Good start is vital for Leeds United
Seldom have Leeds United gone into a season with lower expectations among fans than they do for the 2014-15 campaign that opens with a trip to Millwall on Saturday.
The upheaval of the summer months with a big change in personnel on and off the pitch has certainly left an air of unpredictability about Elland Road and seen United quoted as 33/1 outsiders for the title.
Some fans have already earmarked the Whites down for a season of struggle and a relegation fight with confidence low in what owner Massimo Cellino and his head coach, David Hockaday, are trying to achieve.
The loss of star player Ross McCormack, admittedly for a tempting £11 million fee, to Championship rivals Fulham and the sale of promising young defender Tom Lees to another team in the same division, Sheffield Wednesday, has added to a feeling of unease ahead of the new season.
That neither have yet been replaced by a player proven in the English game is perhaps concerning and once again it seems Leeds are reluctant to sign players for big fees themselves, looking instead to the free transfer and loan market.
The squad at this point looks unbalanced without a genuine winger and with only two senior centre-backs, although moves are afoot to put the latter right with a signing expected this week.
It has all made it more important than ever that the team gets off to a good start to get supporters on board with the latest United revolution.
Fans were cheered by some genuine signs of promise in last Saturday’s 2-0 win in the Elland Road friendly against Dundee United.
There were indications of Hockaday’s desired passing style taking shape and new boys Souleymane Doukara and Tommaso Bianchi took their chance to shine in their first game at Elland Road.
Supporters warmed to Doukara as he showed some clever touches up front while Bianchi played in advanced and defensive roles in midfield and passed the ball intelligently to look like a great addition to the squad.
Two more signings featured with goalkeeper Marco Silvestri making a couple of good saves, but struggling with his kicks and defender Gaetano Berardi showing some versatility by playing both right and left-back. He would appear to be second choice to Sam Byram and Stephen Warnock, however.
In the second half youngsters Chris Dawson, Lewis Cook and Charlie Taylor were given a chance to show there is talent coming through and it is does appear that the head coach is going to be willing to give them some opportunities in the months ahead.
Hockaday also still has plenty of experience to call on and two of the older heads in midfield, Michael Tonge and Rudy Austin, were among the best players against Dundee United. They are likely to play at Millwall when Leeds will be looking to make a winning start before the first home game against Accrington Stanley in the Capital One Cup next Tuesday night.