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A Day of Surprises
Getting off the tube at Seven Sisters at 11.30, I came across a group of 15-20 lads standing in one of the passageways. No colours worn so slightly nervously I edge past them and think I recognise a couple of faces on the edge of the line and thus assume they are Leeds 'fans'. Turning the corner I come face to face with another group - this time a film crew - and it dawns on me that one of the faces that I recognise was Sean Bean. Obviously filming some sort of hoolie drama at the time.
The list pub - the Phoenix has been on Changing Rooms or something - it used to be a normal gloomy North London boozer, now has been repainted, bar moved etc.
I didn't think it was possible to get more depressed over Leeds' current situation than I had been after last weeks game against Bolton - I was wrong. El Tel has now managed to add a further level of tactical madness to our confused and inconsistent team selections. I'd been advocating beforehand that he sticks with 2 upfront and makes a choice between Smith and Viduka if he was determined to play Kewell upfront. This he did but then proceeded to screw it up with a truly surreal formation behind them.
As the teams were read out - I was reasonably happy, Bakke and Bowyer back meant our midfield would be beefed up a bit, but then I realised that as McPhail and Burns were both playing as well something odd was going on. Bakke was playing centre-back or sweeper or something, which left us with another lightweight midfield of Burns, McPhail and Bowyer. Tottenham couldn't believe their luck, as with Wilcox and Kelly looking lost at wing-backs and absolutely no cohesion in our midfield they were allowed as much ball as they wanted. The ref wasn't helping either, booking our players for the most innocous tackles and making our players wary of committing themselves again.
Burns in particular was having a nightmare, frequently miscontrolling the ball and often stalling any counter-attack we did have by playing the safety first ball to Kelly - who left with no options would just punt it upfront. By the time El Tel rescued the situation somewhat by replacing Burns with Viduka - and going to 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 depending on where Kewell was meant to be - it was too late. Sheringham had scored the first after Lucic had been worried by Keane's pace and just managed to divert the ball straight into Sheringham's run. Before we'd properly settled into a new formation, we'd let in a second as somewhat inevitably Robbie Keane scored the best goal any of us had ever seen him score - curling it in with the outside of his foot from the edge of the area.
It was 37 minutes before we recorded a worthwhile shot and this was
met with ironic cheers and a chant of "Lets Go F*cking Mental" and
yes, I know we had injuries but surely a team of for example;
I also think that Venables far from giving the likes of McPhail and Burns a ch ance to prove themselves is actually just succeding in ruining their careers. McPhail has some ability but his weaknesses are constantly exposed by playing in such a lightweight midfield and the crowd just get on his back as he struggles. Burns does try but does not look good enough but again being substituted in the first half with the cheers of the crowd ringing in his ears is hardly going to help his confidence.
Second half was a slight improvement in that a very average Spurs team rarely threatened but then neither did we, a shot near the end producing more ironic cheers of "We've had a shot on goal." Our only real chance came right at the end when Bowyer should have done better with a pass from Milner - who'd come on for the injured Viduka - who'd lasted less time than some England batsmen.
The only bright spot of the day was the Leeds crowd, who didn't go for the "Venables / Risdale Out chants we might have expected but really got behind the team in the 2nd half. It reminded me of the 5-0 defeat at Liverpool a few years back where we kept singing "We're Leeds and we're proud of it", even as the goals rained in at the other end. Best chant of the day "All We Want For Xmas is 10 Alan Smith's"
Oh dear - a decent team (Ie Malaga) could really slaughter us at the moment.
A long armchair report to get it off my chest.
(PS. I am optimistic. There will be changes soon. Either the corner is turned or management will change.)
Robinson didnt see the first goal. Generally assured. Keep him
Kelly a great servant, perhaps not first team material, Id keep him as a useful squad player and to repay his loyalty (or sadly release him for the same reason which would help to reduce the wage bill and squad size). Under Wilco I thought he was a great, speedy defender who started off counter attacks well but thats when we had a (right) midfield. Id hope but doubt that could be rekindled with him behind Mills and without a decent midfield.
Lucic jurys out. Seems OK, seems better than Duberry as a back up CB, though Id prefer Harte at LB. Cheap to buy and probably not massive wages. Keep him as a squad player.
Woodgate class. An important part of the future (if we have one).
