Peter Lorimer: Leeds United are far from finished article but are making headway

Marco Silvestri. PIC: Tony Johnson

Marco Silvestri. PIC: Tony Johnson

78
Have your say

If I was Massimo Cellino, I’d be happy with the way Leeds United’s season is going.

The first month-and-a-half has been demanding and tough so to reach this stage with 10 points – three short of the Championship play-offs – is good going in my book.

We’ve had a couple of poor performances and a few bad results but no more than I’d expect from a club who are going through the type of changes we’re seeing at Elland Road.

I don’t care who your coach is or how much money you’ve spent on new players – make 15 signings during the transfer window and you’re going to need a bit of breathing space to sift through the options and find a successful formula.

People have a tendency to look automatically at Leeds whenever they talk about clubs in a bit of difficulty but I could name plenty of other clubs in the Championship who are in exactly the same situation.

We play Huddersfield Town on Saturday and I doubt they’ll be throwing any stones at us. They’ve changed their manager already, they’ve lost four of their first seven games and they’re in the relegation places. Blackpool are a mess and Fulham can’t seem to get started at all. Cardiff, Brighton and Derby have all been slow off the mark.

When you’re in a position where things are taking time to settle down, the worst thing you can do is worry about other teams. Hard work and perseverance pull a good side together and gradually, we’re starting to see that happen at Leeds.

It would be wrong to say that we look like the finished article. If anything, we’re miles off still. We deserved four points from Birmingham and Bournemouth – two tough away games, let’s be fair – but we could have lost both games after starting them so slowly. Parts of our displays were excellent and other parts were poor.

If you look closely, though, you’ll see players growing in confidence and growing together.

The aim now must be to put a top performance together for 90 minutes but when this Leeds team play well, as they did in the last half-hour against Bournemouth on Tuesday, it looks like the plan is falling into place.

I never really doubted that we had good players at the club. How good and how far they’d go in the Championship I really couldn’t predict because many of the signings were unfamiliar but if you read about their backgrounds and pedigrees, it was obvious that many of them were bringing ability and talent to the table.

The goalkeeper, Marco Silvestri, continues to impress me and he was outstanding at Bournemouth.

If it wasn’t for him, we’d have lost that game by half-time. When Souleymane Doukara gets going, he’s strong and physical and difficult to deal with. At full tilt he could be a major threat to clubs in this league. It’s just a case of getting him to full tilt.

There are homegrown prospects too – Lewis Cook, Alex Mowatt, Sam Byram and so on – and quite a few signings who we’ve not really had a look at yet so I do feel quietly excited by it all. But the biggest thing by far is the fact that the side are now oozing genuine enthusiasm.

I got the feeling that the squad had quite a lot of time for David Hockaday but the way things were going with him as head coach, the atmosphere around the club wasn’t great. That always filters through to the players and I’m sure they felt a bit flat at the end of last month.

A few weeks on, they look full of confidence. The owner’s already said that Neil Redfearn won’t be taking the head coach’s job on full-time but Redfearn can hold his head high, knowing that he’s helped to bring the season under control.

It’ll be easier for a new coach coming in now than it would have been at the end of last month.

Would I have taken 10 points from the first seven games? Absolutely.

I’d have been tempted at the start of the season and I’d have bitten your hand off on the night when Hockaday was sacked.

People like to think of Leeds as a club in turmoil or crisis but what they’re really seeing at Elland Road is a club in transition. Yes, there are ups and downs but a tally of 10 points means we’re better off than half of the clubs in the the league.

Offered that, I think Huddersfield would bite your hand off too.

The balance is in our favour with Saturday’s derby looming and I hope we take it to them from the start – and show that we’re in business.

Charlie Taylor. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Leeds United: Unsettled left-back Charlie Taylor in limbo as contract expiry date looms