Tim Steere writes his weekly article for Vital Leeds United and this week he looks at the transformation since the arrival of Neil Warnock.
Confidence is soaring around Elland Road and everyone associated with Leeds United again.
It is a remarkable transformation, of a club whose fans were despondent over the sale of young captain and academy product Jonny Howson; seeing a side conceding goals left right and centre, and seeing a side and a club devoid of inspiration and hope.
Now after just four matches in charge, Neil Warnock has transformed the team and the mood surrounding Leeds United.
Clean sheets against Portsmouth and Hull City were a good start, plus a heartening defeat to leaders Southampton with an inspired Kelvin Davis keeping Leeds out.
But has one result ever seen a transformation as the Middlesbrough game on Sunday?
The performance has been hailed by Phil Hay of the Yorkshire Evening Post as “some of the most complete football played by Leeds since their restoration to the Championship almost two years ago,” High praise indeed from a respected journalist who has followed Leeds home and away. After watching the match myself, it`s hard to argue with that point.
Two goals scored, the first of Warnock`s reign, by opportunism, plus a defensive performance that nullified Middlesbrough completely.
Front to back the side was solid and restricted a side who are fourth in the Championship, to long-range efforts. Every player knew their position and where they had to be. Darren O`Dea had a bulldozer look about him with his Kisnorbo headband, who may as well had shouted “None shall pass” with every tackle. Paul Robinson (not that one) endeared himself with a solid performance at left back while Michael Brown once again ran into the ground for Warnock.
Ross McCormack caused all manner of problems in a free flowing attack along with White, Snodgrass and Becchio. The whole XI performed and performed professionally.
Adam Clayton summed up it up this week as to why the performance was as good as it was; ‘The gaffer hasn’t changed anything really, he’s just got us all going in the same direction really and knowing where each other should be. Everyone knows what to do, and you do it.’ The performance against Middlesbrough showed this in spades. The players knew exacted where they had to be and as a result shut out Middlesbrough completely.
West Ham come to Elland Road next and a sure fire sign of confidence in the new management is that the attendance has already gone over 30,000. It`s been a while since that has happened in the league at Leeds.
The constant pleas from Warnock to get behind the club and the players may be a tactic from above to quieten the supposed anti Bates protests and shouts, that`s open to interpretation. However, it can`t be argued that it does come from the heart of Warnock as part of a systematic change and shift of mood around the club and the ground on a match day which was described a poisonous. A win against West Ham on Saturday would do wonders for Warnock and restoring a long distanced belief that Leeds could make the play offs.
Off the pitch, Warnock has made some interesting decisions transfer wise. Maik Taylor has joined Rachubka on loan, leaving Leeds with just Alex Cairns and seemingly, according to the Arsenal official website but Leeds haven`t announced it, Sean McDermott as understudy to Lonergan. Although long-term Warnock watchers may notice that the new man at the helm at Elland Road doesn`t tend to pick keepers on the bench. So the departure of Taylor and the arrival of McDermott is purely a desperation measure if Lonergan gets injured. At least there is someone to use.
A result of this is the reintroduction onto the bench for the last three games of Billy Paynter. Scoring again in a behind closed doors game against Carlisle, Paynter is seemingly ready to go under Warnock and is newly motivated. The former Swindon striker has reportedly turned down a loan move to Notts County off the back of this. Lloyd Sam though hasn`t, he`s off until the end of the season.
Also returning against Carlisle was Robbie Rogers after the most unfortunate debut. 11 minutes into the Yorkshire derby with Doncaster, and Rogers was off with a nasty concussion. The nine minutes of injury time did lead to a Leeds winner?every cloud?
But the American was on the score sheet and along with Andy O`Brien slowly making his return after depression; the numbers are growing within the squad. But as long as this current starting eleven are performing, they will all have to wait.
The Warnock revolution is in full swing now for a man who based on his after match interview against Middlesbrough was clearly loving life at Leeds, and so far, the squad seem to be loving it too.
We`ll see if the 30,000 plus crowd at Elland Road on Saturday will be singing to the same hymn sheet as Warnock. A win against the Hammers would do it I reckon.
Middlesbrough may have been a turning point performance wise, West Ham at the weekend will show if there`s a turning point throughout the whole club.
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