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leeds united 0-2 blackburn rovers: where to start

leeds united 0-2 blackburn rovers: where to start


I honestly don’t know where to start. I just hope Steve Evans does, because I get the feeling this is far from finished.

This game was finished after six minutes, but you probably know that by now. Even from inside the ground Blackburn’s opener, after seventeen seconds, felt like a goal that would be heard around the world. (Thanks again, Sky, for moving this to Thursday night so all the world could see.) People coming in a few minutes late didn’t have to be told what had happened. Somehow they knew already. And they didn’t have to wait long to see another.

The game didn’t have to be over at 2–0. This season I’ve seen Leeds Ladies do this twice. Before coming back from three weeks of cup matches and thumping Chorley 5–2 last weekend, they were having a bad patch of form, characterised by letting teams take 2–0 leads within ten minutes. Leeds Ladies, however, have players who have pride, and who when they make mistakes work hard to put them right. Against Morecambe they were level by half-time and won 4–2; against Chester-le-Street they were again level by half-time, but had to make do with a 2–2 draw.

Leeds Ladies next home game is against Tranmere at Garforth Town on Sunday November 15th at 2pm. It costs £3. I can’t guarantee they’ll win. I can guarantee they won’t let you down.

But Leeds United were never fighting back against Blackburn. Although the stats show Blackburn have more wins at Elland Road since April than we do, they should leave Leeds under a cloud of shame that they couldn’t win by more. The first half was easy; Blackburn Rovers’ players could basically do what they wanted with the ball, and if they’d been better, or wanted it more, they could have walked the ball into the net every seventeen seconds on the regular.

It’s hard to say what Leeds could have done better, because there isn’t much that could have been worse. The main reason to single players out for criticism would be to reserve Gaetano Berardi for praise for his constant effort, and Jordan Botaka, for a substitute appearance that was as good as we could have hoped for. The rest of them could just be rolled up like a ball of old socks and binned.

Another reason to mention individual performances is because of who some of those individuals were. Lewis Cook, by far our best player and brightest hope, could hardly place a pass. Luke Murphy, whose career was turned around by Steve Thompson and Neil Redfearn, could hardly kick a ball. Sam Byram, still gifted whatever anyone says, couldn’t kick the ball forward if his Premier League future depended on it. Sol Bamba, there to lead on the pitch, got himself banned from the next game through needless dissent. Chris Wood can’t jump, and harsh as it is, can’t complain about the ironic cheers when he does win a header.

Are all these players — players we count among our ‘best’ — as bad as they looked against Blackburn? Steve Evans seems to think some players definitely are; he said after the game he needs “five or six” new ones. I don’t fancy his chances of having that wish granted; I also fear that we’re approaching Stewart & Kebe levels of desperation in the loan market. (How bad must Will Buckley be in training not to dislodge Dallas, who was anonymous again?) And after bringing in a clutch of new faces in the summer, bringing in a half-dozen more feels about as productive as changing the manager every dozen games. Casper Sloth, remember, is still here, somewhere; Tomasso Bianchi, too.

The problem is that, as with choosing the manager(s), the club isn’t doing a good enough job of choosing the players, and that’s down to the performance in the President’s Suite; the club isn’t doing good things from top to bottom. I’m not sure I subscribe to the idea of ‘football men’; that just seems like shorthand for keeping Harry Redknapp in work. But take a look at Clique Cellino at the average game, and tell me which of them looks like they know what they’re doing.

Massimo Cellino, who had never run a club in England before last season and has admitted to being naive about almost everything (‘Apparently we had a player called Cameron Stewart…’)? Terry George, who didn’t know one end of a football pitch from another until Massimo came along, but now poses for selfies on the East Stand balcony as if he is Lord of Ireland Road? Irland Road. Elland Street. Elland Road! Edoardo Cellino, who faithfully turns up to every game, no doubt wondering how come his brother’s more senior duties as vice-president involve following spring break from continent to continent? Andrea, or whatever he’s called, Edoardo’s own miniature Terry George, plucked from a furniture sales floor in Miami to sit in the director’s box and do… what? What does he do, apart from make people double take to make sure he’s not Jonny Howson?

There is no understanding of English league football in Leeds United’s boardroom. Which is a problem, because Leeds United play in the English Football League. And nights like these make me wonder why any of us are bothering, when we’re all so ill-equipped. What does Terry George get from being tweeted abuse all night, apart from exactly what he deserved for his culturally-deaf second-half tweet in defence of his leader? What does Massimo Cellino get from being the king of shit? What does Lewis Cook get from trying to land balls on Chris Wood’s always misplaced head? What do the fans get from paying fistfuls of hard-earned money to sit in the cold and moan on a Thursday night?

None of this is what any of us are in this for, and yet it’s what we’re getting, week after week.

There were cheers when Chris Wood made his way to the touchline to be substituted. There were boos when people realised that Doukara was replacing him. With his first touch, Doukara let the ball bounce off his thigh, into his stomach, and out for a throw-in. Then there was laughter. Oh well, I thought. I’ve no idea what I’m supposed to be finding funny anymore, but I was laughing too.

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