January 4, 2013 by Made In Brum
To me, this game feels like a win-win situation for us. If we win, then it would do wonders for the young players’ confidence levels going into the second half of the season, and a run in the cup could be just the job to coat what has been a woefully miserable season for us with a little bit of cheer. But if we lose, then it will free up the fixture list and make it easier for our ever-diminishing squad, allowing us to focus entirely on getting our league form right, which is the most important thing.
A brave performance against a Premiership calibre team, I think, in Cardiff, in a match in which our battling display warranted a point. The commitment was there for all to see, I reckon the advantage of not having an out-and-out striker on the pitch, was that we could make ourselves very compact in midfield and make it difficult for Cardiff to find a way through. Ultimately, we lost to a simple mistake from Butland, because we controlled the match for spells and played some excellent football.
It was obvious to anyone who watched the game that we were badly missing our front men, to some extent Lovenkrands and Zigic, but particularly Marlon King. King has provided us with some clinical finishing and priceless experience in front of goal, which certainly wasn’t evident with Redmond and Morrison. Redmond actually played well I thought, he ran around a lot and tried to make a nuisance of himself, but there were too many instances in which we had the ball on the edge of their area and we tried to pass the ball in. He’s certainly not the long-term answer to our forward crisis. The two young lads’ natural positions were on the wing/attacking midfield, so they were used to playing with a striker to run onto their passes, not being the main forward. Gomis had a good game when he came on for Reilly, and I’d like to see him be given more first team opportunities. Robinson looked solid at left-back and I greatly prefer him in defence to the inexperienced Mitch Hancox, who for all his endeavour, doesn’t have enough positional discipline and timing for tackles which Robinson has in abundance. To be fair to Caldwell, he had one of his better games, but that hasn’t changed my opinion on his lack of pace yet.
As Hall and Jervis are cup tied, Marcel Henry-Francis and Reece Hales step in from the academy to be in the squad. I really hope those young lads get our full support. With kids, if as fans you support them, they will run through brick walls for the team, because they can provide the team with that extra bit of energy, the secret weapon factor and have the ability to go out and scare people. What I’m asking for, is for us to stay behind them whatever happens, because making a debut for the team at as daunting an atmosphere as Elland Road will be an intimidating experience, but we’ve produced some good players through our youth academy, and hopefully Henry-Francis and Hales will be two more to add to our collection.
Regardless of whether Butland gets a transfer away, I’d like to see Doyle get a game. He’s been incredibly patient, not just this season, but to be at the club for what now must be approaching 10 years shows tremendous loyalty, and he needs the match practice, only having played 1 game all season. I’ve said before that I believe Caldwell needs a rest and Ibanez maybe deserves a run in the team and I still think that, I’d also like to see Spector in central midfield. In a previous article I did some research that showed we seem to perform a lot better when the American is in the centre, he’s the answer to our defensive midfield problems in my opinion. The tenacity and work rate he brings to the team would be slightly wasted at right-back, and Will Packwood has done well enough in that position to become a regular there. I know Mullins is injured at the moment, but I’d much prefer to have Packwood at right-back allowing Spector to move into midfield which is his best position, then have Mullins in central midfield and have Spector filling in as a versatile defender. He’s too good at dominating the midfield to play in defence. If it were me picking the team, I’d select:
Doyle; Packwood, Davies, Pablo, Robinson; Gomis, Spector; Burke, Morrison, Redmond; Henry-Francis
A bit about Leeds
Founded as ‘Leeds City’ back in 1919, the Whites are a club with an impressive history. They’ve been playing in England’s top flight for the majority of it, and enjoyed probably their most successful period in the 1960/70s. Don Revie was appointed manager in March 1961 with the club in a precarious position financially, and was able to just about keep the club in the second division for two years, narrowly avoiding relegation on the last day in 1962.
Having achieved that, the lack of funding he had available meant that he needed to take Leeds through a transition phase and build through the academy. The likes of Billy Bremner, Norman Hunter, Peter Lorimer arrived at the club as teenagers, they were to become the core of Revie’s successful side, that was to be champions of England in 1969 and 1974, and runners-up several more times.
The respect they gained for their success however, was distorted by their dirty tactics. In one interview, Don Revie admitted that they were are team that “played for results”. Although I must point out, there’s a difference between playing for results and elbowing players in the face, punching them in the kidneys and then rolling over pretending to be injured, as were the strategies Revie implemented, which resulted in the teams nickname: ‘dirty Leeds’.
In 1974, Revie left Leeds in favour of the England job. Brian Clough, who had criticised and outwardly spoken of his hatred for Leeds previously as manager of Derby, was famously appointed and he was to last just 44 days in the job, due to the friction between him and the players. His short stint at the club in fact inspired the David Peace book ‘the Damned United’, later made into a film.
