leeds united 1-1 fulham: cook’s matchesBack
“Boooo!” booed the few lost souls that huddled together to form a crowd while Leeds United played Fulham at football. “Greedy bastard! McContract!”
It was one way to pass the time, I suppose. Ross McCormack consistently made it sound absurd, though. On one occasion, when a Fulham player fired a misplaced pass beyond McCormack, the crowd rose to point and laugh; before they could fully voice their derision, McCormack had plucked the ball out of the air an inch before it crossed the byline, then passed it to a Fulham team mate.
On another occasion he was booed after killing a cross field pass stone dead with his first touch as he shaped up dangerously on the edge of our penalty area. Mirco Antenucci tried the same thing several times, but the ball always bounced off his foot to somewhere awkward. Still, Antenucci wears our shirt, so he was applauded off the pitch.
We’ll boo Lewis Cook one day, and if the trend of years of diminishing returns continues, I dread to think how bad the midfielder in the white shirt will be that we’ll applaud in his stead.
What a goal, though. Against Fulham, Cook scored a goal that I like to think will be treasured by Leeds fans for years; but then I think of all the brilliant goals I watched Ross McCormack score for us, goals I thought we could treasure for years, and about the tweet from a Leeds fan I saw last night: Ross McCormack’s “history with Leeds United is erased from my memory.”
Erased and replaced with… what? Cook’s screamer, perhaps, but it’s been a long time since McCormack left to wait for that; and if rules are rules, that also has a sell-by date dependent on Cook’s future transfer. It seems peculiar, while we support a club where joy on the pitch is served in such meagre rations, to so easily reject happiness.
Well, I for one won’t reject Cook’s goal. After forensically examining Wootton’s OG against Watford, I feel like I owe the same analysis to Cook, but what can I conceivably say about what he did? No warning, no backlift, no question of Lonergan getting a fingertip to it; Cook took a lesson from Alex Mowatt and, by applying pure positive aggression to the ball, achieved pure, positive beauty.
Perhaps pure aggression is underselling it. Cook looked up first, saw where Lonergan was, and set the ball on a path that Lonergan could not intercept. That takes more than aggression, but what it actually takes, only a player like Lewis Cook can know.
It was a shame the goal came so close to half-time, because once it was scored, and once the other players had recovered, United played like they meant it for the remaining seven minutes of the half. That was a pleasant reversal from the first thirty-eight, when United had played like they meant to be hammered out of sight by Fulham.
Fulham’s goal was easy, and their other chances were easily come by, and for long stretches of the game Fulham’s players were simply receiving stray passes from Leeds players and using the ball to commence another attack. McCormack was the best player on the pitch, and part of me wishes Sol Bamba hadn’t shown such agility in clearing his best chance to score off the line and onto the crossbar; I’d like McCormack to get his goal against Leeds so he can just do whatever it is he’s got to do, either celebrate or not celebrate, and get it out of his (and our) system. Like playing in the Premier League, though, it feels like one of those things that just isn’t going to happen for him.
For him, or for us. After half-time Leeds reverted mostly to dismal type, and it became harder to cling to the memory of Cook’s goal. Lewie Coyle had a good league debut at right-back, certainly enough to suggest that he can get some experience there until Berardi is fit, instead of persisting with Wootton. “For a couple of weeks he has been one of our best players in training,” Evans announced after the game, just to underline that we could still be in the FA Cup, after all.
Ahead of Coyle, though, Leeds don’t have much, and neither Dallas, Erwin or Botaka (begrudgingly given another four minutes) were able to lift United out of the drear attempts at attacking that set in when Doukara and Antenucci start together; although to be fair, the last ten minutes — including a pantomime red card for Amorebieta, a laughing stock from the moment he protested to all who would look about his wounded right tit — were more entertaining than anything else in the game, apart from Cook’s goal.
Those ten minutes won’t be remembered, though, and this game overall will fade, including the routine post-match hyperbole from Steve Evans. Considering it’s still bloody February, Evans is talking an awful lot lately about what he’s going to do next season — “We all know what’s going to happen in the summer, Leeds United is going to build a squad to challenge for promotion” — so much so that I believe the cliché that applies is, ‘The lady doth protest too much.’ When it comes to next season, Evans is answering questions nobody is asking him; but that might be because he’s aware that people above him are asking the questions.
Steve Evans will leave Leeds some day, of that there’s no doubt; I guess Lewis Cook will leave some day, too. I already know which one I will remember more fondly, and I just hope that we all remember that on the days when they both come back.