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West Ham United v Leeds United

Filed: Friday, 19th August 2011
By: Preview Percy

We're not saying that Preview Percy went looting during the recent disturbances, but when we went to visit him this week there were a lot of suspiciously new tartan blankets scattered around the rest home for the bewildered where he spends his time when the pubs aren't open. Here the grumpy one takes time out from moaning about how easy 'A' levels have become to take a look at this weekend's visit of Leeds United....

As Thin Lizzy once put it “The Boys Are Back In Town” as we return to The Boleyn for the visit of Leeds United for a 1.15pm kick-off on Sunday, a time when most right thinking people are usually wandering down to their local for a civilised Sunday lunchtime pint. Upton Park tube station will be open though there won’t be any Hammersmith & City service. District line only for me then.

The visitors arrive having not had the brightest of starts to the season. Their opening fixture saw them blown away 3-1 by an impressive performance from Southampton, Leeds’ consolation goal coming from a late penalty. They then beat local rivals Bradford City 3-2 in the League Cup, coming from behind twice in the process. However the cup performance was far from convincing and they returned to losing ways in the league with a 1-0 defeat at home to Boro’ finishing up with nine players in the process as Gradel and Howson picked up four yellow cards between them. However they finally got on the Championship ladder on Tuesday night with a comprehensive 4-1 defeat of Hull at Elland Road.

At the helm is Simon Grayson whose better claim to fame is that he is the elder brother of Essex coach Paul. Grayson (Major) has been manager for nearly three years now having been poached from Blackpool with whom Leeds had to come to a negotiated settlement for his services. He guided Leeds to promotion from whatever they are currently calling division three in 2009/10. Their first season back in this division saw them miss out on the playoffs, finishing in 7th place three points behind Nottingham Forest who claimed the final playoff berth.

It’s been a turbulent few years for Leeds one way or another. Their relegation to the third tier was accompanied by some dubious dealings on the financial side of things, which is precisely the sort of thing one has come to expect from Ken Bates over the years. In fact had HM Revenue & Customs had their way the club would have been placed into liquidation, only some fancy footwork by Bates and the company solicitors keeping the club in existence.

Bates indulged in a spot of pot vs. kettle earlier this week when describing supporters demonstrating against his stewardship of the club as “morons” earlier this week, which is a bit strong from the man who wanted to electrocute supporters all those years ago.

Bates has also fallen out with the good gentlemen of the British Broadcasting Corporation who have been making a programme that tries to take a look at the ownership of Leeds United FC. In the past it has been not uncommon for clubs with which Bates has been involved to have had their true ownership disguised by a labyrinthine trail of companies and trusts, usually ending up somewhere in the vicinity of Liechtenstein which, as you all know, is a semi-detached two-up, two down house plonked on the border between Switzerland and Austria. Any visitors who turn up with queries regarding such trusts are met by a little old cleaning lady who responds “I dunno guv, I just work here”, only in German.

Back in May, just as the football authorities were making noises about greater transparency of club ownership, the club announced that Bates had bought Leeds United from its undisclosed owners for an undisclosed sum by way of an offshore-registered company. The football authorities were happy to accept Bates’ word over the deal without raising any of the many queries that most would have raised given the same information. When the programme makers started digging, Bates promptly banned the BBC from press conferences, player & manager interviews and from just about anything else that they could ban them from without breaching contractual arrangements. One of the programme makers is a Guardian journalist who has taken a long interest in Bates’ affairs and, unsurprisingly, the Guardian has also been banned from Elland Road for some time already. At this rate the only media outlet that will be allowed into Elland Road will be Yorkshire Radio, and if they get banned you’ll know that Bates has finally lost the plot once and for all – he owns the station.

Of course controversy and Leeds United have always gone hand in hand. In fact the club’s whole existence as Leeds United resulted from the winding up and expelling of a predecessor club, Leeds City, following the discovery of illegal payments. Fast forward to the Revie era of the late 60’s and early 70’s and we saw a nasty element of cynicism and gamesmanship that won them trophies but few friends amidst rumblings of bribery and corruption. Given this as a background the “Dirty Leeds” tag stuck and their fall in recent times from So-called Champions League to third tier football upset few people outside of Yorkshire.

