After praising the team for their efforts against Burnley – a game we lost – this match report may make little sense to those of you who subscribe to the Neil Warnock school of thought that the result is all that matters in football.

Let’s start by accepting this season is already over. We’re not going to get relegated and there’s no danger of us threatening the play-offs, but that should come as an invitation to mix things up, a chance to experiment and try to put a system and style of play into place that’s as effective as it is entertaining to watch, something that gives the fans reason to turn up on a Saturday afternoon while also creating a sound-footing on which to build next season.

Instead, McDermott went with the same line-up and system we played against Burnley, a desperately poor setup which is reminiscent of the Neil Warnock days, perhaps even worse.

Heavily reliant on the aerial threat of Matt Smith, the system calls for the sacrifice of McCormack and Wickham, two of the best ball-playing strikers in the division, who are pushed wide to provide service to Smith while also helping out the dreadfully ineffective midfield three of Murphy, Austin and Mowatt.

Matt Smith is the only winner in this situation and in fairness to him, he took the opportunity and performed well. Ross McCormack and Connor Wickham meanwhile are wasted.

McCormack did manage to get on the scoresheet and Wickham’s performance was one of the best on display for Leeds, but neither of them are at their strongest out wide, it’s a huge waste of their talents.

It’s also eerily familiar to Warnock once again. McDermott’s early success can be attributed to his vision of seeing how wasted certain players were in the positions Warnock had them playing, he immediately addressed that by creating a system which returned each player to their strongest position and our fortunes quickly changed.

It’s not that the system doesn’t have it’s strengths, away from home to a top two side, absorbing pressure and hoofing long is the best you can hope for sometimes. But at Elland Road against injury-plagued relegation fodder, is this really the best we can come up with?

Poor defending from Millwall, good fortune and an embarrassment of (somewhat wasted) riches up front for Leeds is the reason we led 2-0 at half-time. Matt Smith headed home from a Connor Wickham throw to open the scoring against the run of play and McCormack doubled the lead when he beat the keeper to a hoofed ball up field, but the scoreline flattered a Leeds side who’d been second-best for most of the first half.

Despite their injury crisis and relegation troubles, Millwall were far more comfortable in possession than Leeds and if they’d had a decent goalscorer, the scoreline would have been very different.

The second half saw no improvement. Leeds continued to be outplayed by the visitors and our midfield was still being outclassed by a bottom three side when a flurry of substitutions saw the visitors turn the screw, leading to a thoroughly deserved breakthrough which reduced Leeds’ lead to one goal, setting up a panic-stricken finale which any other team would have taken full advantage of to steal all three points.

Leeds’ two goals helped to disguise how poor we were first half, but the second half left no room for illusions, The Whites were being hammered on home soil by one of the division’s worst teams.

That we won the game is entirely trivial because the season is over and no progress has been made, any other team would have taken us to the cleaners today. We seem totally incapable of dominating possession, there’s no composure in the entire team and the result makes for painful viewing.

Recent form suggests this side should be in the relegation zone along with Millwall and we did nothing to suggest otherwise. Our midfield is the worst I’ve ever seen and I’m including the one Neil Warnock’s anti-football spent last season trying to bypass in that assessment.

It’s not that Austin, Murphy and Mowatt are bad players, they just don’t work together at all. There’s no understanding between them, they’re not comfortable passing the ball around and the less said about their movement and defensive play, the better.

In fact, the only two players who seem to share any understanding of each other’s game are Byram and Mowatt. We saw it at Turf Moor and again against Millwall, when these two link up Leeds actually look like they have a plan, but it soon falls apart when another player is added to the equation. As such, Mowatt isn’t helping the Murphy and Austin dilemma while Byram is doing more good for the forwards than the backline he’s supposed to be a part of.

All of this makes me wonder what the team are actually doing in training? How can Austin and Murphy look like such strangers after playing alongside each other and training together all season? Why does it take Jack Butland to organise a defence who should be intimately familiar with each other and know exactly where they’re supposed to be and where each of their fellow defenders will be? And for the love of all that is holy, why are we wasting an embarrassment of attacking riches by playing two of the Championship’s most talented strikers out-wide?

This isn’t what we signed up for with McDermott, he was expected to build a better ball-playing team who’d work hard out-of-possession and know how to control a game. Instead we’ve gone full circle and somehow arrived back at Neil Warnock football, only McDermott has added new players to that dreadful team and somehow made us worse.

And while I have some sympathy for the takeover chaos McDermott has been working under, that excuse only takes him so far and my patience is running on empty. I just don’t understand what McDermott is doing any more, there’s no discernible improvements despite the additions he’s made, I can’t see the effects of training and the players look like absolute strangers.

