Jermaine BeckfordStrikers are a funny thing at Elland Road. In 2010 we signed the only player who’d managed to out-score Jermaine Beckford the season previous in what seemed to be an absolute masterstroke of a move by Simon Grayson.

Two years on, and Billy Paynter had been dubbed “barn door” by Leeds fans due to the fact he couldn’t hit one from six yards.

Then came Steve Morison, a striker who I, along with many other Leeds United fans, rated highly during his time at Millwall. The second he donned the famous white shirt of Leeds United however, he suddenly seemed clumsy and useless.

It doesn’t just happen to Leeds though. You only have to take a look at accomplished strikers who have left Elland Road to see that.

Our most recent departure, Luciano Becchio, has done nothing at all noteworthy for Norwich City, while former hero Jermaine Beckford failed to replicate his Elland Road form at Everton and Leicester City.

Is it just a case of certain players being over-hyped by a particular fanbase, or is there more to it?

For me, it’s a case of strikers fitting systems. Luciano Becchio for example was the perfect hoofball striker, it’s no coincidence his most prolific spell at Leeds came during Neil Warnock’s tenure. It’s also no surprise that he’s already out-of-favour at Norwich.

Jermaine Beckford meanwhile benefited from the Snodgrass and Gradel partnership, two wingers who could cut inside and lay the ball on for Beckford to capitalise on with his blistering pace. Stick Beckford in a Warnock team, he’d probably have similar success to what Billy Paynter had in Simon Grayson’s side.

Billy Paynter, Steve Morison, Jermaine Beckford, Luciano Becchio – none of these players are bad footballers, they didn’t “fluke” their way to the upper echelons of English football. But if the team isn’t suited to their style of play, you won’t get the best out of them.

The exact same thing happened when Fernando Torres moved to Chelsea. The undeniably talented Spanish striker suddenly seemed incapable of playing football. He looked like an imposter.

It wasn’t that Torres had been “found out” or had forgotten how to play football, he’d just moved to a club whose system didn’t suit him. From the short passing, quick attacking style of Liverpool to the direct and clinical approach of Chelsea – a style they’d developed to suit Drogba – Torres might as well have changed sport, never mind team.

At Elland Road, we’ve spent so many years patching a team together from odds and ends, we’ve ended up with a mismatch of players who don’t suit any particular system.

Billy Paynter was never Simon Grayson’s first choice, the man wasn’t an idiot, Paynter was just an option which suited Ken Bates’ budget. Whether he suited our style of play or not was irrelevant to Ken, he was more concerned with cream-cladding the East Stand.

Grayson ended up signing several players who didn’t suit the style of team he’d created/inherited, but they were always options forced by a lack of funds. Ross McCormack and Max Gradel is what happened when Grayson got to spend money, the Billy Paynter’s came when he didn’t.

And it was no different for Warnock. I hated his style of play, it didn’t suit my idea of Leeds United, but had he been given the money to build an entire team capable of playing the Warnock way, he’d have probably succeeded.

So when you’re considering transfer targets this summer, especially strikers, it’s no good looking at the amount of goals they’ve scored unless you consider the style of team they played in. Billy Sharp, a striker I rate highly, was prolific for Scunthorpe and Doncaster, but you have to question whether he’d suit a Brian McDermott team?

Early indications suggest McDermott wants to build a short passing team, one more suited to a Ross McCormack than a Luciano Becchio, a Jermaine Beckford than a Billy Paynter, or a Fernando Torres than a Didier Drogba. Every player linked with Leeds United this summer has to be assessed along similar lines.

There’s no point signing good players if they don’t suit the system we intend to play. We need a footballing philosophy. Then we need to sign players who suit it.

39 Responses

  1. Thommo Hawk

    I hope McDermott is able to build a side that’s got a bit more about it when it comes to power and bite, a lot more about it when it comes to pace and creativity, and I hope he plays a tactical style that suits the players we already have and the signings he will bring in.

    I also think that in a Leeds team with proper wingers Steve Morison will come good, and if McDermott poaches Kevin Doyle from Wolves then him too. In a team with a proper midfield we shouldn’t see so many defensive lapses in concentration. However I’m not convinced our defenders are physically strong enough – there’s not 1 player who is an imposing figure at the back not 1 person who is strong or fast and they face twice as many attacks because our midfield still can’t tackle for toffee and get caught ball watching. When Rudy plays well Leeds look solid, when Rudy doesn’t get his foot in we have no midfield.

