The Whites are in the midst of a taxing run which has seen the club playing three games per week on a regular basis – almost every week since the start of the season. The injury list is dwindling with the physiotherapists finally getting a breather after a hectic period when a number of players were undergoing treatment.
The courageous and popular Patrick Kisnorbo played from the start against Brentford in the 0-0 draw and his return is not the only good news looming for ahead for the Leeds faithful. Captain Richard Naylor is on the verge of a return and could possibly feature in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash against visiting side Accrington Stanley. Naylor was on the bench over the weekend since manager Simon Grayson sought to avoid taking any risks while starting another player who recently recovered in the shape of Kisnorbo.
Paddy, as the Aussie defender is commonly referred to, was solid if not spectacular for a player who is working towards regaining full fitness. Paddy has won the affection of the Elland Road faithful thanks in large to his fighting spirit and refusal to take any match lightly. He sets the example with his commitment and fiery passion on the pitch and during training sessions. Kisnorbo’s recent statements will endear him even more to the Leeds crowd as he declared he sets out to win every game he plays. The centre-back will be one player who will give his utmost if used during the Accrintgon encounter.
The visitors are perhaps an unfashionable side but the boss feels his players will have enough motivation to overcome the League Two outfit at Elland Road. Grayson believes the lure of playing in Wembley will too great to overlook for the Leeds players with the club only three games from reaching the final. Grayson will likely rotate some of the players and hinted on-loan striker Sam Vokes may feature at some point after being left out in the League One fixture against Brentford. Vokes, who is owned by Wolverhampton Wanderers, could not be included in the squad for the weekend trip because Leeds already have six on-loan players and the rules dictate allowing only five in any one match squad.
If Grayson opts to rest the returning Australian Kisnorbo, then he may very well give captain Naylor the opportunity to build his match fitness from the start against Accrington. The centre-back, who played much of his long career with Ipswich Town, is a self-professed and well-known Leeds supporter as he routinely sang Marching On Together while showering after training sessions during his Ipswich stint. This was revealed by Ian Westlake, himself a former Ipswich and Leeds player, in an older issue of Leeds, Leeds, Leeds magazine (prior to Naylor’s move to Elland Road).
Upfront is perhaps where Grayson can experiment the most, given his plethora of options, yet the manager may be tempted to start Luciano Becchio again in the quest to have the Argentine player return to full fitness. It will be interesting to see who will feature amongst forwards Tresor Kandol, Mike Grella and Vokes or if top scorer Jermaine Beckford will start again. Robert Snodgrass will be available after he served his suspension and could be used on the flanks.
American striker Grella has did not start against Brentford despite his extra-time double against Kettering which basically opened the floodgates in the FA Cup’s second-round. Grella was signed by Leeds after a successful trial period during which he impressed. The American, who has both US and Italian passports, scored a hat-trick against Barnsley’s reserves and was duly signed to a professional contract on transfer deadline day February 2, 2009. The club’s management believes in his potential and despite making most of his appearances in a cameo role, the coaching staff feel he has a bright future ahead of him.
The boss will be careful to rotate his starting line-up without compromising the result, with the club focusing on promotion to the Championship as a priority but also taking seriously all cup competitions – as seen in the home clash against Liverpool in the League Cup and then the FA Cup replay with Kettering last week. Grayson seems determined to secure promotion while bringing in a trophy to Elland Road. He may succeed in doing so if the players continue to show the same commitment and belief in his tactics.