11th Jul2014

Jason Pearce: The Future Leeds United Captain?

by Right In The Gary Kelly's

The dust has settled and life is starting to go back to normal or as normal as things get for Leeds United these days. Ross McCormack’s £11 million departure hasn’t only just left a 29 goal void in this current Leeds squad but also left a squad without a full time captain once again.

So who will take on the responsibility of leading the Leeds squad into the 2014/15 campaign? Well, for us only one man has the credentials to do so. Step forward Jason Pearce.

Pearce was of course (before the appointment of Austin and Ross) sounded out for the captaincy.

At times last season he was a warrior in a very leaky back four, at times carrying Tom Lees and Lee Peltier though a number of games. Granted, we didn’t have the best of seasons but things could have been a lot worse without Pearce at times.

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When we sat down with Ross McCormack towards the end of last season we asked him about the captaincy and the pressure that comes with it. He quickly singled Pearce out as a leader of the squad and one he believed will in future captain Leeds.

On the field he is a leader. If you are one of the Leeds fans that sit close to the pitch in both East and West stands you’ll have heard  the amount of talking and organizing he does, impressive for a player not carrying the captains armband.

Many see the captaincy in the modern game as a burden and one that should be the responsibility of every player wearing their clubs shirt. Not for me, I’m old school when it comes to having a captain at a football club. A captain is the focal point, leader on and off the field, figure head of a club and one that will give 110% week in week out. That’s why I was bitterly upset when Lee Peltier was handed the honour of captaining Leeds United. He didn’t give an ounce of what I and many others believe is a standard requirement, worse still he didnt follow the well trodden path of Leeds United Captains in recent years – and leave at the top of his game.

We recently poised the question to our followers on Twitter to who they would like to see appointed the new Leeds Captain. The results didn’t surprise me in the slightest. The name Jason Pearce was tweeted to us repeatedly.

What the fans want and the fans get isn’t always something the club takes notice of. With us going through one of the most frustrating and deflating off seasons in recent history appointing the fans choice as the new captain of Leeds United will help raise what is an already a low morale fanbase. In yesterdays one sided 16-0 win over FC Gheirdeina, Pearce began the game as captain which could be a yet permanent appointment. Over to you Mr Hockaday..

Reporter - Matthew McKeith

We’re recruiting for new writers for the 2014/15 season. If you want to cover the ongoing soap opera at Leeds United then get in touch with us here. We’ll aim to get back to you quicker than a Paddy Kenny bleep test.

08th Jul2014

Ross McCormack signs for Fulham for £11 Million

by Right In The Gary Kelly's

Ross McCormack today signed for Fulham FC on a four year deal for an ‘undisclosed’ fee – believed to be in the region of £11m. Our most productive goal scorer, McCormack’s 29 goals prevented Leeds from relegation last season. He stood out as our best player, our inspirational leader on the pitch.. Here we go again.

Granted extra time off by the club earlier this week, and reportedly fined a week’s wages for not joining the squad on their pre season training camp in Italy, McCormack has only ever looked like he was leaving Leeds this summer.

Cellino at his press conference unveiling David Hockaday as his new head coach was unequivocal

Why should i sell Ross, he is our best player. If i needed McCormack money, id tell you i need McCormack money. We are not desperate to sell him. Why should i sell him? He has a 4 year contract, he’s our best player. If we do get an offer for a EPL club we should give him a chance to go to face a new level of the game. But i want to do something big for Leeds so i won’t be selling McCormack”

The club appeared last week to refuse the transfer request too (not that this was even formally confirmed) The above of course smacks of the right noises  but as has happened so often in recent years (Snodgrass, Howson, Delph, Becchio, Beckford) money talks.

Many will lament McCormack’s sale to a rival but Fulham are far from that.

They are not a yo-yo club like Norwich, QPR or Palace, a well established Premier League side with plenty of reserves even before the parachute payments kick in, their revenue and cash will dwarf that of their rivals. Sure, if they dont escape in two seasons time their lowered gate receipts and higher running costs will cost them with no TV Money coming in – but for now they’re the big fishes in the championship Pond.

What of the £11m fee? Well on the face of it £350,000 spent with such a large return seems a good punt in my view, far better than any of the Harvey / Bates brokered bargains for Norwich City. But our two  favourite football executives of course left us with a further mess – Two seasons of no season ticket money, which means that £11m will most likely plug up the £9m loss we made last year, or put more squarely, stem the £1m a month we have been losing.

It’s a positive because any additional cash is money we dont need to borrow – so it’s cheaper for us, and it means that yes we probably will have some money to spend on the likes of Silvestri, Bianchi, Bellusci, dare I mention Becchio?

Leeds United are rebuilding nearly from scratch at the moment, and the sale of McCormack though not welcome solves a number of issues for the club. There will be no prolonged contract renegotiation this summer, there will be some money in the pot to play with, where previously there seemed to be very little indeed (why else even consider the likes of Andre Blackman? In fact order him a taxi now – please)

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Ross McCormack has been a good servant to Leeds United, and seemed to love playing for us, that said if he can’t see a clear route to playing in the top flight then of course hes going to leave. The appointment of a better known coach with a track record of promotions – or an up and coming Eddie Howe or Sean Dyche type coach may have persuaded him. Ross until now has been unusually quiet, but the timing of his alleged transfer request on 20th June 1 day after our new head coach was appointed to me says it all. We may say – give him a chance but the players dont have to, and the worst thing David Hockaday could have in his ranks is a player who doesnt believe in him, dissent spreads through the ranks like poison.

What of the future? Who will score Leeds’ goals?

