Saturday, 9 August 2014

Leeds United: Baby steps and babysitting



Author: Colin Sowerby
Twitter: @cas707

For Leeds United, there’s a long long way to go, but don’t shoot Hockaday, he’s only the messenger.


Leeds got beat 2-0 by Millwall.

Crisis! Chaos! Sack the manager, sorry I mean ‘Head Coach’. Sack Hockaday. This and a lot of other nonsense is what I read on Twitter this afternoon.

You would think that Leeds United fans would get it by now. It’s a scenario not at all unfamiliar. Poor marking at set pieces, defensive errors, an ineffectual midfield, little or no shots on target, and those that came were either tame or wayward. A team, that against its manager’s wishes, forgets what they have been told and ultimately resort to long ball tactics.

It happened under Warnock. It happened under McDermott. It’s happening again.

Look at that team that started today. LOOK AT IT. The same old players, the same old ethos – “ooh, I don’t want to lose the ball, better pass sideways or back, I don’t want to be the one to lose the ball.”

Leeds are defunct of quality players. What they have is workmanlike. There isn’t a Snodgrass, Howson, Gradel, McAllister, Strachan, Bowyer, Kewell etc. who is willing to take that ball and take responsibility. The current crop of players would rather not fail, than take the risk to win, but potentially lose the ball and embarrass themselves.

You won’t like this, but the last player we had with that ‘quality’ was El Hadji Diouf.
He was never fit. He only operated at walking pace. Yet, even still, he took control, and he was happy to! And he was dangerous. Why? Because he was a catalyst. He could create. He was brave. He wasn’t afraid to fail.

I don’t want to knock the players, because they are good players, but they need that steel that comes from one or two key players. Everyone knows that Sam Byram and Luke Murphy are real talents, but they need help, support and confidence. The sort of confidence that a Strachan and Batty provided to a young Gary Speed. Right now, Sam Byram is merely firefighting. The whole team are firefighting. Perhaps Tommaso Bianchi is that ‘quality’? Let’s wait and see.
Now, let’s get to Hockaday. Is he to blame? For me, no. He’s putting the chess pieces together. He’s been given the chess pieces. It’s not his fault that his bishop is Luke Murphy and not Robert Snodgrass or his rook is Rodolph Austin and not Max Gradel. He has set up his orchestra but they are all playing bum notes. Replace Hockaday with another conductor and you would hear the same music.

It’s not all bad news though. Hockaday will have learned a few lessons today. You learn from mistakes. Substitutes Poleon, Cook and Smith have something about them. Noel Hunt and Michael Tonge do not. He now knows where he needs to strengthen.

What I take from this game is that Leeds need that injection of quality. Southampton and Sunderland are interested in Sam Byram and I can see why. Because with quality around him, he will prosper. He will be able to perform at 100%. At Leeds, the quality isn’t there. He can’t do what he is capable of doing.

Massimo Cellino said that ''Hockaday is OK, he just needs babysitting.'' I think that Leeds have taken a few baby steps forward under Hockaday, but there’s a long long way to go yet. Maybe Massimo is babysitting Hockaday, but David Hockaday is also babysitting this current roster of Leeds players and trying to nurture them into a team. And are they good babies? As sure as eggs is eggs, they are not the A grade quality of babies that David O’Leary had to babysit.

David Hockaday can only use the tools that are available. And you have to ask yourself the question, are they good enough?

And if not, then don’t shoot the messenger, shoot the Gaffer. And that’s you Massimo. That’s you.

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