Leeds United: Fresh faces can lift Whites says Ritchie

Ross McCormack.
Ross McCormack.
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Despite the recent setbacks Andy Ritchie says the promise of investment and new players will boost United. Leon Wobschall reports.

ANDY RITCHIE will have understood more than most what Leeds United’s chastened players were going through at the final whistle at Spotland on Saturday.

Humiliated on the pitch by a team from a lower division – 45 places below Leeds – the United team and manager had to face the music from a sell-out contingent of 3,400 supporters, who made their feelings known in no uncertain terms.

The reaction from furious fans who turned on United was akin to desperate episodes in recent years at Oakwell, Edgar Street and Bridge Road – Histon. Ones that make any Leeds fan wince.

A bit further back in time in the eighties, the travelling hordes also let Leeds players have it in embarrassing FA Cup exits at the Old Showground, Scunthorpe and London Road, Peterborough in 1983-84 and 1985-86 respectively, with Ritchie part of both line-ups who incurred the wrath of fans.

In his role as a radio summariser at Rochdale on a thoroughly miserable Saturday, the former Whites striker had a differing vantage point, yet appreciating what both the players were going through and their manager at the final whistle when they were barracked incessantly – with the magic of the cup possessing a massively hollow ring.

He said: “I know how the players and Brian felt. I’ve felt that as a manager myself and a player.

“I’ve had days like that throughout my career. I remember when we lost to Peterborough when they were in the bottom division.

“You have to use the disappointment as a driver to push on. You have to take it on the chin and get on with it and look forward to the next game to try and get a win under their belts.

“But also you can’t sweep it under the carpet and as a manager, you have to get your point across and say it was unacceptable and Brian will have said that to the players.”

If the result against Keith Hill’s Dale was bad enough, a terrible and inexcusable performance truly compounded matters, with the main worry being the way in which the Lancastrians totally dismantled Leeds and gave them a footballing lesson. It put the tin lid on a poor Christmas and New Year period for the Whites, with McDermott’s side – and the club – at a crossroads on and off the pitch.

Desperate for investment in the playing side to energise a seriously-flagging season and on the cusp of a second takeover in just over a year, it’s the critical juncture of the 2013-14 campaign for Leeds and their manager – with fans anxious not just for positive words, but deeds.

The result and display heightened United’s and McDermott’s need for new recruits, not that the Leeds boss and supporters will have needed any further confirmation of the fact which was borne out in below-par showings against the likes of Blackburn and Nottingham Forest, which exposed a soft squad underbelly.

After picking up the pieces, Leeds will be attempting to deliver some payback in Saturday’s televised derby at Sheffield Wednesday, mindful they head to Hillsborough without a win in five matches, just shy of a month.

While the need for a reaction is paramount, Ritchie admits that McDermott needs help from the boardroom, with the Leeds boss deserving of some backing in the transfer market after orchestrating an impressive first half of the season in the circumstances.

He added: “Brian held his hands up afterwards and said it wasn’t a good performance and that he needs to strengthen and he’s totally right.

“They have run out of steam a little bit and need two or three fresh faces and fresh legs to come in soon.

“I would still say they are ahead of schedule from when Brian came in and really they weren’t expected to be in a play-off place.

“They are in the reckoning and if they can get those new players in and stay in there, anything can still happen if you get in the play-offs.

“There’s the potential investment coming in and hopefully it will be announced this week and they can get it signed, sealed and delivered to help Brian get new faces in.

“He’s got targets and just waiting for the go-ahead and Leeds need that fillip.”

Leeds may have been woeful, but Ritchie believes there also needs to be credit where it’s due, with Rochdale’s scintillating performance deserving of the plaudits – and while the visitors were lamentably poor, Dale were devastatingly good.

It was an afternoon when only Paddy Kenny emerged with his reputation truly intact, with the vast majority of the side producing a no-show.

Ritchie added: “There are always potential banana skin ties in the FA Cup and it was always going to be a tough game; Brian said that and knew it would be.

“They are playing very well and are fifth in League Two and on a real good run. At home, they have been playing fantastically well; in one of the games last season they were described as being like Brazil – although I thought that was a little bit far out!

“It was one of those where Leeds had a really bad day at the office and Rochdale were really good. They played to their optimum and Paddy Kenny saved it from being another couple of goals (margin) at least.

“You can get away with one or two players having an off-day, but when it’s three, four, five or more, you are going to struggle.

“But you have to give credit to Rochdale. They never gave Leeds an inch and as soon as Leeds got the ball, they were right on them. It was a top performance from them.

“Looking at Leeds, Danny Pugh did alright and Ross McCormack worked his socks off, but didn’t get much all day, while Paddy Kenny did well and they were the three who I’d say got something out of the game.”

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