Leeds United’s haul of 11 points from their opening 10 Championship matches represents their worst start at second-tier level since the relegation season of 2006-07. Leon Wobschall reports.
IN MANAGERIAL circles, there are several key barometers in a season which will always undergo extra scrutiny.
Leeds and Uwe Rosler have just reached one such indicator, negotiating their 10th league game of the campaign, a time when managers start studying league tables after paying limited attention to them beforehand.
Some chiefs even venture that they do not look at tables until Christmas, although you take that with a pinch of salt.
In the here-and-now world of modern-day football, where little surprises you and knee-jerk reactions are commonplace following every defeat, not having one eye on the table can be folly or even negligent.
It pays to be attentive, after all.
For Leeds, heading into the latest international break in 16th place in the Championship, just three points above the relegation zone and seven points behind the side currently occupying the final play-post position in Burnley, it does not make edifying viewing.
It is, at worst, deeply worrying, with an inefficient return of 11 points from a possible 30 and just two wins from 10 league matches something that will be troubling Rosler throughout the international hiatus.
That last statistic, two wins from 10, is particularly glaring. To say Rosler will be desperate to put it right when United reconvene for league duty against Brighton on Saturday week goes without saying. He has no choice, he has to.
Since Leeds dropped into the old Second Division at the end of the 1981-82 campaign, the club have spent 16 seasons at this level and are in their 17th.
Only on three previous occasions have Leeds made a worse start after 10 matches in the second tier during that timespan.
One of them, 2006-07, famously culminated in relegation at the end of a catastrophic campaign, while 1988-89 saw a manager and club icon in Billy Bremner dispensed with in the autumn and Howard Wilkinson ushered in.
The other occasion came in those dark days of the early to mid-80s in 1983-84 when a youthful United side were still coming to grips with post Division One life at a club beset by the scourge of hooliganism off the pitch and one where home attendances were plummeting.
In 2006-07, a poor start to the season accounted for Kevin Blackwell, who was handed his marching orders in the wake of back-to-back home defeats to Wolves and Sunderland.
Ten games in, United were in the hands of a caretaker manager in John Carver, whose sole success of what turned out to be a torrid five-match spell in charge came in a 3-2 victory over high-flying Birmingham City in October, 2006.
Leeds took 10 points from their opening 10 matches, one fewer than the current total of 11 with Eddie Gray’s class of ’83-84 also taking the same amount of 10 points from their first 10 league outings in what constituted the toughest of openings.
As befits a young team, confidence came and went and proved a fragile commodity.
A much-needed 3-1 victory over Cambridge United – thanks to goals from Kevin Hird, Andy Watson and John Connolly – in front of just 9,983 at Elland Road actually triggered a three-match winning streak and seven-match unbeaten run before another descent in December, 1983 when United lost four on the spin promptly ending the upturn.
Bremner’s days at Leeds were numbered after a distressing start to ’88-89 when they won just once in their opening six league games before Wilkinson came in to stop the rot.
Wins were priceless commodities in the early days of Wilkinson’s reign, he won just once in his opening five league matches, having taken over with Leeds languishing third from bottom.
The league position of 16th for Leeds is not as dire as that situation which first confronted Wilkinson when he arrived at a club desperate for answers.
In mitigation, Rosler could point to losing three times in the league so far, one fewer than the number of league defeats in the opening 10 games of both last season, 2013-14 and in United’s maiden campaign back at this level in 2010-11.
But the more pertinent statistic as he will attest is just two league victories. Even in that listless and anaemic opening to the post Championship play-off final campaign of 2006-07, Blackwell and Carver contrived three between them.
United started slowly following the last international break and a replication of that simply does not bear thinking about.
No-one will suddenly expect the trickle of wins to turn into a flood overnight but for Rosler’s sake, the ratio most start improving and fast.
As the saying goes, there are lies, damned lies and statistics.