Reading H 14th October 2017

My new book The Sleeping Giant Awakens, Leeds United Season 2016-17 is in the final stages. Having got the draft back for proofreading yesterday, I was doing this late into the night yesterday and this morning which meant that the early start for Elland Road didn’t happen. Falling asleep all the time didn’t help though! Having only got the last part to finish before sending it back to my publisher, means that the book will be at the printers shortly so exciting times ahead once again. The good news is that it will also be available in the Club shop!

With my daughter Danielle and granddaughter Hannah we ended up getting to Elland Road at 2.25 pm so went straight into the ground. The only thing about getting there late though, is that I missed the build up to the game. With not getting to the Peacock I missed my friends Sue and Paul, plus Dylan Waugh, Martin Hywood and family so sorry I didn’t make it there. My first port of call was the Kop bar, as I’d arranged to meet a Leeds fan through Gaz who wanted my book Follow Me and Leeds United. As it was I recognised him straight away so have bumped into him on my travels so thanks for the support Mal as that is appreciated. I then spoke to some of the Kippax lads about the songs recording to see if any were singers before chatting to some of the Halifax lads. As I was going into the stand I spoke to a woman who enjoys reading my blogs. She told me she’s bought my first book and her Burnley fan husband had read it and said it was exactly how it was back then. Thanks for the compliment! Despite getting there late, there were still loads of fans who I knew saying hello.

Talking about the old songs we are very close to getting our recording day sorted so I’m looking forward to that especially as our singing practice went really well recently. We will not remember every song and some cannot be included for obvious reasons, but if anyone wishes to contribute to any of the songs please get in touch to be added to the group. If we don’t already have the song on our list you would be accredited with any you tell us about. We have set up a Facebook page called “Leeds United we’ll support you evermore” intended for anyone who has anything to add.

The team today was Lonergan, Ayling, Berardi, Cooper, Jansson, O’Kane, Phillips, Hernandez, Roofe, Lasogga and Saiz. Subs were Sacko for Roofe (68), Grot for Lasogga (77) and Dallas for Berardi (89). Leeds lost 1-0 with ex-loanee Barrow scoring for Reading. Attendance was 33,900 with 434 Reading fans.

I was listening to BBC Radio Leeds on the way in to the game and on hearing that Wiedwald had been dropped for the game I was disappointed. My reasons being, that he had become a scapegoat for our latest defeat at Sheffield Wednesday where loads had blamed him for the defeat. It was a collective team defeat and for the first goal I still maintain the two defenders in front of him should have cleared the ball before it got to him. He made two great saves to stop Wednesday getting more goals which seems to have by passed many. We are trying to play a certain way but the players in front of him had started passing back so much that we were getting under more and more pressure. Now fans are entitled to their opinion and I may be in the minority, but I would have maintained status quo today and kept him in goal. After proof reading my latest book, the parallels from last season at this time are frankly very similar.

I have nothing against Lonergan and he did okay today making one really great save in the second half, but our playing out from the back was very poor today, again a collective performance. We also resorted to the long ball with goal kicks that went straight to their players at the other end where Reading started an attack once again. I didn’t pinpoint anything specific today as per our midfield getting overrun in the defeats of late, but we didn’t look very good at all in the first half. Hearing boos from the crowd near us after 10 minutes was a little too early in my opinion when getting behind the team could have improved their play. I know we were still making the same mistakes further up the field which is hard for some fans to take, although personally I was watching closely as to how we would play without having the sweeper keeper to play out from the back. Saiz was the only one who really stood out for me though.

The sell-out crowd once again were expecting a better performance but with us having got off to such a good start to the season and done better than we dared hope, it isn’t going to be a quick fix. It will take time and we have to be patient. I realise patience is thin with many fans which is their choice, but to turn things around on the pitch will take longer than the first few weeks of the season. This is a long term project and whilst the club are looking at the play offs, I still maintain we need to aspire for automatic promotion this year. Playing for the shirt is a must, but I know this will not happen overnight. In the first half I can’t really remember us putting their goalie under any pressure and the crowd were pretty quiet which was not surprising really. The ref as usual started booking our players very quickly and eventually when he gave us a free kick the crowd used their sarcasm by cheering loudly. He surpassed himself when Reading got a free kick for offside and it was taken in our half, what on earth was going on?

At half time I was downstairs with Carole, Ashley, Margaret and Keith behind the betting area when a Leeds fan asked for a £10 bet on Lasogga to score! We had a laugh with him but said he’d lose his money but I’d be happy to take it!

It was more in the second half that I noticed that O’Kane was playing very deep and had been involved in a lot of the play in the first half picking up balls across the back four I think. This meant that Phillips was playing in the midfield with Hernandez and Roofe with Saiz further forward. I don’t feel this had the desired effect as Phillips needed more support alongside him to make the midfield work. The second half carried on more of the same but things did brighten up a little when Sacko was brought on especially as he kept getting lots of space down the wing as we started attacking in the last 20 minutes. Things did get slightly better with Grot coming on as the other players upped their play but this wasn’t because of Grot. I don’t know how it happened as we had been on the attack, but all of a sudden Reading went forward towards the South Stand where Barrow put the ball into the net to put them into the lead. We should have got a point out of the game in the final minutes when Saiz was brought down in the area and the ref pointed to the spot.  As I wondered who our penalty taker would be I saw Hernandez had got hold of the ball. I watched as O’Kane hovered as if to say he should be taking the penalty but then he walked away. I blame the lad who stands behind us in the Kop for the penalty miss! As Hernandez went to take it, he told us where he was going to put the ball and he was going to miss.  I said it was his fault the goalie saved it but it was a very soft penalty to be frank with not a lot of power behind it. I suppose I felt resigned to things not going our way by the end of the game but on the whole it was a very poor performance. We didn’t put enough pressure on their goal and whilst we did get some shots in they were way off target. Whilst the scoreboard was back in action today, I don’t like the fact that it doesn’t show the score.

It is back to the drawing board for Christiansen. Whilst we need the spine of the team and stability within the club, we have got to be able to change things which unfortunately haven’t been good as of late. Whilst other fans are already writing games off, I will always take each game as it comes. Bristol away next week with a Friday game against Sheffield United the following week with the Carabao Cup game at Leicester in between will be a test as to whether we can change things. Our best form of defence is attack and what got us through the first few games where we remained unbeaten. When we resorted to type with passing back to the goalie and playing deep, along with other clubs sussing us out, this has impacted on us greatly. Some Leeds fans from Dublin were in high spirits at Billy’s statue after the game as we waited for my sister and her grandson to turn up. It was also nice to see Terje from Norway there too.

I just want to mention that last week I was doing some website training with Simon O’Rourke and his skills and knowledge are absolutely fantastic which were a great benefit to me. Having to rearrange the venue at the last minute we headed to the White Rose so we had WIFI access before heading to the Peacock. As usual I had my Leeds shirt on when I saw someone walk past us who I recognised. With that he came back to ask if it was me and tell me that he reads my blog all the time. I knew Peter’s face straight away and it’s nice when fans come for a chat.

The other good news last week was that Elland Road is now an Asset of Community Value and well done to the Leeds United Supporters’ Trust for achieving this. After Radrizzani buying Elland Road back, this news and the plans for the Matthew Murray site and bringing the training facilities back to Leeds from Thorpe Arch, it is good to see all the things going on in the background. Let’s hope it won’t be long for the team to get back to winning ways and give us hope for the future. See you at Bristol – LUFC – Marching on Together!