Matt Smith had a creditable season last year reaching double figures, not just a lumbering target man, smith showed good vision on many occasions and worked hard for the team, he may well be one to shine. Elsewhere Dominic Poleon, Robbie McDaid, Lewis Walters and Lewis Cook fly the flag for the youngsters coming through – though it may be a bit much to ask of them at this stage. Noel Hunt seems least likely to succeed, never a prolific striker at any of his clubs he will surely only play a supporting role, unless he is sold on. Steve Morison remains on our books too but for me falls into the same category, expensive, and not productive enough.

It’s likely then that Leeds will need to invest some of the McCormack money, for me Becchio is too similar to Smith, and we possess too few creative players to have 2 traditional centre forwards.  For me if Leicester were willing to listen Chris Wood would be a good bet to replace McCormack as would Jamie Vardy (dream on)

What is abundantly clear though is that Leeds are at a cross roads selling a talisman like McCormack and something needs to happen – reasonably fast now. Over to Mr Fix it Nicola Salerno, and our dynamic coaching duo of Hockaday and Lewis.

Right noises aside, this takes me back to a conversation held with our ill fated former owners GFH Capital in December 2012. They asked at the time – what did Leeds fans want most? The answer came back a side to make us proud again.

I’ll re-hash that response now to our current owner. Leeds United want to be proud again of their team again top to bottom, not to ber a laughing stock appointing awful managers, and signing atrocious players whilst selling off the family silver to survive. The £11m for McCormack is good money – but please use that to make a difference to the club. No more cast-offs, no more second best, no more cheapskating. We are Leeds United and need to start acting like it.

We’re recruiting for new writers for the 2014/15 season. If you want to cover the ongoing soap opera at Leeds United then get in touch with us here. We’ll aim to get back to you quicker than a Paddy Kenny bleep test.

 

03rd Jul2014

The Madness of Emperor Massimo

by Right In The Gary Kelly's

The warning signs were all already there when it was first reported at the end of last year that Massimo Cellino had a watchful eye on the protracted and ultimately unsuccessful takeover of Leeds United by Sports Capital.

Here was a maverick in the Italian game, fearful of the colour purple (not the film with Whoopi Goldberg) and of the number 17. Don’t worry Massimo we’ll retire that shirt number now the legend that was Michael Brown has left. Cellino had serenaded the supporters of Cagliari with his guitar at the opening of the new IS Arenas – which was subsequently closed by local authorities due to lack of requisite building permits.

The real alarm bells were around 36 coaches in 21 Years (note coaches – not Managers, more of that later)

The tumultuous process via which Cellino came to be President of Leeds United is already too well documented to repeat, suffice to say his entry to the English game was not without the odd bit of drama thanks to the Football League fit and proper persons test.

The gutter press has leapt upon the recent freezing of our bank account thanks to a seemingly vexatious winding up order from Sports Capital, and a raft of cost cutting measures at Leeds, notably closing Thorp Arch over the summer, and then only partially reopening it for pre season – its been the request for players to bring in Sandwiches which has caused most hilarity to date, lets call it Butty-Gate.

But how far have Massimo’s decisions been madness? How far might they be the workings of a genius, as the quote goes… “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it is better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

That’s Marilyn Monroe, not a stock for insightful quotes but it’s one I like, and one for me that sums up Massimo Cellino’s MO so far at Leeds. Let’s look at some of his work so far..

Closing Thorp Arch for the Summer

Now I for one thought Thorp Arch was already closed over the summer, so was actually surprised to hear the club ran it year round at full steam. But what about Davide Somma? I hear you all say he’s been living there since 2009? Well I fall in line with Cellino here, to say we were running a fully functioning training centre and academy with ostensibly no gate receipt income, and only the dwindling vestiges of sponsorship and TV money to keep us going does seem stupid in the extreme.

There are other options to consider for the future, but Thorp Arch costs £800K a year to rent, but it also needs heating, maintaining, and the staff who work there all need paying, cooks, physios, coaches, groundsmen. Yes these are peoples livelihoods and Thorp Arch is pretty much Leeds United’s flagship – but should it really be viewed with such consternation that it’s been closed down for a short period?

In terms of the future Cellino is probably right – it needs reviewing. There’s the good stuff in terms of the academy and production line of young talent – but the costs for doing that and logic have to be balanced against what we can afford. A professional football club does need good physio and rehabilitation facilities, and place the players can keep fit, but we’re an established 2nd/3rd tier club. We haven’t frightened the upper reaches of the Championship for a while now, and we need to rebuild – but part of that means we realistically need to readdress basically Premier League costs. Do we share Thorp Arch with another local team? Lease part of it out, or renegotiate with the landlord – or do we outsource some of the functions we are currently paying for? Initially raising some cash for the team. Cellino actually trained as an accountant – he is no fool on this front and I expect there to be changes. But short term this does appear a necessary evil – if the cash we are losing stands at £1m per month.

Verdict – Packed lunches were harsh Massimo, but the overall concept seems sane enough Sanity rating? – 8/10

Brian McDermott’s departure – David `The Hock’ Hockaday

Brian McDermott is a good coach and a manager with a string track record from his time at Reading. At Leeds he did some good things in terms of morale, and on a personal level I rated him as a coach. However the facts stand that we finished an appalling 15th last season. There was really no need for that, with Ross McCormack, Matt Smith and Even Luke Varney as options up front we should have scored more and not been quite so reliant on Ross. Yes Mcdermott was let down by the risible GFH Capital on the transfer front, but he spent money on incomings (loans and purchases) on Stewart, Kebe, Murphy, Smith, Hunt, Zaliukas, Wickham and Butland to name but a few. Of that list who was consistent? Smith, probably Murphy came well towards the end of the season, but there were too many passengers.

