Club Focus – Leeds United – All around joy for Leeds fans

The holidays could not be looking any better for the city of Leeds as Elland Road was included in England’s bid for World Cup 2018 and the Whites overcame a plucky Accrington Stanley by a score of 2-0 in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy (JPT).

England submitted 17 venues as part of its World Cup bid and now the decision will be in FIFA’s hands with the host nation picked December 2010. It was thought Leeds would be overlooked in favour of the city of Hull, yet Elland Road was eventually chosen as a final candidate. The decision is obviously not final in the sense FIFA must first give the rights to England and then in 2013 narrow down the list of venues to 12 cities.

On the pitch, Manager Simon Grayson made nine changes to the starting lineup as Leeds defeated Accrington in the JPT, to setup a clash with Carlisle United with the first-leg scheduled for Elland Road. The winner of the two-legged clash will go on to play in Wembley, which is in itself an extraordinary honour considering many professional players never set foot on the revered pitch. Besides disposing of Accrington, the match witnessed the return of skipper Richard Naylor as he steps up his recovery from injury. Naylor played the whole match while another injury casualty Patrick Kisnorbo featured for around 15 minutes following his full-match appearance against Brentford in another bid to improve on his match fitness.

Despite the win, the Whites were not convincing given the wholesale changes made by the Manager. Grayson will be pleased with the result considering he was able to rest his big guns Jermaine Beckford and Luciano Becchio for Southampton’s visit. The Boss was not happy with the performance of his players, as he urged his side to show the commitment to win against the Saints or suffer the consequences of another mediocre display. The Whites have drawn successive games in League One, which remains the club’s priority. Grayson made it clear he does not like to lose but stressed promotion is the ultimate objective while not overlooking any of the cup games.

The Manager admitted rotation can hurt the squad in terms of how familiar the players are with each other and with the return of most of the injured players the performances may leave a lot to be desired. The shrewd Grayson is aiming to keep his players motivated by questioning their sense of urgency. He will have a full squad to choose from, excluding left-back Ben Parker who remains sidelined. Goalkeeper Shane Higgs is in consideration after emerging unscathed from a match played behind closed doors.

Club captain Naylor echoed his Coach’s sentiments when he agreed the players are not performing up to their usual standards, demanding the team respond with a solid display against the Saints. One player whose talent in front of goal is unquestionable is Jermaine Beckford, yet the striker has not found the back of the net in League One since the 3-0 triumph over Brighton almost a month ago. During this lean streak the attacker’s goals were limited to both encounters with Kettering Town in the JPT.

The striker who turned 26 recently has an eye for goal but as some might recall his effort and commitment on the pitch were questioned on a couple of occasions, particularly in the lone loss of the season in Millwall when he was anonymous. Even Paddy Kisnorbo was seen to motion towards the bench regarding Beckford’s lack of contribution. Jermaine’s goal tally for the club is phenomenal. The player who went through Chelsea’s youth ranks before being released, signed by Wealdstone, then snapped by Leeds for a mere £45,000 in 2006 has scored 59 times in 101 League appearances for the Whites.

Last season he had an amazing tally of 27 League goals in 34 matches, played while also scoring seven goals in cup appearances to bring his total to 34 strikes in 42 games. Beckford has started the season in familiar fashion having already scored 12 league goals in 17 appearances. The striker has attracted interest from a host of Championship teams as well as some of the Premier League clubs.

The player’s contract expires at the end of the season and he has refused the proposal offered by Leeds for renewal. This forced the club to initially place him on the transfer list prior to removing him on July 17 and considering him not for sale. The Leeds fans and the management hope his goals will help Leeds gain promotion and perhaps then he will reconsider his options.

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