Behind Enemy Lines: Leeds United

MILLWALL start life after Neil Harris at home to Leeds United on Saturday.

The Lions legend called time on his Millwall reign on Thursday after four-and-half years in charge at The Den.

Tributes from the players and fans have been seen all over social media since the announcement was made.



Alex Grace spoke to Leeds fan Tim Purcell this week.

Twitter: @Percybiz

Why do you support Leeds?



I was born in Leeds, my parents were too and they live close to the club's training ground.

I've lived in London for 30 years and in Bermondsey for nine. You can take the boy out of Leeds but you can't take Leeds out of the boy!!

What has been your favourite season supporting the Whites?

There's been plenty of really awful ones (particularly recently) since my Dad first took me to Elland Road in 1970.

The 1992 league championship win in the season before the Premier League was created stands out for me. Leeds pinched the title from under the nose of Fergie's Manchester United following a crazy 3-2 win at Bramall Lane that featured a mad own goal winning howler and a line-up that included a certain Eric Cantona.

And the worst?

The 2006-07 season was an all-time low point when, in the season after a play-off final drubbing, Leeds slumped into the third tier for the first time ever.

A 15-point deduction awaited the start of life in League 1 thanks to some interesting financial issues and the club couldn't even afford to fix gaping holes in the Elland Road roof. That was not a great period.

Marcelo Bielsa stayed on after last season’s play-off heartbreak. Is he the right man for the job? 

Marcelo Bielsa has become a huge cult hero in Leeds partly as a result of his quirky behaviour, profound sense of decency, notable generosity and of course the blue bucket (you can now buy your very own bucket in the Leeds United shops). However the main reason was the sudden transformation of a team that was ordinary at best into one that always plays stylish, pretty football and usually dominates possession. This has been achieved applying sensible spending plans and the introduction of meticulous training methods. Retaining him and his team was essential to the maintenance of the club's recent progress.

It’s been a solid start to the season for Leeds. What have you made of it? 

This season has been a continuation of the story of last season. The style and formation remains the same, the team are often a joy to watch but some of the weak spots haven't quite been ironed out yet. These include the strange requirement of needing six or seven clear goal scoring chances before the ball finally hits the back of the net. The team are conceding very few goals though and I'm quietly optimistic about where Leeds will be when the sharp end of the club's centenary season arrives next year.

What have you made of Millwall’s start to the season? 

Life in the Championship for a club operating on Millwall's budget is always going to be a challenge particularly when the squad loses a player of Lee Gregory's quality. Clearly recent results haven't been great but they've been significantly better than clubs that have much greater financial resources. I'd describe the club's start as being satisfactory if unspectacular.

Neil Harris left the club on Thursday, what was your reaction to that news? 

I live not far from the ground, occasionally come to watch the team and know all about his history with the club. I thought the news was disappointing because he's done a tremendous job. It will be hard to replace someone who understands Millwall as well as he does and I suspect it won't be long before he lands a job managing another team.

Who do you think should replace him? 

There have been some interesting names aired in the media such as McCarthy, Jackett and Keane. If it was my choice, I'd look for a manager with a good lower league track record that is used to managing a tight budget. How about a former Leeds United player and manager? Simon Grayson would be a good choice if he could be prised away from Blackpool and persuaded to move south.

If you could sign one Millwall player who would it be and why?

Leeds United's recruitment policy under the current regime focuses on younger players and long-term development. Jake Cooper fits that bill, would be a strong addition to any Championship squad and he clearly has a lot of potential.

Who will be your key men on Saturday?

Leeds has shown a vulnerability from set pieces recently and will be missing Liam Cooper in the centre of defence. Matt Smith, no stranger to Leeds fans, will be a significant threat in the air for Millwall from corners, free-kicks and long throws. Leeds exploit dangerous rapid counter attacks very effectively and Millwall will need to look out for the likes of Mateusz Klich arriving late in the penalty box to grab a goal.

What is your predicted Leeds starting line-up and formation on Saturday? 

The line-up is an easy one as, since the "Spygate" nonsense, Marcelo has made a habit of telling everyone what the team is going to be well in advance!! I expect it to be; Casilla – Ayling, White, Berardi – Phillips – Dallas, Costa, Klich, Harrison, Alioski – Bamford. Leeds will, as ever under Bielsa, play a 3-1-5-1 formation when they are in possession and going forward. Dallas and Alioski will operate as wing backs and fall back to defend in a 5-1-3-1 formation when required.

Will you be at the game on Saturday?

Unfortunately I've been ill this week with flu but I am hoping to shake it off and attend with my mates from Marching Out Together, the thriving Leeds United LGBT fan group which currently has well over a hundred members and receives significant support from the club. We'd love to meet up with and support Millwall fans interested in forming a similar group (we met up with the Proud Valiants at Charlton last week). Do feel free to contact us via email at marchingouttogether@gmail.com, via @marchingoutlufc on Twitter.

Finally a score prediction?

Leeds have a dreadful record at Millwall and I'm afraid of tempting fate by predicting that this might change. However, tomorrow might just be the time when the team finally gets a win at The Den and I'm going to go for a narrow 2-1 away win. Sorry!!!

Graphic: @ShedCreative 

Staff

(@NewsAtDen)