The Leeds circus comes to town


Charlton v Leeds.  It ought to be a mouth watering prospect. We ought to be on the edge of our seats in anticipation.  But it is yet another in a series of end of season games against clubs who, like ourselves, have little to play for except pride.  After Sheff Wed and Bolton and with Birmingham to come it seems as if we must wait until we entertain Bournemouth on May 2nd to go to a game which really matters. And who knows - they might already be promoted by then ?

In some ways Leeds have had a similar season to ourselves. When maverick owner Massimo Cellino sacked Brian McDermott at the end of last season he, like Charlton, replaced him with someone unknown.  His choice of Dave Hockaday - previously coach at Watford and Southampton and not very successful manager of Forest Green Rovers - was even more surprising than Duchatelet's appointment of Bob Peeters.  After three defeats in their first four Championship matches Cellino made public that he was considering sacking Hockaday. Three days later, after defeat by Bradford in the League Cup, he did sack him.  Neil Redfearn was put in temporary charge and duly won the next game 1-0 against Bolton.   He followed this with wins against Huddersfield (3-0) and away to Bournemouth (3-1) but on 23rd September a new permanent manager arrived - The Slovenian Darko Milanic.  He lasted all of thirty two days (eight less than Brian Clough) during which the club recorded no wins in six games. Cellino (who had got through 36 managers in 22 years at Cagliari) sent him on his way.  This time he appointed Redfearn on a permanent contract and his second game in charge was the 2-2 draw with The Addicks in November at Elland Road when his team let slip the lead twice.

There followed an unremarkable couple of months during which Leeds failed to win two games in succession and, after a late equaliser got them a draw with Birmingham on 17th January, they had dropped to twentieth place, just three points clear of Millwall in twenty second.  Amazingly, they then won five of their next six games, including doing the double over Bournemouth and winning 1-0 away at Middlesbrough.  By late February they were in 11th place.  Sounds familiar ?

They were undefeated in March but have had a disastrous April. The month began with the suspension of assistant coach Steve Thompson (not our Steve Thompson) for an "internal matter". There has been no further comment on this, but Redfearn was reported as to be "considering his position" when the news originally broke.  Since then Leeds have lost 0-3 to Blackburn; 3-4 at Wolves; 1-2 to Cardiff and 0-2 to Norwich on Tuesday.  There have also been rumours of pressure not to select leading goalscorer Mirco Antenucci as he has a clause in his contract that offers renewal if he scores twelve goals. He currently has ten.

So we seem to have two teams suffering from fatigue and looking forward to the end of the season.  Tony Watt and Igor Vetokele were both below par at Bolton and seem to be playing through injury.  Has the time come to rest them ?  Without them, we rely on goals from Bulot and JBG or maybe a Buyens penalty. One disappointment this season has been the lack of goals from our defence.  Nothing from our full-backs or from Ben Haim, Johnson or Gomez and just one from Bikey.   Dervite and Morrison were prolific in comparison.

Leeds are hardly a frightening strike force either.  Ross McCormack scored four at The Valley last season but the £11m they got from Fulham for him does not seem to have been productively re-invested. Billy Sharpe and Tony Morison have not set the world alight.  The player to watch might be highly rated twenty year old midfielder Alex Mowatt.

Sorry to say this but it looks like another 1-1 draw.