Football is full of pointless, overused stock-phrases, blurted out by uninsightful, unimaginative commentators on a regular basis thanks to a lack of originality or real drama to report on. "You couldn't make this up", for example, is usually reserved for situations that, when realistically considered, wouldn't be that hard to come up with when brainstorming ideas for a sports movie. "Welcome to the Premier League" was rolled out in Jurgen Klopp's first game in charge of Liverpool after the ball had been smashed against the bar from a corner. How exactly the Premier League differs in ball-to-crossbar collisions compared to the other major European leagues is information I simply don't have to hand, but I assume the reality isn't quite as stark as Darren Fletcher would lead us to believe.
Another one I tend to balk at, when watching a game or reading an article, is the idea that a team "needs three points". Now, I'll admit that there are times when clubs particularly need three points to stave off the threat of relegation, or make a final push for the title, but in all honesty, surely every team is playing for those three points, regardless of how much they need them. Well, and not for the first time in my life, I'm about to become a massive hypocrite, because in terms of tomorrow's game against Blackburn Rovers? My word do Leeds United need three points.
The past few days have been, as Malcolm Tucker would put it, a complete and utter ruddy mess.* The boardroom has been blown wide open by feature pieces in the Independent and Daily Mail, both of which have made sweeping accusations against Massimo Cellino and his day-to-day running of the club. Cellino himself has been disqualified as owner of the club by the Football League, subject to an appeal due to be lodged today, and could potentially be staring down the barrel of a preliminary 8 month ban to go along with a multitude of legal cases being brought against him. On the pitch, Leeds showed a marked improvement last week against Fulham, but failed to capitalise on that momentum in a disappointing 1-1 draw with Bolton, despite the league's bottom club being reduced to 10 men.
Leeds are yet to score a goal from open play under Steve Evans (having only scored 6 in total this season) and have still not won a home game since the 2-1 victory over Ipswich in March, and the supporters are beginning to grow weary of paying big prices to watch losses or draws. This season's stand out performer is out with a virus for the foreseeable future, the other has been moved out of position to cover for him, and the team's star player is currently sat in front of him, out of position on the left side of midfield.
I think it's fair to say that, yes, Leeds need a win tomorrow night.
Helpfully, Blackburn Rovers offer some promise as an opponent. A club suffering from similar boardroom mismanagement, Rovers have been disappointing this season, sitting a point behind Leeds in 18th place. Even with prolific striker Jordan Rhodes hitting 7 goals so far, Blackburn have only managed 12 altogether, the same number as Leeds. Much like Bolton, the away side tomorrow night represent a hurdle for Steve Evans that he is fully expected to overcome (don't laugh, come on) but he will have to hope that his players are able to perform more clinically than they did at the weekend. Leeds managed 7 shots in the game at the Macron Stadium, with just 1 on target.
More worrying for Leeds fans than the presence of the aforementioned Jordan Rhodes (despite the fact that United couldn't keep out Shola Ameobi on Saturday) is the fact that Leeds have not beaten Blackburn since 2004. In the 7 meetings since then, Rovers have won 5, including the last 4 games between the two sides. Last season saw a 3-0 demolition job at Elland Road, as Rhodes, Cairney and Spearing capitalised on a Rodolph Austin red card. Rhodes, in his 6 games against Leeds, has scored 4 times. In order for the home side to turn around the poor of run of form (both at home and against Blackburn) they will have to keep the Scot quiet come Thursday night, or at least outscore him.
H&S Prediction: 2-1
If Leeds can recapture the kind of performance they displayed against Fulham last week and keep Rhodes sufficiently quiet, they should win this one. The home form has to change at some point, and the players will be determined to turn things round under Evans, who doesn't shy away from admitting the shortcomings of the squad so far. Hopefully it won't require another penalty to dig us out of trouble, but as cliche as it sounds, anything will do.
As for Mr Cellino, well it's yet another week of abject embarrassment for Leeds fans. Once again the club has been dragged out into the press to be pointed at as an example of shoddy ownership and all-round incompetence. If he does choose to appeal against his ban, then I would imagine he'll be sorely disappointed with the outcome. His disqualification will leave Leeds in yet another state of purgatory, wondering who is running things in his absence, and whether he really has nothing to do with the decisions being made. The future court cases looming over the club will surely mean more bans in the future, if Cellino decides to carry on of course, which means that stability for the club and its staff is even further away than it has ever been before.
Debates in the past have stemmed from the idea that Cellino has been acting in the best interests of the club (or the idea that he hasn't) but the evidence is now so far weighed on the "hasn't" pile, that it seems ridiculous for anyone to be able to argue otherwise, try as they might. Love him or loathe him, you can't deny that this has got to stop. For the good of Leeds United as an entity, Massimo Cellino has to go.
More like this at Harte and Soul