Max Making the Grade(l) at Leeds

Posted by on Aug 1, 2010 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

No doubt whatsoever who was man of the match in yesterday’s friendly between Leeds and Wolves at Elland Road: Max Gradel. With his diminutive stature, low centre of gravity, pace and nimble feet, the Ivorian is reminiscent of a younger Shaun Wright-Phillips and tortured his marker with callous ease. It was he who opened the scoring, seizing upon a loose clearance and lashing home a fabulous shot from 25 yards, and his persistence soon after the break paid dividends when he found fellow winger Lloyd Sam to knock in the home side’s second.

Whites manager Simon Grayson had opted for a 4-5-1 formation, with Luciano Becchio the lone frontman. The Argentinian put himself about with customary vigour, but Leeds did look a little lightweight up front. Hopes are very much pinned on new signing Billy Paynter – he sat out yesterday’s game with injury, but has been handed Jermaine Beckford’s number nine shirt and will be expected to fill it in every sense.

Grayson’s choice of formation did however mean that his side dominated the midfield. While Gradel and former Charlton man Sam wreaked havoc out wide, Neil Kilkenny, Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson controlled the centre. Johnson was often pressed into service on the left during the promotion campaign, but yesterday excelled through the middle and capped his performance with a gift of a header from a free kick.

In defence, there were new faces on both flanks in the shape of Paul Connelly and Fede Bassone (recruited on frees from Derby and Swansea respectively). Neill Collins – a former Wolves man – has now signed permanently for the club for which he appeared on loan last term, and Alex Bruce, recently drafted in from Ipswich, came off the bench. With Kaspar Schmeichel – yet another new addition – seemingly first choice between the sticks, it must be interesting for Leeds fans to have to cheer on the sons of two former Man Utd legends…

Schmeichel was probably at fault for the goal which secured Wolves a barely deserved half-time score of 1-1, Matt Jarvis’ free kick eluding everyone and bouncing in at the far post. On the whole, though, the visitors were very poor in defeat, including £6.5m signing Steven Fletcher and especially his strike partner Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. The “Premier League, you’re having a laugh” chant was traded by fans of both persuasions, but only one set of supporters left with anything to be optimistic about.

It’s not all good news for Leeds either, though. Gradel’s sending-off in the final game of last season means the man who’s in such great form will be missing for their first four fixtures…

[An aside: I don’t think I’ve ever been to a stranger pre-match boozer than the Magic Sponge (though Bury’s social club does run it close). Points awarded for the name, of course, but what on earth is going on with a bar next to an indoor kids’ soft play area?! Some of our gargantuan white-shirted fellow drinkers looked as though they might view an unfortunate passing five-year-old as a suitable savoury snack.]

Ben is a long-suffering Newcastle Utd supporter (is there any other kind?) who co-founded and co-wrote Black & White & Read All Over, a blog that, over the course of a decade, chronicled the ups, downs, chaos and calamity of the club he has the misfortune to follow. Since the blog hung up its boots in May 2014 (note: not as a mark of respect for Shola Ameobi leaving St James’ Park), he has contented himself with sporadic, splenetic Twitter outbursts and shamefully rare contributions to The Two Unfortunates. He is currently haunted by visions of Joe Kinnear returning to the club for a third spell and pondering whether he’ll live to see another victory over the Mackems, but at least has a cardboard coathanger with Robert Lee’s head on it for consolation.


  1. Lanterne Rouge
    August 2, 2010

    After defeat at Reading, one feels we should sharpen our pens to welcome back the Wolves a year from now.

  2. The Scratching Shed
    August 2, 2010

    Fine choice of boozer I must say first of all!

    “it must be interesting for Leeds fans to have to cheer on the sons of two former Man Utd legends…”

    Yeah, that's not escaped anyone's attention and there will undoubtedly be chants of “Your Dad's a c***, but your OK” all season long!

    As for the blame game with regards to Wolves equaliser, I'm still a bit unsure to be honest with you. The entire defence was misplaced and Kasper struggled to get through – bad communication perhaps, but they'll gel as the season goes on I'm sure.

  3. Stanley
    August 2, 2010

    The only thing stopping the Wolves coming down will be the fact that half the PL is abject and just as likely to struggle. Take your pick from Blackpool, Stoke, Wigan, West Ham, Blackburn, West Brom…

    I haven't been convinced by Gradel when I've seen him. Every time he got the ball, I looked on with with dread as he screeched toward the full-back, before relaxing back into my seat as I realised that he would run the ball out of play. Perhaps he will change my perception with performances like this in games that count.


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