Tim Steere writes his weekly article for Vital Leeds United. He talks about the ups and downs of following Leeds and the way forward under Neil Warnock.
Firstly, apologies for the lack of an article last week. My internet has been down and by the time I got it working again, the article was a bit dated.
But last week certainly presented its highs and lows, or as Leeds fans sing with a high degree of authority, ups and downs.
A brilliant win against Middlesbrough away in arguably the best performance seen in the Championship since promotion two years ago, was followed by the most shocking score line in the history of Leeds United at Elland Road.
The 7-3 massacre by struggling Nottingham Forest was unpredictable as it was confusing.
After hardly conceding a goal under Neil Warnock, the mentality of defending from the front had seemingly vanished. It harked back to the Leeds of the past two seasons, where goals weren`t a problem, but as for the defence?
Understandably, talk of the play offs completely vanished at this point. The growing optimism surrounding the club after the first few matches of Warnock`s reign had collapsed.
Warnock blamed the defeat on mental and physical fatigue. Claiming some of his players should not have played, but after such a fine performance against Middlesbrough, he didn`t change the line-up. In lots of respects, you can`t blame him for that. I think most Leeds fans would`ve been surprised if he had done.
At the same time, if he knew they would`ve struggled, why take the risk? Nottingham Forest are struggling in the league, a couple of changes wouldn`t hurt? Although judging by our record of playing midweek at home, 5-0 Blackpool, 6-4 Preston and a string of other defeats, it wouldn`t mattered who we started!
After the diagnosis of this mental and physical tiredness, the surprise at Millwall was that only one change was made to the starting line-up. They can`t have been that bad then. Or when Warnock made the comments he was just talking about Paul Connolly, because he was the only one dropped. He seems to cop a lot of the flak for poor performances; Simon Grayson dropped him after the 4-1 Barnsley defeat and never featured for him again.
The next surprise was that Leeds actually won at the New Den, plus keeping a clean sheet. After the Forest game, most Leeds fans would`ve taken a draw of some sort but a clean sheet and a win was a major surprise. It does show what this side are capable of; there was great resiliency from players and staff at Leeds that day. Even if there was a slice of good luck when the goal scored moments before the penalty was awarded (and subsequently saved) was chalked off.
The away form of Leeds under Warnock has been a testament to Warnock`s defensive mentality, with no goals conceded, but next it is Watford at home.
Warnock has said that the important thing at the moment ahead of anything else is getting that first home win in his era.
In fairness, the performances against two of the top teams in the league in Southampton and West Ham was never going to be easy, but both produced good displays which showed vast improvements. Then there was Nottingham Forest. Shall we move on?
Watford come to Elland Road unbeaten in March with 4 wins and 2 draws, their best run of form, so Sean Dyche`s side won`t be an easy team to face.
By the same token, Leeds need to approach every game with a positive outlook. Watford may be playing well, but Leeds have shown they can play form teams under Warnock and play well. They just need to get over the mental barrier of getting that home win and hold out. They`ve shown they can do it away from home, but to make Elland Road a fortress again and hold out any hope of the play offs, a win is a must. It is Reading away on Good Friday next. Exactly.
A few more highs may also be on the cards if all goes to plan with contract negotiations. Forever being castigated for the slow nature of negotiations with key players, Leeds have seen great talent leave for next to nothing.
Warnock has now jumped in to try and tie up Snodgrass, Clayton, White, McCormack and on loan Darren O`Dea. There is a planned meeting in April between himself, Bates and Shaun Harvey on the matter, where he wants those five players tied down to new contracts at the club.
Warnock has made positive noises about starting to build now rather than in August as he doesn`t want a mid-table season next season, he wants success ASAP. It`s a public cry of support to the board, which if it isn`t adhered to will make the cries for Bates` head even louder. The manager has firmly put the ball in the board`s court, it`s up to them to start sorting things out.
They were allowed to drift for a significant time, but Bates wants to keep the man in charge that he so desperately wanted, he needs to back him this summer. Or he may walk. He said himself he`ll only stay this summer if he is wanted. A lack of support in tying the best players to the club down to new deals may make him feel less wanted and will choose to move on.
At this point there is no better man for the job in Warnock, his ability to assemble squads for promotion is unsurpassed, give the man what he needs. Leeds can`t afford to lose players the calibre of players like the five mentioned. Otherwise the ups and downs will just continue with more of the latter than the former, leaving all the hard work done by Warnock so far a completely waste of time.
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