Easter: A mixed basket

22 Apr 2014 08:39 pm, by YorkshireSquare

In an echo of the Easter story Brian McDermott has already risen from the dead once this year when he was given a reprieve after his sacking by Massimo Cellino back in February. The Leeds United manager, sorry coach, has done little since then to suggest he can walk on water but the team had has a little revival recently. Having secured their first win in six matches against Blackpool the team headed to Oakwell, a place they have not won a point since 1997.

It is fair to say that it was not the most enthralling game of football. Barnsley will have been expected to fight for every ball given their perilous predicament but as it turned out they didn’t really show up. The game was settled by the one piece of genuine skill showing in the game from questionably the one truly skilful player on the pitch, Ross McCormack. Our first back to back wins since February, when we started that run with the win against Huddersfield, the game when McDermott had been sacked the previous day.

With a mini revival behind us Nottingham Forest were the visitors to Elland Road. There was frustration for the fans though as McDermott reverted to his previous ways, as though nothing had been learned from the previous games. Smith was dropped to the bench in favour of Hunt whilst Austin returned to a midfield ‘diamond’. We looked light in midfield though, the players unsure of the formation as Forest took us apart with ease and our defensive frailties let Matt Derbyshire bag a brace to secure the points for Forest.

The players looked clueless on the field, McDermott clueless on the touchline and more tellingly in his post-match interviews. The wins against Blackpool and Barnsley have had many telling us that the off the field instability has affected results off the pitch, that with stability and backing McDermott is the man for the job. But to me he seems to have accepted these substandard performances and results as the norm and seems to have little idea what to do about it.

Talking with Eddie Gray after the game he said “We’ve seen that game over the last three months quite a few times, that’s no accident. That’s something we need to address in the summer.” He went on to say “If you can keep it tight for 60/70 minutes in this league then you’ve got an opportunity to win games. We’re not doing that. Over the last three months we haven’t done that. It’s no accident that game today.” To me that is very defeatist from the manager. It is his responsibility over those three months to ensure we kept it tight, he sounds like a man low on confidence and low on ideas and it can’t be a surprise that is reflected in the team.

He told Eddie Gray he has a list of targets for next year and spoke of his favoured formation; “The favoured formation of 4-4-2 has got two teams out of the league, Burnley and Leicester. That’s no accident. But you have to have the players to play the system.” This comment will surprise fans who see us playing the ‘diamond’ in midfield, a system which the players don’t seem to understand and hasn’t worked for us. McDermott bemoaned the lack of pace whilst playing Austin out on the wing and Hunt up front. Rather than seeming like a man with ideas he is a man contradicting himself. Cameron Stewart, a player signed by McDermott, may have not been a big hit at Elland Road but he has pace and would certainly allow him to play 4-4-2.

Maybe a summer off and a new season with stability and backing will see McDermott rejuvenated. He may come back with new ideas, confidence and the motivation to push the team in the right direction. But to me he seems like a broken man, devoid of ideas about how to stem the tide of defeats. Across the Pennines this week at the club we shall not mention another manager seemingly drained of moral and ideas has been sacked. The board clearly have little confidence in the man to spend the money they need to in the summer wisely.

With McDermott and Cellino meeting this week to discuss summer targets and the strategy for next season this is make or break for McDermott. If he convinces Cellino he has a plan, has ideas then he will get backing and next season could be a different prospect. If he walks into that meeting and sounds like he did speaking with Eddie Gray then I can’t see Cellino having the confidence to back him.

There is work to so this summer, we know that. I’m just not confident yet who will be doing it.