Championship Preview: Leeds

They were once one of the biggest teams in the country and if we were to tick off their achievements; First Division Champions and Champions League semi-finalists would be right up there. Leeds’ fall from grace over the years has been terrific and just as it looked as though the Whites were returning to their former glory, they are now being labelled as relegation candidates for the forthcoming season.

The happenings this summer have been ridiculous to say the least at Elland Road and with the club also turning to an inexperienced manager, it’s no surprise to see many bookies place them as fifth favourites for the drop.

What happened last season?

The bizarre thing is that it was only twelve months ago that the Whites were tipped for a playoff push at the very least. In Brian McDermott they had a manager who was one of the most highly rated in the division and he had still managed to bolster the squad with several impressive signings.

However, things just never got going. From the word go Leeds were poor and there were numerous occasions when his job was under threat. When Massimo Cellino took over the club in January, it was actually reported that McDermott had already lost his job. He was bizarrely reinstated – although this still did nothing for the Whites’ chances as they slumped down the table. In the end, they were to finish in 15th position – although it could have been so much worse had the first half of the season correlated with the dreadful second part.

Has it been a busy summer?

It came as no surprise to see McDermott part company with the club several weeks after the season concluded. What did surprise everyone was his successor and even though many were expecting another high-profile appointment, it instead came in the form of David Hockaday. This is a manager who was sacked from Forest Green last season, and whose best finishing position to date is 10th in the Conference National. It goes without saying that there was great uproar following the announcement and most fans are already questioning just when Hockaday will leave, rather than if.

It’s a well-known fact that transfers are completely off limits for Hockaday and the Leeds owner has already claimed that he doesn’t trust his new head coach with such responsibility. The biggest piece of news from the club unquestionably surrounds Ross McCormack and after finishing last season as the division’s top scorer, he has earned a move to Fulham for a mammoth £11m. Elsewhere, Jamie Ashdown, Michael Brown, El-Hadji Diouf and Danny Pugh were to leave the club on free transfers in what was proved to be a great cost-cutting exercise.

In terms of incomings, most of Leeds’ action has been from abroad – or more specifically, Italy. The club’s owner has used his Italian roots to their advantage with the likes of Gaetano Berardi, Tommaso Bianchi, Souleymane Doukara and Marco Silvestri all coming into the club. All of the above are unknown quantities though and one just has to ask how many players from Italy have managed success at this level over the past few years. One of the few signings known to Leeds fans is Nicky Ajose from Peterborough although after failing to establish himself in their League One side last term, it’s another interesting but unspectacular capture.

What’s the prediction?

As you can see, there are all sorts of problems at Leeds for now and there’s every chance it will get worse. Their squad was poor last term, but with so many risks being taken in relation to foreign recruitment over the last few months there is no guarantee that it has been improved. Additionally, there is the small matter of their inexperienced coach – who might not get as much time as he requires due to the nature of his appointment.

Bearing the above in the mind, we hold real fears for Leeds. Some would say they got out of jail last season although this time around, particularly as the owners continue to be set on cost-cutting, we’re not sure. Therefore, our tip will be relegation for the West Yorkshire outfit.

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