Grayson dares to dream as reborn Leeds scent return to the top flight
Leeds United 2 Queen's Park Rangers 0
Monday 20 December 2010
During the downward spiral that brought Leeds United two relegations, two play-off defeats and one administration, the club's stature must have been like a millstone around the neck.
Yet such things as tradition and support can galvanise at other times and it felt that way on Saturday as Leeds' push for a Premier League return gained momentum with a victory over leaders Queen's Park Rangers that lifted them to second in the Championship.
Before the kick-off Eddie Gray, a stalwart of the Don Revie era, spoke with confidence about Leeds' squad having the quality and depth for automatic promotion. After an hour, that belief had gripped the whole ground as, with Leeds leading 1-0, fans on all four sides of Elland Road stood swirling scarves and singing an old hymn from Gray's own playing days.
"We are the champions, champions of Europe" may not fit the second-tier setting – and QPR manager Neil Warnock accused Leeds of overdoing the celebrations after the game as the visitors suffered a second straight defeat after a 19-game unbeaten start – but it showed the renewed optimism at a club last in the top flight in 2004.
The Leeds manager, Simon Grayson, described it as their best display of the campaign and admitted his team had exceeded expectations since last May's promotion from League One. "It is not something we'd envisaged when we started the season. We'd hoped we would be top half, pushing on [but] we have given ourselves an opportunity."
Of promotion, Grayson believes that "somebody will eventually take this club back because of the facilities, the fan base, the size and the history", but knows that a tough Christmas period beckons, including visits to Leicester and Cardiff. "There are big games coming up but we are going into that run with a lot of confidence," added the manager, whose weekend got even better when top scorer Luciano Becchio signed a new contract after the match.
Leeds have not lost since Cardiff thumped them 4-0 at Elland Road on 25 October, an improvement which has coincided with embracing a 4-2-3-1 formation. They look solid defensively and are fluid in their attacking play, Grayson praising their "one-touch, two-touch football" on an afternoon where wingers Robert Snodgrass and Max Gradel troubled QPR's defence. Gradel scored both goals – the first after a Snodgrass cross, the second on a quick counter.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Connolly, Bruce (Bromby, 11), Collins, McCartney; Kilkenny, Johnson; Snodgrass, Howson, Gradel (Sam, 76); Becchio (Paynter, 89). Substitutes not used: Higgs (gk), Faye, Somma, McCormack.
QPR (4-2-3-1): Kenny; Orr, Connolly, Gorkss, Hill (Hall, h-t); Derry, Walker; Smith (Ephraim, 75), Taarabt, Mackie; Hulse (Clarke, 75). Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Helguson, Rowlands, Tofas.
Referee: S Mathieson (Cheshire)
Booked: Leeds, Connolly; QPR Hill, Orr.
Man of the match Gradel
Latest in Sport
Leicester vs Arsenal match preview: Calm Calum can be an Arsenal star for years to come, says Per Mertesacker
Tottenham vs Liverpool preview: Spurs ready to press their case for Reds revenge
Burnley vs Manchester United match report: Louis van Gaal still winless after goalless draw at Turf Moor
Liverpool vs Tottenham match preview: I'll get best out of Mario Balotelli, says Brendan Rodgers
Everton vs Chelsea player ratings: Who was best in the nine-goal thriller at Goodison?
- 2 Argentina may change its capital city from Buenos Aires, says president
- 3 Joan Rivers: 'Palestinians deserve to be dead'
- 4 The 3D-printed key that can unlock anything
- 5 Lady al-Qa’ida: On the trail of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the world’s most wanted prisoner
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward