Leeds United: Too early to panic but lack of fight underlines need for more players – Lorimer

Jason Pearce.
Jason Pearce.
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Whatever else happens on the first weekend of the season, you expect your players to come out fighting.

I expected that of Leeds United at Millwall on Saturday and seeing us so flat and out of sorts was quite concerning.

Millwall flew out of the blocks and left us behind early on. The defeat was a fair one and the whole day came as quite a big reality check for Leeds.

To me, that performance explains the flurry of transfer activity we’ve seen in the past few days. It’s one thing drawing conclusions about the squad before a ball’s been kicked but when you lose as we did at Millwall, you have to see what’s in front of your eyes.

I had a feeling before the weekend that more signings would be made before the end of the transfer window so I didn’t feel any real panic in that sense.

The squad was always going to get stronger. But what worried me on Saturday was the absence of a real leader on the pitch.

Some people think that the attitude or identity of your captain isn’t so important these days; that a team of 11 good players is what counts. That opinion is fine until things start going wrong.

What we needed at Millwall was someone barking at the lads around them, winding everyone up and shaking them out of the first-half slumber. I don’t think we had a natural captain last season and I still don’t feel we’ve got one now.

Jason Pearce is a hugely honest, enthusiastic and committed defender – a heart-on-his-sleeve player without a doubt and someone I like – but I’m not sure he’s got the ability to push the other 10 players around him. Personally I think he’ll play better without that added pressure.

You want a captain to be inspirational and influential but the key for me is the ability to get the best out of others, even when you as captain are not playing well.

You could tell that the team got a bit of a rocket at half-time on Saturday because they had a go from then on but the damage was already done and Millwall’s confidence was sky-high.

In the Championship, you simply cannot afford to wait 45 minutes before you start competing.

It’s reassuring, still, that new players are coming in.

I don’t think anyone could have watched Saturday’s game and pretended that we didn’t need reinforcements.

We lost Ross McCormack over the summer – and lost a lot of goals with him – but Billy Sharp might just be the perfect replacement.

Sharp’s been around this division for years and he’s always scored goals in it.

He’s got good skill but he can poach goals too, and I think that’s what we’re lacking – a mobile striker who knows where the net is. Him arriving takes a bit of pressure off the other forwards.

I don’t imagine he’s coming cheap – certainly in terms of wages – but when you think of the massive fee we got from Fulham for McCormack, Sharp and all that money doesn’t seem like a bad trade. We’ve got a bundle of cash and we’re finishing up with a proven striker who, for all his experience, is still only 28.

The arrival of some more centre-backs is also very welcome.

That’s a position I’ve been talking about for weeks. At the minute we’re basically playing without any cover because it would be a massive ask of Ross Killock to throw him into the fray at this point.

Scott Wootton suffered a cut to his head in the cup game against Accrington on Tuesday and that sort of thing makes you appreciate how light we are in that position.

But in truth, the team aren’t good enough in that position either and it’s an area which needed to improve.

The partnership of Wootton and Pearce could develop into a good one over time but you don’t really get the luxury of time in the Championship.

It’s not especially convincing at the minute and the lads who are signing – Bellusci of Catania especially – sound like they’ll really toughen us up at the back.

It’s a ruthless game, football, and it’s disappointing to see someone walk in and take your place in the team but the club come first and you have to accept that.

The fact is that we need points on the board early on and it would be good to take four from two home games against Middlesbrough and Brighton, just to get us properly up and running.

That won’t be an easy task and although I’m enthused by the new signings, I accept that they’ll need time to hit their best form.

But the club are striving to get better – and I think after Saturday they needed to act.

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