Leeds United’s 1-0 loss to Rotherham on Saturday put an end to a two game winning run, and provided some lessons for both the fans and Steve Evans to consider going forward.
Optimism had been brewing at Elland Road, but that has now taken a clear knock.
Here are five things we learned from Saturday’s game:
Talk of a top ten finish is misguided
After the victories against Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town, the discussion was whether Leeds could put a run together and make a real impact in the top half of the Championship. Steve Evans even spoke about forcing Massimo Cellino’s hand by giving him something to spend money on, primarily a hint of a promotion push. The reality is much more simple than that: staying in the Championship is once again the primary target for the Whites this season. It is unfortunate, because Leeds have the makings of a good side, but the constant upheaval means there has not been an opportunity to build a team at Elland Road at any point over the last few seasons. In the short-term, switching the man in the dugout can have an impact, but there are very few managers in world football who will hugely improve a team’s position over the medium-term. What is more important is stability and sticking to a plan over the long-term, and not developing an itchy trigger finger. It is no shock to see that the three top spots in the Championship are occupied by teams that had the same manager last season, and the same is the case for eight of the top 10.
Parking permit battle shows priorities misplaced at Elland Road
It is one of the odder tales of the weekend, but the decision to deny Neil Redfearn a parking space of his own points to what is amiss at Elland Road. Yes, Rotherham were granted the standard six afforded to any away side, but if you look around Leeds’ home and compare it to any other club in the division’s ground, it’s clear that a request for a seventh could quite easily be fulfilled. What it suggests is that the acrimonious departure of Redfearn in the summer still has not been forgiven, which is strange because it was only acrimonious on one person’s part. Evans has been asking for the club to get Liam Bridcutt’s signing over the line for the last few weeks, and judging by Luke Murphy’s display yesterday, he clearly has good reason to want to bring in the midfield recruit. Why is the focus of the top end of the club not on the playing side instead of parking spaces?
Leeds would probably be no worse off with Neil Redfearn
Speaking of Redfearn, reports earlier this season suggested Massimo Cellino was already regretting his departure towards the end of Uwe Rosler’s spell in charge. Rotherham have not been exceptional under the former Leeds academy manager, not winning in their first six, but there are reasons behind that. A summer of questionable recruitment caused Evans’s departure, and now Redfearn is finally putting a squad together that he feels can keep the club in the Championship. Leon Best, red card aside, had a good debut. Redfearn himself referred to the job he did last year at Leeds and how the remit was simply keeping them in the Championship, and how similar a task he faces at the New York Stadium. It’s arguable that had he been tasked with a top ten finish after a full pre-season with an improved squad, it would have been entirely achievable at Leeds. He has already shown the ability to lift a side after a tough run of results.
There is still a devil in Gaetano Berardi, but he deserves forgiveness
It took very little time for Leeds fans to write Gaetano Berardi off last season, and it was entirely understandable given his debut, in which he scythed down an Accrington Stanley player in ludicrous fashion. He did settle hugely after another sending off against Huddersfield Town, and has become one of the team’s more consistent performers. However, his reaction to Leon Best’s elbow on Saturday came at the hindrance of the rest of the team, and was entirely unnecessary. The elbow was bad, and the reaction was probably a single incident of choppy waters in an otherwise calm sea, but it has left Leeds without much in the way of defensive options for next Saturday’s visit to Queens Park Rangers. Even so, Berardi deserves to be forgiven for what he did, given his recent good temper.
Long ball style will only be acceptable if it earns points
Evans has only been at the club for six games, but that is the same amount of time that Dave Hockaday and Darko Milanic got. That is not to say that it is a point at which it is reasonable to judge a manager, simply that people make their minds up quickly. The former Rotherham manager is nowhere near the point of losing the supporters, but many fans were highlighting the fact that that Leeds were far too ‘long ball’ against a team at the bottom of the Championship. People talk about winning football for Evans, but there is also an expectation at Leeds that when the opportunity arises, the team is able to dominate poorer opposition. Evans only has to look at the reaction faced by Neil Warnock from the fans three seasons ago to see how long fans will tolerate an unattractive playing style if it does not put points on the board.