The season is over at Elland Road, and I for one am glad to see the back of it. Despite the promise of a "new shirt, new start" it was "new shirt, same old shit." 12 months of Neil Warnock has seen Leeds United slowly stagnate and eventually decline onto the lower reaches of the Championship.
However every dark cloud has a silver lining, and the 2012/13 season has been an enormous black cloud tipping down misery on the hardy souls who have spent their time and money watching the club this season. The silver lining though is that finally the team have a manager in Brian McDermott who cares more about the performance of the team and how that reflects on Leeds United Football Club than a narcassistic fantasist who was only in for the ego boost a record number of promotions would bring.
In the four games played under Brian McDermott, Leeds have lost as many games as they have won but the football they have played has been of a different class to that we have been forced to suffer during the 12 months of Warnock's hoofball tactics.
Saturday afternoon is a case in point. Despite losing to another late goal, I came away from the game against Brighton feeling very happy with what I had seen. Under Gus Poyet, Brighton have been lauded as the best footballing side in the Championship, yet for vast swathes of the match it was Leeds United who were far and away the best side on the pitch.
Despite playing the vast majority of the game a man light (and I'll come to the ludicrous refereeing later) it was the home side who dominated posession of the ball and were far and away the most dangerous looking side in attack. Unfortunately with Luke Varney as the spearhead, chances were few and far between, the striker reverting to his Warnock era form in a desperately disappointing performance.
Ironically Tom Lees could be blamed for the opening goal, his poor header allowing Will Buckley to slip the opener past Paddy Kenny. Despite the concession Leeds looked well capable of regrouping and getting back into the game.
That task was made harder by Mr Scott, yet another of the shit ref's we always get at Elland Road. In the 12th minute he decided that Rudy Austin running into Ashley Barnes was worthy of a straight red card, one of those decisions that defies belief.
Unfortunately a trait of modern football is the overreaction of players to any physical contact and there is no doubt that it was Barnes' reaction that greatly influenced the referee. Rolling around in agony clutching his face was enough to con the ref into a red card and as usual once that card had been produced the "victim" made a miraculous recovery.
Leeds are not completely innocent in this type of behaviour, in fact Ross McCormack was guilty of staying down for no real reason on an occasion in the second half, but I would like to think that the sort of behaviour that Ashley Barnes got away with would receive short shrift from an Elland Road crowd if one of our own attempted to get a player sent of. I would much rather see a player get up and show some anger, rather than feign injury.
The referee was always likely to take the opportunity to level things up and when Ignacio Calderon pulled down El-Hadji Diouf inside the penalty area, Mr Scott could not wait to pull out his red card again. Diouf tucked away the spot-kick to achieve parity on the scoresheet before a moment of petulance saw him immediately put Leeds at a disadvantage.
Whether Diouf should have reacted to the Brighton fans in the way he did is questionable. Players receive all sorts of abuse but are expected to rise above human nature bu not reacting. What is clear in my opinion though it that there was absoultely no way it was a sending off offence, and that the assistant referee on that side of the field, the man who made the decision, was extremely sensitive if he found that a gesture likely to cause trouble.
If that celebration was likely to incite a crowd, then surely any player celebrating in front of the opposition fans should be receiving a red card in future. The reality is that supporters get pissed off no matter who scores, and do get even more wound up when the scorer gives it large in front of them. Diouf was idiotic but I feel a yellow card was the worst he should have received.
Unfortunately that is modern football. It seems more and more decisions are made because of intentions than because of actions. Gesture to a crowd you can get sent off, roll about on the floor you can get an opponent sent off. Having the intent to break someones leg is often punished more harshly than tackles that could actually cause an injury.
Football has gone soft. Nothing gets a crowd on its feet than a good hard tackle, now it seems that someone grabbing their tackle is deemed too unsavoury for the modern game. It may be my age but I long for the days of old, when players tried to stay on their feet, shrugged off a physical challenge and a red card was as rare as a Leeds United first half goal. Times though have changed and in my opinion football is worse for it.