Five Championship stars that could step up to the Premier League
While many of the Premier League’s top sides will be like kids in a sweetshop at the prospect of getting their chequebooks out at the conclusion of the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, many of the division’s teams will be looking elsewhere to unearth the unpolished diamonds in the rough that could prove the difference [...]The post Five Championship stars that could step up to the Premier League – Feat. Liverpool and Newcastle targets appeared first on Squawka News.
As the first day of 2014 dawned bleary eyed from the previous night's excesses Planet Leeds had a positive feel about it. For the first time in a decade there was a spark of real optimism in the air with affairs off the field finally beginning to resemble a well run Football club whilst on the field Brian McD has assembled a platform that with sensible investment should provide a realistic challenge for the heady heights of promotion. The key will be the success or otherwise of the next 4 weeks activity in the transfer market coupled with continued development of the key members of the existing squad.Blackburn Rovers were the visitors to the Theatre of Hope for the first game of the new year. As ever the Happy Chocker and the Quiet One were on board as we pointed the car down the M62 towards LS11. The normal New Year's Day delicate atmosphere didn't stop a healthy debate on the up and coming starting line up. Would Kenny recover from his clash with Halford at Forest? Has Ross Mac's hamstring loosened up enough for him to start? Will Mowatt return to a midfield crying out for creativity? Other matters also found their way into the conversation. Fireworks for New Year, yes, but not at 3.30am............Will we win the price of our Season ticket back in the latest fan friendly initiative from David Haigh? And the perennial question of are Scottish footballers more likely to have a "convenient injury" over the New Year period?The team news confirmed that Paddy had passed his fitness test and both Mowatt and Byram returned to the starting XI at the expense of Brown and Peltier. The depressing, grey weather couldn't dampen the spirits of the 30,000 fans who had braved their hangovers to witness the latest game of Leeds' championship campaign. The game kicked off with the wind swirling and rain lashing down. Leeds took the early initiative as Smith forced an error from a Rovers defender that released Austin to stride away towards the Rovers goal but his shot was blocked by Dann and the ball spun away for a corner. Blackburn as they did at Ewood Park flooded the midfield leaving the £8m man, Rhodes, alone up front. The Blackburn midfield were quick to break and support him though with Cairney and Taylor forming an effective link to test the Leeds back three. Blackburn gave Leeds ample warning of their attacking potential as Cairney swung a corner into the Leeds box for Hanley to head inches over the bar. Minutes later Cairney drifted past a Leeds challenge in midfield before slotting a perfect ball through for Rhodes to collect and finish in some style past a helpless Kenny. 1.0 Blackburn after just 12 minutes. This wasn't the start to 2014 I had envisaged.Mowatt responded quickly for Leeds as he weaved his way through the Blackburn defence before bending a left foot shot that tested Eastwood in the visitors goal. But it was Blackburn who looked threatening every time they attacked. Ben Marshall ghosted into the box but his shot was deflected for a corner. The corner caused palpitations for many home fans as another header soared goalwards. Alarm bells were now ringing in my head as another typical Leeds festive performance unveiled in all it's gory detail in front of my eyes. Tom Lees cleared a Campbell shot off the line as Blackburn dominated the game. Leeds did have a difficult chance as Smith so nearly connected with a fizzing Pugh cross but the momentum was with the Lancashire side as they piled the pressure on Kenny's goal. The inevitable 2nd goal came when Cairney swung a corner into the 6 yards box for Gestede to head firmly down into the net. 2.0 Blackburn and Leeds were in danger of being swamped. Blackburn should have a had a penalty when that man Cairney slotted another slide rule ball through for Gestede who was tackled from behind by Murphy. Boos rang out from the frustrated home fans as the half time whistle blew. Leeds were lucky only to be trailing by 2 after a half in which they were well and truly second best.The urinal philosophers views were fairly consistent.......We just weren't good enough or words to that effect! Rovers had exposed Leeds weaknesses in midfield in cruel fashion. By smothering the midfield when Leeds had the ball they had challenged them to break them down which was clearly beyond the threesome of Mowatt, Murphy and Austin. When Blackburn had the ball they danced through Leeds midfield with ease. It was difficult to see how Leeds were going to get back into this game.Brian McD replaced Murphy with young Ariyibi at half time in a desperate attempt to wrest back the advantage from Blackburn. His inexperience is there for all to see but he has got pace and within minutes of the restart he was on hand to attempt a lob back into an open net after a Pugh cross but the ball sailed harmlessly over the top. Leeds had come out with a bit more fire in their belly's though with Byram clearly looking to attack down the right. He swapped passes with Ross Mac on the edge of the box and chased down a ball that the defender should have cleared but young Byram's foot steered the ball to Smith who gratefully passed the ball into an empty net. 2.1 and game on!Leeds now had a head of steam helped by a fired up home crowd after some strange decisions by the referee. Smith was bundled to the floor as he attempted to chase a lovely through ball. No foul! Ross Mac was next to be impeded without even a foul given never mind a yellow card. The crowd were now baying for the ref's blood as Leeds looked for an unlikely equaliser. Mowatt had a chance to send the crowd into ecstasy as his shot cannoned off the bar from 8 yards. Soon after Ross Mac's header hit the side netting as the pressure built on the visiting goal. Surely we couldn't rescue a point after the first half battering we took?The game entered the last 10 minutes with both teams looking to score. A Rhodes header clattered Kenny's bar whilst Poleon had been thrown on in place of Lees to try and get the vital goal. Shots from Austin and Ross Mac raised expectation levels in the kop but as the game went into 5 minutes of added time I had that all too familiar feeling as the game slipped through Leeds fingers giving Blackburn a deserved victory. Full time 2.1 Blackburn.If Brian McD needed evidence that the team needs an injection of quality this was it. Blackburn are below us in the table and on paper have a better but also a more expensive team. They controlled the game with ease in the first half and we had no answer. Our ability to break teams down, especially those who get men behind the ball, is very limited with the current personnel. It won't take many additions to change that but without it we will struggle to challenge for the top six in this ultra competitive league. A disappointing festive run of games has become the norm in recent years and this year has been no different. Hopefully the difference this year is the response in the January transfer window?Can't wait.MOT