One year on and we’ve made no progress whatsoever, worse still, we don’t seem to have a plan.

If there’s a silver-lining to all of this, it’s the three points which brings to an end the dismal run we’ve been on and will hopefully restore a bit of confidence. But McDermott has to start thinking further ahead than this season, we should be using these games to develop a better system than one which allows an injury-ravaged relegation side to make us look poor on our own turf because this is every bit as bad as the team he inherited.

Man of the match goes to Vinnie Jones for leading Elland Road in a chorus of Marching On Together at the interval. It was far more entertaining than the football.

On and on…

35 Responses

  1. Helen LUFC

    Poor game, and I agree with the above article, there is no pattern to play at all, no structure. Only highlight of the game was McCormack’s cool finish and above all Vinny singing to the Kop. He hit the nail on the head and must have been having a dig at the players when he spoke about passion. Austin was awful again, and the midfield was overran. If Millwall had been able to finish we’d have been two down in the first five minutes. If it wasn’t for the South Stand chanting at the fat Millwall fan to give us a song then the whole match would have been rather dull. Comments I heard in the west stand and Billy’s bar is that people like McDermott, but not his football he’s producing. I agree. He’s been here a year now and hasn’t progressed from Warnock’s donkey style of hoofing the ball about. Smith is impressing me. He’s tried really hard, and taken his opportunities. Well done Vinny for your comments.

  2. john palmer

    good description BUT Austin isn’t a bad player????? hes the reason we are so crap and BMCD picks the pillock every bloody game says every thing about him

    • Matthew

      We don’t have a huge amount of options in this area though. We ideally need a ball winning enforcer if this takeover goes through, a strong figure in the midfield. We’ve lacked this, certainly with Austins inconsistency.

  3. Ev

    Austin isn’t a bad player, hes bloody aweful…………even when leeds have been in form Austin goes missing 2 games out of 3,

    • TSS

      There are games when he’s great, the driving force of the entire team. Shame we haven’t seem any for about six months now though.

      • Ev

        yes maybe but I understand what you are getting at…. these players can play better than they have been this half of the season even Austin

  4. Ev

    I agree about BM though……….you are correct, I think he is not achieving anything with the players and regardless of how nice he is, its irrelevant as he is paid a lot of money to do a job which he obviously isn’t doing very well unfortunately

  5. Neil

    How can McDermott think ahead he is just an employee at the end of the day. We need leadership from above, the club has no strategy no apparent owners and at this moment no future. Why should McDermott carry the whole responsibility for the current situation?

    • Helen LUFC

      Because he’s the manager, he’s been here a year, and his football shows no signs of improvement in play or league position at the point Warnock was given the boot.

      • Ev

        To be honest I thought Warnocks side played better football, atleast we had Diouf then

    • TSS

      He doesn’t carry responsibility for the takeover, he carries responsibility for the 11 men kicking a ball to each other. Badly.

      • Matthew

        Spot on, I think it’s wrong for him to attribute the takeover saga to the poor run of form. This to me is just a baseless excuse. The takeover certainly isn’t making Jimmy Kebe one of the worst wingers to wear a Leeds shirt lol.

  6. Helen LUFC

    No one in the crowd today was calling for McDermott to be sacked. There’s an apathy at the club that is something I’ve not seen before.

  7. PAUL W

    The pro-longed takeover has been a very convenient excuse for McDermott and the Leeds players over the last few months, but at last, a win, but a scrape win, where Leeds make the opposition look good, yet again.
    Well done to the legend Vinnie Jones for motivating a team that can no longer be motivated under McDermott.
    Maybe if Vinnie was in the dressing room every week, he could bang some heads together and get some consistency out of these players.
    Vinnie Jones really brought the Leeds players together as one in the 1989-90 season and it’s just a pity that some of current Leeds players are not together as one.

  8. Matthew

    It was an ugly way to win but I think if anything we just need to get enough points to survive this season above all else. Even with the potential threat of admin looming(Though I’m not sure if that will happen), if it did we just need the points to survive this season, nothing more. I expect this from the next few games.

  9. Arnie

    Agree agree agree. I’m not a regular at ER but from the games I’ve seen there is no discernible style of play, nor any signs that McDermott is knitting a team together who are comfortable in possession. Some of the performances recently have been just inspid. I don’t understand why both Diouf and Chris Dawson have been pretty much frozen out this season, when they are the kind of ball playing individuals Leeds are crying out for. As has been said here blaming the takeover on the performance on the pitch is a red herring. McDermott must be praying Cellino doesn’t get the club as he’d be getting his P45 pretty sharpish.

