Leeds United: Our fans’ panel give their verdicts on the season ahead

Kemar Roofe.
Kemar Roofe.
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Have your say

Our special panel of celebrities and fans have their say on Leeds United’s 2016/17 campaign

Name: Simon Rix

Bass guitarist in the Kaiser Chiefs

First of all, and the obvious place to start, what is your view on the appointment of Garry Monk – and the decision to replace Steve Evans?

In hindsight the appointment of Steve Evans could be seen as someone to steady the ship and avoid relegation but at the time it felt massively unambitious. I shed no tears at Evans’ departure.

Garry Monk seems like a step in the right direction – someone who wants to play a style of football, someone respected by other managers and with recent Premier League experience. He’ll need time and the right players. We’ll see if he gets either.

In your opinion, is the squad at Elland Road stronger or weaker than it was at the end of last season?

On paper I feel like Roofe and Antonsson for Cook probably makes us stronger by strengthening areas where we don’t have the numbers. We have a lot of central midfielders. Hopefully Alex Mowatt will recapture some form or Luke Murphy finally show some consistency.

Most of the new guys are unproven. We won’t know how good they are until they play the first game of the season. Players we had much hope for (Billy Sharp, Adryan) have come and not worked out, but players who didn’t look great at Elland Road have turned out to be half decent. Andros Townsend springs to mind and of course Ross Barkley.

Everyone knows we need at least one more centre-back, and we need a 20-goal-a-season striker.

What realistic chance do Leeds United have of making the play-offs or winning promotion?

The Championship looks tough this year. Everyone would expect Newcastle to win it. After that it’s all to play for. Currently I think a place in the play-offs would be a good result for this team. Even if we don’t get up, it would be something to build on. It can take a few seasons to get out of the Championship but I think most teams that manage it are up and around the top six for a few years before they do.

Massimo Cellino remains in charge of the club. How happy are you with the current ownership situation and the way Leeds United are being run?

I don’t think any Leeds fan can be happy about the current situation at Leeds. A few good results though and people start to forget. I don’t really think he (Cellino) understands the fans. I don’t want my money back if Leeds don’t go up. I don’t mind paying to watch decent football. I don’t even mind paying to watch bad but committed football. Give us a team we can get behind and you’ll get a lot more back.

Who do you think will be Leeds United’s key player this season?

It’s hard to call at the moment. Stuart Dallas had a great Euros. Also, Mowatt and Murphy need to show what they can do in the centre of the pitch. However, I think eliminating the unforced mistakes in defence is the key to Leeds having a successful season. Building a strong base. So I’d go for Kyle Bartley with Lewie Coyle the surprise package.

I went to see Sao Paulo play in Brazil recently. Leeds should sign Kelvin. He could be the new Gradel.

Where do you expect Leeds United to finish in the Championship?

Dream of first, hope for second, be pleased with sixth. Probably about 10th.

And if Leeds don’t win the title, which club will?

Newcastle sent out a huge statement of intent by getting Benitez to stay on. They’ve sold a few recently but I understand their budget dwarfs everyone else’s so I think they’d have to be quite unlucky not to go up automatically. They will be the team everyone in the league wants to beat which makes it harder for them and also makes it a bit easier for other ‘big’ teams like Forest and Leeds.

I expect Brighton to be up there as well. They’ve got a good manager in Chris Hughton and good players, including one of the best goalkeepers in the league. But I can’t see past Newcastle for champions.

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Name: Martin Hywood

Leeds United fan and charity fundraiser for Muscular Dystrophy UK

First of all, and the obvious place to start, what is your view on the appointment of Garry Monk – and the decision to replace Steve Evans?

The appointment of Garry Monk impressed me. He’s a young manager and I hope this job, this club, is a catalyst for everyone to do well on the back of this appointment. As for Steve Evans, I don’t think I was ever convinced by him.

In your opinion, is the squad at Elland Road stronger or weaker than it was at the end of last season?

I’m still not sure where the land lies with the current strength of this squad. I’d say it’s similar to last year and that’s a little disappointing as I’ve believed for a while (probably since August 2015) that we need an out-and-out striker – or two.

