson and Tom Lees to injury is basically the same as Manchester United losing Rooney, Nani and Ferdinand – we were always going to suffer.

But things didn’t start all that badly for The Whites. Before Barnsley went ahead, Leeds had been the better team. Another piece of “head in hands” defending however and in one calamitous exchange Leeds went behind and things spiralled out of control from there.

There were no real positives to speak of. Ramon Nunez had an OK game but that’s about as good as things got for Leeds.

Replacing Robert Snodgrass on the wing was Ross McCormack who – not through a lack of trying – couldn’t beat the horde of Barnsley players that quickly surrounded him every time he got hold of the ball. With no attacking support from Connolly, the best he could do was force the occasional corner or throw, but anything closely resembling Robert Snodgrass he certainly was not.

Up front we’d started with Andy Keogh whose performance was instantly forgettable. He was later replaced by Luciano Becchio who despite scoring a late consolation goal was even more infuriating that Keogh. If Becchio is to be deployed in a 4-5-1 formation, he needs people crossing from the wings, otherwise he’s totally useless.

Almost every ball played to Becchio came high and from deep in our own half and all Becchio ever did was head it on, which is a useful enough contribution if he was actually heading it towards someone. But there was no one at all in support so all Becchio was really doing was helping the ball back to the opposition. Seeing this particular move repeated numerous times was probably the most infuriating part of the day.

The reason Becchio and Keogh lacked support was because of the God-awful central midfield we were forced into playing. The combination of Michael Brown and Mika Vayrynen was probably the least creative partnership I’ve ever seen Leeds United field.

If the result wasn’t quite so catastrophic, it’d be quite pleasing to hear all the Jonny Howson doubters come to their senses and realise how valuable he is to our team. Without him and Robert Snodgrass we’re a bottom half team – they’ve been the driving force of our side for the past couple of years and I’m truly baffled as to how people were missing that.

The problem is depth, and quality depth costs money. The likes of Vayrynen, Brown and Pugh are all acceptable squad players at this level, but you need that little something extra if you’re to compete. What we had here was a team bursting with back-up players – not the quality ensemble required to achieve our goals.

We’re all going to play the blame game now and some will point to Grayson as the problem, and whilst we can all highlight things he could have done differently with the benefit of hindsight, those that travelled to Barnsley are under no illusions as to what the real problem is.

“Where’s all our money gone?” was more a statement than a question. We know where it’s gone, and it’s damaging any chance we have of returning to the Premier League.

For the most part, the fans in attendance were largely in support of Simon Grayson. I overheard the odd fan calling for his head, but they were generally shot down by people pointing out the Ken Bates factor. The list of potential suitors to replace our manager is a worrying one, and with no money to spend, I fail to see how any of them could produce anything more than Grayson has.

Another Yorkshire Radio address will doubtless follow, with Bates insisting we spend more on our squad than any one else and that the transfer budget is largely consumed by wages. This excuse simply doesn’t wash with me. Far too many players snubbed us for higher wages elsewhere in the summer, so any suggestion that we don’t spend much on transfer fees so we can pay higher wages is clearly nonsense.

Moreover, EVERY team pays wages. Our chairman makes out as though this is exclusive to Leeds United – that all the other teams buying quality players are doing so because they don’t have to pay wages. The two budgets should be totally separate, and both need to be dramatically increased else we’re in for another transfer window of gloom.

The likelihood is that we’re heading for a New Year, with new faces and the same old problems. Perhaps a change of manager is appropriate? I suspect it’ll be a bit like Jonny Howson’s injury – that only when Simon Grayson has left will fans fully appreciate his value to the club.

Happy New Year all. Sorry it had to start on such a downer. On and on…

3 Responses

  1. Chareose

    A good post TSS but Grayson is guilty of not sorting out the defence for almost 3 years and one point against the zero cash investment theory is the fact that Gazza McAlister managed to find or bring through all the players we currently rely upon, so good players can be found on pennies. In hindsight Larry should have started out at the back and taken a leaf out of george grahams philosophy and make Leeds hard to beat before trying to copy Arsenal with free flowing attacking football.

    For me the biggest cock ups have been largly presided over by the clubs owners for not MAKING SURE that Max Gradel signed a new contract or kept him until the end of the season atleast (2 million versus 50 million promotion ?? which wins ?) Leeds send their kids out to be coached at other clubs and bring in loan players who if successful (rarely are) will end up pricing themselves out of a permenent move and will just benefit the mother club. So some shambolic and ilogical handling of player contracts which mostly wont be down to grayson.

    All our best players should be on 3-4 year contracts like you say come end of season we could lose White, Howson, Snodgrass and Clayton…. Well Townsend isnt even our player so any beleif that leeds are a stronger force now is a false statement….filling the holes with gaffa tape kind of short term reactive management


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