Leeds United: Last Night Was A Kick In The Teeth For Fans

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Patrick Gunn
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Well, it had to happen at some point, and Tuesday night proved to be Uwe Rosler's "Wrestlemania 30" moment, as Mick McCarthy's Ipswich ended the 6 game unbeaten run Leeds had built up under the German coach. A Tommy Smith header in the 32nd minute was all it took, as Leeds struggled to get out of second gear, despite an altered starting lineup that saw Luke Murphy and Mirco Antenucci brought back into the fray. In rather typical fashion, the home side's flat, stuttering performance was exacerbated by the off-field confirmation that Executive Director Adam Pearson had stepped down from his role with immediate effect, after only 4 months in the role, leaving a number of Leeds fans wondering what to expect next from this never-ending roller-coaster of a club.

First and foremost, ignoring the boardroom antics for now and focusing on the team itself, Tuesday's performance was poor. Leeds were flat, lacking in inspiration, and devoid of any composure, both at the back and up front. Ipswich's goal, scored by Tommy Smith (who, let's be honest, seems to play for around 11 Championship teams at the same time), was entirely preventable, a harmless looking corner drifting over the reliably unreliable, flapping hands of Marco Silvestri before being sliced back to the near post, where an assumedly dumbfounded Smith was waiting to simply place his free header into the now-open net. Silvestri's ever-more obvious inability to perform basic goalkeeping functions was compounded by the sheer profligacy of the United attack, which mustered 1 (yes, you read that right, ONE) shot on target in the entire game, despite the inclusion of both Chris Wood and Mirco Antenucci. Some will point to the late penalty shout that saw Sam Byram booked for diving, but it's hard to point the finger at the referee after what was a fairly dire performance. That being said, the more I watch the challenge, the more I think Byram was clipped. I don't think Byram is a diver, and the challenging Knudsen looked worriedly to the referee before the call was made. Only after Byram was cautioned did the defender feel comfortable to get into his face to tell him off. Unfortunately, the call was largely reminiscent of last season - Leeds were given just 1 penalty at Elland Road in the 14/15 season, out of only 4 awarded to them, compared to 13 conceded. Only Blackpool gave away more.

In my preview of last night's game, I called for Uwe Rosler to look at making changes to a side that had looked lacklustre in their previous game against Brentford. I, like many others, was hoping to see the return of Luke Murphy and Mirco Antenucci to the starting line up and, come 7pm, our prayers were answered - there they were. It looked, however, like Rosler had stuck with his preferred 4-3-3 formation, with Dallas - Wood - Antenucci as the front three and Murphy playing alongside Cook and Adeyemi in the midfield. Come kick-off, Leeds lined up in a 4-4-2, with Antenucci and Wood up front, Dallas on the right, and Lewis Cook on the left... Yeah, I raised my eyebrow at that too. I'm sure Cook, given his general awesomeness as a footballer, is more than capable of playing on the left side of midfield, but I don't think it's out of line to ask why you would put him there? A bold claim perhaps, but I firmly believe Cook is the best thing we've got at this club, so the idea that he would be sacrificed to facilitate a formation that Rosler had staunchly rebuffed just 3 days previously is massively confusing.

Speaking of massively confusing things, that brings us on to the biggest story of the night; Adam Pearson's departure. Announced minutes after the final whistle had blown, Pearson's exit from the club after just 4 months in his role was a swift kick to the collective groin of a fanbase that were already down after such a poor performance. It's no exaggeration to say that Pearson has been nothing short of formidable since his arrival at the club in May, opening avenues to significant commercial investment and helping to attract the signatures of players like Sol Bamba and Chris Wood. More importantly, in the eyes of the more cynical (or realistic) fans, he had somehow managed to keep a lid on Massimo Cellino, allowing Uwe Rosler to work under circumstances his predecessor could only dream of. With Pearson gone, the uncertainty that follows Cellino, like the inevitable thunderstorm that follows a vaguely warm summer day, is back, and some are now wondering what this means for the immediate future of Uwe Rosler.

7 games into the season, and Leeds are sat in a position pretty similar to where they ended up at the end of the last campaign. In fact, at this point last season, Leeds had 2 more points than Rosler's team, but had lost 3 games in hugely unconvincing fashion. All in all, it seems pretty obvious that this squad, under Rosler's tutelage, is a lot stronger than the one Dave Hockaday lead out at The Den in August 2014, but that could do little to sway Cellino's hand if the Leeds owner feels that Rosler isn't doing well enough. Neil Redfearn was openly disappointed after Matt Child stepped down from the same position last season, leaving Redfearn with no mediator between himself and Cellino, and rumour has it that Pearson has already stepped in once to protect Rosler's job, after the 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday. With no Pearson, Rosler may start to understand just what Redfearn was going through before he was brought in to replace him.

This all comes across as a rather extreme reaction to what is, in reality, the first loss of the season for a resilient Leeds side, but after a decade of constant disappointment, the news of Pearson's departure is a huge red flag to a lot of supporters that now tend to expect disappointment from their club. This summer represented the first glimmerings of genuine optimism in years for many fans, with a healthy dollop of skepticism following the previous season's off-field meltdown, but Pearson's approach looked to have broken the trend of the club repeatedly failing to act accordingly over the summer break. Many of those who defended Cellino's ownership pointed to Pearson as a turning point in the Italian's time at the club, claiming it as proof that Massimo was finally willing to listen to the opinion of another person. The official club statement claimed that Cellino was "keeping the position open" for Pearson whenever he wanted to return, which could suggest he won't be looking to replace the Hull FC owner any time soon. If that is the case, who now is going to be the lid on Cellino's over-flowing pot? More importantly, who would dare take the responsibility on?

As a result of all this, the weekend trip to Milton Keynes is beginning to look extremely precarious. 8 points from 24 available looks a lot worse than 2 defeats in 8 games, and if Karl Robinson's plastic club can overturn Rosler's team, the reaction from the Elland Road boardroom could be monumental without the apparent calming influence of Adam Pearson. In no way do I believe that Rosler deserves to be under the kind of pressure he could find himself under come Saturday evening, but that's simply the curse of the Leeds job under Cellino, like it or not. Whatever way you look at it, a big performance is required from Leeds at the weekend, not only for the team itself, but for the immediate future of its head coach.

Sigh... All this nonsense after a 1-0 loss.

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