What realistic chance do Leeds United have of making the play-offs or winning promotion?

Everyone knows the old saying of this being a funny old game and I believe anything is possible. Enthusiasm to cross that white line in that white shirt should be white hot! If we have that this year then I can see us on our way to Wembley in May – or maybe better.

Massimo Cellino remains in charge of the club. How happy are you with the current ownership situation and the way Leeds United are being run?

I’m currently not at all happy with how our club is being run because it’s not a toy or a play thing.

Leeds United should be the pride of Europe and for that to happen people need to get some money spent.

It’s soul destroying to travel 330 miles in one day to see that your money, your investment is just wishy-washy on the pitch. The fans get it, even other rival fans get it.

We get out there and our fans put in 100 per cent but it’s not obvious that our owner does too. For us to go forward this needs to change, quickly.

Who do you think will be Leeds United’s key player this season?

I like the idea of Robert Green being involved at Leeds. He’s made mistakes, we all have, but age and authority I hope will help. Robert has a lot of experience under his belt in contrast to what seems a very young Leeds squad.

Who is likely to be the surprise package in the squad?

I’m not sure about surprise but I would like Dallas and Botaka to do well and live up to what I believe is their potential. Last year, when Botaka made his debut, he showed glimpses of great footwork but quite often did not finish what he set out to do. But I could see what his intentions were and I’d like to see him improve, to dominate the wing and get the end product in the box. I never want to see a player fail at Leeds, I’m soft like that.

Where do you expect Leeds United to finish in the Championship?

As I said, anything is possible but everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction. Tickets need to be priced right for Elland Road to become a fortress again. Managers need to be able to work towards getting a dressing room that wins this league. Players need to be played in their preferred and professional positions.

And if Leeds don’t win the title, which club will?

Newcastle. Benitez is in place and can carry on from where he finished off last season against Spurs – fantastic, fluid football.

If anything the team has been strengthened and, of course, like Leeds the club has a massive, loyal fanbase with an average of 49,000 fans attending last season.

Newcastle will certainly be a force to be reckoned with. That said, I hope I’m wrong when they come to Elland Road.

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Name: Josh Warrington

WBC international featherweight champion and Leeds United fan.

First of all, and the obvious place to start, what is your view on the appointment of Garry Monk – and the decision to replace Steve Evans?

I’m going to be honest here and say that I was glad to see the back of Evans. I wasn’t a massive fan of his when he first got appointed and unlike some of the fans, I didn’t buy into all the displays of emotion and tears on the pitch. He always said the right things in press conferences but I’m not sure how much of it was heartfelt.

Garry Monk I’m excited about. We know from his time at Swansea that his team played good football and I’m more optimistic than I was this time last year. There’s a little bit more of a buzz than there was with Uwe Rosler.

In your opinion, is the squad at Elland Road stronger or weaker than it was at the end of last season?

There’s more variety in it which can only be good. Losing Lewis Cook was a shame but these days I suppose it’s to be expected and this club has been pretty good at finding gems over the years. Guys like Kemar Roofe, Marcus Antonsson and Matt Grimes are young and will obviously want to make an impression. We’re not strong in all areas but we’ve got more numbers in certain areas and it means that there’s less pressure on players like Chris Wood. I like him but when I watched him last season, he always seemed to be under pressure to score. Maybe if that’s lifted he’ll find the net more often.

What realistic chance do Leeds United have of making the play-offs or winning promotion?

I definitely think there’s a chance of the play-offs. Every year I say this but the Championship is wide open.

You always think the teams who come down will be stronger than everyone else but a lot of the time it’s not the case.

There does seem to be a good mood about the club. Okay, we didn’t finish the last game great but loads of my pals are excited about what we can do.

Massimo Cellino remains in charge of the club. How happy are you with the current ownership situation and the way Leeds United are being run?

I try not to pay too much attention to all that. I’m most interested in what’s happening on the pitch. I know that lots of fans were falling out with the club and each other last season and I get a lot of people on social media asking me to back either side but I try to keep out of it. I always feel that no matter what you hear or read, there’s lots going on behind the scenes that none of us know about.

