leeds united 1 – 2 cardiff city: something to rememberBack
The sun went in, a cold wind crept in from the hills, rain fell, and winter returned: Leeds United, playing at home.
This was one of those games that, if you consider in too much depth, will leave you staring into an existential black hole. Just what was the point? And what’s the point of anything, anyway?
Those kinds of questions are behind the reason why so many Leeds fans were more excited for Josh Warrington’s fight on Saturday night than for this game; some to the extent that they preferred an afternoon in pubs in town than endure the leaden duty that was Leeds United vs Cardiff City.
After all, the atmosphere in Leeds Arena on the night, when Josh and Vinnie Jones walked to the ring, as Marching on Together was sung with genuine passion by 10,000 people, was truly unforgettable; the committed performance by a talented young man determined to make the people of this city proud of him was worthy of the atmosphere.
Leeds United, meanwhile, can’t defend corners, and Neil Redfearn can’t defend them, and the game against Cardiff would be better off forgotten. There were a number of United players in the Arena on Saturday night, and they might wonder why they have to go and see a boxing match to hear Leeds United fans singing Leeds United songs with such gusto. Leeds United fans might wonder something similar about why they’ve had to wait for a boxer to come along who is worthy of hearing them.
Redders didn’t mess about in his post-match comments, and to be fair to both of them, if there is friction between Redfearn and our recently back-in-town non-owner, they ought to put that aside and bond over the no-nonsense attitude they have in common. Cellino has sought to put his faith in yes-men, coaches (not managers) who will play his signings and endorse his suggested tactics; instead of looking for someone who will say yes to him all the time, he should recognise that in Redfearn he has something more valuable: someone who will agree with him when he is right.
I could imagine them over a couple of beers after this game, pulling no punches over what went wrong and who was shit and who was to blame and which one of these donkeys should be in on Sunday morning doing laps. Unfortunately it’s always highly likely that at some point Cellino is going to produce some highly random shop assistant his wife has taken a fancy to and seek his opinions, at which point Redders would probably be better off going to bed. Then he’ll wake up in the morning to find said shop-assistant has got his job. Ah well, the fantasy was nice while it lasted.
And that fantasy land beats thinking back to this match too much. Both teams were poor, and the game was weird. Whatever the circumstances surrounding the Cardiff fans’ boycott, we have to do whatever we can to ensure a continuing place for away supporters in football, because I don’t think I could take much more of the eerie silence that greeted Cardiff’s two soft, soft goals in this game. Even as their players ran around celebrating like mad, without the tell-tale noise from the back of the West Stand I was still moved to ask: have they actually scored?
Maybe I just need these things spelling out to me. Or maybe I just couldn’t believe that we’d conceded such awful goals. There are too many games left this season for the defence, and the team in general, to switch off like this; they can’t just stop defending corners as if it’s too much trouble. It wasn’t only for the goals; Silvestri made a very good save when yet another undefended aerial ball reached his back post, and it’s worth watching the highlights to see what he’s like when he’s angry. And boy was he angry.
Redfearn picked out his senior players as particularly guilty of not doing their jobs in this game, and while I’ve never been a great advocate of throwing too many kids in at once, it’s true that it’s the youngsters that keep stepping up for Leeds when there’s work to be done. So much so that we’re really feeling Lewis Cook’s absence in midfield since his injury; and he’s but a child compared to some of the better paid and more experienced players running out for Leeds.
Kalvin Phillips got a home debut and a goal in this one, and while he’ll face a higher standard of opposition on Tuesday night when Norwich visit – hi Jonny, hi Bradley – he might as well play in that one too, and let’s let him keep getting better. That could be the solution to too much chucking in at once; just gradually add them one at a time, every couple of games, until they look assured enough for us to risk another.
That’s pretty much what seems to have happened with Charlie Taylor, who provided the looping, wind-delayed cross that caught out Cardiff’s keeper and allowed Phillips to execute a composed finish into the unguarded net. As a replacement for Stephen Warnock he was a risk, but against Cardiff he had probably his best game yet, and you don’t look at him as a kid anymore; he’s the first choice left-back, and he’s playing like one, following Byram, Mowatt and Cook in their progression from raw debutants to first pick first teamers.
For Kalvin Phillips, at least, Saturday’s game will be unforgettable; and so for him I guess we should all try to remember what we can of it. That’s all we can really ask of the rest of this season, I reckon: for some new memories. The club’s season ticket campaign was launched on Saturday, and it’s good, but it’s nostalgic; it even generates nostalgia for a few players that are still here. For now.
We want sport to be memorable, and that’s why a night at the Arena watching Josh Warrington appeals so much more than an afternoon in the bitter cold watching a dead rubber second division football match. But to keep the fans coming back, Leeds United can’t rely on old memories all the time. There are still a few games left this season, and still time to give us something to remember.