Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Scratching Shed talks to Cherry Chimes

Rival Lines
Leeds Utd v AFCB
Blogger Interview: The Scratching Shed
(Interview was made last week)

I was pleased to be able to have another word with David at The Scratching Shed last week and catch up with how Leeds fans were feeling ahead of the match with AFCB. Leeds Utd's precarious position is likely to get plenty of media coverage unless Neil Redfearn can turn things around soon.

CC: Why do you think Leeds' home form has slipped so much since picking up 7 points out of 9 in November, 1 point in December is not good enough is it?

TSS: There's myriad reasons for that decline. Sometimes it just feels like we're not getting the rub of the green, other times our team make careless and costly mistakes, which is always a double-blow because it effects confidence. There's also a certain imbalance to the squad (loads of central players, no width) which leaves our options limited when it comes to changing things around, but the last couple of games (Sunderland and Bolton) we've been trying something new and things have looked much better for us.

CC: Do Leeds need a complete rebuilding job now or over the summer?

TSS: On the contrary, Leeds' off-field problems have resulted in major squad upheaval every summer for some years now and that lack of stability is our biggest issue. It's an issue compounded by our latest batch of recruits having little to no Championship experience, or indeed, experience in English football, so the whole season has been a learning process.

Leeds have talent in the squad, they're just young and/or inexperienced, but come summer, they'll have a year under their belts and be able to build on what will undoubtedly end as a poor and forgettable season. I'm not saying we shouldn't add to the squad at all, there's always room for improvement and we need a couple of experienced heads to aid the learning process of others, but we desperately need to find some stability on and off the pitch so instead of a total overhaul, I think we'd be better off making a small number of carefully considered signings to build on what we have and strengthen where we're lacking.

CC: Stephen Warnock has completed his move to Derby, so are you disappointed he did not seem to be offered a contract to stay at Leeds or is he not a big loss?

TSS: He doesn't have the best relationship with Cellino and is probably our highest earner so the writing was on the wall, but yeah, this is just a crazy decision by the club, he's a huge loss. He's probably been our most consistent performer this season and is one of a very small number of players who has the experience we're lacking. A lot of fans always think the grass is greener when a player leaves, that they're easily replaced, and that seems to be the owner's mentality too but it's done Leeds no good over the past few years and I fear we'll come to regret the decision.

CC: Are you hopeful that Neil Redfearn is making progress after the point away at Bolton?

TSS: I have absolute faith in Neil Redfearn, I think he made several gutsy (and largely unpopular) decisions before the Bolton game, has really grown into the job and is starting to turn the corner. Like a lot of our players, he's learning the ropes too but there's only so much he can do when player recruitment is handled by those above him and I doubt there's another manager/head coach out there who'd be performing any better in this situation. Get him a wide left player and bring Luciano Becchio home and I think the remainder of the season will be much smoother. Instead, we'll probably sign 12 Serie B rejects who play centrally and have no experience of the division.

CC: Do you think Massimo Cellino is Leeds' best hope to move forward or do you fear it will all end in tears? (Cellino lost his appeal to the Football league yesterday)

TSS: Probably the latter, but that's how I expect everything to end at Leeds...

CC: How important is it that Alex Mowatt stays at the club?

TSS: I've always liked Alex and he's been in great form this season but I'd argue 17-year-old Lewis Cook has quickly become our most important player along with the rejuvenated Sam Byram. All three came through the academy and should be considered crucial to our plans going forward.

CC: What's happened to Billy Sharp - 2 goals all season?

TSS: Service and he hasn't really been a regular. Like our abundance of central midfielders and total lack of width, this is another area of imbalance. Sharp, like Antenucci, is more of a second-striker and would benefit from someone who leads the line - like Luciano Becchio for example - alongside him which we don't really have (unless you count Steve Morison, but he's never really produced for us).

CC: Mirco Antenucci started well but he is also not getting starts now, so is Redfearn messing about with the starting line up too much?

TSS: Some games he seems to spend most of the 90 minutes offside but when he does manage to time his runs properly, he can be deadly. Redfearn changed system to find a better balance and that's cost Antenucci his place simply because he doesn't suit the lone striker role. No fault of his own so he'd be entitled to feel somewhat frustrated by it, but that's just how it goes sometimes.

CC: Leeds have not been in the bottom three all season so there is no need to panic is there?

TSS: I'm saying nothing. I insisted we'd be OK the last two times we got relegated...

CC: Are there any players who you know are definitely out for the Bournemouth match because they are injured?

TSS: Warnock would have been the only major doubt I think, but he'll be elsewhere by then by the looks of things.

CC: Does an evening game give you more confidence of beating Bournemouth at home with the atmosphere Leeds fans can create?

TSS: Ha. For the longest time our fanbase spoke of 'the Tuesday night curse' as if it was just accepted we'd play badly and lose midweek fixtures but I don't think our midweek record is too bad this season - no worse than our overall record anyway...

As for the atmosphere - a cold Tuesday night at a half empty Elland Road isn't generally conducive a great atmosphere so I wouldn't expect too much. Due to a combination of several poor seasons, a huge stadium for this level and crazy ticket pricing (not as bad as it was, but still not reflective of the level we're playing at in my opinion), the fans have very little to get excited about and the place is usually half empty - especially midweek. The situation isn't helped by the small number of away fans we get at Elland Road since they were moved to a different section and charged ludicrously high prices.

CC: I agree about the ticket pricing - it's absurd for a mid-week Championship match in January (five quid extra buying on the night as well - adult £39)! Some great answers from Dave there. I really like hearing what true fans feel about their club and when there are difficult times there are a lot good clubs who actually listen to what the fans are saying because often they have good things to say. 

Looking at results you might just wonder if the players are not up to the task, but there is a lot of faith in Neil Redfrean there. From what David says you have to wonder if the recruitment policy at the club is as good as it should be and the calls for Luciano Becchio's return are getting stronger.

Please check up on what The Scratching Shed has been reporting in the run up to the match against AFCB. I particularly like the article they haven entitled 'Are Leeds Utd worse than 12 months ago?' I'll let you answer that one. You can also check out the Scrathing Shed on twitter @TSSLUFC

Rantie Watch
Those who did not watch the Algeria v south Africa match in the Africa Cup of Nations it was quite a match for TK. While he helped in the build up for Bafana Bafana's goal with a fabulous back heel, he sadly then smashed the ball against the bar from the penalty spot that would have given South Africa a 2-0 lead at the time, but the score ended up 3-1 to Algeria. Rantie was taken off after 78 minutes and the commentator on Eurosport simply said: "You just feel sorry for him. He has had one of those days in front of goal, hasn't he?"

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