What of youth development? He continued where Warnock left off with Lees and Byram all good, but other than promoting Alex Mowatt (largely through necessity) and striking gold there was precious little else to crow about from the stellar group of teenagers Richard Naylor coached through the latter stages of the FA Youth Cup last season. McDermott brought in youth players? Ariyibi, Bryan, McDaid? Only one of whom remains

Cellinos comments “where is Brian” when he was potentially with his mother at her sickbed were out of line and need an apology but he does seem to have got the sacking right here.

His choice of coach in David Hockaday on 19th June saw Ross McCormack (according to the BBC) hand in a transfer request on the following day – related or not? You decide.

It was obvious that Eammon Dolan was Cellino’s first choice, but a £500K price tag scared him off – but as the saying goes – buy cheap – pay for it twice. The jury remains out on Hockaday. His only managerial stint at Forest Green saw 7 defeats out of 8 in the conference and three relegation haunted seasons when he was given a relatively big budget at that level, the signs are worrying. Forest Green Rovers fans and indeed rival fans everywhere have seen this appointment as poor. And though the likes of Pearce and Murphy have come out in support of the new coach I am struggling to find positives even now over the appointment.

Eight Years of Ken Bates have conditioned me to focus my anger towards things I can really make a difference to in life. Cellino has appointed the hock and it’s now up to him to prove McCormack, the fans, some of the current squad, the press, and common sense wrong. Maybe this really is a stroke of genius? Nicola Salerno will control incoming transfers as sporting director, Hockaday just has to organise them on the day and keep them fit… Surely he could mess that up? Could he?

Verdict – McDermott had a poisoned chalice from GFH Capital, but then went to the drinks cabinet and topped that up with extra hemlock, weed killer and Turps he had to go. Hockaday is proven poor in this country’s 5th tier, the jury remains out – Sanit Rating 8/10 on McDermott 4/10 on Hockaday that averages out at 6/10

Retained/Released 

Take a deep breath.. Even before McDermott was sacked, Cellino, with the assistance of Redders and Carbone decided to release, Michael Brown, Danny Pugh, Luke Varney, Adam Drury and Jamie Ashdown. Plus Nathan and Lewis Turner, Gboly Ariyibi, Smith Tiess, Ali Amiri and Richard Bryan.

Since then hes additionally got shut of Lee Peltier, Marius Zaliukas and has told (allegedly) Paddy Kenny and Stephen Warnock theyre welcome to leave too or they can find another club.

On the incomings front so far? Andre Blackman is on trial at left back, a player who was last season on Dover Athletics books – but didnt get a game, having previously been at Maidenhead United (and not getting a game) he has also seen unsuccessful spells at Celtic, Plymouth, Bristol City and was on Chelsea’s and Arsenals books as a youth player. According to site of all knowledge, Wikipedia, 24 games since 2007 tells its own story. His appearance at the new kit signing has justifiably raised howls of derision from the Leeds faithful. Warnock may be dearer – but why clutter the books with a player of this standard?

Our only other confirmed signing is Perennial No 2 Keeper Stuart Taylor (33) Taylor is a good keeper and has played for Man City, Arsenal and Reading with various loan spells. As it stands the squad in Val Gardena is low on experience and his arrival will hopefully be a bonus, but as it stands the squad is threadbare.

Sanity wise this appears a big risk. There are tired old hacks everywhere digging up random Serie B players which we’re linked to each day, but the English players signed so far are hardly setting the pulse racing. But on the face of it the players we’ve released have anecdotally released over £4m a year of wages, if McCormack goes then we will also have £8m-£10m of cash if the press are to be believed (good luck signing McCormack Fulham if Newcastle or Villa come in with £9m) plus his wages.

Perhaps with the exception of Warnock, most of the released players were not entirely consistent or particularly good. Releasing them to me seems eminently sensible, and getting the likes of Walters, Cook and Skelton through the ranks quicker is a good thing, the sanity of these decisions though is entirely dependent on who else comes in. Blackman to me would be an insane signing, but there again he could turn it round here? But balance that against effectively cutting out the deadwood was vital and something GFH Capital and Bates always wavered on.

Verdict – Most of the players released were right decisions, possibly with the exception of Warnock, incomings are light, and this will bear out how on the money Cellino and Salerno really are Sanity rating 6/10

Selling Ross McCormack

The most emotive decision of the lot – not yet a done deal as this went to press, but looking increasingly likely.

Ross McCormack came to us for £350,000 from Cardiff the season we got promoted. He was overshadowed by Max Gradel and Luciano Becchio for most of that first season, but came good towards the end. The following season saw his input increase, but McCormack was not used up front all the time by Grayson and Warnock and his goal tally suffered accordingly. Played in position by McDermott shock horror he was prolific in a dire team.

McCormack is a fans favourite (though probably no tin all quarters now) he shared most of our abhorrence at Hockadays appointment (it seemed) at McDermotts sacking in January, he by all accounts `gets’ playing for Leeds, perhaps his time at Rangers gave him access to a fanbase of similar levels of intensity and unreasonable expectation! All that aside we are a second tier side and £10m offers for players can’t be ignored. Many will criticise Cellino for a Bates style about face, on 19th June he was never going to sell McCormack to a rival Championship club – but hey – money talks. Bates would have sold McCormack for £2m to Leicester or Palace last season instead of paying an extra £500k a year of wages d’uh. McCormack’s sale may be the making of Leeds United a real conversion of a bit part player into an eight figure sale – that hasn’t happened since Hasselbaink left Leeds, his fee paid for Mark Viduka and Michael Bridges. But just like then it’s how Cellino reacts here that defines the sanity of his decision. The squad is imbalanced; he has an inexperienced coach at this level so McCormacks departure not only has to be justified with a decent replacement / successor it needs to be communicated right to fans and players in terms of the clubs ambition.

