leicester 0 – 0 leeds: meet the new bossBack
So, Leeds, that’s what Planet Earth feels like. Most Leeds fans have been living on the excited edges of outer space since The Chelsea Beard was shaved, but at some point we were going to have to return and breathe the same oxygen as everyone else. 0-0 at Leicester. That was down to earth with a bump, but also with a bounce.
Typically for Leeds, even if we couldn’t get three points from the King Power Stadium, we nicked the oxygen away from the Leicester fans who seemed to be locked in an airless room from kick off to full time. This was Leicester’s first home game of the season, and Leeds’ first away; just another home match for Leeds, then. “I’m glad we stayed quiet so our players could concentrate,” said an irritated Leicester fan on Twitter.
The singing was a distraction from the football; the football wasn’t great. In one of those managerial manoeuvres that leaves fans yawning (or singing, if you’re Leeds), Nigel Pearson’s fruity three-at-the-back formation was nullified by Brian McDermott’s tactics and stuff, meaning the ball rarely got anywhere near the goal. Leicester hit the post late on. That was about it.
When teams are cancelling each other out that way you need someone with some spark or inventiveness to make something happen, and none of Varney, Hunt or McCormack, for all their willing running, showed much of either. Varney’s Varney, he runs and he falls and he whines, but now and then he’ll race past a full back or knock in a killer pass or head a cross in; I’m not sure what Hunt does yet, but he tends to do it near the corner flag. McCormack, to whom we’re all looking for playmaking, keeps dropping deep to try and make something happen but then deciding he doesn’t fancy his chances at the back edge of midfield and going back up front again, like a labrador puppy seeing the sea for the first time.
They’ll work it out, because their work rate can’t be faulted, and because they’re sticking to their tasks; it’s the second league match of a new season with a new system, and this is plan B anyway (plan A involved wingers, and you know the rest). With this formation we do have the tools to change things, though: Dom Poleon caused a stir on the bench and then caused a stir on the pitch with his pace, while Mathieu Smith knocked one header across the six yard box which Green was just too slow, and too offside, to bundle home. We’ve got options up front and they’re coming together; it’ll just take time, and maybe for McCormack to get on one of his scoring streaks.
While it comes together, the first clean sheet in five competitive games is a sign that Leeds will be keeping themselves in games, rather than letting themselves down like so often last season; and the man they call The Beast played no small part in that. We’ve been looking for a midfield destroyer for years; Amdy Faye dominated the centre spot alright but not much else, and Michael Brown dominated the referee on occasions, and we only had glimpses last season of the force that is Rodolph Austin. Relatively rested now, though, and upgraded to captain, Rudy was man of the match by a distance and was the reason Leicester struggled to get within an eyebrow’s bite of Paddy Kenny.
Before the game Amitai Winehouse at The Square Ball had backed Austin to shake off some of the scapegoating that came his way towards the end of last season, as tiredness and a shattered (looking) leg took their toll; go back to the first month of his arrival, and you find Dave Simpson at Sabotage Times praising The Beast’s ‘be everywhere – do everything – shoot from anywhere’ style. Brian McDermott described him yesterday as “a special person,” and for Leeds en France, “a captain who leads the team with his actions rather than his words is exactly what the fans demanded for years.” It was good to see Rodolph Austin back, and it felt completely right that he should be wearing the captain’s armband.
Scribbled in the ‘con’ column would be his apparent quietness, whether his often wayward shooting is a great example for others to follow, and whether his passing is good enough. The emails fans used to get from Lee ‘Pelts’ Peltier used to be quite wordy affairs, as he apologised for recent performances and pleaded with us to buy tickets; I imagine The Beast will only email after a defeat to let us know: “No apologies. I’ve already debited your card for tickets.” Set the hushed demeanour against his history in Norwegian rap, though, and just accept what Amitai called his “thunderbastard” strikes for what they are – fabulous entertainment that will send us crazy when they work – and those worries ease.
I love his shooting from free kicks, by the way, and you should too: when we’re looking for imagination, it’s great to have a player who sees a free kick given near the dugouts and pushes other players away because he thinks he can score from there. More power to him. As for the passing – it’s the ambitious balls that he tends to screw up, making them more obvious; as long as he can win the ball and get it to Murphy or Green without letting in a counter-attack, he’ll do just fine. Or he can just keep it and run. There are few better at that.
“It was such an honour and I was very shocked,” Austin told the YEP, “I told Brian that I needed to think about it because it was a big challenge.” Brian told him to just bloody take it, but described how Rudy’s modesty carried on after the game: “He got man-of-the-match and said ‘this is for everybody’. That’s the kind of lad he is.”
It’s the kind of lad we need, too. We don’t currently have the combustive talents in the side who can put teams away, but the combustion engine of Austin will keep us in contention while we try. A hard-fought home win and a scrappy away draw against two of last season’s play-off semi-finalists are good results, but suggest we won’t be dominating the division this season. We can, though, dominate a few shy midfielders; that little albino kid at Derby caught us Beastless when he took the mick at Pride Park last season. Look forward to seeing your bloodlust satisfied on Saturday 5th October.
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