Graham has an image problem

Coventry City 2 Leeds United 1
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The Independent Online
Clubs get saddled with an image, the former Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson once said: "Spurs are always stylish, West Ham is the football academy, Arsenal are resilient but Leeds are always seen as cynical and intimidating."

Not any more. Leeds were porous in defence, powder puff in attack. The Coventry manager, Ron Atkinson, said that he had had a feeling all day that his team would win, even after going behind after 50 seconds. One- nil down to Leeds and expecting to win? Not in Don's day. Wilkinson's successor of a week ago, George Graham, has rather taken to the idea that he might be the new Don Revie. We can expect some of the niceness and carelessness of Saturday to be quickly banished. Perhaps Graham will even bolt on the image of his previous club to his new one's, and Leeds will become resilient, cynical and intimidating.

The club's fans would welcome a flash of the old, cold steel. Even allowing for an injury roll that makes you wonder if the initials ER stand for Elland Road any more - Lee Sharpe's calf strain is the latest diagnosis - there was a laxity to Leeds that Graham should swiftly address. He professed himself pleased with the commitment and encouraged by the quality of young players at the club, but the voice that had been weakened by a week of shouting in training, unused to it after his 19-month exile that included the year-long bung ban, will be tested again this week.

He will negotiate to extend the loan of Mark Hateley from Queen's Park Rangers, possibly with his old Arsenal assistant Stewart Houston, and given Leeds' feebleness in attack - no goal from a striker yet - may examine loopholes in Tomas Brolin's loan to FC Zurich. In practice, you suspect Graham will build from the back first. The defence will be organised, will know their places, and will attack the attacker. None did when John Salako ran without challenge to drive home the Coventry equaliser. Those who did so when Dion Dublin headed down for Noel Whelan to lift Coventry from the bottom of the Premiership were half-hearted.

Ironies abound in the game. Last season, while everyone was enthusing over Tony Yeboah's hat-trick for Leeds in Monaco, Graham, who was watching for Radio 5, picked out Whelan's performance. Despite applying the finish on Saturday, Whelan did not come in for the abuse to which the former Leeds captain Gary McAllister was subjected. Greed was his motive in moving to Coventry, travelling fans suggested. "Macca, Macca what's the score?" they gloated after Andy Couzens had bulged the net with a neat outside of the foot shot.

A degree of humility and realism, instead of inflated ideas that they have a right to be one of the game's giants, might help Leeds' cause. It will be a while before they can adapt with conviction Highbury's old standard about Graham's Arsenal to "One-nil to the U-ni-ted".

Goals: Couzens (1) 0-1; Salako (57) 1-1; Whelan (65) 2-1.

Coventry City: Ogrizovic, Borrows, Hall, Shaw, Burrows, Telfer, Richardson, McAllister, Whelan, Dublin, Salako. Substitutes not used: Filan, O'Neill, Ducros, Williams, Jess.

Leeds United: Martyn, Kelly, Harte, Palmer, Jobson, Wetherall, Couzens (Ford, 86), Wallace, Rush, Hateley, Gray (Blunt, 67). Substitutes not used: Beeney, Radebe, Jackson.

Referee: G Willard (Worthing).

Bookings: Leeds: Palmer, Wallace.

Man of the match: Salako.

Attendance: 17,297.

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