Tag Archives: Football

Leeds United: Not a legend, but Morison takes first step on long road


Maybe it was a bit ludicrous to suggest it Warnock, especially at such an early juncture, but it was a decent home debut nonetheless. Whilst Warnock’s belief that Steve Morison would go down as a legend at Leeds United over the next few years seems a bit premature, to say the least, Morison’s play on Wednesday night was impressive.

His style is reminiscent not of Luciano Becchio, but of another recent focal point to our attacks, Andy Keogh. Keogh provided movement down the channels along with an ability to win the ball in the air. He was also comfortable with the ball at his feet. This partnership led to McCormack’s best run in a Leeds shirt, on fire in front of goal at the start of last season.

Morison held the ball up exceptionally, but he also brought other people into play, and sought to build moves for others. A couple of times he put dangerous balls into the area. With a fancy back-heel, he provided an opportunity for McCormack in the first-half. It was rare that a defender beat him to the ball in the opening 75 minutes of the game, and given his struggle for match fitness, it was no surprise that an effort-filled display led to him tiring in this last section of the game. His goal, whilst granted to him by a piece of terrible defending, was ultimately deserved with respect to the effort put in. It was also a good finish, and showed a bit of composure.

There are a handful of things that need a touch of work – he found it exceptionally difficult to do anything with the ball on the left-hand side of the pitch, seemingly vastly preferring his right foot and finding it difficult to beat a man on that flank. There were also a couple of occasions the crowd got frustrated when he didn’t go for the ball, but it may have been an effort to conserve energy in preparation for more winnable balls.

The word legend has been bandied about unreasonably in recent years. A certain player or certain players from the League One years could be included in this bracket with minimal debate. A good game does not a legend make. However, do not allow Warnock’s exaggeration post-match to cast doubt on what was a good performance. Morison could, quite easily, be a good asset for Leeds United over the next few seasons. It will be interesting to see if he is buoyed by a display that got the crowd firmly behind him. A good display, much more of the same required.

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Leeds United: How Luke Varney turned a corner


The question is really whether it was simply a case of confidence? Even the best strikers can fall apart in the face of a lack of belief, but Luke Varney never even gave a glimmer of potentially being of a standard good enough for Leeds United. However, goals against Premier League opposition, especially Premier League opposition challenging for the Champions League, will probably provide a glimmer of hope to even the most beaten down soul.

Varney has two goals to his name now, and in the most recent 5 games (including the Spurs game) has provided the sort of performances that inspire belief amongst Leeds fans. Yes, the showing in the second half against Middlesbrough and in the whole game Manchester City was not worthy of praise, but that was the case for the entire team, not just the previously maligned forward. His first half against ‘Boro was decent enough, and he possibly was unlucky not to score an absolute screamer in that forty-five minute period.

Against Blackpool on Wednesday, despite not scoring (and having the opportunity to do so), Varney was the best player on the pitch, running about, winning every header, beating his man and providing opportunities for other players constantly. Many of our better opportunities came directly from his efforts, and in fact, the corner that led to the first goal was won by Varney.

What’s brought about this change? Is it just the confidence the Spurs goal provided? I think instead, it comes from slight shift in formation provided by Diouf’s sudden disappearance from the first team. With McCormack willing to track, it has allowed Varney to move further forward, not having to track on behalf of himself and another of our deeper advanced players. This was shown most clearly by our deployment of a 4-3-3 last night, with Varney essentially playing as a classical inside forward, swapping wings with McCormack as required. Tactically, we now suit Varney’s style of play, given his natural preference to play up-front rather than in a midfield berth.

It would be the right thing to keep him in the side now, and the system also suits the minimal available backup we have, the likes of Habibou and (when he returns next season) Poleon able to function in the same role. It’s just a shame it’s taken so long to get to this point.

(Incidentally, one of the better things Luke Varney did yesterday was clap the fans and make a celebratory gesture in their direction post-match. It was nice to know he no longer hates playing for us).

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1).

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Why Huddersfield Town Had to Sack Simon Grayson


After just 11 months in charge Simon Grayson has become the latest manager to be shown the exit door at Huddersfield Town. Despite engineering Town’s return to the second tier of English football for the first time in 11 years and an initially encouraging start to life in the Championship, recent performances have meant that the decision to sack Grayson has come as little surprise to many.

In fairness to Grayson, he was exactly what Huddersfield needed to get over the finishing line in the race for promotion last season. Grayson’s coolness in the successful play-off campaign represented a marked contrast to predecessor Lee Clark. In the 2010-11 play-offs Clark let the emotions and the occasion get the better of him. After the semi-final victory against Bournemouth it almost felt like Town had already been promoted and this was mirrored by Clark’s jubilant celebrations during the post-match lap of honour. As a result there was a huge sense of expectation at Old Trafford among Town fans and it almost felt as if Town only had to turn up in order to get promoted. Under Clark, Town would be partially undone in the play-off final because they ‘played the occasion’ rather than the game itself. Grayson on the other hand was much calmer after the two-legged victory over MK Dons and the subsequent celebrations were much more restrained. Grayson gave the impression that there was still a job to be done and his calmness under pressure allowed Town to stay more focussed on the job at hand against Sheffield United in the final, and there was a greater air of realism among Town fans at Wembley than had existed 12 months previously at Old Trafford.


