To the question forwarded by the title, I would have to say no. While the defeat at Rochdale began to fade in the build up to last Saturday’s game against Sheffield Wednesday, a feeling of hopeless desolation has persisted within me throughout this week, following on from a performance of quite a scandalous magnitude, a 6-0 scoreline that didn’t lie. Our upcoming game against high-flying Leicester city has only increased my apprehension and worry.
Post Rochdale and Pre-Wednesday, I could believe the notion that the players had a really rough day in the Third Round, with weariness in possession and tottering confidence things that would be turned around by the time we played the Owls. Wingers had been brought in before the game, with the arrival of Jimmy Kebe very exciting to see. Cameron Stewart may have had a mixed time at Charlton, but the promise of pace and a goal threat was still something I looked forward to. It was set up for the perfect comeback. Only the complete opposite happened.
We were all over the place tactically and looked completely lost in the 2nd half, letting in goal after goal without the slightest response. Nothing worked. As far as the new debutants were concerned, far from contributing to the team positively, they were never in the game. It was a terrible day, obviously, but aside from the displeasure of witnessing such a sickening performance from my club; the game also offered me a blunt realisation akin to a sharp smack on the head. Teams like this don’t go to the Premiership.
Yes, the scars of last Saturday will certainly temper any burgeoning hope that might arise for Leeds in the coming months, perhaps after a 2-0 battering of Charlton or a ‘heroic’ 1-0 victory at Birmingham. It isn’t just the 6-0 scoreline that has convinced me that this might not be our year, but the inept performance of practically every player on the pitch. Though Stewart and Kebe will probably improve, and McCormack tried, the majority of the team that played were supposed to be reliable starters, guys who I thought, if surrounded by some quality, could battle their way to the Premiership. I’m not so sure they can now. We look there for the taking at the moment, and have done so for much of the season, with most of the teams we have played often only a hair’s breadth from securing a draw or a win against us.
Like us on Facebook
But this weakness is severe now. Whilst our goals return is comparatively decent, the functioning of our defence and those in the midfield is quite barren of any form or method at the moment. In the last few matches, these players appear to just turn up in order to fulfil their position as dots on the whiteboard outlined before the game. They forget that in occupying these positions there are required duties to perform. First team members of promoted players aren’t like this, surely not. Teams that go to the Premiership usually have a group of players that are relatively consistent, as well as some kind of distinguishable playing style and a squad that has been improved consistently over time, with a vision of where the team wants to be, a vision worked at for at least a few years.
Look at teams that have gotten into the Premiership in recent years and stayed there; Southampton, West Bromich Albion, Swansea. These teams had clear and refined styles of football and proper structures that had been crafted methodically. Amongst this season’s new arrivals, Hull City look the most equipped for an extended residency. They may not be pretty to watch, but they’re tough and resilient, with enough quality with which to threaten the opposition and gain points. For those teams who don’t come with a clear plan, trouble strategy. Take Crystal Palace, whose scattergun transfer policy last summer accompanied by early managerial turmoil has kept them ensconced in the relegation places since the start of the season. Despite things turning under Tony Pulis, they’ve got an almighty scrap on their hands to survive, and will rue their unstable transfer meanderings in the summer if they are relegated. If Crystal Palace needed surgery to simply compete at the top level, this Leeds side would need some kind of dubious miracle treatment to stay alive. A miracle because it would somehow revivify a number of creaking or flaky squad members, eviscerate lesser players from the squad, whilst also supplementing a raft of new blood into the club without killing off any team spirit that was fostered during promotion. Medical analogies aside, this team just does not look like one equipped to get there this season, even if two more players are added this January. Our squad is just too overpopulated with a happily settled class of mediocre journeymen to really make a concerted push for the promotion places.
Neil Warnock brought the majority of these players in as supposedly quick fixes, available on the cheap having been passed on by previous owners and deemed able enough to bludgeon their way to the Promised Land. This was no plan, and was formed without the essence of a vision or a style of play good enough to bring about consistency. Brian Mcdermott is a safer pair of hands, but it still took him two seasons to get an already strong Reading promoted despite them being a Premiership club just two years prior to his arrival. Throughout their stay in the Championship, Reading strove to rejoin the elite with proper financial backing year-on-year. Indeed, during his two years managing Reading at this level, Brian Mcdermott brought in the likes of Jobi Mcanuff, Matt Mills, Zurab Khizanishvili, Mikele Leigertwood, Kaspar Gorkks, Adam Le Fondre and Jason Roberts, moulding a side eminently capable of promotion. But it wasn’t as if Mcdermott was working from scratch, as previous manager Steve Coppell had left a relatively strong and well-balanced squad for him to build on. At Leeds, as we all know, such a situation has not occurred. A legacy of disjointedness has been prevalent at the club for the last ten years and is now manifest by an imbalanced squad with too much middle-of-the-road contentment and too little ambitious spark. The planning does not have to be laborious under Mcdermott, and he has just started to address the deficiencies within the squad. The summer should be an exciting time, providing the proper investment is there to play with. As for the remainder of this season, I’m not holding my breath, as promotion usually takes more than just a manager attempting to invigorate a squad of average toilers with a sprinkling of quality. Rather, it takes consistent and astute investment, with some degree of established planning. Once our club has been awarded the former, I will look at promotion as more than just a forlorn hope, much as it pains me to do so.