Leeds United: McCormack among the best says Mick Jones

Ross McCormack.
Ross McCormack.
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Seventies Star Mick Jones knows all too well that bagging 29 goals in a season is not to be sniffed at.

Indeed, the best Alan ‘Sniffer’ Clarke’s strike partner managed was 26 though Jones felt 30 beckoned in 1973-74 but for injury.

Should he net at Birmingham City on Saturday or against visiting Derby on the final day of the Championship season, Ross McCormack will break that barrier that Clarke at least neared in the 70s. Yet even with the super Scot in the side, Clarke fears the Whites are still light years away from nearing a 70s-style return to the big time, even blessed with new owner Massimo Cellino’s millions. Those millions were unheard of during the late 1960s and early 1970s when Jones formed one of football’s most feared strike partnerships alongside Clarke.

Under the expert tutelage of Don Revie, the duo helped all-conquering United to the 1974 Championship a season which as well as being Jones’ most prolific was also his last due to a knee injury. But the former striking star has remained a loyal follower of the club he used to star for with the 70s legend well-placed to appreciate the merits of McCormack’s 29 goals in a single campaign.

Furthermore, just as Jones may have added to his tally but for injury in 1974, so too McCormack might have been even more prolific had he played the entire season in his now customary striking position as opposed to being dropped back into midfield or on the flanks.

Jones knows a striker when he sees one and the 68-year-old says McCormack is a natural and the club’s best forward of the last decade, even surpassing Jermaine Beckford.

The former England international says the Scot fully deserves a crack at the Premier League but Jones believes even next season may be too soon for promotion, such is the mediocrity of the current side in which McCormack stars.

“To get 29 goals is tremendous isn’t it really?” Jones told the YEP. “Especially with the position the team has been in. And at the beginning of the season the manager was playing him out of position. He was right wing and midfield and it was frustrating watching it because he’s not that type of player. He’s a striker – a natural striker, and you can see that. And as soon as he moved him upfront and left him there he started knocking the goals in and he’s probably had the best season of his career.

“As a Leeds striker, I think you’ve got to compare him with Beckford and I think those two, in recent years and in the division we have played in, they are probably the best two there’s been. And I would put him just in front of Beckford as to get nearly 30 goals is a tremendous achievement no matter what league you are in but the Premier League is the aiming point where you have to judge a very good striker. It’s a big jump from this division, the Championship to the Premier, but all credit to the lad as he can’t do any more than he’s done. It would be interesting to see if he played in the Premier and I hope he has the chance to play there.”

The present United side is a million miles away from making that step – or 26 points to be precise – the gap between 16th-placed Leeds and recently promoted Burnley in second. The Whites are even 14 points adrift of the play-offs and without McCormack’s goals they would already have been relegated to League One this term.

Yet Jones knows that in new owner Massimo Cellino there is substantial hope for the future though United’s 70s striker feels turning the current tide will be a major operation and not one that can be remedied by a quick summer fix.

“It’s going to be interesting this summer and to be fair I think he has got to get a lot of the dead wood out,” he said.

“Also the new owner’s reputation is not good in sacking managers so it will be interesting to see what happens this summer.

“But I think the first thing he’s got to do is get a few players out, get the squad down and get the wages down. Then he’s got to look at putting some money into the club to get some fresh faces in but it’s going to be hard work for the club and I don’t think things are going to change for a while I think it’s going to be a long time yet for Leeds to get where they belong.

“I hope it is automatic promotion next season but things don’t just work like that. You’ve got to bring players in and get players out and I don’t know about the manager’s job – I can’t comment on that.”

Whatever unfolds, Jones will be there to witness it as a regular Whites watcher and someone who still relishes the Elland Road atmosphere.

“I go to all the matches, I’ve been to every match and it’s nice still being involved with the club,” said Jones.

“I’ve got a few other hobbies, I watch a lot of sport and do a lot of walking and a lot of gardening but I can’t golf any more.

“I have trouble with my back and I’m not prepared to pay for a buggy with the way I play so I don’t play any more.

“It’s an expensive round when you have to pay for a buggy.

“Once I have done about nine holes my back is killing me so it’s not worth it having pain and costing you a lot of money at the same time!”

But now the cash needs to be splashed at Elland Road with Jones longing for his club to return not just to the top flight but the top echelons of it to boot.

“This is a big club and when you talk to people they come from all over the world to matches,” said Jones.

“You’d be amazed where people come from. This has all come from the days when we played and all that and I know I go on about that but it’s a big supported club and unfortunately the supporters are so frustrated with it. They are wanting success but that doesn’t come easy nowadays. Let’s just hope Massimo Cellino can come in and turn things around because he has taken over a big football club and he knows that.

“Let’s hope he can do something for Leeds United that’s needed and that’s wanted for the supporters’ sake.”

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Mateusz Klich. Picture: Tony Johnson.

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