3661: Leeds United: Goal drought set
by : David Hulott
Kevin Blackwell’s tenure as manager of Leeds United looks to be coming to a close, with the 1:0 defeat at Coventry City leaving the club next to bottom of the Championship and Blackwell having seemingly run out of ideas as to how to rectify the situation.
Some are putting the slow start to the current campaign down as nothing more than a hangover from the Play-off final defeat to Watford, a game in which Blackwell’s tactics were little short of disastrous. In truth, the malaise had set in a couple of months prior to that, with the charge towards automatic promotion having petered out well before the end of the season.
Blackwell has developed an unappealing habit of blaming the lengthy run of poor results on everything from bad luck and injuries to the club’s finances, rather than accept any responsibility himself. Listening to most post-match interviews, one could be forgiven for thinking that the absence of Lady Luck is the major factor in the ongoing poor run, with Blackwell invariably claiming that Leeds have been the superior team and created the better opportunities in the vast majority of games. Those comments have not only tended to fly in the face of the evidence, but they are hardly viable explanations for so lengthy a barren run, with just three league victories since mid-March and a paltry return of just 12 goals in their last 21 competitive matches.
The summer sale of Rob Hulse was excellent business from a financial perspective, but perhaps some of the money that was rightly invested in bolstering the midfield may have been better spent on securing a reliable striker. The midfield was unquestionably in need of reinforcements, but the signs were there late last term that Leeds had been lacking when it came to firepower.
Quite why goals have been so hard to come by has to come down to the manager, especially given that David Healy was good enough to recently bag a hat-trick for Northern Ireland against Spain. Despite that, Healy has frequently been played wide or started on the bench under Blackwell. There are options in the likes of Robbie Blake, Ian Moore, Jermaine Beckford and the on-loan Geoff Horsfield, while Richard Cresswell should soon return from injury. A few others in the Championship arguably have greater attacking quality, but the responsibility must surely lie with the manager for a return of just a dozen goals in almost half-a-season.
Injuries have also played their part, but although the Leeds squad is relatively small, there is sufficient quality within the ranks that should be able to cover such eventualities. The treatment room at Elland Road, while busy, has hardly resembled an episode of Casualty.
To still be blaming the financial wreckage left from the Peter Ridsdale era seems particularly desperate. Yes, the debts amassed under Ridsdale are still having an impact today and Blackwell deserves enormous credit for the way in which he managed to help stabilise the club following relegation from the Premiership and the subsequent mass exodus of players, but he has been given considerable backing in the transfer market compared to many of his managerial peers in the Championship since Ken Bates took control of the club in January 2005.
Blackwell is quick to promote his achievements as Leeds boss, but he seems to have lost his way over the past six months. The remaining fixtures for Leeds in September are a Carling Cup game at home to Barnet, followed by league games at home to Birmingham City and away to West Bromwich Albion. There is then a two-week break prior to the next match at home to Stoke City. Few would be surprised were Blackwell to be gone by then.
17 September 2006