  2. Paul

    A tad unfair on Becchio, he scored throughout his Leeds career, but at times played second fiddle to the other striker, namely Beckford

    • TSS

      I agree, I wasn’t being critical of Becchio – not intentionally anyway.

      But Becchio was more suited to Warnock football. He doesn’t fit in at Norwich because their style is closer to Grayson’s than Warnock’s, he’s not a bad player, he just doesn’t suit the system.

      • Tare

        TSS then Yellow birds just realised that hey there is money in my pocket and what the hell it is burning. What to do : let us buy Becchio from Leeds and we can make reduction in tax notice. Investment and for what the hell I do not know the clerk of NCFC says I am only here for the money and I have mortgage payments to pay for ever….

        So this footballing thing so numbers do not lie…


      • Irving08

        Becchio was at least as effective playing on his own up front under Grayson, who played direct, pressing football, as he was under Warnock, with his even simpler style of play.

        McDermott is plainly a pragmatist, who is prepared to adapt his style to the personnel at his disposal. My bet is that wished he had Becchio instead of Morrison, about whom I was unenthusiastic in January – and still am.

        Jukovic of ‘Boro would by my (accessible ) choice to lead the line next year.

  3. Tare

    TSS we have all doors open here and what is most convincing (for me at least) there is room for the Academy boys. Nucleus of the team and some added spice in the soup then we can expect something. What comes to striker department then it is a segment where any team in this world has problems. In CS I would like to see Chappie type of CF and if given time in pre season SM would be that one. From youngters we have Poleon, Parkin, Walters with some motivation edge in mind. Tare

  4. Craig Sweaton

    I agree but you possibly missed out on 2 necessities.
    1. The need for a little money where it’s needed and…
    2. The need for managerial stability for the next 3 years.
    Any manager working with the very limited funds at Leeds Utd needs a few years grace to form a structure, a playing style and a creed to play by.
    In our current position of patchwork players/playing styles, we need to give someone time to develop “our game/style” & a year just isn’t enough. I hope we all remember that if Macs’ reign at E.R. doesn’t get off to a great start.

  5. Max

    Bear in mind Beckford did well on loan to Scunthorpe in L1, then under Wise in L1 (alongside Kandol). Becchio and Snodgrass were bought by McAllister. Gradel was bought by Grayson and I don’t think Gradel’s best period coincided with that of Beckford. I agree it’s a question of systems and, for strikers, a question of supply. Often the best supply is a striking partner. Before we bought Paynter, it’s notable he was playing alongside Charlie Austin at Swindon.

    Not that McDermott needs my advice but he needs to have a view on 3-4 strikers who are going to mesh well together in partnerships which can work as a variety, so that there is a change available if the current system isn’t working. Warnock never seemed to think this way and in fact I don’t think we’ve had a working striking partnership since Beckford/Becchio. Personally at this level I’d take Beckford/McCormack with the chance of mixing in Morison and Poleon.

    By the way, Beckford’s partner at Scunthorpe was Billy Sharp.

  6. Bob

    Torres didn’t have a proper medical at Chelsea. He has a degenerative knee condition and therefore lost his pace and also his confidence. Lets not forget how good he was for Madrid. A bit too general for me this article.

  7. Flippin-Pop-It-Bruva

    Good article Tss, spot on with your assessment of how strikers fit into very defined systems that are created. The article makes me think of how Beckford was always going to struggle at Everton after he left Leeds where the whole team was built around him and his strengths. I wonder if there is any part of him that regrets leaving Leeds for more money elsewhere. When he had, what not many football players have….an entire team built around them for the purpose of him scoring, fans that worshiped the ground he walked on and a system that was played entirely to his abilities. Maybe if he had spent another season at Leeds he could have gone on to a top four side or maybe have got us promoted and come up with us. Every season us Leeds fans secretly hope for a return of a prodical son [Beckford, Gradel, Howson etc] but maybe if they ever did return they could find they no longer fit into the jigsaw puzzle. I think McDermott will only buy 1 striker and I think he will fit onto a similar mould to Beckford, someone like Odemwingie who has a bit of a point to prove at a different club.I also think he will go for a creative midfield general like Austin and also a big, experienced centre back [Johnson] He also has to get a couple of wingers and think he will raid the lower leagues for them [as not sure how Hall is going to favour under McDermott] All in all I think you will see him recruit another spine of a team and build from there. I trust McDermott in the transfer department as I think he has learnt valuable lessons from the lack of recruits he got at Reading during January. readings loss is our gain : )

    • Irving08

      Is the Austin you mention our Austin ? If so, I do not see him as any kind of midfield general, let alone a creative one. I think he will spend more time on the subs bench next season than in the starting eleven. Apart from effort and enthusiasm – which are not be sneered at, of course – he brings little to the table.