The play-off final victory was followed up by an encouraging start to life in the Championship with Town climbing as high as second in September. Grayson had Town playing genuinely good football, performances away against Sheffield Wednesday and Blackpool particularly stood out, and there was a general consensus that Grayson’s Town team were playing the best football since the Steve Bruce team of the turn of the century. With this in mind it might seem strange that, within four months of all this Grayson now finds himself out of a job, so where did it all go wrong for Simon Grayson?

Though Town were never realistically going to be able to maintain this form throughout the season, Town’s performances have tailed off alarmingly since mid-November and the buck must ultimately stop with Grayson. Increasingly erratic team selections gave Town an unbalanced and unsettled look. As a result the attractive football evident in the early days of the season gave way to aimless long ball football which isolated Town’s most creative players, particularly Oliver Norwood who had been instrumental in Town’s positive start to the season. Perhaps the most bizarre of Grayson’s team selections – or non-selection – was his reluctance to play Scottish international left-back Paul Dixon. Despite performing well for Scotland, Dixon’s form did admittedly start to fade for Town. However, the way Grayson dealt with the situation was poor. Dixon was dropped from the team altogether for a number of weeks and instead Grayson chose to play young centre-back Murray Wallace at left-back. Decisions like this became more and more frequent as Grayson struggled to arrest the slump in form and only served to strain the increasingly fragile confidence.

By Grayson’s own admission, he had never been in a position where he’d had to manage a team on a long winless run before. This was particularly evident in recent weeks and with Grayson at the helm there were real concerns about where the next win was going to come from. The team were low on confidence but more alarmingly the players did not seem, at times, to be putting in the requisite effort or commitment. There have been claims that Grayson had lost the ‘dressing room’ and this would explain why performances have deteriorated so rapidly and so drastically. Instances like the Paul Dixon one outlined above suggest that everything behind the scenes were not completely as they should be. Grayson’s departure from Leeds came amid similar allegations and though it is just speculation that behind the scenes problems were impacting on performances, it does seem hard to deny that Grayson’s questionable man-management and team selections led to the team losing its confidence and consequently the poor run of results.


At this stage it is worth pointing out that I think Simon Grayson has been good for Huddersfield. The calmness and honesty he displayed, especially in post-match interviews, were a breath of fresh air in comparison to his predecessor. Furthermore, when he was appointed his remit was to get Town promoted from League One and established in the Championship. Though Grayson achieved the first part of this by gaining promotion, recent performances have brought Town’s Championship status into jeopardy. In a way Grayson has been the victim of his own success. The performances at the start of this season raised expectation levels and this served to further emphasize the poor performances that have become all too common since November as Town fans know that the team is capable of much better than has been seen recently. I do believe that Grayson has been, to an extent, let down by his players. As they proved earlier in the season, they are more than capable in terms of ability, but in recent weeks both performances and effort levels have been lacking.

A run of 12 games without a win in the league and the nature of the performances that accompanied them, meant that, even though Town were still 7 points above the relegation places when Grayson was sacked, Dean Hoyle had little choice but to sack Grayson. Grayson should be praised for his success, after all Grayson is one of only 9 managers in the clubs entire history to actually win something, and I am genuinely disappointed that things haven’t worked out for him recently. However, with no sign of form improving the decision to make a change had to be made before Town slipped even further into trouble. The early season panache has disappeared and performances against Leicester (6-1 defeat) and Watford (4-0 defeat) were quite frankly unacceptable and it is the nature of these defeats that really set the alarm bells ringing. Town also struggled in home matches against Sheffield Wednesday and Blackpool, who they had beaten so comfortably at the beginning of the season, and it was evident that something had to give. It was impossible to say where the next victory was going to come from and after having to fight so hard to get back to this level Dean Hoyle simply could not afford to let the current slump continue and risk an immediate return to League One – especially given the clubs recent financial figures.

It is obviously not a given that Town’s form will dramatically improve when a new manager is appointed, but history shows us that new managers often do provide struggling teams with fresh impetus. With regards to the next manager, Nigel Adkins is a name currently doing the rounds and would be a great appointment, however it remains to be seen if he would be prepared to go from managing a Premier League team to a side struggling at the wrong end of the Championship. What is crucially important is that Town look for a long-term replacement. Whoever Town end up appointing, they must choose someone who will help push them on to the next level and buy into Dean Hoyle’s vision for the club, rather than just a temporary stopgap who will help Town avoid relegation, if not the club will find itself in the exact same position in 12 months time.


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