Feel The PainFive defeats in six games and it seems every supporter has taken a side in the Leeds United blame game. The owners, the players, the manager… they’re all coming under-attack, some more than others, but while most supporters argue the case for their personal choice, I prefer to blame all of the above.

I’d blame the fans too, but the only thing you can really blame the fans for is perpetual moaning and this post would be somewhat hypocritical if I did.

Brian McDermott

We’ll start with the manager who’ll no doubt be the most controversial because he’s new and likeable, meaning a cult-like following of fans will behead you for even daring to suggest he shares some of the blame (key word: shares).

Yes, he needs more money and better players but I can surely criticise those he’s brought in? Of the four players McDermott has signed, only Noel Hunt has started the last two games and he’s probably been the most disappointing of them all.

I’ve been trying to figure out why £600,000 was too much for Chris Burke if £1,000,000 is perfectly acceptable for a bench-warming midfielder? I questioned the signing of Luke Murphy when it happened, not because I didn’t trust Brian McDermott’s eye for a player, but I was confused as to why we’d broke the bank for a central midfielder when the club was already overrun with them. Why was a winger or a quality striker not the number one priority? Taking a chance on an expensive League One player when you have very little to spend was very risky and it simply hasn’t paid off.

The logic in signing Matt Smith I can understand, he’ll be a very cheap player to have on the books and is a useful sub to throw on in the dying moments to launch hoofballs at. He’s nowhere near good enough to be playing at this level, but that’s true of half our team.

Of all the signings McDermott has made, the only one I have any sympathy for is Scott Wootton. He’s had some good games, but it’s going to take time for him to adjust to Leeds United’s under 11’s style defending techniques (as demonstrated in the image below).

Leeds defending

Three players chasing the same ball while none of them pick up the man in acres of space on the edge of the area. Derby County may be the first time we’ve conceded three against under McDermott, but it won’t have surprised the regulars. In terms of defensive organisation (which includes the midfield players who don’t tighten up anywhere near enough when the opposition are in possession) Leeds have an awful lot to improve on.

You could blame the board for not buying McDermott better defenders, and you’d get no arguments from me, but it doesn’t matter how good the defenders are if they’re all chasing the ball like a children’s football team.

The owners 

I’m willing to exercise patience and accept we’re working on a 2-3 year plan, but we’re supposed to see a steady improvement in the meantime.

I fully appreciate that this club is burdened by the wages of players who infiltrated Elland Road and convinced previous regimes they were professional footballers, but this is something which should have been considered before purchasing the club. In football, you sometimes have to cut your losses. Terminating the contracts of Michael Brown and Danny Pugh (among others) costs money, but it’s much less than they cost by keeping them on the books for another year.

It’s difficult to escape the feeling that we’re stuck in the same rut we’ve been in for the last 8 years, weighed down by poor, overpaid footballers who are nowhere near good enough to get us promoted. These have to be replaced by better players and I’m not convinced we’re doing that. Noel Hunt feels like another Billy Paynter, Matt Smith like a poor man’s Enoch Showumni. They’re not going to feature among the Championship’s top-scorers, far less a Premier League Leeds United side, so why bother in the first place?

It’s the same numbers game we’ve been playing for nearly a decade now. Instead of adding quality, we add numbers, until we realise the numbers we’ve added are achieving nothing and we need to get rid. We then wait until their contracts expire and repeat the process. Unless we stop adding numbers and start paying for serious quality, we’ll be stuck in this Groundhog Day scenario forever more.

The players

I can’t blame the players for lacking the desired talent, but I can certainly criticise their lack of organisation. I’ve seen Sunday League players demonstrate better awareness of what’s happening around them than most of Leeds United’s players do, no one seems to take charge of any situation, the organisation is non-existent and we get caught ball-watching far too often.

Either McDermott’s tactics are borrowed from a High School gym teacher or the players are failing to implement them. Is it really so difficult to pick up individual players, or direct another player to do so allowing yourself to cover the man who he’s obviously going to pass to?

The midfield doesn’t tighten up enough and instead of restricting the options of the player on the ball first, then moving in to challenge the man in possession, we constantly send men (plural) at the player with the ball (who’s posing no imminent threat), allowing him to pass it to another player we’ve left in acres of space, taking half our team out of the equation and leaving the defence exposed. Do professional football teams not practice defensive drills any more? This stuff is elementary!

Ahh well, the only way is up… (hopefully)