The YEP jury have their say ahead of Leeds United’s clash with Middlesbrough at Elland Road.
Victory against Accrington on Tuesday night proved this is a team equipped to at least compete at League Two level, which, in his previous job, would have been music to the ears of David Hockaday.
Nevertheless, a comfortable opening period was coupled with a nervy last few minutes where Accrington could have forced extra-time.
A better performance was crucial after such a poor display at Millwall but now, against Middlesbrough, Hockaday and his team have to prove that they can compete in the Championship where it really matters. Middlesbrough are a strong side and will likely give a debut to Adam Clayton, newly signed from Huddersfield and always desperate to play well against Leeds.
There are now reasons for optimism. The more impressive players from this season’s opening games have been new signings and that suggests Cellino and team can spot a good recruit. Ajose has worked hard, Doukara hit two on Tuesday night, Bianchi looks to be a very good player and Silvestri was one of very few to come out of the Millwall game with any credit.
There has been even more strengthening this week with Bellusci, Cooper and Sharp all arriving. They seem strong signings on paper and evidence that we have a boardroom that won’t settle for mediocrity. It also suggests United’s inept showing last weekend sparked urgent action and there are reports of even more to come.
Lastly, the solid performance of Lewis Cook and Charlie Taylor is heartening in itself in showing that this is a club that still produces great academy talent. It is to be hoped that another of those, Sam Byram, is kept at this club, especially after his understudy, Gaetano Berardi, ruled himself out for three matches with a bizarre challenge on Tuesday night.
It is refreshing, as a Leeds United supporter, to be discussing players and signings rather than owners and takeovers and even the biggest cynic must now recognise that some serious work has gone into trying to improve this squad. That leaves Hockaday as the last unanswered question. Our head coach provided much content for the pundits to debate ahead of the opening game last week and across the weekend’s TV output his very name prompted mirth on more than one occasion.
You have to wonder if Hockaday’s appointment would have raised quite so much derision had he joined direct from a coaching job at Southampton or Watford rather than as an out-of-work Conference manager. Whatever the eventual outcome of this experiment, Hockaday’s demeanour is unbendingly professional. Even the most experienced coach would be given time at this stage with so many new players and a new playing style.
It will be slow progress but the positive signs are there and Leeds fans have to find that scarce resource of patience yet again. A point against Middlesbrough will be a vast improvement for this fledgling side and should be an indicator to the rest of the league that Leeds United are not the soft touch basket case that people thought they were.
Prediction: Leeds United 2 Middlesbrough 2.
Tuesday night brought a welcome, if slightly nervy win over Accrington Stanley.
‘Sully’ Doukara got two goals with Leeds (especially in the first half) playing some impressive passing football.
A very good debut from Lewis Cook too, who looked comfortable whenever he had the ball.
The weekend brings the televised visit of a Middlesbrough team much changed from the side that Leeds beat 2-1 on their last visit to Elland Road.
Aitor Karanka has brought in six players, including ex-Leeds player Adam Clayton, as they try to improve last year’s 12th Championship place.
A 20,000-plus crowd is expected for United’s first home Championship game.
Leeds have three new recruits amongst their match-day squad with central defenders Bellusci, Cooper and striker Billy Sharp joining the club this week.
Leeds have looked ‘shaky’ at the back for a number of years now.
It is hoped that these new signings could provide the answer – and Sharp has a proven track record in the division.
A tough game is expected and before the signings I’d have expected a defeat but I’ll go with a narrow Leeds United win.
And Sharp will be amongst the goals.
Prediction: Leeds United 2 Middlesbrough 1.
Well, I said last week we were in trouble – but only with the squad we had at Millwall.
Add three new signings, including a proven goalscorer, and we have fresh optimism. We need to go at Boro, and I’m sure the fans will do their best to get behind the lads.
prediction: Leeds United 2 Middlesbrough 1.
The first home league game of the season is here after our league cup win on Tuesday.
We performed a lot better against Accrington, showing glimpses of what we are capable of.
Souleymane Doukara will be going into the game with a lot of confidence after his brace on Tuesday night so, hopefully, he can bag another couple of goals. Boro have signed some real top-quality players and seem to have created a promotion-capable squad under manager Aitor Karanka.
The lads struggled at Millwall in an intense atmosphere and it is not going to be any easier for them in front of 20,000+ at Elland Road tomorrow.
Prediction: Leeds United 1 Middlesbrough 1.
Boro arrive at LS11 in good form courtesy of a 2-0 home victory against Birmingham and a 3-0 midweek away cup victory over Oldham and will be a stern test for the Whites.
But I’m expecting a share of the spoils with major re-enforcements on their way.
Prediction: Leeds United 1 Middlesbrough 1.
The doom and gloom which surrounded Leeds following the opening day capitulation at Millwall has almost been wiped away after a busy week.
But after the feebleness of the display at The New Den, the club has brought in three new faces to give the squad real depth. For the first time in an age there are genuine options all over the pitch. Whether this will be enough to see off Boro is another matter. For all the nice passing football that we were able to produce against Accrington, there was a real lack of a killer instinct.
I feel slightly more optimistic this week, but still can’t see the side gelling quickly enough to avoid defeat.
prediction: Leeds United 1 Middlesbrough 2.