Wilcox For now seems worth keeping. A steady left sided player, can pass, cross, tackle, run and put in an effort a combination most of our midfield lack. perhaps can be developed into our best left back. Id have said he could go last year when he was too fringe a squad player.
Bakke well he does try and didnt shame us when he was in a decent midfield, but not a first team player and certainly not in our current set-up. Perhaps should be kept to regain confidence and develop his game to see if he can fulfil his potential but thats not going to happen in the first team.
McPhail on the evidence Ive seen, he immediately needs to start to producing something special to merit his place. From the hype I believe he is an excellent passer of the ball, but the training ground and the match are different places. He isnt going to get a midfield that can support him as a passenger in the near future (unless we get a new manager and Batty back) so Id imagine his time should be up, though if he really is potentially that good and on relatively low wages keep him in the reserves a while in case we get a midfield that he could be tried in again.
Bowyer up to him whether he goes obviously. Currently hes important to us because of his engine, though his poor passing and the current lack of support and his form render him less effective. If he isnt a bad egg, Id keep him in case we get a quality midfield around him.
Burns probably not required. He makes an effort and at least I noticed him yesterday, but I havent seen any real quality to recommend him.
Kewell wants to and thinks he can be the world footballer of the year. Harry, those players play for 90 minutes, they turn games, they terrify opponents, they chase back, they dont give up. You are our most talented player, but until you do those things, youre pipe dreaming. Keep him and man-manage him properly.
Smith No need to comment. Keep him but send him on a be nicer to the ref course.
Viduka On form hes half a yard short of being a world class front man. When was he last on form? Has contributed so very little in the games Ive seen for ages. Please leave and let us get on with more worthy options.
Milner a magical moment with his first involvement yesterday. Perhaps should have started. Keep obviously.
And of the bench/stiffs/physio/coventry players:
Martyn unfortunately should probably go, hes good enough to be in the England squad and doesnt deserve not to play first team football, and his going would reduce the wages so perhaps an unaffordable luxury. Robbos good and young enough for Nigel not to have a future so we might as well develop Allaway/Milosvic/McPhail if Paul gets injured or loses form.
Batty the main appeal of a change of manager is Batty would regain his rightful place. He wont go and we shouldnt want/need him to. batty is for Keeps.
Barmby he needs a working and effective midfield and then he might be good. Bring back Batty and Dacourt and he could prove a good swap for Keane. Now hes yet another passenger in a team of passengers. Keep but only one passenger only per match please.
Fowler, Bridges both potentially class strikers, we need to keep (at least one of) them, give them some service (i.e. a midfield) and see if they can do it again.
Dacourt seems the writings on the wall. Not my favourite player, but wouldnt look out of place in a top 5 team and we desperately need someone of his ilk on the pitch. Id keep him and build the midfield round him (if Battys out).
Johnson if he ever gets fit, his opportunities are immense as he seems to have the tackle with passing and effort and commitment our current midfield is crying out for. Plus theres a need at left back if by some stroke of luck Batts and Olly feature again or we get suitable replacements. If hes able to get and stay fit we must keep him.
Matteo sound, reliable. No world beater, but worthy. Keep.
Mills has developed well, gives us some offensive bite in both senses. Must keep certainly at the expense of Viduka if needs be.
Harte brings some great qualities to a team with a midfield bossing the game and with players who can and will cover for his flaws. Also a great servant. But of little use to our current shambles unless he was played in place of McPhail whose job he might conceivably do better. Otherwise, Im afraid he should go. Shame that.
Okon who knows? Is he a joke or will he become the new David Batty to precipitate the corner turning for Venables?
Venables oh dear oh dear. Not good enough. I believe it would help if he explained to us just what he is trying to do, what are all these new ideas that we have to be patient to wait for and that all the players are allegedly enthusing about? Of course there are things that shouldnt be made public, but the tactics, motivation etc just are not working with the current set of players and the selections are baffling. He has done a number of acceptable things (Viduka, Harte, subs, youngsters, change a losing game, Kewell up front, support for Smith, Robbo, etc.) but without tangible results or justification, things are really looking bleak. Convince us please Terry (or go).
Kidd the coincidence of his influence and our demise is an easy target. Im more and more convinced its valid. I agree to an extent with the Bangkok Khow that we improved second half, but how demoralising everytime we cleared from defence there was no-one, nothing up the park. If only for public relations, I think hes had his time, I cant imagine wed lose anything if he went, we couldnt get worse (could we?).