Verdict – Inevitable, but caused by many of Cellinos own decisions around Manager and player recruitment. Leeds get offers for McCormack every summer, but the sanity of this decision will only become clear when we see Plan B Sanity rating 5/10

We’re recruiting for new writers for the 2014/15 season. If you want to cover the ongoing soap opera at Leeds United then get in touch with us here. We’ll aim to get back to you quicker than a Paddy Kenny bleep test.

28th Jun2014

Massimo Cellino Stamps his Authority on Leeds United

by Right In The Gary Kelly's

Adam Popes revelation that Leeds united were still subject to a transfer embargo from our friends at the Football League and that was hopefully going to be lifted by 30th June came as a surprise to many but not a total shock.

Leeds United supporters far and wide have probably had a gutful of education around corporate and insolvency law, and probably even less welcome schooling in the rules and regs of the football league.

Massimo Cellino has had perhaps the steepest of learning curves when it comes to the English game.

Shocked that Reading wouldn’t let Eamonn Dolan go to take the Leeds United job for nothing.. Even more shocked at the state of the clubs finances and overheads from day one, his feet have barely touched the ground since his successful appeal against the Football Leagues refusal to permit him as a fit and proper person earlier this Year.

Three Winding up orders (One from the HMRC), A Frozen – solvent – bank account disabling him from paying his players for at least one Month. Then there was the running argument just prior to take over with GFH about who should be paying the wages..

Throw into the mix the dismissal of Brian McDermott, the release of seven senior players (including former Captain Lee Peltier) and the search for a new head coach and its clear to see what scale of work Cellino has had.

The club has just confirmed two friendly’s on UK shores but as things stand no fixtures have yet to be confirmed for the squads two week trip to Italy on which they fly out in just two days time.

The appointment of Hockaday was very unpopular with a lot of supporters (myself included) he was not only not the big name most of us were hoping for, but has never really put his head above the parapet in real football management terms, and is an unsprightly 56 – so hardly a young go getter. A poor 3 seasons at Forest Green doesnt bode well either. His No 2 Junior Lewis too has had a less than stellar career, until recently only a coach at non league Hendon.

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But Cellino has been clear on this appointment from the start, he wants a coach not a manager’ the real power behind the throne it seems is more than likely going to be Nicola Salerno. The former Sporting Director at Cagliari is a long term ally of Cellino, and an experienced football executive having worked for several teams in Serie A and Serie B over the last 20 Years.

Salerno will most likely be more than just a broker of deals, he will work hand in hand with Cellino on all matters football (if as expected he joins Leeds) that would most likely include contracts, sponsorship and scouting. Whilst many point to the several failed’ Sporting Director / Coach roles (notably the two examples at Liverpool Dalglish / Hodgson and Houllier / Evans) it’s worth noting the difference in the dynamic here. The roles are only ever going to be unequal. Whilst a Dalglish or a Houllier would wince at tactical decisions and signings – based on their in depth coaching knowledge – and to be blunt – interfere. It’s clearly Salernos job to ensure these are done to an agreed standard – and delivered by the coach.

Hockaday may well see himself as in charge of day to day matters, but it’s clear with Cellino in the president’s role and potentially Salerno as his No 2 that he will (if you’ll pardon the pun) be in `hock’ to what they deem necessary.

Whether even a relative unknown like Hockaday can work with that remains to be seen. Even he will have had a good degree of autonomy in his one and only role at Forest Green. How would he cope if the senior players went straight over his head to Salerno or Cellino? This is perhaps where matters may arise from the unfamiliar set up.

But just talk to Simon Grayson or Neil Warnock about whether Ken Bates didnt interfere in the running of the team, signings, sale of player. To be frank this is not really a million miles away from that set up. Some chairmen may well be more hands off in their approach but Cellino is not pretending he is anything other than a direct manager of all matters at the team.

The appointment of a Sporting Director is then probably the most important appointment in Cellino’s eyes, Hockaday is well – just a coach. Who’d argue in real terms with Cellinos other major decisions so far? Hes overseen even before the Hocks appointment the release of Brown, Varney, Ashdown, Pugh, Green and Diouf, the termination of Lee Peltiers contract?

The appointment of Hockaday may well have raised a chuckle across football but it donest look like he will be the overall manager anyway, you also strongly get the impression that he wont be slow in wielding the axe if your new head coach fails to deliver… watch this space.

In relation to incoming players, Cellino hasn’t said he wont recruit Italians, and these seem to be the players linked in the press – Viviani and Astori several times this week, but his involvement at the club saw Butland and Wickham join us, so it seems that on this front we may well see for the first time in a lot of years nett movement into the senior squad and potentially of a high standard. This may be a bit hopeful on the writer’s part, and again one to sit out and see what happens.

Reporter - Matthew Brown – Bolton

07th Jun2014

Return of the Mac?

by Right In The Gary Kelly's

With yesterday’s news that Gary McAllister is almost certainly one of the three coaches due to be interviewed by Massimo Cellino for the newly created job of “Head Coach” at Elland Road, Right in the Gary Kelly’s looks back, and forward, at Macca’s suitability for the job.

As someone who was lucky enough to witness Gary McAllister play for, and captain, Leeds United, I’ve always had a massive soft spot for the man. He played football the way we want every Leeds United midfielder to play it. Sublime passing, stunning goals and a gentleman both on, and off, the field.

