Tag Archives: leeds

Leeds United: McDermott’s subs imperative to victory

It’s one game, but in one half, Brian McDermott showed an ability to read a game and alter it on the fly that his predecessor never did. The three changes McDermott made in the second half were imperative to the turnaround against Wednesday today, and whilst the first two led to two goals, the third may have been as important, possibly imperative to us holding on to the lead.

Diouf’s introduction at half time was useful, in that we hadn’t really created much in the first half. We now had two technically gifted players in the front four, with both Diouf and McCormack able to provide. Moves forward suddenly seemed to flow far better, and where there had been no penetration, we carved open a slow Wednesday defence repeatedly.

I was concerned about potential threat on the counter, with Diouf unlikely to track back and offer any support, which is one of the reasons he only played a handful of games out-wide in a flat midfield four earlier in the season. Varney is more effective further up the pitch, so I was concerned we had shifted into a full-on 4-2-4 early in the match. This concern was nullified with the introduction of White for Morison, who had a game to forget. With White and Diouf on the wings, with Diouf and McCormack swapping between the deeper lying striker position, we looked solid. Of course, the most important aspect of this switch was that it released Varney, who went on to get the two impeccable headers, winning us the match.

The third change McDermott made was the introduction of Michael Tonge for Stephen Warnock, which led to Rodolph Austin being moved to centre-back, a back-four of Byram, Austin, Pearce and Drury. Whilst it could have been seen as an oddly attacking swap to make at 2-1 up with Leeds holding on to the lead, Pearce had clearly been struggling with the angles all-match, misjudging high-balls repeatedly (leading to Wednesday’s goal in the first half). This is not a criticism of Pearce at all, merely an understanding that he’s a left-sided centre back, and that playing on the right of the pairing meant he had to alter his game entirely. After Pearce had been restored to his natural position, and despite the fact we had struggled massively towards the end, giving up chance after chance, with Austin and Pearce at centre back, we looked safe once more.

All in all, three exceptionally effective substitutes.

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1).

Leeds United: Rodolph Austin, unjustly criticised?

Back in the summer, everybody was very excited about Rodolph Austin and his arrival in Leeds. In fact, by all accounts we were signing a player who seemed a bargain, one of genuine quality. Things haven’t exactly gone to plan, and the more recent reaction to Austin has been lukewarm, to say the least. I’m convinced, on the back of recent games, that this has been unfair. Austin has been the only player recently to up his game, as the rest of the team has collapsed around him.

Think back to why he became a shambling husk of what he was before – a supposed broken leg that he recovered from in about 4 weeks, rushed back without any real fitness. The game against Forest clearly showed that Rudy was not ready, he was noticeably carrying additional weight and unfit, yet he played again and again following that. Aside from the injury, Austin has gone nearly a year and a half without a pre-season now, without a holiday. I’ve previously described Austin as being like a Victorian Steam Engine experiment run amok. During the winter, his supply of coal had burnt down to the last embers.

He was allowed a rest, and he’s come back stronger. Against Huddersfield, he was the best player on the park, breaking play up and keeping hold of the ball when no one else would. Since then he hasn’t necessarily been our best performer, but he has provided solid displays, doing little wrong.

The problem for Rodolph, I feel, is that he’s our only player (aside from Sam Byram) with any real ability on the transition. This is the phase of play between attacking and defending, or vice-versa. The transition is considered imperative to modern football, and explains the importance of counter attacking to any sensible coach. With Rodolph lumbered by midfield partners unable to turn and respond quickly to a breakdown in an attack, he’s almost entirely responsible for covering when the opposition break. Similarly, when an opposition attack breaks down, Rodolph’s driving runs are often incredibly useful for carrying the ball over half way.

He does it exceptionally well, and has done over the last few games, but he needs players around him to support him. One man cannot run end-to-end alone, especially one without a break or pre-season in a long time. The next manager (McDermott, by all accounts) needs to be sensible enough to understand that a figure like Michael Brown cannot “break up play” on the counter – he’s far too slow to get anywhere near the opposition when they burst quickly into our half.

If he plays on Saturday, I expect Austin will be one of the better players on the pitch, doing nothing spectacular but still imperative to any result that comes our way. At the very least, I look forward to seeing a refreshed Austin next season, preferably with the players around him that he needs.

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1).

Leeds United: Let’s be realistic about O’Leary

By Dominic Smith

I can’t blame Leeds fans for wanting David O’Leary back, however daft the idea seems.

It was, after all, under O’Leary that we enjoyed our finest years in the (relatively) modern era. Now
that it’s almost ten long years since we were last in the Premier League, and twelve since THAT
Champions League run, it’s that O’Leary side that represents the best that a sizeable group of our
fans have seen, myself included.

As a 23 year old, I don’t remember the great 1991/2 title winning side, and have only hazy memories
of seeing the likes of Strachan and McAllister strut their stuff in our midfield. As difficult as it is to
admit now, my childhood heroes were the likes of Lee Bowyer and Harry Kewell. It was that O’Leary
side that I loved so much, whose posters adorned my walls, who represented all that was good
about our club. The gutsy heroism of Radebe, the grit of Barry, the trickery and pace of Kewell, the
cool finishing of Viduka. It’s embarrassing, knowing what we do now about the corrosive behaviour
in the boardroom, and how so many of those players disgraced themselves after leaving the club.

But my generation still look back on that period with so much fondness. Years of abject
performances make us long for that time again, when finishing 4th in the Premier League was
deemed a failure.

And it’s not simply nostalgia. Who can blame fans for wanting to relive the better days when there
is simply no future vision for the club? We have owners who seem desperate to flog the club a bit
at a time, a recently departed manager who kept telling us he wanted to leave, and a bunch of new
players accustomed to the nomadic lifestyle of being second-rate journeymen.

How different to how it was under O’Leary. Young players were plucked from the Academy and
shone in the first team, complimented by wise old heads like Nigel Martyn. The fans, players
and management were all seemingly united in a modern vision of Leeds United, playing exciting,
attacking football. We took on the giants of Europe and beat them. Who can forget the last-minute
victory against AC Milan or the humbling of Anderlecht?

But we have to take off these rose-tinted glasses. We won’t progress as a club by trying to relive
the old days. The great Revie side were thrust into management, one by one, in the 1980s, to try
and bring some success back to the club. Bremner, Clarke and Gray, all legends, failed, because of
financial mismanagement and no vision for how we moved forward as a club.

And don’t forget O’Leary’s part in our demise. He oversaw a ludicrously imbalanced and bloated
squad, signing the likes of Robbie Fowler and Seth Johnson for crazy fees on inflated wages,
made increasingly bizarre statements to the press and wrote a book when he should have been
concentrating on our stuttering on-field performances.

Not even considering the fact that O’Leary has been out of serious management for seven years, his
return would be a bad mistake. We cannot move forward as a club by reliving the past.

Follow Dominic Smith on Twitter (@DomoTheBold).