Leeds United demolished Fulham with the sort of clinical finishing enjoyed only the best teams in The Championship.
The pre-match buzz was all about Leeds exiles McCormack & Smith fired up and ready to show us what weve missed this season. And while they scored 42 goals between them last season, they hardly set the world alight the other night.
Sam Byram and Sol Bamba had the game wrapped up with half an hour to go, both majestically leaping like salmon in the spray of a highland stream (perhaps slightly romanticized) above the static Fulham back four, and Antenucci destroyed their hopes in the 90th minute. A total 8 shots on targets, a 3-0 win is impressive by anyones standards.
Think back to our darkest days under the Dave Hockaday, or dare I say Brian McDermott. Shaky defence, sluggish midfield toothless up front, the team we saw last night my not have set the world on fire in the first half, but they have got into the habit of winning.
Just how on earth has this been allowed to happen at Leeds? Well if all boils down to patience. Redfearn’s key strength seems to be to hold his nerve. He’s persisted with players across the squad, not just the first XI, which is what any good manager does, he uses his full set of resources.
Byram seems to be thriving on the right wing, and Taylor on the left. Cook and Mowatt progress each game, and Murphy is as close to a midfield general now as weve seen in many seasons. At the back, it’s more about experience. Bellusci, Bamba and Berardi are hardworking players, organized, and gritty, Wootton seems a transformed player from the bumbling confusion-merchant of last season making more uncomfortable passes than a Tory MP in a lap dancing club.
In the last two months Pearce & Warnock have gone, players who we `couldn’t do without’ and in have come the pariahs of earlier in the season – fired up and playing out of their skins. Out too have gone Tonge & Norris the former on loan but most likely for good.
What youre left with are players hungry to take their chance. Wootton found his passion for playing again at Rotherham on loan, Murphy & Austin seemed to click in the FA Cup game at Sunderland and haven’t looked back. Berardi has (although not completely) taken the recklessness out of his game, this is down to the coaching of Redfearn & thompson. Lets not forget Steve Morison of course, probably not this writers favourite striker by a long chalk, wasteful in front of goal, but in effect someone who has bowled over centre backs and tired them out with tireless running and god positional play (if not finishing) If youre in the squad at Leeds you know youll get a chance if you play well (take note Adryan).
The youth players, Cook, Mowatt, Byram, Taylor. A different class, also heavily coached and worked on by Redfearn over a number of Years are of course the jewel in the current crown. Byram on song is up there with the best young English wingers. Cook and Mowatt are years beyond their calendar ages in terms of their vision and decision making, Charlie Taylor, blooded at Fleetwood and York has grasped his chance so well Stephen Warnock has almost been forgotten about.
But what of the future?
Redfearn unfortunately hasn’t had a new contract offered to him, and that simply has to happen if the current board are serious about progress. The real risk here is whether said board remains in the same shape. Cellinos absence will be a destabilizing factor if he remains absent from Elland Road over the summer, and it looks as if he may. When Cellino isnt there – decisions don’t get made..
Leeds good form will probably see them fall into that no man’s land of either 7th or 8th, tantalizingly close to the team in 6th.. it will alert suitors from the premier league to a team filled with talent – whose players will be equally as frustrated as the fans. We are a championship club, and as last season proved with McCormack – if the price is right you simply have to sell.. But the real question in that instance is how solid are the responses a club makes when it loses its good players?
Under the likes of Ken Bates, when you lost a Delph, a Gradel or a Howson, they just didn’t get replaced, Cellino has at least been prepared to bring in players when they’re required, and hes been astute enough to sign players like Bamba, Adryan, Del Fabro, Benedicic, Berardi on season loans giving him flexibility if they didn’t (and many of that list of course didn’t) work out.
One can only hope that not only does Redfearn get his contract, but that Cellino (if indeed he does stay) gives him backing, and tries to show him some respect in terms of his preferred signings. There is hope when you look at the signings of Sharp & Cooper who surely came from the Hocks bumper book of signings. And of course Nicky Ajose (ahem).
This is a critical summer for Leeds United. Big questions are going to be asked, but this season unlike many before it, it looks like the football will not be in question. As a prospective owner famously said once `are you not entertained?’
Reporter – Matthew Brown – Bolton
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