When Macca was chosen to replace Denis Wise at the end of January 2008, it’s fair to say I was delighted. Out went someone who had no desire to be part of Leeds United, and in came someone steeped in the Club’s history. To call the signings he completed at the end of that transfer window “his” signings is a tad disingenuous – Michalik, Sheehan, Kilkenny and Sweeney had all been lined up by Denis Wise, but were completed as McAllister took the reigns.

In fact it’s fair to say that one of the best loan signings we’ve ever made, and one that McAllister definitely had a hand in, was more important than any of those previously mentioned. Veteran Dougie Freedman joined in March, breathing life into a season that was threatening to peter out into nothing, and helping us reach a Play off Final.

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It’s probably fairer to judge McAllister on the following season, as he started it with a team more in his own mould. The signings of Robert Snodgrass and Luciano Becchio that summer were two of the best we’ve made in a decade. Added to the blossoming Fabian Delph and Johnny Howson, we suddenly had a young, attacking team playing the kind of football we’d craved. The Beckford and Becchio partnership was born. McAllister had a purring engine of a forward line, but, as with many Leeds United Managers of late, we were operating an open door policy at the back. His signings and selections there were less auspicious – Michalik and Sheehan were suspect defensively, if useful going forward. Paul Telfer a retired full back, and former team mate of Macca’s at Coventry, was bizarrely brought out of retirement and played as a central defender. Darren Kenton, remember him? Featured at right back. The warning signs were there as early as the start of December – we were destroying Crewe 5-0, but had Michalik sent off and conceded 2 needless late goals. Late goals would become regular goals, and the soft underbelly would be Macca’s ultimate undoing. It culminated in the famous 5 match losing streak in December, including a televised sinking (in more ways than one) at lowly Histon. By Christmas 2008 Macca was gone; only 11 months into the job. Should he come back?

Many people, given the above, will say no. But Macca won’t be in charge of transfers this time. He’ll be coaching the players, picking the team, and choosing the tactics. There would be no Mansour Assoumanis, no Paul Telfers. He could concentrate his efforts on developing the next Fabian Delph, and the next Robert Snodgrass. We’ve all seen the potential in Alex Mowatt, Chris Dawson and Dominic Poleon – might McAllister be the man to develop that potential to the full? Let’s also not forget that’s there’s one “youngster” who will still remember him – he gave Aidy White his debut as a 16 year old! With the right signings in place (which let’s face it, is going to be key, whoever gets the job), Gary McAllister could well warrant a second coming at Elland Road.

The alternatives would appear to be Dave Hockaday, and a as yet unnamed third name. Unless that third name has a deep seated love for Leeds United, and the ability to get us playing football that we all actually enjoy watching, then I’m pinning my flag to McAllister. Yes, he made mistakes the first time round, but what Manager/Coach hasn’t? With some of the names being bandied about for the job, we could do an awful lot worse than plumping for a Return of the Mac.

Reporter - Ian Wylie

30th May2014

The Leeds United Superiority Complex

by Right In The Gary Kelly's

There’s been a lot of talk recently about what Leeds United should and shouldn’t be doing over the summer. More specifically what our new owner should be doing to get us back on track. My fellow writer Matt touched on this in his article this week, and fellow Leeds fans were quick to respond with thoughts of their own. Some of the comments got me thinking though – do we, as Leeds fans, have a superiority complex? Almost the opposite of small Club syndrome if you like; are we suffering from big Club syndrome? I think we might be…

Let’s start with Thorp Arch. There was an outcry like you wouldn’t believe when Massimo Cellino announced that they were considering “all options”, including moving out of Thorp Arch entirely. Now that option may very well depend on the terms of the lease, and whether either (a) a lease break exists in the near future, or (b) the current owner, Jacob Adler, is interested in ending our lease prematurely. With the housing shortage in Leeds, it might well be that he could do that, and sell the land for more than Leeds United could buy it back for.

But I digress. Every time exiting Thorp Arch is mentioned, fans hit back with how many players have said Thorp Arch’s facilities were part of a reason for them joining the Club. Really? So they’re signing for Leeds because we have plush training facilities? Sorry, but give me players like Andy Hughes and David Prutton any day – players who didn’t even know if they would get paid when they signed on the dotted line. And has Thorp Arch really improved the vast majority of our signings that much? Did Luke Varney leave a better player than when he joined? Did Paul Green? Would they have been worse players for spending the last 2 years training at Roundhay Park? Probably not!

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Thorp Arch is a Premier League facility, and costs Premier League money to run. The hard facts of the matter are that we are not a Premier League team, haven’t been for a decade, and do not have Premier League money. As a rather ropey analogy, if I was earning a million quid a year, and had a house and a holiday cottage, but then lost my job, what would be the first thing to go? The holiday cottage. If Cellino does decide that we’re turning our back on Thorp Arch I have no problem with that; if and when we get back to the Premier League, we can look at building Premier League class facilities again then.

Supporters also seem aghast at the thought of the likes of Ross McCormack and Sam Byram being sold to ease financial difficulties. Let’s be realistic here – we finished 15th in the Championship this season. Cellino, whether it be because of a lack of due diligence, witchcraft in the books, or buying the Club after one too many bottles of Peroni, HAS to sort out the finances before anything else. Because stumbling from one financial disaster to the next just doesn’t work, as we’ve seen time and time again. Every player has their price – if top Premier League players can be prized away from just about any club, then who are we kidding to think that are players can’t be? If McCormack and Byram are sold (I’m struggling to think of anyone else who might command a decent fee) and the money is used to finally get us on an even keel, who are we to complain? We have no divine right to keep our best players, and we have a duty to finally get the financial albatross off our back.

