The cold hard facts are that Leeds United beat Burnley by a goal to nil on Tuesday night, but scratch beneath the surface and you will see that this routine mid table end of season match saw a transformation begin at Elland Road. On a night where a pitiful crowd of under 17K were in attendance we saw the seeds being sewn for renewed hope among a weary support. After a season which has seen necks strained following the arc of another hoofed punt up the field, the fans had a new song to sing: "We're Leeds United - We're passing the ball!"
I have been watching Leeds United for almost 25 years now, but never have I seen an outpouring of admiration for a new manager in such a short space of time as the one that is taking place following the appointment of Brian McDermott. Initially it was one of relief, as the disastrous reign of Neil Warnock was finally ended. It may be that anything is better than what preceded him, but already McDermott has Leeds fans gushing over the impact he has had in just two games.
"Nobody could get any more out of those players" was a regular Warnock lament, as his collection of aged journeymen trudged up and down pitches across the Championship, usually in a losing cause, In just five days in charge, McDermott has proven him to be as clueless as we all thought he was.
Not only has McDermott got more out of the players, he has got us questioning our own thoughts on those players we had slated on a regular basis over the last few months. Luke Varney was one of the worst players ever to pull on a white shirt a week ago, now we enthuse over his prodigious ability in the air (whilst still quietly shaking our heads at how he misses some chances). Rodolph Austin was a liability in midfield, unable to pass a ball and making Bradley Johnson's shooting look accurate. Now he is back to the indestructible brick out house of the opening weeks of the season, eating up the ground and smashing players from pillar to post.
How has our new manager done this? Well it seems that he has recognized that they do actually have some footballing ability, and is allowing them to show it. That in turn has changed the team from terrible proponents of hoofball to a side who might just push the club forward.
Tuesday night saw Leeds totally outplay Burnley, without ever finishing them off. The Whites enjoyed plenty of possession and territory without ever creating a hatful of chances. But that is a heck of a lot more than we have been doing and it was a darn sight better to watch.
Early on United were a little tentative. Paul Green, who was sat in front of the back four in a diamond formation looked shaky in possession and Michael Tonge on the left of the midfield was a little off the pace, but as the half wore on both players began to get to grip with their role, and the Whites began to push forward. Leeds should have been in front at the break with Varney wasting a gilt edged chance by heading over an empty net from six yards
The second half though saw Leeds take a stranglehold of the game. An attack down the right in the opening minute saw the ball fizzed across the area for Varney only for him to fail to connect with the ball and waste another chance.
Leeds though were being roared on by the crowd, and began to show a style of pass and move football which was nowt but a dream under Warnock. It may be being flippant but at times it was Total Football from the Whites at times. Jason Pearce drove forward from centre back, ending up in the left wing position, where he remained for a short period. When Ross McCormack popped up in the centre back position to collect the ball, who could have imagined that almost 20 passes later the ball would be in the back of the Burnley net.
Leeds showed great patience in probing the visitors defence, looking for a point of entry to create a chance on goal. Backwards and forwards and from side to side the ball moved until El-Hadji Diouf delightfully lifted the ball over the back four for Austin to burst onto and casually side foot past Lee Grant.
Only in the closing moments did Leeds look relatively vulnerable as Burnley pressed them back in search of an equaliser. But unlike in recent weeks there was a resilience in the United side and they managed to get a head or a body in the way of everything that was thrown at them, seeing out the match for a second consecutive win
When Brian McDermott took over on Friday, fears of relegation were real and palpable. Four days and six points later they have been banished and hope have been raised that better times are around the corner. That has been achieved by instructing his team to play the aggressive passing football that the crowd desire. If some real quality can be added to the squad down the spine of the team over the summer I have a genuine belief that the good times are around the corner. It may be I am getting a little carried away, but it is great to feel optimistic once again.