For me, though, scrapping the ‘pie tax’ was a positive and also the decision to have junior tickets in all parts of the ground.

I say this all the time – the ground is never full so why not try to fill the seats?

Who do you think will be Leeds United’s key player this season?

Kemar Roofe’s been sounding good and he’s coming on the back of his League Two player of the year award. He must be full of confidence and I’d hope that when the season starts, he’ll be flying.

Who is likely to be the surprise package in the squad?

I’m going to go with Chris Wood. He’ll come good I feel and having more strikers in the squad should give him a chance to relax and keep people off his back. But academy players always make an impact every season so Lewie Coyle could be the one.

Where do you expect Leeds United to finish in the Championship?

Sixth or seventh. But I like to be positive, so sixth. I think we’ll have a good season.

And if Leeds don’t win the title, which club will?

Newcastle. Everyone will be thinking Newcastle.

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Name: Dan Moylan

Co-editor of Leeds United fanzine The Square Ball

First of all, and the obvious place to start, what is your view on the appointment of Garry Monk – and the decision to replace Steve Evans?

Steve Evans did a decent job in the end – and it was hard not to feel sorry for him when it was clear he was on his way out – but I can’t say I was ever convinced he was the long-term solution. But then we are a club who don’t appear to deal in the long term. Taken in isolation, Monk’s appointment is sensible, exciting and well thought out, but everything at Leeds has to be viewed through the prism of Massimo Cellino.

We just have to hope Cellino leaves him alone long enough to do the job he is capable of.

In your opinion, is the squad at Elland Road stronger or weaker than it was at the end of last season?

The sale of Lewis Cook was a huge blow, but inevitable given the poor management of his contractual situation. On balance, though, I’d say the squad is probably stronger given the recruitment to date. Central midfield should be covered despite Cook’s departure and we appear to have added much-needed pace and power in wide areas. Much depends on whether we have added some big personalities and leaders who won’t hide under pressure.

What realistic chance do Leeds United have of making the play-offs or winning promotion?

The Championship is unpredictable at the best of times and it looks like an even tougher league this year. We have a chance, but I think much depends on the level of stability at the club. If Cellino backs Monk and lets him get on with building something, we have a chance. If we get some winning momentum then we have a chance of going up.

But if we have another two or three managers, we’ll end up with more of the same.

Massimo Cellino remains in charge of the club. How happy are you with the current ownership situation and the way Leeds United are being run?

It’s got to a point now where I find Cellino’s Leeds United exhausting. Fans of other clubs often say ‘it can’t be boring supporting Leeds’ but the opposite is true when the chaos descends. I just desperately want to talk about football and support a ‘normal’ club. The current management structure seems to offer a glimpse of that but it looked much the same as when we had Adam Pearson and Uwe Rosler in place.

We can’t keep repeating the same patterns and hope to succeed.

Who do you think will be Leeds United’s key player this season?

Rob Green should offer a mature voice at the back. For all that Silvestri was a great shot stopper, I’d argue it’s something we’ve sorely missed.

This could be a big season for Chris Wood, who struggled at times last season when he was isolated up front. With more pace around him and the addition of Antonsson, he doesn’t have to carry as much of a burden.

Who is likely to be the surprise package in the squad?

We’ve obviously paid a fair whack for Kemar Roofe so he won’t be a surprise package in the traditional sense, but for those of us that don’t know much about him he’s got the potential to bring something new and exciting to the team.

I get a feeling, though, that someone like Kyle Bartley might provide the most pleasant surprise if he can keep his composure at the back.

It would be great not to see a centre-half turn to jelly like so many others we’ve seen pass through the doors!

Where do you expect Leeds United to finish in the Championship?

Anywhere from third to 15th, depending on what happens in the remainder of the transfer window and how much havoc Cellino decides to wreak over the course of the season. A total guess, but I’ll err on the side of mild optimism and say eighth.

And if Leeds don’t win the title, which club will?

It’s hard to see past Newcastle, given the resources at their disposal.

Leeds United's fans.

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