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Sky Bet Championship: QPR's class tells as Leeds unbeaten run comes to an end
The sun was cracking the pavements in Selby as the lunchtime kick off dictated yet another early start to our latest matchday. I will never get used to lunchtime kick off's. It's just not right. Even in Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution he cited 3pm Saturday kick off times as one of the exceptions to his rule that everything in life evolves. Clearly the TV and Football gods have never read his book! Still that wonderful feeling of confidence and optimism filled the air as the Happy Chocker and the Quiet One joined me for the trip to the Theatre of Hope. After their mightily impressive win at the Keepmoat Brian McD's team extended their unbeaten start to the season to 6 games and sent a shot of real hope through the veins of the extended LUFC family but the good news didn't stop there as Ross Mac signed a new deal to finally rebuff any possible move to the Smoggies or the Donkey Lashers. So for the first time in an eternity the vast majority of Leeds fans streaming to Elland Road had an unusual strange look on their face. For those who weren't sure what this phenomenon was it's called " a smiling face"
Selection permutations were the main topic of conversation as we quaffed our pre match refreshments. Would Mowatt and Wootton start? How can he not start with Smith and Poleon after their performance against Donny? What about Drury? Suddenly Brian McD had selection headaches of a different kind. In the end the team selection was relatively conservative as Wootton was the only change at the expense of Tom Lees. Mowatt didn't even make the bench.
'Arrys expensive array of talent with significant premiership experience looked formidable on paper, Barton, Hill, Johnson, Green, Dunne, Onouha and Wright-Philips with the likes of Jenas, Faurlin and Hoilett on the bench not to mention the goal machine Austin leading the line suggested this was going to be Leeds' toughest test yet. Leeds started brightly though with their patient build up creating a couple of early half chances for Green and Ross Mac but both shots ended up in the South Stand. At the other end pantomime villain, Barton, had the ball in the net only to be denied by the linesman's flag. The game progressed with precious few chances created as both teams cancelled each other out. Leeds were the more dogged of the two sides whilst QPR seemed to have just that bit of extra class. Wootton and Pearce were holding firm at the back though as the game crept towards half time still goalless. Wright-Phillips showed just why he is not quite good enough for the Premiership when he skipped past some desperate Leeds tackles only to pull his shot horribly wide. Leeds were restricted to long range efforts as the half finished with the scores level at 0.0.
The first half stalemate had tempered my pre match optimism. Having spent £25m on their team QPR look like being formidable contenders for the promotion places as their redoubtable defence swatted away Hunt and Varney's efforts with unruffled ease. If we were going to break the deadlock in the 2nd half we needed a different approach.
The 2nd half started with Warnock gifting Austin the ball on the half way line. He scampered away from the distant home defence only for Kenny to thwart him with a good save. Leeds responded with a rare attack that saw Ross Mac appealing for a penalty after Simpson handled in the box but referee Atwell waved play on. QPR were beginning to take control of the game as they dominated possession. Hunt and Varney gave way for Smith and Poleon on the hour as Brian McD tried to get Leeds back in the game. Smith went near with his first touch as his lunging header caused havoc in the visiting defence. Poleon also got a shot away to give the Leeds faithful hope. The home side's lack of width was holding them back though as far too few attempted balls into the box came from anywhere but near the bye line and were easily repelled by Dunne and Onouha at the heart of the Gers defence.QPR's greater possession finally told on 75 minutes when Hill scrambled the ball home from a free kick after the ball ricocheted around the Leeds box. 1.0 QPR. It looked a long way back for Leeds having hardly tested Green in the Ger's goal. Diouf replaced Green and as ever showed flashes of class and trickery but not enough to create a goal as the game headed for 5 minutes of added time. Leeds threw everything forward in an attempt to preserve their unbeaten record. Pearce's header flew wide whilst Poleon wriggled free of his marker only to hit a tame shot at Green. Then just as the final seconds ticked away Rudy Austin so nearly brought the house down as he hit a screamer from 35 yards that Green could only watch as it hit the bar. The whistle went shortly afterwards to signal a hard fought win for QPR 1.0. A reality check for Leeds in this very tough and tight division. The visitors just about deserved their victory and on this evidence will be challenging come May next year.
For Leeds Murphy did well as did Wooton, Pearce and Pelts. Warnock had an off day with too many misplaced passes. "The only positive is that we would have lost this 3.0 last year" HC muttered as we shuffled for the shuttle bus back to the town centre. The pre match buzz had evaporated from the majority of fans as they made their way home. Football is a cruel game at times.
The journey home was quiet as the disappointment of the defeat sank in. Cyber space was alive with doom and gloomers demanding we sign Messi before it's too late but we are only 5 games into the league season. We've made a good start and Brian McD has got the ship pointing in the right direction. Let's not panic just yet. Bolton at the Reebok next. Another tough test for Leeds. Can we bounce back against the Trotters? I do hope so.
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