Leeds United managed to safely navigate through their encounter with Southampton as they recorded a vital 1-0 win at Elland Road. Besides working hard to bag three precious points from the clash, Leeds had to contend with Jermaine Beckford’s unacceptable behaviour as he was subbed with 15 minutes to go with the match scoreless.
When manager Simon Grayson had the club’s top-scorer replaced by Max Gradel, Beckford was visibly upset and did not shake his manager’s hand. Clearly an act of dissent as the player seemed to put the individual ahead of the group since he was not impressive on the night and the players were looking to win the match. Beckford should not have any qualms about the substitution regardless of the situation and in this case the Grayson was justified. In previous segments of the Leeds United club focus there was a mention of Beckford’s attitude and sometimes lackadaisical approach causing disdain amongst other squad members. The hard-fighting and often over committed Patrick Kisnorbo was just one of the Leeds players to previously have shown in one way or displeasure at Beckford’s apparent lack of effort.
In the striker’s defence, Beckford seems the type who effortlessly glides through games and often appears not to break a sweat only to check the score-sheet and see his name marked on the list. The striker has a knack for scoring goals and his predatory instincts have never been on doubt despite his questioned commitment. It could possibly be the refusal to sign an extension to his Leeds contract which led to some of the displeasure amongst players and fans. Beckford remains an integral part of the campaign to succeed in gaining promotion to the Championship. The manager is wise enough to recognise the need for Beckford’s goal scoring exploits to help propel Leeds to the next level and this probably explains why Grayson seemed lenient enough to accept a mere apology.
Grayson is walking a fine line whereby he cannot punish and aggravate the top-scorer but at the same time he does not want to be seen as a leader with a toothless personality on the bench. At the end of the season no one will doubt Grayson’s management of his players if he is able to lift Leeds to the Championship. If he fails to do so, some might look back and question whether he was far too lenient with Beckford and not just in this case but in terms of the striker’s perceptible lack of effort on the pitch. Does this situation remind the Leeds supporters of a certain Lee Chapman who used to score goals for fun while not contributing much else? At least Beckford offers lethal threat with his pace and his strike ratio for the club. Chapman was certainly the better of the two players from an aerial standpoint. On the ground, Beckford retains superiority with his athleticism in comparison to the former Leeds top-scorer. Simply put the Whites do need Beckford to make certain of the promotion because no other player on the team can guarantee over 25 goals a season.
Manager Grayson took time to caution his players from resting on their laurels as he insisted the club have achieved nothing so far despite being a decent four points ahead of Charlton Athletic. Leeds have actually played one match less than their second placed competitors. Grayson is turning out to be a shrewd signing by the Leeds United board as he continues to show strength in mettle while keeping the egos in the team in check without disrupting squad harmony. The club have one of the deepest benches in the division and are covered by more than one player in several positions.
With the manager focusing on keeping the players grounded and using the best approach to motivate the player, the main concern will be the effect of a congested fixture list which has Leeds competing for the League One title, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and still hanging in the FA Cup. Next up will be a visit from Hartlepool United whose players should expect a boisterous Leeds following at Elland Road as the fans will urge the club to further distance itself from the rest of the division. The Whites will be expected to grab all three points from the weekend fixture. Look for Grayson to keep his players working hard and in check.