The above might sound pessimistic, but we’ve labored for too long under the misapprehension that we’re a big Club. At the moment, we simply aren’t. We can’t afford £100k per year each on three club ambassadors. We can’t afford Premier League class training facilities. And we might not be able to afford to keep our best players. None of this is Cellino’s fault; it’s the fault of previous regimes who thought that we could lumber on footing the cost of the above, and worry about it later. Well Cellino is worrying about it NOW, and if that means a season or two of transition, then we will be all the better for it in the long term.

We’ve won titles before Thorp Arch existed, and we’ve sold our best players before and got over it. Try and see the potential in any changes that happen in the coming months, because not making those changes could be even worse for the fallen giants.

Reporter - Ian Wylie

02nd May2014

Danny Pugh: The end of an Era

by Right In The Gary Kelly's

We’re here, the final day of the 2013/14 season. One, which will see up to several of this current Leeds United squads contracts expire in the summer and more than likely will be the last time we see them in the Leeds shirt. Quite a sad thought really. However, for one man it will be an end of an emotional era…

Daniel Pugh joined Leeds United as part of the £7 Million sale of the prodigal son Alan Smith to M*nchester United in 2005. Danny had come into Leeds when Kevin Blackwell was building the squad from top to bottom bringing in the likes of the pace machine Julian Joachim, Sean Gregan and Paul Butler to name a few.

Pugh made his club debut in the newly formed Championship which Leeds defeated Derby one-nil thanks to a Fraser Richardson screamer. I remember that day well, watching Pugh’s silky skills and pace cause the Derby back four constant problems all day. Playing left wing that day I could see this from a player cam view sat in the East Stand at the time. What did surprise me was the amount of abuse he was getting from our own fans. I remember vividly two blokes both resembling the Mitchell brothers berating him every time he touched the ball ‘F off scum b*stard’ they repeatedly said. Not the easiest debuts to have in front of your fans.

He continued to be ever present in the first half of the season and later found himself out of favour.  The following summer he was transferred to Preston for £250,000 and then two years later moving to Stoke City for a £500,000 fee. After another spell back at Preston on loan in 2011 Pugh returned back to Elland Road initially on a three month loan. Manager at the time Simon Grayson was desperate to sign him as the club was short on cover for the left side of the pitch and he eventually did later that summer for a reported £500,000.

With the sacking of Grayson and the appointment of Neil Warnock, Pugh found his first time opportunity’s limited as he was quickly frozen out. He was transfer listed alongside ‘The Robbie Rogers’ and the Leeds fans thought they’d never see Danny Pugh in a Leeds shirt again. A successful loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday who instantly became a fans favourite at Hillsbourgh for the performances he put in for the Owls. He returned to Leeds this summer with Brian McDermott in charge and vowed to fight for a first time place.

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Another summer of uncertainty loomed for him but again he found himself playing a role in the Leeds team when many thought he wouldn’t.  With the loss of form to Stephen Warnock and Aidy White at the beginning of this season McDermott turned to Pugh for the trip to Charlton in November. Pugh started and impressed in his first performance for Leeds in twelve months. He then went onto to cement the role his own for a good run of games bagging two goals along the way.

So here we are today, nine years later; two spells, 68 appearances and six goals Danny Pugh could potentially be playing his last game for Leeds United.  He may never have been the most gifted player we’ve ever seen pull on the white shirt but I believe he is one of the most professional of ones. He has been frozen out, mocked by the fans, aged 10 years in the past two but he’s never come out to the press or on social media complaining. The man has just got his head down and got on with it.

Over the years at Right in the Gary Kelly’s we’ve been a champion of Danny Pugh, all you need to do is look back on some of our articles to the day we covered his return to his return back to the first team after twelve months away. We’ve backed him. If Danny does get a cameo today I’m sure the Leeds faithful will give him a good send off for the way he has conducted himself representing the mighty whites of Leeds United. Danny Pugh is F*cking Brilliant…

Reporter - Matthew McKeith

29th Apr2014

Does the Leeds United Academy Really Need Rebuilding?

by Right In The Gary Kelly's

Neil Warnock famously slated the Leeds United Academy in print shortly after leaving Leeds. He branded it dysfunctional, in competition with the senior side, even celebrating their defeats..

Saying that Warnock blooded Sam Byram and made Tom Lees a stalwart of the Leeds defence, he also gave Dom Poleon his first start as a striker. All of course are academy products, and all have gone on to play a part in this (admittedly disappointing) season.

Brian McDermott couldn’t have been more positive though in his assessment of matters.

He made sure Neil Redfearn worked in the dugout alongside him – and headed up the academy. Starved of cash under GFH Capitals tenure, he brought Alex Mowatt through the ranks, continued to play Sam Byram, Poleon and Tom Lees too. Perhaps unfairly to Warnock his reign to date has been characterised by preparedness to blood younger players, even taking Lewis Walters to watch our seaside horror show at Bournemouth. Perhaps an exercise in how not to play football for our prodigious young striker..

Last week Lewis Cook was selected for the England U-17’s this summer and is now one of a long line of Leeds academy kids to play for their country.

This week however saw quite stinging criticism from our new owner Massimo Cellino of the academy. He appears to have made former Sheffield Wednesday Mop Top Benito Carbone the new head of our Academy. Now looking like a Mini-Capello, many had thought Carbone was lined up to be our new manager – perhaps he still is?.. Nevertheless the message from Cellino was unequivocal – and unforgiving.

We have a lot of things to do and we need to start from the bottom again with the academy. Benito will rebuild the academy with my help. I will not accept the philosophies they have there at the moment because I don’t like them – people must accept my conditions.”

