Ahead of Saturday’s match in Yorkshire, I caught up with an old friend. Jenny Barrett is a Sports Journalism graduate who has been on the Leeds United fans panel, and contributed to BBC Leeds, Radio Yorkshire and the award-winning Square Ball fanzine.
A regular at Elland Road since her first match in the early 2000s, she’s now dragged her Dad from being a professional, property solicitor, into becoming a passionate and rather sweary terrace fan alongside her. She also gained notoriety in Leeds when she was featured on the local news for taking her four-week old son to his first game at Elland Road and became the target of some fairly vitriolic online abuse for doing so. Like the Leeds side of the 70s, her defence was impressively aggressive!
Hi Jen. First off we have to address the elephant in the room. Have you forgiven us for taking Howson, Johnson, Snodgrass and Becchio yet?
Given where you are now, pretty much. Although seeing Snods and Howson recently pulled at the heartstrings a little. Other than taking them, there’s not much more to dislike your lot over. Sorry to say you barely register, we’ve had bigger, dodgier, jumped-up shyster fish to fry recently.
Ah, Mr Cellino. I wondered how long it would take for his name to float to the top of the bowl.
Do you know, that’s the first time I’ve referred to him in so long. And that’s bloody good for me because I moan about everything. Just shows what a job Andrea Radrizzani has done for us.
So is everything positive and stable at board level now? Or are Leeds fans still waiting to see how things pan out after the false dawns of the past god-knows-how-many years?
It feels like it but there’ll always be questions. If the Bates era taught us nothing, the one which followed certainly did. No matter what they tell us, no matter how nice things seem to be doing, questions should and will always be asked.
Since the #LUFC trust was reformed and rebranded, it feels like there’s a vehicle for fans and fan engagement, something which Radz has really embraced. As it stands, all the right things are being done to keep the club current and sustainable. Although the ground is secured in a sense, the little improvements and refurbs that have been done to it signal intent not seen for many years.
It feels like the marketing and commerciality has come on years in a short space of time. Things like tickets for school kids, more events in the community, supporting the ladies team etc has refocused on the next generation of fans and has reconnected with a local community long isolated by the past owners.
On the pitch things feel good, it feels like there’s something long term. It feels alien that after a run of a handful of games were we failed to win that the manager wasn’t sacked. We’ve invested in players. Many untested at this level and there’s a lot of patience required.
January is a key window for the club. Historically it’s where many a potential play-off charge has withered and died through lack of investment. It’s likely we will bring in more depth, but it’s also likely to be players we’ve not heard of and who’ll take time to adapt.
Are you expecting a busy January? Is it likely to be mainly Ins or Outs?
Most of our outs are young players on loan already. I don’t see many outs but it’s no secret we’re desperately needing a particular in…
Are we talking a goalkeeper? And if so, can we offer you Michael McGovern?
We’ll take anyone who isn’t afraid of catching and can judge a bounce.
I couldn’t promise that in all honesty.
It’s a no from me.
Worth a go. In recent years your track record with managers is similar to an Essex girl’s relationships. Plenty of Saturday night specials but nothing long-term. Do you think Thomas Christiansen is “The One”?
Nice. Spot on really. Never showed up on a Tuesday night.
Way too early to tell. We like the cut of his jib, he’s a nice bloke and he seems to ‘get’ Leeds. He’s not afraid to drop players like Jansson either. He has players who have a natural flair and play wonderful football, and he’s yet to get the best out of everyone by fitting them in the right position in the team. Kemar Roofe is a key example. He’s played most of his minutes on the wing but his return of goals has always come through the middle.
I like that TC is determined to do it his way, and that won’t always be perfect but he’s prepared to take a sideways step in order to take two more forward.
You looked scarily sharp in attack against QPR at the weekend with Roofe catching the eye with a hat trick. Are we playing you at the wrong time?
Hopefully! The QPR game was clinical, the football fairly average. We can play much ‘nicer’ football but the key is the lack of cutting edge sometimes and that’s what TC is figuring out. When we lost Wood, we all asked where the goals would come from and actually we’ve not missed him. If we can fit Roofe in centrally and get Saiz back on his A game, it could get tasty.
You started the season on fire but results over the past couple of months have been a real mixed bag. Who are the real Leeds and, getting your crystal ball out, where do you think you’ll finish this season?
I’m awful at predictions. The last one I got right was when Ross McCormack was bagging for us.
Honestly I think January is so key. It’s not quantity though, just a few vital areas. I think we’ll get better as the season goes on but still have a few, typically Leeds moments where we just make things hard for ourselves but I think a lower play off place is a realistic ambition.
The nice thing at the moment is we have some real talent in a number of areas, it’s just getting all of them to gel and for TC to get the best 11 out of his squad.
The real Leeds feels like a similar Leeds to what we’ve always been. On our day we can be a tidal wave knocking over some twat standing on a pier in the middle of a storm. And when it’s not, our goalkeeper is letting balls bounce over him. What we can say is, there are a number of games recently where 12 months ago we’d have crumbled and lost. Now it feels like there’s a togetherness across the club and the mentality has changed. As cheesy as it may seem, the hashtag ‘Together’ is the simplest way of showing the type of club we are at the moment.
What formation and style are we likely to see on Saturday?
I don’t know if it has a name but our formation is basically a 6-point star. Our style doesn’t generally change, its effectiveness varies. TC likes to pass. And the players have generally adjusted to that from back to front, although it hasn’t been without its slip ups.
Ekuban up front seems to be a canny signing. He’s big, he can move and he’s a keen eye for goals. With Phillips and Vieira covering the midfield, it’ll be interesting to see whether Saiz can change his game as he is being marked off the park at he moment, but he only needs a split second to find that killer ball. Alioski has improved considerably in recent games as well so there are plenty of game-changers.
A six-point star is a new one on me! I’m imagining a striker, two wingers, two wide central midfielders and an anchor man in front of a back four. Am I close?
Aye, back four. Two deep sitting midfielders with licence to roam. Three attackers in front, two wide with license to cut in and switch and the big man up top.
Score guess for Saturday?
You’re terribly inconsistent where as we’ve weathered the recent unsettled time of year so I’ll go for a narrow Leeds win.
And last question, if you could nab one of the current City squad to play for the Mighty Whites who would it be? (And no, you can’t just clone Andy Hughes Jurassic Park style).
Haha my man Hughes ❤❤
Tough one tbh. I think during Simon Grayson’s time at Leeds we were linked with Wes Hoolahan purely because of Larry’s links with him and a few years ago he’d have been a solid buy for this league.
Excellent choice but he’s here for life!
Jen, as I suspected, it’s been entertaining and informative. Thank you and good luck for the season, starting Sunday ?.
Haha I’d rather have Vieira Phillips and Saiz anyway ??
Likewise, let’s hope your guys actually get the season started at some point. Like after Christmas or summat…