Ridsdale Im still a supporter. I think hes genuinely trying to do the best. I was and am delighted with his support of DOL in the rosy times. Idve dithered before getting rid of DOL. I think Venables was a reasonable gamble even though its gone all pear shaped. Id give him till the end of the season and ask to see a noticeable improvement before thinking wed be better off without.
DOL what exactly did he get wrong? Id half fancy him back to knock his babies back into belief and get things going again. He might have learnt, watching from outside he may have realised things he didnt from within, he certainly knew/was able to get our current work-force performing. Have the bridges been irreparably burnt?
Hart ditto, hes proven himself with us, with many of our players and with Forest.
ONeill were fast becoming of no appeal to him if ever we were.
McClaren why would he leave Boro for us just now? Johnny Foreigner oops, hed have to have time to find his feet, adjust, rebuild.not an option we can afford.
Keegan as Voicey says, itd be fun and get the crowds back again. Cant see it happening.
Kamara Thats it! CK to head a team of Eddie, Hart and DOL. (with Rich W as selector, KOT to work on tactics and Betty to replace Clifford as spin doctor)
This was dire with the first half plummeting to new lows. This season we have seen it all under Tel but now we line up with Bakke, Burns and Mcphail all in one team. On top of that we have Wilcox playing out of position at left back and Gary Kelly on the right. Would we have got a result against Hartlepool ? - I doubt it.
So that was bad enough but then Tel pulled a masterstoke, Erik Bakke in the back four. Libero ? Sweeper ? Who the f'ck knows but it was the worse decision since .... err, when he played Bakke on his own as a holding midfielder. He obviously rates Bakke highly. Why not just give him the captaincy and be done with it. Bakke is obviously the future under Tel. Tel changed this ludicrous formation after 30 minutes to revert back to the unsuccessful 4-3-3 with a midfield of Bakke, mcphail and Bowyer. It made no difference at all, we didn't create one decent chance in the first half and in truth this was awful. Second half was better but still not good and we still didn't create one decent chance. Bowyer showed good energy but was on his own really. Bakke was awful. In central defence he was clearly unhappy, Keane went round him with ease within a minute or so and it was downhill from there.
Mcphail - another start another defeat. Only coincedence though so no worries there. Just keep him in the team Tel and one day this creative midfielder will actually create a chance from a forward pass. Defensively , he loses his man at every opportunity and just coasts through games likes he's Rivaldo. So painfully lacking in all the skills of a premiership football. Creative he is NOT !
The only decent pass all day was from the young boy Milner who played the sort of ball through to Bowyer that Mcphail can only dream of. How did it happen ? Well, Milner has pace and drive. He gets into positions where things open up , he looks and delivers. He's only 16 but I'd play him. You can see he's twice the player Mcphail will ever be. Mcphail's lack of pace just keeps him strolling 10 yards either side of the half way line , he never has any sense of purpose or direction. We cannot afford to play with Mcphail.
Is it my imagination or did we look like a team that were going through the motions. Even Smith looked down and by the end I thought we threw in the towel. The manager must be to blame for this. His tactics have been poor throughout this season and the players he seems to be putting our future in the hands of are just not good enough. He's lost respect from the fans and I'm afraid he's got to go.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 25/11/2002.
Robbie Keane insisted in the build-up to this match that Leeds supporters should give Terry Venables more time. "He was spot on for me," the striker said of their relationship at Elland Road. The bad news for Venables was that Keane was in less charitable mood yesterday, doing much to deepen the crisis engulfing the manager and painfully reminding him of the talent he sold.
It was wholly predictable, of course, that Keane played a big part in defeating the club that let him go for £7m in August. Having had a significant role in Teddy Sheringham's opener, the Irishman scored a terrific second to end the contest before half-time and never stopped working. He had more shots than Leeds managed between them. Venables can hardly have had a more miserable afternoon.
Losing Nicky Barmby to an achilles problem in the pre-match warm-up set the tone for the former England coach on his return to the club he managed more than a decade ago. He saw his initial 3-5-2 tactics exposed, watched his injury-hit team produce a poor display and must have longed for Keane in his side. With £77m of debt Leeds could also have done without a £25,000 fine for seven bookings.