Leeds United blame game targets 'sorry sight' transfer but Elland Road mess is not his

Leeds United record signing Georginio Rutter was a sorry sight as he trudged off the Elland Road pitch with an angry South Stand response to his applause ringing in his ears.
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The forward was clutching the shirt of his fellow Hoffenheim alumnus Roberto Firmino, with whom he shares an agent. Swapping jerseys with the Brazilian became another stick to beat Rutter with in the aftermath of a game he entered in the 66th minute, with the score 4-1 to Liverpool.

That it got that bad was obviously no fault of the 20-year-old's. That it got even worse and ended 6-1 wasn't particularly on him either.

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And no blame whatsoever can be attached to Rutter for the fact that Leeds signed him in January for such an eye-watering sum, when what they needed was an experienced, if not prolific, centre forward. A targetman, with hold-up play to rival Patrick Bamford's, was the need. A silky dribbler like Rutter, as exciting as his potential undoubtedly is and as good a player as he may well go on to be, now looks like a luxury and one a relegation threatened team can ill afford.

As Rutter walked out of the stadium into the West Stand car park on Monday night, flanked by a female companion whose face bore the same solemn expression as his, a snippet of the youngster's inner monologue would have been worth a chunk of that fee the club shelled out for him.

Even if that Kicker report of his tearful Hoffenheim exit was an exaggeration, he could be forgiven if regret had ever momentarily slipped into his thoughts, given the way it has gone thus far at Leeds.

The Premier League has shown itself to be a difficult proving ground for players vastly more experienced than Rutter, so the transfer-fee-driven expectation laid upon one so green, one so entirely untested at English top flight level, was always going to be a burden. Only in Spanish international and Champions League veteran Rodrigo's third season have we seen something close to his best. Very few Leeds imports have hit the ground running at top speed and maintained it, since promotion. Neither Brenden Aaronson or Rasmus Kristensen look close to full adaptation as they near the end of a full season on these shores.

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It's also hard to be the hero when you don't get to play in a role or system that suits you perfectly and even harder when you don't much play at all. At the same time, the complete absence of goals or assists or even moments that suggest those will soon come, makes it easy for you to become the villain. Especially when you cost a lot of money.

SORRY SIGHT - Leeds United's record signing Georginio Rutter has been the target for flak but the Elland Road mess, even his own situation, is not one he created. Pic: GettySORRY SIGHT - Leeds United's record signing Georginio Rutter has been the target for flak but the Elland Road mess, even his own situation, is not one he created. Pic: Getty
SORRY SIGHT - Leeds United's record signing Georginio Rutter has been the target for flak but the Elland Road mess, even his own situation, is not one he created. Pic: Getty

But this isn't Rutter's mess and he can't exactly fix it if he's not playing. Only once has the circa £30m signing started a Premier League game and that was at Chelsea, where admittedly he didn't make the most of his time on the pitch in the number nine role.

Of course at this stage it might only take a goal or two, any kind of winner in fact, to help Leeds stay up because two victories might be all they need, and maybe Rutter will be the man to get them. Maybe then the blame game will move on until such a time as a scapegoat is once again required.

Rutter was not alone in taking undeserved pelters on Monday night, though, as friendly fire broke out in the post-game discussion. The early leavers got it, for not staying to see a 6-1 humiliation through to its bitter end. Those happy to stay and clap got it for being 'happy clappers' and the 'real fan' debate reared its ugly, ridiculous head. To each their own, because the way one football fan lives their supporter experience is entirely valid no matter how different it might be to the one sitting next to them. This writer personally wouldn't choose to applaud my team off had they capitulated totally because the reward for turning up is a player's salary. Appreciation comes when they go above and beyond the bare minimum requirement of trying. Others disagree, believing their part to include applause even after the worst of defeats and that's fine.

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Javi Gracia admitted after the game that what the fanbase needs to see is an improvement in performances and he too has got it in the neck, as any manager would following two such heavy beatings. Players are culpable for mistakes or individual underperformance but the boss is ultimately responsible for a team's overall performance. He was let down by the way some responded to adversity and his plan did not work. Both things are true.

However, is this - the league table, Leeds' position in it and the lack of evidence that the squad is capable of much more than narrowly avoiding the drop - his mess? Not so much.

The board, or rather the three most visible faces who represent the decision-making process at Elland Road, the ones present and correct to be shot at, also faced flak on Monday night. The clip of majority owner Andrea Radrizzani, CEO Angus Kinnear and director of football Victor Orta that aired in the televised broadcast, towards the end of the game, drew fire in their direction. Some felt the pained body language held a performative element. It did appear as if there was frustration at being shown on camera at such a time, but where else should people look, but to the club's very leaders, when things are going so badly wrong?

Where else does the buck stop for the Rutter situation, the need to appoint a new manager mid-season or the struggles of a squad recruited to play a very specific and now, at Elland Road at least, redundant brand of football Where else should supporters send their frustration, when with a season ticket price rise so fresh in the memory it emerges that the Jean-Kevin Augustin debacle may not yet be done with the club's coffers?

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Tony Dorigo called for unity in his YEP column this week and he was right to, because an imploding Leeds United will almost certainly become a relegated Leeds United. Better to turn both barrels on Fulham, then Leicester City, than to turn them inward. These games are huge and the fans have a part to play, one they have played better than anyone could have reasonably demanded. They'll play it again, too, from kick-off in any game while survival remains achievable. Playing happy families is a big ask, though, when things are such a sorry sight.