Citing the £2m a year running costs for Thorp Arch he’s basically saying he wants more.

Presumably this means he wants us to get players in shape for the first team more quickly, but it’s not inconceivable it means he wants the size of the academy reviewing too in terms of its running costs. He’s described Leeds as a former rich man who still eats caviar when he should be eating cheese so who knows quite what changing their philosophies means.

Questions will of course be asked now of the widely respected duo of Richard Naylor and Neil Redfearn, who appear to have worked well with McDermott since his appointment. That said this season we have actually seen players bought to augment the academy. Robbie McDaid, Richard Bryan, Gboly Ariyibi.. and give it more balance, I’m probably with Cellino on this one in saying that surely the academy is there to provide the talent? If players need buying in to give it a bit more balance something might well not be quite right?

Thats not to say these players won’t add something (in fact Im sure McDaid will be a superb signing from what ive seen of him) but albeit the feel good factor remains high around our title winning U18’s last season Leeds surely do need to cut their cloth accordingly.

We do have a superb academy, but it’s easy to forget players like Charlie Taylor, Aidan White, the Turner Twins, Ross Killock, all seemingly perennially on loan, all taking up places on the wage bill, and equally, all unlikely to oust the current incumbents in midfield and defence.

There are really only spaces for 30 or so players in a modern squad and Leeds surely need to become better at sticking or twisting with some of them.

Historically weve been bad at dispensing with good young players. Remember Tom Cairney who terrorized us for Blackburn earlier this season – yup.. Ex Leeds trainee.  Or the figure of Sam Hird repelling all comers at Wembley for Doncaster.. again erm..

Going further back, David Seaman, Dennis Irwin, Andy Linighan, Scott Sellars. All were let go in the early 80’s all went on to better things. During our sojourn in the lower leagues, Howson, Lennon, Milner and Delph have all appeared – then disappeared to clubs further up the foodchain – what price any of those now to come back to Leeds – any would surely be a suitable leader for promotion back to the PL.

Leeds Academy was of course famously raided soon after Bates’ tenure began by Chelsea for Michael Wood and Tom Taiwo, a decision both players surely lament, and Everton came in 2 years ago now for Luke Garbutt, likewise paying a decent fee (just where did the money go Ken?)

Leeds success though has historically come from the academy, Batty and Speed were critical in our title winning season, and indeed promotion from the old second division. O’Leary’s babies had a core of Kewell, Woodgate, Robinson, McPhail and Smith – again all homegrown. What strikes you about these purple patches for Leeds (sorry Massimo) is the emergence of a cluster of good homegrown players.

It probably is about time that Leeds took a long hard look at themselves in this regard.

The supporters have long lamented the absence of younger players from the side, and while its horses for courses as you try to get out of the footballing doldrums, its often a mistaken belief that you need old lags, warhorses and promotion experts  to do it. Experience has its place, but Leeds need to become unplayable again, if theyre to emulate our second division promotion season of 24 years ago.. yes folks that long ago.

Whenever you watch the reserves, players like Walters, Denton, Coker, Lenighan, Stokes, Cook and Amiri all raise an eyebrow. Fast, committed, technically good, and in some cases physically comparable in size to some first teamers, it does beg the question – if not now – when?

It worked well for Howson, Mowatt, Byram, White, Lees and to some extent Poleon – so why not? Clubs like Crewe and Peterborough with Academies not as well funded as ours have sworn by using their kids – whenever weve used ours – it’s worked. It does seem like a no-brainer.

With the contracts coming up of a number of first teamers, it makes good financial sense to use some of the money saved to bolster the academy now – and ensure their successes are reflected in the first team match day sheet.

The question mark though remains over why Redfearn and Naylor aren’t just given the license to do that themselves? He who pays the piper calls the tune, and it appears he’s seen something in Carbone, a former player as yet unproven in management in any real sense. Perhaps Leeds need that little bit of bravery in pushing through some of those youngsters? Maybe that’s what Carbone will bring. We eagerly await the results.

Reporter - Matthew Brown -Bolton

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25th Apr2014

Leeds United on the Hunt for a real number 10

by Right In The Gary Kelly's

Massimo Cellino says we need a number 10 – I’d like to see if he has any links to Italian sides that could provide a create spark to get people playing. We don’t always lack effort, but it’s clear we do lack quality in this division. I’m baffled really as to how bad we are. Brian has switched players and formation so many times now, I think he even losing track.

It’s no secret that the squad plainly isn’t quite as good as we hoped it would be, fans are looking to reason why we’ve been so poor. Rift in the squad? Fall outs with players? Ross wants another new contract? Who knows?

One thing that struck me though was the lacklustre way we played and the lack of confidence we play with. Tom Lees banging another long ball towards a hard working but less fancied Noel Hunt who inevitably doesn’t make the header against a 6 foot 2 centre back. That’s one example that happens 5 times a game.

Brian is struggling to motivate the players at times perhaps. Confidence in any job (and it is a job) is such a massive part of having success. The annoying part is that sporadically it’s not always like this. Luke Murphy against Barnsley was a glimmer of hope.

I’d like to see some of the players being a bit more adventurous and trying things. It frustrates the hell out of me to see how we can’t or don’t want to create things at times.

No wonder Cellino is calling for a 10 – I watched Brown, Tonge and Murphy against Forest.  The amount of times they would decide against a forward pass in favour of Jason Pearce or Tom Lees was demoralizing to watch.