  8. get leeds backwerethey belong

    Beckford was actually Evertons 2nd leading scorer with ten goals in 40 apps of which half were sub appearances,, £3.5 million to Leicester, pretty good buisness to me,, we could have done with that!!!!

  9. Lufc1979ish

    Yes this article is correct. Also a large percentage of Leeds fans don’t realise what a great man we have as manager yet. He’s steadily getting the club back to its former days. I think we have become adjusted to idea of a quick fix philosophy over the last few years but BM is laying the foundations much like sgt Wilko did in his day, like sorting out the scouting system, investing in the local school kids etc and getting the club back in a position is was when the likes of kewell came through the ranks. BM will buy well this summer, the days of buying any old has been is hopefully behind us, if GFH back him we will be back in the PL soon and we can wave goodbye to the days of billy paynter and co. for the first time in a few years I don’t look at Norwich with jealousy anymore, I think we will smash em out of the water soon enough and the likes of becchio etc can scratch out a career wherever they like, I certainly won’t be losing any sleep over the Norwich dissidents come the end of next season.

  10. JonnyB

    And that footballing philosophy needs to be set in stone right from the Academy to the first team like Barca copied Ajax and even how Revie wanted us to emulate Real Madrid. McD appears to have all this in hand with Redfearn’s role change being one example, but the test for me of the new owners ambition is Byram. If they sell him then they are not building for thePremiership with a vision of a team that can win the Champions League bit just in it for short term profit.. And I’m still not convinced of Haigh’s true colours – if he red-clads The Kop instead of buying a forward to fit the system he will be a son-of-a-Bates.

    • Tyler75

      I certainly don’t want to see Sam go but £10m for Mac to spend and a season-loan back at ER wouldn’t be the worst deal we’ve ever done.

      • Ev

        Been over this a few times but it’s amazing how many Leeds fans think its a great idea to continue selling our best young talent…. Let’s try looking at it from a different angle shall we just to help those who are a bit slow…. How long ago was it when we had a young international class fullback ???? Danny Mills …? So a decade ? And before that ?? Don revies team ? 20 years ?? So quality young players don’t grow on trees despite what many Leeds fans think… We won’t replace him like for like… Now…. Tell me about all the teams who have found success after selling their best youngsters for “good money” ….? Yes difficult isn’t it?? West ham did amazingly well when they sold. Ferdinand, carrick etc (sarcasm) ask yourself why ?? Suddenly Leeds fans cry “what about Southampton ??”. Yes so your happy forcleeds to be a mediocre team with no ambition in the long term are you ? If GFH sell Byram it tells you they want promotion in the cheap and no matter if we are yo young divisions or fighting relegation every year provided they get their wonga… Meanwhile Leeds fans that are happy with being average will wonder why attendances are low….

  11. gistheman

    I think this article is a good one in pointing out how strikers can make or break in a team like Leeds.
    For me I would like to see beckford back as he still has pace and along side McCormack it could forge a good partnership. Then have poleon with Morrison.
    Bm isn’t daft and he knows what we need and may b he thinks poleon will fit a beckford type roll, that way he as more funds for other areas like the wingers and a strong cb to b alongside lees. My team

    • Yorkshirewhites

      That’s your team to get Leeds promoted?
      Thank f*** you’re not the manager.

      • gistheman

        And who would b in your team like messi ???
        That is the team as of now and it isn’t a bad one either when u look at the championship over this season. Fingers crossed that gfh back bm and makes a few addition to the team we have along with getting rid of some too

      • Uniteds21

        I’m with Yorkshirewhites on this one that is virtually the team that nearly got us relegated. Have you even seen Hall play? If we don’t end up with a better team than that then it will be mid table again!

