With behind-the-scenes shenanigans once again dominating the agenda at Leeds United, Kyle Hulme attempts to make sense of it all…
Recognise those lyrics? I do. I was about 12 years old and my mum actually let me take my Playstation 2 with me when we went to the coast with a family friend for a weekend. Safe to say I drilled the game over that week, being the sociable pre-teen that I was, completing it to the soundtrack of the Country and Western radio station K-Rose, where I heard and sung along to that song more times than I care to admit.
Since then, the phrase has been a constant feature in my life; a few years later it started to describe how I’d make my way home from town; absolutely hammered, when staggering in any direction felt like some sort of progress. Today though? Well, I associate it with my beloved Leeds United.
About ten days ago, things were pretty rosy for Leeds. Despite losing a couple of games, there was a sense that we had actually made progress. Losing to Blackburn Rovers was a bitter pill to swallow, given that we seemed to be in control for parts of the game, only to lose to ten men, courtesy of a dive from ex-player and all-round not-a-nice-guy Luke Varney. But then we went and beat league-leaders Derby, and in this instance “beat” begins to feel like somewhat of an understatement.
As well as Leeds played, Derby never really got started which, it could be argued, is a testament to how effectively Leeds quelled Derby’s movements – the ever impressive Lewis Cook recovering twice as many balls as any Derby midfielder that day. Contentiously, card happy Guiseppe Bellusci returned to the side in place of club captain Jason Pearce, and he had a positive impact; he made a telling last-ditch tackle in the first half and, alongside Liam Cooper, Leeds had two centre-halves who were more than capable of bring the ball out of defence to feed the midfielders and start attacks.
Leeds’ two goals, scored a few minutes either side of the half-time break, came courtesy of Mirco Antenucci. I wrote earlier about how he was certain to get goals once he learnt to time his runs more effectively. Whilst at times it seems he’s actively looking to be the league leader in offsides, he has eight goals to his name which, for a striker enjoying his first season in England, isn’t a bad pre-Christmas haul.
When the full time whistle went, I thought to myself “bring on Ipswich”. I haven’t done that in a while – actively want to go on playing, have that confidence. But Derby are better than Ipswich. For me, Ipswich were nothing but a typical Championship side; big, physical and reluctant to play too much of the game in the middle of the park. I mean, Noel Hunt had rescued them. Noel Fucking Hunt. How hard could it be?
Yet before that, there was the little matter of the Football League declaring that Massimo Cellino was not “fit and proper”. This decision, in my obviously non-biased opinion, is ludicrous. To flip-flop on such an important decision – after, of course, Cellino had successfully appealed against a similar ruling earlier on in the season – is nothing short of a farce. Perhaps more farcical is the nature of the decision in that, as of March 2015, Cellino will once more be allowed to take back the reigns of his club. Leeds have decided to appeal the decision, stating that this period where Cellino will not be in charge will be “destabilising”, and that it “cannot be in the best interests of any party”.
There’s no denying the crux of the issue; Cellino is guilty of fraud and, in hindsight, I’d wager he regrets not paying the tax on his yacht, Nellie. But he’s hardly Thaksin Shinawatra – you know, a man with links to corruption and slavery, a man currently on the run from Thai authorities – who didn’t have these problems when he became Manchester City owner. It’s only when looking at situations from these kinds of angles that you start to wonder if the “THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE’S CORRUPT/ANTI LEEDS” tweeters might actually have a point.
Back to the football, and it looked as though Leeds had picked up where they left off. They scored early against Ipswich – Antenucci again – before capitulating in a fashion that they’ve truly mastered over the last ten years, going on to lose 4-1.
Guiseppe Bellusci’s injury seemed to have quite an effect on the result. Captain Jason Pearce was recalled yet Leeds’ defence, which seemed resolute the previous week, was all at sea. Bellusci, though noted for his erraticism, had a calming effect on the defence against Derby. Whether it was simply down to having a left-footed and right-footed central defensive pairing, or due to his actions on the pitch, there’s no denying the defence was much more organised and up for the fight.
Leeds’ midfield perhaps showed their inexperience away from home, with moves ending before they began due to errant passing and decision-making. This is a midfield with an average age of 20.25 and three players playing their first professional seasons in England, so these sorts of games are to be expected. This isn’t a criticism of the players – on their day, you’ll struggle to find a more technically adept, confident and intelligent midfield in the Football League – but given their relative inexperience and lack of physical presence, it might have been a game for Rodolph Austin to start.
One notable positive to take out of the latest run of fixtures, strikers scoring aside, is the performances of Adryan whom, it seems, is living up to the hype.
Despite the ridiculous Vine of him overreacting to a tackle (which, in fairness, was a poor challenge) going viral, he’s certainly not that kind of player. For a supposed luxury player, he’s bullish in his approach to the game; he tracks back, he gets stuck in and he takes it to the opposition. From the same game as his theatrics, there was a Vine of him taking the ball and pirouetting between two players, and against Ipswich he carried the ball forward before doing a few step-overs and passing to the striker. These are things that Leeds fans haven’t really seen since the heady days of Harry Kewell, things that make you get out of your seat and are almost worth the entrance fees alone. The only risk is that, given the nature of the league, it seems only a matter of time before Adryan receives a tackle that causes him to miss a few games, something we’re not adequately equipped to cope with.
In the fallout of the Ipswich game, it emerged from the Daily Mail that Leeds’ financial situation was a bit of a mess, again, and fears were raised over who actually owns the club. Again. If I’m being totally honest, economics isn’t my strong point and I’m sick to death with hearing about owners (honestly, maybe non-Leeds fans don’t get this, but trust me, it’s so draining) so I’ll sum it up pretty simply; losses of £23m, gate receipts down, wages up, debts out: a fuck load.
I’ve said before, I want consolidation. But this middle of the road option just doesn’t suit this team – we’re far from the middle. We’re either absolutely brilliant or woefully shit. But just once, I’d like a quiet week for Leeds, where I can focus on just the football – the thing that used to be the only thing mattered – is that so much to ask?
Congratulations are in order to The Square Ball magazine for winning Fanzine of the Year at the FSF awards. Absolutely richly deserved, and well done not breaking the trophy this time. Same again next year!
Shout-out to former Managing Director David Haigh – still imprisoned in Dubai – for tweeting about GFH silencing the fans, apparently forgetting the time he got his legal buddies to send me a letter threatening to sue for writing about information that was all in the public domain. For someone who loved PR, whoever is operating his Twitter account is shite at it.
“@haighdavid: …freedom of speech. Now they are trying to scare and silence fans and journos” You tried to sue me over something I wrote.
— Oliver Ho-Ho-Hulme (@kohulme) November 27, 2014