Monday, 30 July 2012

Jelly and ice-cream at Warnock's house

Considering Robert Snodgrass' departure, the arrival of Portsmouth FC (essentially, given what is left) and still having Ken Bates at the club, you could have forgiven Leeds fans if there had been a tinge of angst in the atmosphere as the Whites moved the pre-season party to the South-West. This time last year, fans were planning protests and demonstrations to show the support's disdain towards the efforts of those in a position of power at Elland Road. Despite the demonstrations being a fairly mellow affair, it proved that Leeds fans were capable of voicing their concerns. Voiced concerns were not a problem, here, though. Instead, around 3,000 Leeds fans took in the Devon and Cornwall sun in good spirits, whilst the team quietly grabbed three morale-boosting victories.
It's easy to see why the Yorkshire following was so relaxed when compared to the abomination that was last summer. The arrival of Paul Rachubka, Michael Brown, Michael Vayrynen et al highlight the significant lack of quality that was introduced to the side that had previously finished just three points outside of the playoffs. In return, Leeds allowed Kasper Schmeichel and Max Gradel to move on. It's pretty easy to recall why fans were so apathetic towards our chances of promotion last season. Not only that, but the introduction of Neil Warnock has revitalised hopes and aspirations within the Elland Road stands - Something which, rightly or wrongly, former boss Simon Grayson failed to do.
And despite this summer's transfer activity lacking any real excitement, the new faces that have signed on have at least generally improved the overall condition of the squad. Basing on their merits gained from the Cornwall tour, Jason Pearce, Jamie Ashdown and Paul Green can be pleased with their own introduction to the Leeds faithful. Pearce lived up to his reputation built at Portsmouth as a player who'd be willing 'to leap up at a brick and head it away' if it was thrown in his direction. Calm and composed, it was often puzzling to see a confident centre back grace the Leeds United shirt. Green also kept a composed look about himself, showing signs of being the consistent 7/10 midfielder that has often been craved in the middle of the park at Elland Road. Ashdown, meanwhile, had barely signed his contract at Leeds before showing what he could do, being tested (almost surprisingly) with a handful of testing attempts from Tavistock and Bodmin, responding to them somewhat comfortably.
It wasn't just the debutants who showed signs of promise, either. Ross McCormack's first half performance against Torquay brought back those early-season memories of instinct and precision from the Scot that brought such interest from the likes of Wigan and Blackburn. Aidy White seemed to capitalise on the momentum from his contract renewal with some impressive performances, using his speed as a regular source of trouble for the opposition. That said, these sort of introductions should always be taken with a pinch of salt. The standard of competition was far from ideal, and those that travelled to Scotland will remember the general consensus that Calamity Paul Rachubka was 'not actually that bad'. The true calibre of what has been brought in is yet to be truly tested, and only time will tell if the likes of Andy Gray and David Norris truly have the credentials to be competent parts of a promotion winning squad.
Despite the opposition, the surroundings and mentality towards the Cornwall trip was taken to positively by all. It's a rare sight when Leeds fans are openly relaxing, burger in one hand, pint in the other, laying out on the grass bank as the Whites bring home a 4-0 victory. Nor is it common for the connection between players and fans be so strong as it was during the open-session of pre-season training which saw a more than respectable showing from United fans. This is what was on offer, though, and could prove to be the bonding session that was needed for fans, management and players to unite before a heavy season ahead.
Manager Neil Warnock has already admitted that the current state of the squad is not fit for promotion, lacking three or four faces that can add that bit of style and creativity to really unlock sides and make a team enjoyable to watch. These type of players come at a price (look at Robert Snodgrass). It may be that the Snodgrass money is tucked into immediately. It may be a case of waiting on an imminent takeover bid to dot the I's and cross the T's. Whatever it may be, though, the patience and general positivity of the fans towards Neil Warnock and a speculated takeover deserves rewarding with more positive movement in the transfer window. Whether or not that will be delivered is another matter - Snodgrass clearly didn't think so. If you believe the press, though, we can expect the likes of Nicky Maynard or Jermaine Beckford to be adding some flair to proceedings. It's all a waiting game, just hopefully one on the final stretch.
But nevertheless, the last week with Leeds United has proven to be a much needed reminder that come rain or shine, Beckford or Paynter, Bates or Bahrain, the Elland Road faithful still know how to make following Leeds United an enjoyable experience. Those at Torquay, Bodmin and Tavistock emphasised why this club is still admired by some and loathed by others, and why Leeds United still has a little bit of soul in it yet.