    • Frizbo

      I think you’ve got it exactly right about Diouf and Dawson in particular. At first I could excuse Dawson not being involved because of his injury over summer, trying to get fit and then struggling to get back on form initially but every report I’ve read on the u21’s for the last few weeks at least has had comments from Redfearn about how Dawson was outstanding again and looked the best player on the pitch. He’s played in midfield with Mowatt in the u18’s last season and they would know each other’s games very well by now which would surely lead to a good relationship on the pitch. Plus we know Dawson has a lot of talent and the potential to be a very good player for Leeds United. I really wish he’d at least be in and around the first team. I don’t normally agree with the people that say ‘just throw the youth team on’ but in the case of Dawson and one or two others I absolutely do


    One possible reason McDermott hasn’t been blooding the youth players more is he’s more concerned with ending the season as high up the table as possible, then worrying about next year. Not much of a risk taker anyway and a top half finish might make it easier to hock his CV around the championship next year. Bottom half and he’ll be looking at League 1.

  11. Mick444

    It is easy to blame the manager. I do really understand your argument about the turmoil at Leeds should not be affecting the manager and the players from performing better than they are currently. Unfortunately, in the real world this never the case. All institutions perform a cording to the level of leadership – this is even more so in sport because it creates passion that other institutions do not. Liverpool have gone over a decade without a title despite having players of world class for many of those years. It took an American take over and a belief in a manager to turn that around and how many Liverpool fans were calling for the head of that manager a few months ago.
    Leeds have had little or no leadership for about 12 years and as a result manager after manager and players after players have come and gone with no success other than a League One title. No insult intended but Leeds United should not consider that a success.
    You could put Jose or Brendan as managers of Leeds United and the outcome would be the same crap . To believe that the ridiculous goings on at Leeds United should not affect the football displayed is just nonsense. I have spent a lifetime in football as a player and a coach (albeit not at this level) but I can state that the successful years were when club ownership was clear and expectations were realistic. Leeds United have no clarity of ownership and a totally unrealistic fan base when considering the talent pool the club had available.
    On my humble opinion we can judge BMD when the ownership issue is completed and a vision log what is required is made clear to Coaching staff and players. BMD May mot be the right man but until the working environment is sanitised it is unfair to pass judgement.

    • TSS

      In the real world takeovers happen all the time and never used as an excuse for poor performance, we’ve been through admin and two relegations without ever recording a run this poor. That’s on McDermott.

      The only two teams McDermott has beaten in the last 17 games are relegation fodder and we were the worst team on both occasions. Millwall should have beaten us yesterday and Yeovil result had more to do with the wind, the only other game we’ve won in that time is when McDermott was sacked and we destroyed Huddersfield – how come they could perform that day yet the takeover is apparently too distracting any of other day? That was the height of the takeover chaos! it’s absolute nonsense, if McDermott can’t perform his job under a little adversity, he’s at the wrong club.

    • Matthew

      We had a reasonable amount of success under Grayson, some of the Cup runs with him were quite exciting.

  12. Mick444

    Sorry TSS I did my post below without my specs so I apologise for the odd misspelling!

  13. Frizbo

    The problem with the strikers seems to be of McDermott’s own making. In Ross McCormack we have the best striker outside the Premiership (I don’t care what 24 Championship managers say). Matt Smith, despite what some fans say, has done very well this season in my opinion considering he has been in and out of the side. I think if you take his goals per minutes ratio it’s something like a goal every 135 minutes which is 1 and a half games, from a player in just his third year as a pro. If started regularly, even with a bit of a drop in strike rate from possible fatigue, he would score enough goals for a second striker to rule out the need to bring in another striker. However McDermott brought in Wickham who will be fairly expensive for a 3 month loanee. Matt Smith reacts by hitting 3 in 4 I think it is and making himself very difficult to keep sat on the bench. McDermott can’t defend spending a relatively large amount of money on Wickham to have him on the bench (this applies to Kebe as well) and his philosophy of playing guys who earn the chance means he can’t leave Smith on the bench, leaving him with one option which is playing all 3 together forcing Wickham and McCormack onto the wings. I know hindsight is great but I just think if Smith and McCormack were kept together up front for the last 12/13 games of the season, and the Wickham money would have been available to strengthen other areas.