The So Called Champions League adventures occurred when the club was under the stewardship of Peter Ridsdale who seems to have something of the reverse Midas touch about him when it comes to the running of football clubs. That it took someone like Ken Bates to keep the club going will give you an indication of just how bad things were financially.

The current squad ought to be one of the better ones in the division on paper. Following the sale of Kaspar Schmeichel to moneybags Leicester they brought in two ‘keepers. Paul Rachubka came in on a free from Blackpool and on the way back from signing him they popped in to Preston to pick up Andy Lonergan. Lonergan seems to be first choice at the moment, having started all four matches thus far.

At the back they’ve picked up Celtic central defender Darren O’Dea on a season long loan. The Republic of Ireland-capped defender has decided that his future lies away from Glasgow having failed to make the starting line-up at Parkhead this season. Of course his surname is a gift to headline writers just waiting for him to mess up – it’s just a shame that he’s not a goalkeeper really.

If the club had been trying to get rid of the old “Dirty Leeds” tag they didn’t do themselves any favours by signing Michael Brown in midfield. Brown first came to prominence in the so-called battle of Brammall Lane when Sheffield United kicked lumps out of West Bromwich Albion in a match that ended up being abandoned when the hypocrites ended up with too few players on the pitch thanks to a combination of sendings off and suspicious injuries. Brown limped off the pitch in that match, a rarity amongst his early departures in that it didn’t actually involve his getting a red card. It could be quite an interesting clash between Brown, Parker, Nolan and Noble in the middle – not one perhaps for the faint hearted.

It was rumoured that we were linked with winger Max Gradel at one stage during the summer. The Ivorian picked up both fans’ and players’ player of the year awards last season and he weighed in with 18 goals which isn’t a bad return from midfield. He'll be available having served his one match ban for the red card picked up against Boro', as will skipper Jonny Howson.

Also in the middle they will have Scottish international Robert Snodgrass. Snodgrass made his first start for the sweaties in the recent 2-1 win over Denmark with his goal proving to be decisive in the 2-1 win .As with Gradel, there have been suggestions that he is destined for higher things with Norwich said to have made a £3.5m bid earlier in the window. However, at time of writing he remains on Leeds’ books.

They’ve had a bit of a striker crisis. The Argentine Luciano Becchio, who managed 20 goals last season managed to do a hamstring in the summer, an injury that required surgery which will keep him out until September/October. David Somma will be out for even longer with a cruciate knee ligament injury. He managed to upset his boss by telling everyone about it on twitter, something that led to Grayson banning his players from using the medium.

The injuries have led to a more prominent role for Honduran Ramon Nunez. The striker arrived at Leeds about a year ago but found first team opportunities limited, something that saw the player farmed him out to Scunthorpe on loan. On his return this season, he picked up a brace in the League Cup against Bradford and got himself a start against Hull where he was also on the scoresheet. Brought up in the USA, Nunez picked up the Southern Methodist University Freshman of the Year award in 2003. No-one can take that away from him.

With another striker in Billy Paynter also picking up a knock recently, Grayson moved to plug the striker gap last week, bringing in Andy Keogh in from Wolves. The loan period expires in January, though it has been undertaken with a view to a permanent deal.

Us? Well what an unusual week that was. I’ll admit that I thought that we made hard work of the win at the Keepmoat and that, given that Watford were likely to provide more of a challenge I thought a point was on the cards at Vicarage Road. I like it when I’m wrong like that. Ilunga showed some improved form, though whether it was good enough for Cheri to keep his place once Linda becomes available for selection is another matter.

There was one fly in last week’s six point ointment however. Tomkins injury is a bit of a concern. He’s been in fine form so far this season and the clutching of the back of the thigh always worries me what with hamstrings beings such tricky coves and all. At time of writing he was being assessed and, although there have been optimistic noises emanating from Chadwell Heath, with this being a long, long season caution may prevail. Should that be the case Abdoulaye Faye will continue alongside Reid in the heart of the defence.