Leeds weren’t to become a major force in English football again until 1992, when an effective midfield quartet of David Batty, Gary McAllister, Gary Speed and Gordon Strachan helped them to win the top division title. It was only to be a short-term success however, as Leeds flirted with European football in the years after that, but the club ended up in debt. Chairman Peter Ridsdale invested heavily in the club to push for playing in the Champions League and reap the benefits of TV money, but this backfired. Players like Seth Johnson arrived at the club on big transfer fees and wages, but failing to qualify for the Champions League meant that they couldn’t afford to pay it and went into a decline.
In 2004, they were relegated from the Premiership and had to sell their big assets, such as Alan Smith, Paul Robinson and Mark Viduka amongst others for reduced fees. Though they showed signs of recovery by reaching the play-off final in 2006, they lost 3-0 to Watford and were in fact relegated the following season. Because of going into administration, they had to start the 2007-08 campaign with a 15pt deduction in league 1 and many were unsure whether the club would ever see the light of day in the Premier League again. However, they were more than able to rebuild in league 1 and despite the points deduction, they actually reached the play-offs that season. They were promoted back to the Championship in dramatic circumstances on the last match of the season in 2010 under Simon Grayson, having found a potent goalscorer in Jermaine Beckford.
Now, they are out of debt, they look to have established themselves in the Championship, and have exciting new owners from Dubai, as they look to plan to find a route back into the Premier League.
Leeds’ recent form
Not being able to convert what they can do at home, onto the road has been their main problem. They’ve won each of their last 5 home matches in the Championship, so Elland Road looks a fortress. However, they’ve lost 5 of their last 6 away games and if they want to make a promotion push, being able to grind out results away from home will be their biggest challenge.
Their defensive record leaves much to be desired. They’ve conceded 42 goals so far this season, which is more than any other team in the top 16 of the Championship and averages 1.6 per game. Knowing this, and the fact that they’re just outside the play-offs, you might expect Leeds to be prolific goalscorers. However, they’ve in fact only scored 38 goals which is less than the number they’ve conceded- the reason they are where they are is mainly down to not having drawn many games.
Luciano Becchio is by a long way Leeds’s top scorer with 18 goals this season in all competitions. Having come through the youth academy at Argentine side Boca Juniors, he moved to Spain to go to a number of clubs including the Barcelona B team, before Leeds snapped him up having impressed on a trial.
He’s never looked back, having scored a respectable 76 goals in 190 games for Leeds. He looks well on target to grab himself 30 goals this campaign, and at 29 he’s little past the peak of his career. He’s added a lot of quality to this Leeds team, and he’s the man us Blues fans should fear the most when he gets the ball in the box.
In late August 2002, Blues hosted Leeds in search of their first league win of the season. They hadn’t had the easiest of times finding their Premiership feet, but showed signs of promise early season. They kept the score respectable in a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal on the opening day, disappointingly lost 1-0 at home to Blackburn the following week, but nearly won at Everton on the Wednesday night before this game, had it not been for a late deflected goal. Leeds had made an inconsistent start, having beaten Man City and West Brom 3-0 and 3-1 respectively in their first two matches, but they then lost 1-0 at home to struggling Sunderland the next week.
Blues were dominant for most of the first half, with Savage and Cisse beginning to form a forceful midfield partnership. We got our reward with half an hour gone from a corner, when Robbie Savage gave Paul Devlin a lay-off, Devs hitting a beautifully curled, powerful but accurate first-time shot from the edge of the area past Robinson. Incidentally, Devlin is currently still playing football for non-league side Romulus, at the age of 40. Into the second half, and Leeds found a response. Some neat football between Viduka and Lee Bowyer allowed the latter to slice a nice chip past Nico Vaesen to bring the visitors back onto level terms. That wasn’t to be the last we’d hear about either of those players, as Viduka has scored some 7 goals against us in his career when playing for Leeds, Middlesbrough and Newcastle, and Lee Bowyer was to play for Blues later in his career. We managed to win the game thanks to a marvellous one-two between Stern John and Damien Johnson, who clipped a confident, looping right-foot first time into the far corner. Blues and Leeds were to finish close to each other that season despite contrasting expecting, and this result may have been the springboard for both. Terry Venables soon realised that his team were in decline and unable to get into Europe, whilst Blues got their first win of the season, a fantastic confidence booster that proved we could more than hold our own at this level.
The last thing I want from this game is a draw, with the number of injuries we’ve picked up we really don’t need more games. I’m hoping that we can go up there and put in a good performance like we did against Cardiff, Clark taking a completely careless approach going into this game wouldn’t be fair on the fans who had travelled up, and a win would give us some much-needed belief that we can kick on and improve our league form. However, I won’t be too distraught if we lose it, because we could do without the distractions and fitness strains on our small squad that it could potentially bring. I’m going to go with 3-1 to Leeds, but there will be more pressing issues on our mind than the FA Cup.
By Gabriel Sutton @_thescore