Before I start I would like to give my condolences to the family of Eric Altshule, as the EPL talk writer sadly passed away recently. I often read Eric’s work and even if you didn’t agree with his side of the argument all the time, it was great to see someone give a well founded opinion on footballing matters. Eric will be missed.
Despite an opening day defeat to Derby County, where their defence appeared to be showing their nerves slightly, Leeds United have gotten off to a terrific start in the Championship and most fans will be delighted with seven points from their opening four games. They may have been knocked out of the League Cup by fellow Championship side Leicester City, but that won’t bother Leeds too much and instead will allow them to focus more attention on the Championship itself. One of the talking points of the season so far has been the altercation between Nottingham Forest and the Yorkshire outfit, with tensions bound to be high considering they are both two of England’s most famous clubs. Most recently however, Leeds United picked up a 3-1 win against an in form Millwall side, an important result considering both have just been promoted and the atmosphere among the supporters can make the game feel like a local derby match.
I have been impressed with Leeds so far, particularly going forward. Despite the loss of Jermaine Beckford, the club seems to attack at real pace that can cause panic in most defences. Local boy Lloyd Sam has returned to his roots and he provides a fantastic high tempo alongside Sanchez Watt, the youngster on loan from Arsenal. And despite being 24 years old, Ross McCormack is a great signing from league rivals Cardiff with plenty of Championship experience, although he has since stated that he is no Jermaine Beckford in terms of scoring and expects all the club strikers to pitch in with their effort. There is always a pressure that comes from following a great goal scorer as the loss of one can often effect the system that your team plays, but from what I have seen so far, the club seems to be very capable of filling the void Beckford has made. If there is any pressure to score however, it is most likely to fall on McCormack’s shoulders.
Most importantly for the West Yorkshire side is the fact that Robert Snodgrass is nearing full fitness once again; a player I pointed out at the start of the season as one to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing the young Scotsman this season and I think more people will start to take notice of the fan favourite once he gets back to full fitness and match sharpness. As well as this, new signing Billy Paynter is also on his way back and will provide another option in attack for the side. Kasper Schmeicel has been wowing the crowds with his goal keeping abillities and has been touted by many as one of the early stars of the season. Simon Grayson must be feeling pretty happy right now as the pieces are starting to fall into place, but the month ahead will see Leeds’ revisiting a few old friends in the league.
Starting out with a tricky home tie against Swansea this Saturday, United will then take on three other sides from Yorkshire, with Barnsley away, Doncaster away and Sheffield United at home. Despite being marked for relegation by many pundits, Barnsley are never a push over at home and they will be up for the game against Leeds. The game away to Doncaster will be shown live on Sky Sports on a Friday night (which doesn’t suggest drunken trouble…) and with all that in mind, Doncaster players will fancy their chances when the cameras are on them. Finally, Leeds old boy Gary Speed will return to Elland Road, but in the manager seat of the Blades in a game I am already looking forward to as I believe it will be well contested and we will see some great action from two of Yorkshire’s most recognisable teams. After Yorkshire explodes with football excitement, Leeds have a final home tie against Preston in a game most Leeds fans will put down as a definite win, although how they handle the three previous local affairs could determine the outcome of this match, as poor performances against the three Yorkshire sides could really dent the side’s confidence.
So September is certainly a tough month for Leeds but also one that creates great excitement. Between 7-9 points from the five games would be another triumph for the club, but when local pride is at stake the fans will be hopeful of a maximum three points from Barnsley, Doncaster and Sheffield United as well as two good home performances against Swansea and Preston. This is a really important month in the season for Leeds, the main focus at the start of the season was survival and when you’re playing a Barnsley side who have been predicted for relegation and a Preston side that look like they are somewhat struggling, you will want to win those games.