When Massimo Cellino thankfully failed in his attempt to lure the limited Carl Robinson and turned to Garry Monk in the summer there was a frisson of excitement amongst the Elland Road faithful. A young, top flight quality manager with experience of getting promoted. The Italian has been unusually quiet since and appears to have left his executive team to get on with things while working on an investment/takeover deal and facing up to another ban.
Half way through the long, hard slog of a Championship season Leeds are sitting pretty in the play off positions and there is real belief that this is going to be a special year.
We have already enjoyed some special moments like the cup win over Norwich sealed by young Ronaldo Vieira’s penalty, the last gasp wins over Norwich away and Brentford at home, gubbing high flying Reading by pressing them so high that their centre backs turned into the Chuckle brothers and had more touches than any other outfield player “to me, to you”, beating moneybags Villa at home in the league and some champagne football in a sumptuous second half symphony conducted by Pablo Hernandez at Villa Park.
Monk’s management team have been nothing short of sensational, Pep Clotet has brought his knowledge of players, analytics and game management and James Beattie must take credit for the improvement of Chris Wood into the player we all know he should be and transforming Doukara from donkey to a very effective performer.
The young squad of players have bought into the system and the leaders we have been crying out for have appeared in abundance, right through the spine of the team.
Robert Green, after a shaky start (and we all know he has a ricket in him) is showing why he was an England player, Luke Ayling has been nothing short of a revelation at right back, the Bristol City fans mocked us when we bought him, they ain’t mocking now. Kyle Bartley is the classy, commanding leader at the back we’ve been desperate for alongside the cult that is Pontus Jansson, all dodgy hairdo and endeavor with Liam Cooper an able deputy. Charlie Taylor has Premier League clubs sniffing around him like rich cats round the cream, in his absence Gaetano Berardi, a Swiss lad who gets Leeds, has played left back effectively, with full commitment but less aplomb.
The 4-2-3-1 formation has showcased the talents of academy graduates Phillips & Vieira who have bossed hairy arsed internationals and protected the back four even though they are back ups to club captain Liam Bridcutt and Republic of Ireland international Eunan O’Kane.
If Hadi Sacko had composure to add to his blistering pace we would have a worldie on our hands, he has, however been involved in loads of our best attacking play and if he could square a ball would be in double figures of assists. Kemar Roofe is starting to show why splashed out all that dosh in the number 10 role where he fits best when standing in for Pablo Hernandez, the silkiest playmaker we’ve had in a long while. Dallas is easing back to full fitness and form after injury and at his best is a top class player at this level.
Upfront Chris Wood is having a season where he is punching his weight and will score 20 plus goals, bossing defences and leading the line, statistically the greatest striker in Europe:
League goals in 2016-17:
Chris Wood – 13
Luis Suárez – 12
Lionel Messi – 12
Cristiano Ronaldo – 10
Gonzalo Higuaín – 10
Big Douk who had more critics than fans before his turnaround has stood in when required to great effect.
The team, according to recently published stats is the tallest in the division, I bet that they’ve also got the biggest hearts and the biggest bollocks.
Even the potential banana skin of a home clash against bottom of the table in front of a sold out home crowd making up the third 30,000 plus attendance of the season had us fans expecting a win, not fearing an upset. The belief is strong. With all home areas sold out and Rotherham fans able to buy tickets on the day a few Leeds fans donned flat caps, smeared a bit of flour around and with a jaunty “ey up” tethered their whippets and snuck through the away turnstiles.
Monk’s first half team selection was gung ho but left little or no protection for the back four, leaving the crowd disgruntled. Game management came into play again with a half time change adding steel and drive to midfield in the shape of Vieira and pushing Hernandez forward and it paid off, delivering a typical Leeds performance, bullying the opposition with fluidity, tempo and energy. Garry Monk now has a 60% win ratio, sixty percent.
Most impressive of all is that everyone is pulling together, the fans appreciate the job the manager and players are doing, they see the effort and commitment and the good stuff alongside the dogged determination to grind out results even when the silky skills don’t come off and the manager and team appreciate the fans. The special bond is back between the management, players, fans and the city where there is a buzz and the kids wearing Leeds shirts for the first time in a long time.
January is an important month, pivotal in our history. If we can sign loanees Jansson and Hernandez on permanent deals, sort out Bartley & Sacko, and keep Charlie Taylor then add a speedy left winger and another proper striker the squad will be in awesome shape.
If the proposed investment/takeover by Andrea Radrizzani goes through and he has real cash and a plan then maybe at last Leeds fans all over the world will get our happy ending.