Lack of quality leaves Leeds United standing still

Well that is it for another season and after all the ups and downs and a surprise win at Watford on the final day Leeds United ended up in 13th place in the Npower Championship.

Wednesday, 8th May 2013, 3:40 pm
Leeds United's player of the year, Sam Byram, in action during the season against Manchester City. Picture: IAN HARBER

The fact they have finished only one place above where they were last year and earned the exact same number of points and wins as the previous season sums up fairly well that as a club they have stood still and the 2012-13 campaign has already been written up as a wasted year.

It also says a lot that they finished an equal seven points off a play-off place and seven ahead of the bottom three. Overall it has had to be admitted that the current United team has proved to be as mediocre as their finishing position suggests despite wholesale changes in personnel and the task is there for all to see for new boss Brian McDermott to make the necessary improvements.

The former Reading manager is confident he can take the club forward after they have failed to make the impact expected since regaining their place in the second tier of English football and at least he is not putting a timescale on when he expects to mount a real promotion push.

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In hindsight previous manager Neil Warnock’s target of taking the Whites up in just one year was always going to be too difficult and surely heaped too much pressure on the players to perform.

In the new manager’s brief time at the club there are already signs that the players are already enjoying their football more and they will want to carry that into the next campaign..

The players could rarely be faulted for effort throughout the season, however, and gave their all for the cause. But it was a lack of real quality that ultimately left Leeds so short and here is where the backing of owners GFH is going to be crucial this summer with long overdue investment now needed if the Whites to actually move forward.

Warnock was right to say he had left the club in a better position than when he came. McDermott does not have to make as many changes as his predecessor saw fit and with all the key players still under contract for next year and the club still making a profit they do not have to sell.

Leeds will have to improve in every department on the field if they are to make a serious challenge, but it is quality they need this summer not quantity with a pacy striker and quality winger their top priorities. A commanding centre-half and a midfielder that is good on the ball would also be useful additions.

There are players within the existing squad that have certainly earned another crack next term. Young right-back Sam Byram has deservedly picked up all the player of the year awards after an excellent debut season and another of the younger players, Tom Lees, has made strides as a central defender.

Of the signings brought in by Warnock the biggest hit has been all-action midfielder Rodolph Austin while Paul Green enjoyed a fine end to the campaign when finally handed the central midfield role he is best suited to and has given the team vital energy.

Goalkeepers Paddy Kenny and Jamie Ashdown have been successful additions and skipper Lee Peltier overcame a difficult start at the club to prove his worth in a variety of defensive positions.

Up front the sale of top scorer Luciano Becchio after he had scored 19 goals was surely a mistake and the inevitable loss of goals after his departure is something United have to address. His replacement, Steve Morison, has failed to convince and needs a big pre-season if he is to win over fans.

Luke Varney has won supporters over, going from boo boy to a player with his own chant, but is not a big goal scorer while Ross McCormack had a real up and down season, but although there were some quality displays from him he saw goals harder to come by after being primarily used as a winger or attacking midfielder.

El Hadji Diouf was also used in a variety of roles and was a class act at times to be the big surprise hit of the season, but his form did fade in the second half of the campaign.

The process of getting United in shape began at the end of last week with 10 players released after coming to the end of their contracts, but none of them have been important figures in the past 12 months.