SATURDAY’S defeat against Nuremberg at Elland Road in our final pre-season friendly will have been a bit of a lesson to our players and will have made them realise just how hard they are going to have to work to get to their standard.
Nuremberg were just in a different class to us and technically superior. They worked hard as well and made it difficult for us.
They finished halfway up in the Bundesliga last year, which everyone knows is a powerful league, given the likes of the two teams who competed in the Champions League final and others such as Schalke.
It was always going to be a tough game. They have some very good players and let’s be honest, we were second-best and we couldn’t really get into the game with their goalkeeper only having one real save to make from Ross McCormack. Other than that, it was backs against the wall for us and we couldn’t impose ourselves on the opposition.
There’s certainly plenty to work on for our players this week before the big kick-off this coming Saturday, although it would be harsh just to judge them on the weekend’s game. Nuremberg had control of the game right from the kick-off and had confidence and ability.
That’s the standard if you are going to compete against the best. Brian McDermott expected a tough test and he certainly got that.
At no stage did you think that we could win the game and there was a bit of a gap between the two teams.
You couldn’t criticise our players for a lack of effort. Our players are fit enough, but when you are playing against a better side who pass the ball around you, it’s difficult to get near them.
There is no doubt their players were more technically gifted than ours.
I interviewed Brian after the game and he more or less said that unless players leave, no-one will be coming in. That’s it – in black and white.
Everyone will just have to accept that and Brian must work with what he has got. He also said following the match that he knows the 18 players he is going to start with on Saturday.
No-one was outstanding for us against Nuremberg. I thought Tom Lees did all right, but overall as a team, we just never had a foothold in the game, apart from the odd flourish here and there. I don’t think what Brian saw will have changed his mind on any players really.
Looking at the Championship, for me the two teams who will be toughest to beat will be Wigan and QPR.
I think those two teams will take some beating this year, although I am not sure about the other relegated team, Reading.
I think Watford will also be another team who will be up there towards the top of the division, I think Gianfranco Zola has signed something like 16 players this summer and they were not so far away last year, were they?
For us, it’s so important we get off to a good start against Brighton on Saturday. I think we have sold 25,000 plus tickets and come the weekend, you will probably be talking about a crowd of nearly 30,000, which would be terrific. It would be great if we could kick off with a win.
Those there on Saturday may have thought: ‘This doesn’t look good.’ But the one thing I will say is that we won’t be playing teams of the standard of Nuremberg every week!
I don’t think there’s any reason why we cannot get off to a good start against Brighton this Saturday.
For me, it will be interesting to see what team Brian plays and whether he goes for a midfield diamond or two players out wide in a 4-4-2 formation. Everyone has their opinions. I certainly think we need a bit of running power in the side. Obviously, Rodolph Austin and El-Hadji Diouf cannot play because they are both suspended and Sam Byram is not fit, so you have to factor that in as well in terms of our line-up.
Brian tried to give us a bit of width by playing Aidy White and Dominic Poleon on Saturday. It never really worked, mainly because Nuremberg were just a better side than us and their full-backs were bombing forward and that occupied our players, who couldn’t really assert themselves.
When they were going forward, they played 4-3-3 and when they defended, they had five players in the middle of the park in a 4-5-1. They were very clued in, regarding how they played and looked a class side.