As Keats said, To Autumn – the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom friend of the maturing sun, conspiring with him how to load and bless, with fruit, the vines that round thatch-ed eaves run.
For those of you who never did English Lit at O level; as is with Leeds United, the team are maturing slowly under Garry-with-two-Rs leadership. There still is plenty of room for improvement before the winter cold sinks in, so let us just consider how far we have come before we start nit picking.
Our defence, which in previous seasons has seen us produce net negative figures generally, has gone from strength to strength. This, despite the loss of our Premiership standard right back – who hasn’t chalked up 3 starts in a row since he left us for the Mighty ‘Ammers. The usual Media scrum around losing our other Want-Away Taylor has died down some, since the emergence of the Terrible Trio of Capt Bartley, Jansson and Ayling, silencing the critics. It may even be possible that they are not wanting to press his departure for fear of unleashing a better defender, who may well be the last brick needed in the unstoppable defensive wall of the Mighty Leeds. Incidentally, I would still have Silvestri back at the drop of a hat.
Plaudits as well for the matching of O Kane (good swap for Lewis Cook) and young Kalvin Phillips. The pair of them are a good unit and despite their size and relative inexperience, they have carved out their midfield role with Ninja like precision. The rest of the midfield is where the maturing sun and Garry need to focus their attention on. We desperately missed Dallas on Saturday against Derby. I still think Sacko, Hernandez, Vieira and Roofe have skills, guile, speed and agility, as much as the next man, Mowatt. But they haven’t gelled yet and they need the likes of Dallas and the out of favour Murphy and Diagouraga to put in the extra challenge that is needed. The need is especially apparent when playing teams like Derby and Huddersfield, with a strong midfield. Mooy was unstoppable, and whilst the referee wasn’t giving us anything against the South Yorks Chihuahuas that day, his presence on the pitch was something that our team was sadly lacking.
Our finishing in the final third has also been underwhelming of late. Chris Wood works hard and he chases the ball down, like a goal hungry striker should. I still think we should play two up front, unpopular as it is nowadays. It’s all fair and square getting your wide players to put a cross in, but in my mind, there should be an option of a second man for the killer touch, in true Lee Chapman poacher style, should the keeper only manage to parry the save.
Our set pieces, especially from corners have got better after the shaky season start. Captain Bartley could have scored not once but twice at The Ipro, in his Weatherall-esque role in front of goal. We should have scored from that Antonsson shot as well, only the bar saved Derby from a draw, which would have been a fair result after the goal from Greens blunder early in the second half. Silvestri had his critics last year, I still think Garry should give him the Number 1 shirt back.
Thanks to Mandy and the staff at The Crowne Inn, Somercotes for the hospitality and the photos, which were posted on facebook before we all got back inside the pub. It is on days like these that we have to thank the Home Clubs for giving us the allocation we need.
The day was marred by poor Police and stewarding after the game, right in front of the coaches. I didn’t witness anything myself but apparently fans were being attacked. I am not entirely sure who was attacking who, as during half time a fellow Leeds fan threw a punch at one of our female members. 20 years ago, taking a picture meant a trip to Boots and waiting a week for them to develop it, I hope that social media was put to good use on Saturday, so that those responsible are brought to book. But after the tear gassing at Hull and the Norwich and Bradford flare incidents last season, I doubt if any of the footage will lead to appropriate action being taken against any of the perpetrators. I know there will be criticism at what I say, but some of our own fans need to take a long hard look at themselves before they start blaming others.
Considering Derby were one of the first clubs in the country to have a second generation, purpose built new stadium, there’s always had problems there post match – biggest ensemble of Elvis’s I’ve ever seen. Long gone are the days when rival fans were able to leave stadia in relative propriety together. After “The Cheese Wedge” was put out of commission for away fans during the Bates Era as a money making scheme, there has been continuing issues for our disabled / less able fans trying to leave the ground via The West Stand. The Club say that they, and the Police think it is better and safer for away fans to be housed there, after all £37 in advance or £42 on the day, is bound to be better. I don’t think there has been any difference in the activities of the Numskulls who stand on the corner outside McDonalds, shouting at anybody and everybody, since the change, and there certainly isn’t a reduction in the presence of the Police vans who are parked up opposite The East Stand. They all still seem to be sat inside, not doing very much or standing within three feet of the vans doing a very good job protecting themselves, most match days.
Finally, tickets. My apprehension about Norwich was unfounded, with the grand figure of 2400 being announced, and at £40 per adult, all I can say is, good ( nearly £100,000) decision Norwich! Leeds United, thankfully, has also made the game a loyalty one based on their “Away Tracker” system. Given that it was based on “3 or more away games” so far, this was an excellent idea, as the first 7 away fixtures included 3 long away games to QPR, Cardiff and Bristol and the Forest loyalty game. This is music to the ears for all hard working LUSC branch secretaries and other non season ticket holder dedicated fans. It is so disappointing to let down loyal fans when tickets are short and I hope that The Club will continue on this road. I have some sympathy with people who are just starting to travel away, but there are plenty of opportunities through the season at the larger allocation grounds, to get your loyalty points up for the next season. Any dedicated fan who travels from Harrogate to Bristol City on a Tuesday night or Brighton on a Friday night, deserves a ticket over the “one away per season” part timer. With any luck, Leeds will continue with this and the rest of the Championship (Premiership in the near future) clubs will treat the Leeds fixture as a money spinning cash cow, and give us a decent allocation for the coming seasons and years, or at least until I stop being the Branch Ticket Orderer.