  14. oldschoolbaby

    Good analysis of the striking situation
    The defence is the defence. I`m not sure they`re capable of much better
    The enigma is the midfield and I`m still not happy with Brown. He deliberately tries to hurt people. He calculates that if he does a nasty tackle in the opposition half he`s less likely to get a booking. He can`t accept he no longer has a box to box engine. And his ego is such he believes he is still a goal threat. I don`t like him at all. YET we desperately need his passion and commitment. If he had reinvented himself as a defensive midfielder it would have settled the defence and given the remaining midfielders a bit of freedom to focus on their own games.
    Austin is not this bad. He must be carrying a niggle / tired / in need of motivational rejuvenation. Regardless he needs time on the bench. I suspect the fact Brown is a liability has been a factor in the strange reluctance to drop him. If these two had been playing to their potential – not together simply competing for game time – , providing a more stable platform Mowatt and Murphy ( who both have a bit of something ) would have developed better. Dawson might have been introduced. And the wingers may have been somewhat more effective ( although playing them simultaneously on signing, short of match freshness, with minimal introduction to the Leeds squad was moronic and entirely down to McD )

  15. henrymouni

    This take-over is driving me potty.
    When the FL finally turn Mr Cellino down (looking on the dark side) we will feel even lower than we do now.
    However, our team has been terrible for a long time.
    BM is now trying to use this painful situation to explain why we are the worst passers of a football in the whole Division.
    His interviews are now bordering on the farcical.
    “lads gave me everything”( apart from good football).
    “This club needs a leader at the top” (to train and pick the team?)
    Mr Cellino was described as an interfering control freak, who buys the players he likes, and sacks managers every 6 months.
    Now he is the saviour??
    Not one reporter, is asking him the hard questions.
    Eddie’s “well what do you think of that Brian?”, should be “that was the worst display by a Leeds team for 12 years!”
    This team will be rubbish after any takeover takes place.
    Waiting for a leader?
    Brian is the team leader!!
    There are some poor teams in our league, who have embarrassed us on the field of play.
    These teams are laughing at us!!

    • Matthew

      I see Cellino as a necessary evil to reach the Premier League. I would love for us to reach it, preferably within the next decade. We’re so far off being capable that this Summer, if Cellino gets approval and McDermott is still here, he has a major, and by major I mean major, rebuilding job to do.

  16. Irving08

    I’m glad you wrote all that; I subscribe to more or less every word. But I think Pearce deserves an honourable mention. While he can look vulnerable, when faced with quick passing forwards, his courage and fighting spirit are second to none. He is a leader too.

    • TSS

      No arguments here, Pearce did have a very good game. I focused more on the midfield than the defence because it’s hard to really judge our defence’s performance when your opposition is suffering so badly up front (look at Millwall’s record before yesterday, there’s a lot of low-scoring games).

      So you have to ask yourself how much of the result was our defence, how much was Jack Butland (who made a couple of good saves) and how much was Millwall’s failure to convert? Immediately after they did score, the pressure they put on would have resulted in a goal against any other team I feel, we fell to bits completely. Which is worrying, but not exactly uncommon.

      • Matthew

        A better side would have murdered us yesterday. If we play like that against Derby on our last game of the season, it’ll be a shitty way to cap off a dreadful season.

      • Irving08

        And you are right to focus on midfield: it provided neither cover for the defence, nor penalty area support for the attack (except from Tongue when he came on). What worries me is that I can’t see it being any better next season with the players McDermott currently favours: Austin, I am afraid, will always struggle at this level, while both Mowatt and Murphy, decent and honest footballers that they are, each lack pace, and show no evidence of being able to impose themselves on a game. Reports on Dawson suggest that he does possess the latter quality. ……..

  17. Tyler75

    The pertinent point for me is that its difficult to see what Bmac is trying to do. Wickham is a luxury we didn’t need – Smith and Ross are a really promising partnership and even in a very poor side, continue to score goals and look a threat. How much better would they be with a midfield who could give them the ball. The key problem is Rudy. Bmac has no idea where to play him and his headless chicken act nullifies any semblance of a game plan. The big loser here is Luke Murphy – who is a really decent player but ends up isolated or having to cover for an absent Rudy. If he had a Vinny or the Michael Brown of 10 years ago alongisde him, he’d be able to exert a much bigger influence on the game. Add to that the inability of our central defenders to bring the ball out or pass it accurately and its no surprise we can’t keep possession (what the hell happened to Zaliukas ?).

  18. Ev

    The thing that concerns me is that its looking more and more likely that the takeover and ownership business will not be sorted by the summer and if gfh are still in charge in the summer then its yet another pointless year………….it could be another 2 to 3 years out of the prem and that’s scary…..

  19. igiveup

    Why can’t Vinny come up with some brass to buy the club, he must be fucking minted being the top Hollywood actor that he is and maybe he could get his ex-gaffer Dave ‘Harry’ Bassett to come in and replace McDermott (Vinny could get him a job in the next Addams Family movie, he must have contacts surely!)


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