Club Focus – Leeds United – Fans eye regular clashes with the titans

Leeds United’s supporters have enjoyed the solid start to the season which sees the club top of the table, four points ahead of Charlton Athletic and with a game in hand. The FA Cup replay against non-league Kettering Town has been garnering massive attention due to the opportunity lurking ahead – a win will set up a clash with bitter rivals Manchester United.

Ever since the draw was made, the fans have been anxious for the chance to play against a Premier League side, particularly after the narrow and undeserved defeat against Liverpool which boasted in excess of 38 000 spectators at Elland Road. This was the largest crowd to witness Leeds play this season and surpasses what many Premier League clubs can gather at home games. The weekend match against Huddersfield Town was a hotly contested 2-2 draw which saw just fewer than 37 000 fans attend the game amounting to the largest attendance at Elland Road against a non-Premier League side this season. It would have been fantastic to host Manchester United in Leeds due to the raucous reception the visiting players would receive, but a trip to Old Trafford will have to suffice for now. The main objective for Leeds remains to return to the Premier League where the side truly belongs given the history and considerable support within the city and its vicinity.

When Leeds hosted Liverpool the two sides were evenly matched and actually Leeds had the better opportunities along with a contentious disallowed goal which, in all likelihood, would have been sufficient for at least a replay at Anfield. It may have been a blessing in disguise as the club must focus on guaranteeing promotion first before turning attention to marquee matchups. The city and the fans deserve better than League One matches (with no disrespect to other clubs at this level).

The match against Kettering will serve as a good test prior to the trip to Brentford following some inconsistent displays from certain players, in particular the lack of cohesion and communication amongst the Leeds rearguard. With loan signings Max Gradel, Sam Vokes and Hogan Ephraim unavailable to feature against Kettering, American striker Mike Grella will have the opportunity to spearhead the United attack alongside Luciano Becchio. The Argentine forward has not started since the Charlton Athletic game as he was suffering from injury.

The Elland Road faithful deserve to once again witness colossal clashes such as the Milan and Lazio games in the Champions League. The only way to ensure this will happen is to focus on winning as many games as possible in the division, while successfully rotating the squad to avoid injuries and suspension due to the pile-up of fixtures. The administrative issues and penalties are now a thing of the past so there are no excuses for failing to get promoted this season. United have 27 League One matches left on schedule to guarantee direct promotion.

Other clubs must look on with envy at a team boasting the firepower of prolific goal scorer Jermaine Beckford who continues to find the back of the net on a consistent basis, and is usually partnered by Becchio. The backup strikers include Grella, Tresor Kandol, Enoch Showunmi as well as loan signing Vokes. Gradel and Robert Snodgrass can both operate up front despite playing in a more advanced midfield or wing position. United’s greatest asset this season and one of the club’s most consistent players has been Patrick Kisnorbo. The Australian defender has put up many determined performances while maintaining a high level of consistency.

The city and supporters will be counting on Kisnorbo and the likes of Snodgrass, Beckford and Becchio to help the club earn promotion and begin the long process of bringing glory back to Elland Road. The Whites will be doing everything to avoid the dreaded play-offs which have cost Leeds dearly in the last couple of seasons. The club’s home record will be a decisive factor in helping secure a top-placed finish in the division as Leeds have yet to lose at home and are beginning to turn Elland Road into a fortress once again.

Not long ago United were competing for a top four finish in the Premier League on a regular basis with the hope of bringing trophies to the club’s cabinets. Simon Grayson has the side heading in the right direction and the hope is for the players to remain professional and achieve the desired results.

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