It seems a little surreal doing an interview with an away fan, where we discuss the departure of Simon Grayson. Unfortunately that's the fact of the matter and we must move on...whether fans agree or not as there's a game this weekend against Bristol City. The Robins of course have Neil Kilkenny in their ranks, which is touched upon in the piece. They're out of the drop zone and looking to climb away and up the table. I spoke to Bristol City blogger Paul Binning who is the editor of The Exiled Robin. Hope you enjoy!
Lots of changes since we last spoke back in September. New manager with Derek McInnes in charge, so how you feeling as a fan at the moment?
Largely positive, despite the still lowly league position. To be six points clear of the bottom three at this stage considering we were six adrift at the bottom at one stage is testament to the job McInnes has done since his arrival. It’s not just results that have picked up, the entire atmosphere of the club has changed for the better, almost from the minute he was appointed. Many are hoping he’s here for the long run and that this is the moment we truly build upon our initial Championship success.
You picked up a few good wins, including Southampton and are now 6 points clear of relegation. Can you avoid the drop?
Yes – can and will. Although complacency needs to be avoided by the players the general form shown since McInnes has taken over has proven we are a mid-table team at least. Even the narrow defeats at Reading and home to Middlesbrough were a tad unfortunate and followed a good all-round performance. Southampton home and away is a stunning double and we've also drawn at Upton Park.
As you have probably heard Simon Grayson has gone, are you confident you can win even more now as he isn't in charge and do you have any opinion on the matter from an outside perspective?
From the outside looking in it seems the troubles are more at board level than manager level and after three years of decent achievement and progress, Grayson’s had his hands tied with players being sold and lack of funds to get cover in. Will be interesting to see how much money is found in the summer for a new manager, although with the controversial ticket pricing policy and an understandable poor response to season-ticket renewals it may be more of a struggle to find the cash.
I also now wonder if my suggestion back in December that Neil Warnock would soon be your new boss soon might come to surprising fruition. It’s looking like a crystal ball moment seeing as Grayson was still in situ and Neil Warnock was merrily chatting to Joey Barton on the training ground at the time.
Yesterday the club sold top-scorer Maynard, a deal I know you didn't mind in September but this time on deadline day. Thoughts on this?
Good deal for everyone involved. The fans had started to turn on him after a series of performances that looked like he wasn’t committed so to not sell would have been damaging to the club. He was dropped for the last two matches anyway and whilst Reading ended in defeat, the performance for an hour at home to Doncaster (without Maynard) was as good as anything we’ve seen in a couple of years. He’ll be in the premier League next season and the Hammers - for a decent fee - have got themselves a good quality striker who might just make it at the top level.
Only one win in four, is that deserved or have you just not being getting the rub of the green?
As explained above, defeat at Reading was probably a touch unfair but the two performances prior to that sole win were probably the worst seen under McInnes. A lame defeat at Crawley in the F.A. Cup was followed by a lacklustre display at Brighton and the 2,000 fans who travelled to each game let their feelings be known. Hopefully they’re more a blip and we should be concentrating on the recent home record which, after not winning a game until November, now reads four wins from the last six.
As an Ex-Leeds player Kilkenny is still in our minds with the game coming up. How has he done this season so far?
Very up and down, as many Leeds fans told us he would be! He looked a little lost under previous manager Keith Millen as the tactics were to get the ball forward quickly, but initially under McInnes he was the catalyst for our good run. He was outstanding in a series of games when we won 13 points from five games but has retreated and dropped too deep too often recently. Again referring to the Doncaster win, for the first 45 minutes he completely ran the show, then at 2-0 up he dropped a good 10-15 yards back and Rovers were allowed to press onto our midfield and start dictating proceedings. He’s much better when on the offensive.
How do you see the Robins lining up on Saturday?
Can’t see a lot changing despite defeat but McInnes seems – to coin that popular phrase – to take each match as it comes and is as happy changing a winning team as he is keeping a losing one. There will have to be one change as Louis Carey was sent off at the Madejski so will be suspended for Saturday.
It could be something like this in a fluid 4-5-1/4-3-3/4-2-3-1 formation:
James; Foster, Nyatanga, Wilson, McGivern; Elliott (if fit)/Cisse, Kilkenny; Adomah, Pearson, Bolasie; Wood.
Who will be the main threat to the Leeds team, with Maynard gone who can find the net?
Chris Wood scored nine goals in 19 for Birmingham earlier the season and is already off the mark for us. Albert Adomah is always dangerous and probably our best player this season. And as at Elland Road, if Killa plays I’m sure he’ll be busting a gut to score again and then find Mr Bates in the crowd…
Any Leeds player who you'd love to watch at Ashton Gate?
I liked Jonny Howson but obviously so did someone else, whilst Robert Snodgrass is the stand-out choice but he clearly has aspirations way above us. Ross McCormack is once again showing how dangerous he can be at this level and Adam Clayton is another I’d like to see a bit more of.
Prediction for the match?
We haven’t got a great record against you but prior to Grayson’s sacking, bearing in mind the form of each side, I’d have said a 2-1 home win but that timing could work against us and you could nick a draw.
Big thanks to Paul for his views once again. Lets hope his prediction is wrong and Neil Redfearn can start his temporary job with a win.