Looking back on the first 11 games of the league season, if it was offered to me, or any other Leeds fan, that we would be top by two points, with a game in hand and be the only undefeated team in the football league, who would say no?!
Following on from j's last post as Leeds blogger, the semi final defeat to Millwall was a bitter disappointment. But maybe losing at the semi final stage was a blessing in disguise. Losing after a final can leave a bit of a hangover at times. But at the same time i think many were confident that we could come out of the Millwall defeat stronger than the last two play off defeats because of one man.
Simon Grayson has been a beacon of hope in what has been a dark period for Leeds. Taking us on a amazing run at the end of last season, his transformation of the team was simply amazing. Unable to lose at home, scoring for fun and getting better at the back. There was also a newly found determination, trying to get back a bit of passion for wearing the shirt.
But Grayson also knows what it takes to win promotion, he's done it with Blackpool, and the mistake of thinking that having a big name as manager will get you out of League 1 is one is one we've been guilty of. But Grayson has an actual working experience of this division, and his astute summer signings shows he knows the league and what it takes to get out of it.
Paddy Kisnorbo has come in at the back and has been solid as a rock so far. A new Terry Butcher with his constant headband, he has shown a self belief in his performances, and of course some fantastic tackling. Throwing himself into everything and being part of a back four that has been very solid all season. For me he is the key signing.
Being so assured and confident in his performance is rubbing off on others. The defence has been worked on in the summer with the signings of Bromby and Crowe and has been a key part of our start to the season.
Another feature that grayson has brought in is the fluidity of the midfield. I confess i've only seen two games in the flesh plus the Liverpool game on sky, but the midfield is constantly moving and linking up well. Bradley Johnson has weighed in with 5 goals from midfield and is another player that has transformed since Grayson has come in, although he always has had the potential based on his loan spell with Brighton last season.
Snodgrass gets a call up for Scotland and unfortunately had to pull out but after a performance against Liverpool where he 'had their left back on toast' according to Grayson, his stock continues to rise.
Another key reason we have started well is the fact we only lost one major player in Delph. Beckford, Becchio and Snodgrass all stayed, plus players like Kisnorbo, Bromby, Crowe, Higgs and Doyle all joined to go with the likes of Howson, Johnson, Kilkenny, Naylor, Parker. It's a strong squad.
I was going to say we have strength in depth and to a degree we do. But against Darlington (i lied earlier i've seen three games live) a lot of the fringe players were given a chance and some 'played themselves out of the team' according to Simon Grayson. The likes of Prutton, Robinson, Showunmi and Ankergren didn't cover themselves in glory. And those are four names you expect to be solid players at this level. Robinson was in the League one team of the year before he joined, and at times has showed why, but he was decidely unfit when he joined and has never maintained a consistant level of performance.
For me this is a worry, against Charlton complaints rained in that with Snodgrass missing we lacked creativity. Something that Robinson could do, but maybe the fact he didn't start is a sign of the managers faith in him.
But for me the most pleasing thing as i alluded to earlier is the work ethic and passion. The players really seem to be giving everything for the club and their gaffer. 1-0 down at Walsall with ten minutes to go and we went on to win 2-1. Normally our heads would drop and it would be game over. Not this season. It shows alot about Grayson to see the players give so much. Nothing is a lost cause.
With this, expectation soars and a 0-0 draw at home to a team in second was considered a disappointment. No way in a million years is it a disappointment in my eyes, but such are expectations after the start we've had. Maybe its a double edged sword. The fact that most seasons as of late a 0-0 draw at home against a second place team would've been a great result, but now its a disappointment, which shows that we have come on alot as of late.
The next thing is can we keep it going. As a Leeds fan you learn never to get optimistic.......but even i might start getting excited if we're still in the top 2 by christmas.