      • gistheman

        Everyone is entitled to there opinion. I’ve not stated that this team alone will get us up nor have I said not to add to it. I’m saying that is the team I would of used. And along with a few additions in the summer and the academy players coming through we will b there or there abouts

      • Uniteds21

        Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion but as the man says I hope MacD doesn’t share yours……………….MOT

      • Yorkshirewhites

        It may be the team as of now..but as the season has showed isn’t a team that’s good enough..half of that team will be gone or going by next season.

      • gistheman

        Like I said everyone is entitled to an opinion. If u think that half of the team I think is good enough with new players and the academy players coming through then god knows what team u r expecting next season.

      • Yorkshirewhites

        Just look at the team you’ve picked and then look at where Leeds finished this season..that should prove my point.
        Of course I’m not expecting players like Messi as you stupidly suggested..but we do need more quality players.
        Bmac knows this and that’s why he has made a list of possible transfer targets.

      • gistheman

        Some of the players I’ve picked haven’t been giving a chance properly in the side and others have played out of position plus warnocks hoofball. I agree with u when u say quality signings, but who r these that u think bm will b getting in the summer then???

      • Yorkshirewhites

        I can’t tell you that..Bmac forgot to show me the list before he went on holiday!

  12. Stephen Roe

    I liked the way Macca played beckford out on one wing cutting in and Becchio on the other thought that was an effective partnership particulary when you had Delph who could ping a ball onto their toes or head. He also did well with Tresor lets not forget early doors in a proper 4-4-2 was a shame he didn’t get the chance to sign a couple of decent Centre Backs as McAllisters football was the best I’ve seen at ER for a long time

  13. markman

    BM should get Byram on a longer contract,otherwise this time next year he will be entering his last year on the current one.

    also,any leeds player sold especially the youngsters,we should be on a resale precentage.when was the last time that happened?

  14. eggbuttnobacon

    Beckford was top scorer in his everton days ….
    Leeds are a 4-4-2 club wingers crossing in for strikers becchio to nod down for beckford for instance ….
    You can say what you want about players but its about managers playing players in their roles ..
    when was the last time we had a decent manager …
    we haven’t that good a team in a few years either ,some good individuals but footy is a team game

  15. Matthew

    Becchio is good if you keep lumping the ball to him, expecting him to show some flashy skills will only end in heartbreak. He’s like that big lump that smashes the ball in the back of the net assuming you can get him in the right place at the right time.

    Basically he doesn’t have technical skill, but is more a big lump that scores lol

    • Matthew

      Forgot to add, I can’t fault his effort, we all know he’s put in so fucking amazing shifts in his time here, and his heart was always there prior to joining Norwich, but he never was our most technically gifted striker.

      I would however have him back tommorow.

  16. Bluesman

    I think that GFH will invest in some quality players in the spine of the team and that they will complement the better players that we have already. That would give us a real lift because our better players would perform really well with some good people round them and if they are challenging for a place. We are not a million miles away, but we are perhaps two or three million quid away. Don’t see Byram! We have to start keeping our talented youngsters or where does it stop? BM will have a plan because he will want to be with Leeds in the Premier League for a long time!!!

  17. PMH

    Thanks for a very insightful article. You answered that puzzle of how talented players can look really bad. Your examples were well selected: What ever happened to Jermain Beckford? Watching Norwich, even Snodgrass is not looking quite like the player we thought we had at Leeds. So, the team style or system is a key factor. The manager needs to collect players to match a system, or grab the best he can get and work out a system to fit. The thing about strikers is that they can do nothing without good service. You can’t expect them to be the midfield terrier or the pacey winger. Their job is to finish a good attacking play. Maybe they do that just once in a game, but that is success.

    As for me, I don’t feel a need for an elegant passing game. If you have players with excellent ball control skills, well go for it. But, if the direct route fits the team, then that is what they need to do. The long pass (Hoofball) is fine for me if it scores goals and wins games. To be frank, I find the endless passing around midfield and back to the goalie, that you see in many top teams, to be boring in the extreme. Fast attacks up the wing and long incisive passes up field are what get me going. There are also advantages to playing a non-trendy or unusual style. One is that you don’t have to pay top money for players that every one else wants. The second is that you have an advantage when other teams are unfamiliar with your style.


    Spot on, and a good read. I always enjoy your articles :)


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