Injuries and defensive naivety proving costly
21 September ~ Normally it takes until October for Leeds fans' pre-season optimism to evaporate. However, with the new season just six games old, many Leeds supporters will already be thinking "roll on May" after two defeats in a row to Cardiff and Hull. During the summer months we were looking forward to a season that offered so much promise, especially when news of a possible takeover emerged that potentially signalled the end of the Ken Bates era. Even the lack of cash in the transfer budget failed to extinguish Neil Warnock's squad rebuilding plans.
He brought in a number of players with proven Championship pedigree to add to the mix of talent breaking through from the academy ranks. With eight new faces making their debut on the opening day of the season we knew that it would take the new team time to gel but a home victory over newly-relegated Wolves suggested that Warnock had once again worked his magic.
Cue a season-long campaign of grinding out results, thanks to the trickery of strike partners Ross McCormack and Luciano Becchio and a strong rear-guard action, we thought. Since the opening day fixture we've conceded 11 goals, failing to keep a clean sheet in the league. Defensive frailties that were all too apparent last season have been exposed by wilier opponents, as shown by Nicky Maynard's ability to win a crucial free-kick and penalty in the away defeat at Cardiff.
A skeletal squad has been severely depleted thanks to serious injuries to Paul Green, David Norris and crucially McCormack, who could be out until Christmas depending on the outcome of an operation due to take place later today. With the club's top scorer Becchio also picking up a knock during the midweek home defeat to Hull, Warnock could be forced to rely on the talented, but still raw, Dominic Poleon to lead the line against Forest.
There have been a few bright spots along the way. Jamaican international Rudolph Austin has settled down well into his midfield berth, with academy graduate Sam Byram showing signs that he could become an excellent attacking wide player or even the next Gary Kelly. El Hadji Diouf has been a surprising hit with the Elland Road faithful.
With seven points from six games leaving the club anchored in mid-table, and with the takeover seemingly no closer to completion than when news of it broke at the end of May, the initial hopes and aspirations that this would be a season to remember seem to be fading fast. Simon Creasey