Sharp passing, quick passing, quick thinking means that Ross doesn’t have to drop back and play like deep. He can play 10 but we need him up top. We also need to cut out this full brand of football. Long balls, towards two strikers in Ross and Hunt who may or may not have been extras in The Borrowers at one time or other, are pointless.  I’m not against Matt Smith, but cross it, don’t heave it towards him, centre field from 40 yards or our penalty box.

A number 10 would bring Matt Smith into the game as a target man more, with Ross being the foil for that. Dom Poleon deserves more of a chance and could do well with a playmaker in the side.

I hope we see some big changes this summer – the amount of empty seats denotes a fan base that can’t wait to draw a line under this season.

Reporter - David Mays

04th Apr2014

What next for these Leeds United players?

by Right In The Gary Kelly's

With TOMA 4.0 drawing to a close, there isn’t any great need for more literature on the subject at the moment. Football blogs traditionally have no need to discuss details of Italian import regulations and pre-pack administration, but are there to give an opinion on their team’s on-pitch performance, the manager’s tactics and the abilities of playing staff.

The one thing that the fans see is the team and the manager. So I would like to discuss my own opinion of some of the current playing staff, in the hope that we are able to talk about football and behave like an old fashioned blog. 

Lee Peltier

After a bizarre turn of events, our former captain officially joined play-off hopefuls, Nottingham Forest. Lee Peltier has often divided opinion; is he a right back or is he better in the middle of the back four? Last season it was obvious that he wasn’t captain material and the ‘something’ Neil Warnock saw in him seemed to be non-existent.  This season hasn’t been much better and if it wasn’t down to Sam Byram being injured for half the season, I imagine his chances would have been limited at best.

For me his only consistent contribution would be the ability to run a couple of yards with the ball, stop and then pass it backwards for Tom Lees to lump forward. He frequently breaks down our own attacks, taking away any momentum with it. Watching him try and adapt to the wing back role of the 5-3-2 era was one of the most unnatural and uncomfortable looking displays I’ve seen.

One of the most frustrating players I think I have ever seen play for Leeds, when he does occasionally, find himself in an advanced position, his delivery in general is on a par with that of Jimmy Kebe.

With another year left on his contract, do Leeds fans think that Lee has a future at the club? Is he good back up or would Tom Lees do? Brought in as a first choice right back, high up on Warnock’s shopping list, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was one of our higher earners, so I for one would be happy to see him move on.

Jimmy Kebe

Bringing in the pace man was supposed to give us more options going forward; instead we have watched him crumble. Seemingly unable to hack the pressures that come with playing for Leeds, the man who ‘didn’t come for a holiday’ needs to pack his bags.

After the justified boo barrage he received against Bolton the writing was on the wall. The combination of Peltier and Kebe down the right was laughable and we are now left with Cameron Stewart, who admittedly hasn’t been great, as our only winger. Kebe isn’t up for the task and Brian must know it, which also means that the systems that we can play as a squad are restricted. You can’t play with one winger.

I feel Stewart can improve, he’s young enough to learn how to cross a ball and has the skills to take a player on, but Kebe for me has become redundant. I’m not buying the ‘injury’ card that we’ve been given; I think he will make one more appearance for Leeds, in the hope that he can do something, anything, that isn’t what he has already shown us. McDermott said this guy had pace to burn, I haven’t seen it.

Seems like a daft question but do any Leeds fans think Kebe has been treated unfairly by the fans? Should Brian send him back to Palace and accept that he isn’t up to the task? Alternatively, would any Leeds fans like to see us make a move for Jimmy on a permanent deal in the summer?

Danny Pugh

The old faithful, Danny Pugh deserves credit for his early season displays; however the weight of carrying the rest of the squad seems to have taken its toll, with performances deteriorating.

Out of contract in the summer, I think he would be a decent and more importantly for us, cheap squad player if we signed him on a new contract. What do the rest of us think?

Noel Hunt

Most managers have their favourites and when Neil Warnock took the helm he unfortunately brought in literally all of his. McDermott however, came in from a long tenure at a decent Reading side and it was widely expected he would bring in some of his ‘favourites’, many players of which would slot straight into our starting 11.

Step up Noel Hunt.  Okay, I don’t think anyone was bowled over by the signing, but at least thought he would be a first team regular, with his textbook work ethic at least keeping him on the good side of the fans. This never materialised. He seems to do a lot of running on the pitch without influencing the game, not one of the only offenders this season, but considering he was brought in to bolster our front line and give us more attacking options, it is safe to say this transfer hasn’t yet paid off.

If the now famous Cellino rant is based on real honest-to-god facts, Noel Hunt is on 25k a week or at least one of our higher earners, which is totally absurd and quite frankly leaves me questioning the transfer acumen of Brian McDermott. So far he has signed two duds from his old club.

Sure he Hunt seems like a nice guy, but do Leeds fans think that he has been given a fair chance in the starting 11, or is he a waste of wages?

Aiden White

Our promising young left back/left winger/right winger/central midfielder and attacking midfield maestro has promised so much during seasons past, but the fact of the matter is now three Leeds managers have come in worked with Aiden White and we still don’t know his best position, he could even be a striker with his pace.

He has shown moments of brilliance for us, his goal against Everton last season the absolute highlight, but they are very few and very far between, and as a result he was loaned out to Sheffield United this season, before returning to West Yorkshire due to an injury.

I would say that White is a better left back than anything else, with his pace often getting us/himself out of trouble. I’d like to say he has a future with us, but his chances are surely running thin?

I could perhaps go through the entire squad like this, but this will do for now. Are there any players that you think deserve to be praised (apart from McCormack) or criticised for their contributions this season?

With a lot of talk about matters that we don’t always see or understand, for myself at least, it makes a nice change to pretend to be a normal club.

Reporter - Joe Glover

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