sheffield wednesday 2-0 leeds united: nailed onBack
There were many good reasons behind Massimo Cellino’s attempt to play hardball with Sky over their broadcast scheduling.
The apparent financial cost to the club; the lack of recovery time for the players; the inconvenience for the fans.
There was one other implication that was missed about Sky’s insistence that we played Sheffield Wednesday on a Saturday lunchtime: having to endure the rest of the afternoon’s football, when we had lost, and the rest of the afternoon’s football featured the following goalscorers:
Fabian Delph, Paul Robinson, Ross McCormack, Robert Snodgrass, David Norris, Billy Sharp, Cameron Stewart, Nicky Ajose (2).
That’s nine goals in one day, before you chuck in a tenth from Steve Morison on Sunday; compared to the league goals accrued by Leeds United’s starting line-up in the entire season so far: four.
Pretty soon we’ll be able to leave our latest Sky-dictated Saturday-seven-a.m. defeat behind and tune in for the three o’clock kickoffs to hear how Sam Byram is getting on, too; there’s a grim inevitability to it. That’s how this weekend felt; not just the defeat, but the manner of it; not just the ex-players scoring, but the way the cosmos seemed to be taking the monumental piss.
It’s either a pisstake or a conspiracy. Against Sheffield Wednesday Steve Evans was convinced he was the victim of a conspiracy while he was taking a piss. “When people talk about, is there an agenda with Leeds United?” he said to [Adam Pope on BBC Leeds](http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03fpfmm) after the game, “Well, let the football authorities come and charge me tomorrow. There is an agenda.”
If the Football League really is corrupt to this degree, I expect Anthony Taylor will be hauled in front of Shaun Harvey on Monday morning and asked what he thinks he’s doing make it look so bloody obvious. As it is, it’s much more likely that Shaun Harvey will spend Monday morning dictating a just snarky enough disrepute charge for Evans, while hissing ‘Exxxxcellent’ to himself and sending Snapchats to Ken Bates.
About the disallowed goal, then; a monumental mistake, but not something any conspiracy or agenda could ever have come up with. After all, this plan involves Leeds United scoring a goal, a situation so unlikely it would have been laughed out of the dimly lit basement when the shadowy gang met to hatch their scheme. More simply, Taylor thought the substitution had been made, didn’t realised the player near the touchline was a dawdling Forestieri, and shouldn’t have restarted the game while Wednesday had twelve players on the pitch. Whatever happened next, that’s the mistake he had to rectify, and it would have been rectified the same way had Wednesday broken upfield from our corner and scored.
Case closed. But why, then, if it wasn’t the referee and it wasn’t the Football League, didn’t Leeds United win? The performance, in the first half especially, was not bad at all. I’m still Jordan Botaka’s biggest fan, but that’s because I crave excitement; instead, in Mustapha Carayol, we’ve doubled Stuart Dallas, and what we have from both wings now is direct attacking and urgent, accurate crossing. All season Leeds have counter attacked like a gang of homesick snails, but with Carayol and Dallas breaking forward, Murphy and Cook had the impetus to chase upfield after that, and Leeds looked all the better for it.
But Murphy plays like his goalscoring days at Crewe were all just a dream he had under anaesthetic, while Cook seems determined to extend the David Batty comparisons to his goalscoring. Alex Mowatt can score from nothing, and loves scoring from nothing, but by the time he came on the game was gone.
We were reliant, instead, on our striker to score; but that was Souleymane Doukara, and he’s done enough scoring for a bit. To be fair he did hit the post with one of his trademark low shots from the edge of the penalty area, but apart from that a goalmouth scramble involving Lewis Cook and a great deal of airkicking was all he offered. Sheffield Wednesday soon had a goalmouth scramble of their own, and Gary Hooper made a better job of it than Leeds did.
It’s not Doukara’s fault, but with some Byram cash due — and that’s going to be spent on the team, right? — and Wolves rumoured to be up for another crack at signing Chris Wood after we beat them to him in the summer, our attack could do with a rethink.
Improvements to the team, like Carayol, are piecemeal, and have been for a while; it feels like a long time since Leeds United have taken to the field with a formation and tactics that suit the players. We feed the ball to a lone striker, expecting him to be Gary Hooper-level clinical, but none of our strikers are; we ask Murphy and Cook to get into the box to score, but neither are finishers. When the tactics are right, the players are wrong; when the players are right — and Cook, Mowatt, Taylor and Byram should all be very right — the tactics can’t be designed to suit them.
Cellino gets the flack for this, and is the focus of the anger when Leeds do things like lose to Sheffield Wednesday, as if he could have directly intervened to stop Marco Silvestri giving away a corner because he just loves a showdive, or giving the ball to Gary Hooper because, no matter how much he improves, he is at bottom an idiot.
But the flack is justified because we are still feeling the after effects of Cellino’s first summer, when he raided football’s second tiers for Bianchi, Sloth, Doukara, Antenucci, Berardi, Bellusci, Silvestri, Benedicic, Del Fabro; then realised after one game that the Championship was better than he thought, so went out and got some more: Montenegro, Adryan, Cooper, Sharp, N’Goyi, Cani, Bamba.
And he still got it wrong, in ways that the odd Bridcutt here and occasional Carayol there won’t fix; and he still doesn’t have the patience to let anybody try to fix it properly; and Leeds United are still 17th in Division Two, as we sell one of the few true talents the club possesses.
There might have been nothing Cellino could have done to prevent Leeds’ defeat on Saturday, but there is plenty he could have done over the last eighteen months to get us more than eight points away from the relegation places, while the play-off places — which are all anyone’s been talking about for weeks — are thirteen points above us.
Scott Wootton’s solid, he can do a job. Lewie Coyle had a good debut in the cup. Berardi will be back soon and he’s Leeds through and through. So we’ll be fine. Leeds United will have a right back and Leeds United will be fine, and if we repeat it over and over it might come true. That’s what you do with hope, isn’t it? You convince yourself that it’s true.
That’s the hope. But, some Saturday in the future, when we’ve lost at lunchtime and we’re all angry at our goalkeeper and our owner again, we’ll be hearing the name Sam Byram again. Whether it’s an agenda, a conspiracy, or maybe just maybe something to do with how Leeds United is being run, that’s the nailed on certainty.