ROSS BELL has got Leeds United on a roll. The new manager bounce is in full effect…
Big update incoming…
WhenÂ I left you last we had made a promising start to the season with a couple of impressive wins and advancement in the EFL Cup. As predicted Chelsea did indeed knock us out of said cup, but only after we blew a 2-0 lead. Oh Leeds…
They eventually finished us off in extra time after bringing on Eden Hazard who got the winner in 116th minute. With an exhausted squad from going toe-to-toe with a Premier League giant forÂ two hours,Â I fully expected to struggle in the next couple of games. WhatÂ I didn’t expect, however, was back-to-back comprehensive wins; 4-0 and 4-2 against Forest and Huddersfield respectively. David Wagner certainly wasn’t doing much touchline sprinting in that one.
We entered December on the back of good but slightly patchy form with someÂ heartening wins. Sadly, we were also losing games we shouldn’tÂ mainly due to lack of concentration from Rob Green.Â Consequently, Green was dropped in place of the much-maligned keeper Marco Silvestri who has been on the transfer list since the first week of the season. His inclusion saw us embark on a 10-game unbeaten run, beforeÂ finally come unstuck in the leagueÂ against Barnsley; aÂ team who at this point we had just played for the third time in a fortnight after drawing them in the FA cup and being unable to put them away first time around. Barnsley finally vanquished, and Carlisle UnitedÂ dispatched 4-0, we eagerly awaited the draw for the FA Cup 5th round – we could use a potential money spinnerÂ and a good cup run, asÂ the editor’s brief toÂ turn a profit each yearÂ has gnawedÂ away at me all season.
BloodyÂ Chelsea. Again!
The saving grace is we were at home, so you never know.
Before we took on the big boys again, it wasÂ time put a Yorkshire “rival” in their place: and do we ever! Sure, we concededÂ four; but when you scoreÂ six in a game, especially this game, you cant complain. Marcus Antonsson, who has been having a excellent debut season in England up until this point, scoredÂ five in a rout of Huddersfield and also achieved the only 10/10 game mark of the season for us. The win over Huddersfield also pushed usÂ three points clear at the top of the table with half the season left to go.
Transfer window time rolled aroundÂ and up until this stage of the season, I’ve struggled to move any players on. But thankfully we have a lot of interest in some of our fringe players and also one or two starters, but again ,with the challenge of turning a profit season-on-season hanging over me,Â I reluctantly let Charlie Taylor leave to join Crystal Palace and one of our few internationals in Stuart Dallas leave to join Burnley.
Taylor was always going to leave -Â his contract expiresÂ at the end of the season and heÂ refused to sign a new deal – soÂ I decided to cash in whileÂ I could rather than risk him not signing in the summer and that being wasted money.
Dallas, however, had a relatively long term contract in place so there wasn’t the pressing need to sell, but when Burnley turned his head on deadline dayÂ I chose to sell asÂ I didn’t want a unhappy player disrupting the dressing room, eventually accepting just over Â£5million with the promise of an extra million down the road.
Turning a profit this season should now be fairly easy consideringÂ I haveÂ raked in almost Â£13million in transfer fees thanks to also shipping out Luke Murphy and Doukara. As for incoming, I’ve tried to maintain a simple strategy following some of the MoneyballÂ methods: signing young and cheap players with massive scope for improvement. The onlyÂ addition not to fit that criteria was Fulham midfielder Kevin McDonald, but he was listed at well under his actual value and could fill a hole in the squad. Other than that the two lads Mallan and Lindsey are both Scottish under-21 players with 4 to 5 star potential, bringing Lewis Cook back on loan made sense as did the signing ofÂ Conor ChaplinÂ given that he’s a high potential player bought at a low cost and imminently loaned back out.
With theÂ wheeling and dealing concluded, the home stretch of the season was quickly upon me. First up, Chelsea.
Well, would you believeÂ it?!Â A 2-1 win against a full strength Chelsea isÂ most certainlyÂ the highlight of the season so far. I was left almost fingernail-less after Liam Bridcutt got his marching orders with 10 minutes to go but somehow we held on and now host the arguably easier proposition of West Ham at Elland Road.
By the time the Hammers rock up we are trying our hardest to stretch our lead at the top of the #EFL football pyramid; a damaging loss to FulhamÂ five days before the FA Cup knocks the lads’ confidence and also allows Derby to regain top spot. We then get absolutely tonked by West Ham 6-2, and with that, the FA Cup dream is over for another season, That does, however, leave us with just the league to focus on for the remaining two months of the season and i think it’s best to describe the form heading in to the final day as ‘patchy’ at best. Defeat to Norwich, who sit in 5th in the penultimate game of the season, along with Aston Villa winning means we head into the final game against already relegated Wigan with multiple outcomesÂ possibleÂ for us to end our first campaign.
Win, and a Derby loss, meansÂ we are champions. A winÂ for both of us and we finish a still very respectful 2nd and go up to the promised land of the Premier League. But a loss and a Villa win would mean the Lottery (it’s not a lottery) of the play-offs. That is literally the last thing we want.
Come back next time for an in depth final game of the season match report.
ROSS BELL – @RossBell1984