Well, where to start. Leeds United have gone through a tumultuous few months at the club, to say the least. In order to get a full grasp on things, let’s start in January.
Prior to current owner Massimo Cellino officially taking control of the club in April, Leeds United have been owned by a Middle East-based private equity group “GFH Capital,” who finalized a 100% takeover of the club from prior owner Ken Bates in November 2012. However, through the two years in which GFH was in control of the club, it seemed each day a new story of a consortium or minority group involved with GFH was coming on board and would be involved in some way at the club.
Then came “Sport Capital,” in January, a company Leeds United managing director David Haigh (who had been involved with GFH before joining the club upon the original takeover) was involved with. They were interested in acquiring a 75% state in the club from GFH. Yet, before we could even make it through a month, Sport Capital’s takeover fell apart due to a lack of finances.
In comes Cellino, the former president of Serie A club Cagliari. But, the hurdles weren’t over with just yet. After the club announced an exchange of contracts between the two parties on February 7, the Board of the Football League unanimously voted that Cellino did not meet their Owners and Director’s Test, putting yet another takeover of the club on hold. A formal appeal from Cellino followed.
Alas, on April 5, Cellino’s appeal was successful and the takeover was made official on April 10.
David Hockaday, whose only experience as a manager was with the Forest Green Rovers of the Conference Premier, was appointed manager on a two-year contract on June 19.
That didn’t last. He was gone in just 70 days. Academy manager Neil Redfearn was appointed caretaker on August 28 and all he did was get three wins in a draw during his stint in charge. So naturally, change was needed.
Next in line was Darko Milanic as he arrived from SK Sturm Graz in Austria on a two-year contract, with Redfearn stepping into a role as academy manager and head of coaching.
Just 32 days and six games without a win later, Milanic was gone. Redfearn has now been given the managerial reigns on a permanent basis with an initial 12-month deal.
Games have been happening during this, too.
The squad that has been assembled really isn’t as bad as its 15th place in the Championship table might elude to. Goalkeeper Marco Silvestri, who arrived from Serie A club Chievo this past summer, has been nothing short of magnificent in goal for The Whites starting all 17 league games thus far.
Goals haven’t really been the issue either. New signing Mirco Antenucci leads the team with five goals while Souleymane Doukara, another new face in the side this season, has scored four goals in 12 appearances. Alex Mowatt, a 19-year-old midfielder who’s been most recently linked with Everton and Aston Villa, has also made it on the scoresheet on four separate occasions and, along with academy product Lewis Cook, has benefited from Redfearn’s games in charge.
The defense has been somewhat lackluster conceding 24 goals thus far this season. Despite that ranking in the middle of the Championship, play along the back line needs improving. Former Chesterfield center back Liam Cooper did get a goal in their most recent win against Blackpool, but it was his play alongside mainstay center back Jason Pearce that really stood out. The play of Sam Byram was also much improved last time out (albeit against the Seasiders who are entrenched at the bottom of the table). Byram’s play hasn’t been near the level it was when he burst onto the scene two seasons ago, but he’s already amassed 82 appearances by the time he’s 21-years-old. Leeds United have had to fend off Premier League suitors in the past, so improvement from him can only mean good things for the club.
One pleasant surprise recently has been the play of midfielder Adryan, who’s on a season-long loan from Brazilian club Flamengo. Leeds United would have the option of a permanent move that would be in the region of £3 million. Fans of the FIFA franchise may recognize him as a youngster that had potential, but was always going to break your budget (at least that was always the case for me). As Yorkshire Evening Post writer Phil Hay put it: “The young Brazilian play-maker is starting to make a belated impact and get up to speed in the Championship and showed some tantalizing glimpses of the damage he can do.” If there’s one player to watch in the coming weeks and months on Leeds United, Adryan is going to be the one.
With wins against two of the top three teams in the table (Bournemouth, Middlesbrough) already this season, the international break offers Leeds United a chance to reassess and properly prepare for a trip to Ewood Park to face Blackburn and welcome league-leaders Derby County as their first two matches.
GK – Marco Silvestri
D – Sam Byram
D – Jason Pearce (C)
D – Giuseppe Bellusci
D – Stephen Warnock
M – Adryan
M – Tomasso Bianchi
M – Alex Mowatt
M – Lewis Cook
F – Souleymane Doukara
F – Mirco Antenucci
Most Improved Player
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