Support for Leeds United legend Peter Lorimer, Diego Llorente assessment and wondering what could have been - Dominic Matteo

I’m thinking about Peter Lorimer, a brilliant guy, and his family.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 5:40 am
MIXED BAG - Dominic Matteo liked most of what he saw from Leeds United defender Diego Llorente against Aston Villa but took issue with some of the defender's theatrics. Pic: Getty

Back in the day, when I was a club ambassador, I travelled to away games with Peter and spent quite a bit of time with him. We had that Scottish connection, even though I don’t sound Scottish, and we were quite similar - we both liked a bet and a couple of beers. We got on so well and he is a good guy to be around.

He’s always been a character but he talked the Leeds way, like Eddie Gray and a lot of the players of that era, he spoke with such pride about the club and what they achieved.

When I was a player at Leeds I used to ask a lot of questions - I’m always gabbing about stuff - and I’d ask those players what it was like to win those trophies, what it was like to play in those big games like the European Cup final.

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They were household names, the Leeds players from that era and they’re still household names to this day.

The way they’ve conducted themselves for the club and the city, the way some of them have devoted their lives to one club, they’re a credit to Leeds United and they’re icons. It’s great that the likes of Peter and Eddie have been able to see Leeds back in the top flight after such a long absence, something they wanted to see so badly.

And it’s been an excellent, exciting season.

Leeds have been brilliant, even if they’ve been consistently inconsistent.

As a player, it’s always a frustration, thinking about what could have been, where we could have been. You can’t fault the effort; it’s all you can see when you watch Leeds.

Maybe sometimes a little bit of football intelligence, as Eddie always says, would have put them in an even better place. We weren’t far away from sixth before the Villa defeat.

We’ve had these dips, winning one, losing one or two. Everyone else aside from Manchester City has too, so maybe there’s an element of a missed opportunity, maybe getting something out of those games, those losses that could have been draws that would have led to something even more special.

But no one is complaining - Leeds are only eight points behind Liverpool and, if you’d predicted that before the season, you’d have been laughed at.

Liverpool have lost three of their main defenders, suffered some really serious problems and it’s amazing what can happen to a team when you get a raft of injuries.

Leeds have suffered too, though, losing key defenders and their holding midfielder for significant periods, which puts their league position in an even better light.

You wonder what ‘could have been’ if Marcelo Bielsa had been able to count on all his top players - although, in this season, it was always going to be impossible to keep everyone fit.

What I like about Leeds is that sense that people don’t like saying they’re injured; they are players who get on with it.

It sometimes feels like Liam Cooper and Stuart Dallas must be playing through niggles because they’ve taken knocks on the pitch and then come straight back.

What I didn’t like against Aston Villa was when Diego Llorente was diving about. You’re a centre-half, you can’t be doing that. That would drive me nuts, like Danny Mills when we played for Leeds. If I’d done something like that I’d be gutted if no one pulled me up. I think the players and the fans at Leeds would have let me know about it. I was shouting at the television and, hopefully, he can learn from that.

There’s some quality there with Llorente. You can see he’s decent on the ball, he’s got good experience and he needs to play regularly now until the end of the season. We’ll see the best of him next season, I’m sure - if he gets that consistency game time.

I was labelled injury prone in my career and I absolutely hated it, it really angered me. Hopefully he doesn’t have to experience that any more after such a difficult first season at Leeds.

His performance against Villa was pretty good, there were one or two others who were solid but the result wasn’t great - we should have done better and we definitely shouldn’t have lost.

Fair play to Villa for digging out a result without Jack Grealish. Tyrone Mings was controlling things and Patrick Bamford needs to sometimes open things up for other people by walking his man away when he gets that tight, taking the defender out of position.

The little bit of quality we needed to get a result wasn’t there, that fine detail, which is unusual for Leeds. It felt like a missed opportunity, getting beaten by a team around us, but this is the Premier League and it takes time to become consistent at this level.

When fans are back in the ground, I think Leeds will be even better. It can’t come soon enough.

Dominic Matteo's column in association with Data Facilities.