Four fifths of the middle five seem to be settled for the time being with Nolan, Noble, Taylor and Parker being the preferred four – for the time being. Parker’s future is, of course the subject of intense speculation and QPR are said to be hovering on the horizon. There were many comments regarding Parker’s (lack of) goal celebrations on Tuesday night though I always think that it’s too easy to make too much out of such things. QPR’s immediate post-Fernandes takeover bid of £4m has been dismissed out of hand by Dave S (“a bit like us bidding £12m for Rooney”) and it remains to be seen whether Parker is so desperate to get back into the top flight that he would exchange a title fight for a relegation scrap. I suppose we could always pick him back up as we pass at the end of the season!

On the right hand side things have been a bit more variable with Sears, Collison, Barrera and, latterly, Faubert all having had match time in the three matches so far. The fact that Collison started against both Doncaster and Watford would suggest that Mr Allardyce has him pencilled in as first choice for that berth at the moment. In similar vein Carlton Cole got the nod over Piquionne on Tuesday, though the haste with which Cole was replaced by Piquionne shortly after scoring suggests that the starting spot might not be as clear cut up front. Carew was apparently close to a spot on the bench in midweek and a few days more training should see him a bit closer to the racing car seats.

Looking at this one Leeds have a bit more quality about their squad than Watford did and their return to some sort of form in midweek will have perked them up after the poor results from the first couple of matches. However, our own couple of wins will have had a similar effect on our squad – and will not have gone unnoticed in the rest of the league. Back to back away wins for the first time in four years will have lain a few ghosts to rest and I reckon that there’ll be a few out there wanting to prove that Cardiff was a rust induced blip. So I’m going to go for a 3-1 win as we start to settle into something of a groove.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: N/A (of course). The last time we found ourselves in the same league was in the 2004/05 promotion season. At the Boleyn just before Christmas 2004 a late penalty earned by one of the worst dives you’ll ever see from David Healey was converted by the cheat to give the visitors a point, Luke Chadwick having given us the lead earlier. A few months later we went down to a late Shaun Derry winner at Elland Road after Gavin Williams (currently residing in the “where are they now” file) had equalised Rob Hulse’s opener.

Player to watch: Ramon Nunez – Looks to be a tricky sort though when I watched the League Cup match against Bradford the other night it did strike me that the last time I’d seen anyone that one-footed she was arguing with Paul McCartney.

Referee: Michael Oliver – one of the younger referees on the list, in fact he replaced the disaster area that is Stuart Atwell as the youngest ref to take charge of a Premier League match. He was last seen at the Boleyn for last season’s 3-2 win in the FA Cup against Nottingham Forest. He was also due to take charge of our home match against Villa last season but was mysteriously replaced late on by Mark Halsey amidst rumours that his Mum wouldn’t let him out until he’d tidied his room. As far as I can tell he has yet to take charge of a match this season.

Daft fact of the week: As we saw recently with Cardiff, Peter Ridsdale’s business acumen was, er, remarkable. Legend has it (and we do so hope that the story is true) that when Leeds signed Seth Johnson from Derby all those years ago, the player and his agent agreed before their contract talks that they would settle for £16,000 a week and no less. Ridsdale apparently opened his negotiations with an opening bid of £26,000. When player and agent expressed surprise at this figure, Ridsdale relented saying “ok £32,000 and no more”. Ridsdale claims that he has been banned for life from Elland Road by Ken Bates. We can’t for the life of us think why!

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by Bitesyerlegs
09:34AM 20th Aug 2011
''Leeds fan here. Great writing. Loved the lines about Lichtenstein and the gold-digger - hilarious.

Can't see your man Parker going to QPR. What would be the point, really?
Hate to say it but 3-1 to you is what I fear from tomorrow. But at the moment Leeds are so unpredictable it could go the other way.''

by Heart0fIron
07:51PM 19th Aug 2011
''Cheers Percy, i do like these previews =)''

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