Since Adam Pearson’s appointment in the summer, the Leeds United ship had left last season’s tempest behind in its wake, and was now navigating relatively calmer waters. The sun was shining and a course set for the Premier League. Nobody on-board was quite sure how long the journey would take, a year perhaps? Maybe two or three? But the general consensus was that safe passage was assured and the ship would eventually dock in the promised land.
Nobody could have foreseen the maelstrom that was about to befall the stricken ship….
Although not officially announced until afterwards, news broke internally of Adam Pearson’s departure before the game. The bombshell falling as Uwe prepared his squad for the visit of Ipswich Town, a team arriving at Elland Road on the back of a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Reading. With this in mind, the expectant crowd gathered in the stadium, blissfully unaware of the tremors shaking the dressing room below.
Leeds United had hoped to use consecutive home fixtures to address an Elland Road record which was starting to make very grim reading. The news arriving shortly before kick-off did nothing to assist the crisis in confidence which has affected the squad on home soil since March.
Since the Tractor Boys last visited Elland Road, Leeds United have been winless in nine home league games. Let me repeat that to allow time to fully digest the statistic. Winless in nine home league games. Five points from a possible twenty seven. Worse still, in those nine games, they have managed to find the net only four times. By anyone’s standards that is a paltry return from a place once referred to as "Fortress Elland Road".
The sad fact is Elland Road is no longer a fortress. It is slowly becoming a crumbling shadow of its former self, every defeat further galvanising the next visiting team. The chants of "We’re not famous anymore" which sarcastically ring around the stadium on match days are slowly beginning to lose their sentiment.
Mick McCarthy knew this only too well and having delivered a rocket to his squad ahead of kick-off, he sent them out looking for retribution. The team that played bared little resemblance to the one which had been pistol-whipped last Friday night in Reading, and the defence which was breached five times last time out held firm. They were organised and difficult to break down.
It seems that just lately Leeds United have become their own worst enemies, architects of their own downfall. Against the run of play, a defensive error on 33 minutes by Liam Cooper led to a corner which Fraser floated into the United box. Silvestri missed his punch and the ball was headed back across goal towards Smith. The centre back must have thought all his birthdays had come at once as he nodded the ball home from three yards out.
Leeds spent the remainder of the game chasing an equaliser which in truth never really looked like coming.
The cherry on the Ipswich cake was the referee’s decision to penalise Sam Byram by way of a yellow card for diving at the death rather than award the Whites a spot kick. Mick McCarthy praised the referee after the game for his bravery in front of a hostile crowd, saying "I admire his courage. It’s Tuesday night, under lights, a crowd of 22 thousand are baying for blood and it would have been the easiest one in the world to give. Fair play to him."
Until Saturday, I had been speaking of a promising if unspectacular start to the season, a vast improvement on the woeful finish of the season before. Back to back home wins would have turned an average start into a superb one, we would be looking forward to the rest of the season. Standing in the crow’s nest, peering across a glass-like ocean and seeing the Premier League utopia on the horizon.
Sadly it was not to be. The storm arrived publicly after the full time whistle with the news that Adam Pearson had left the club citing personal reasons. The press release suggests there has been no rift backstage and he is welcome back if or whenever he feels able to.
I’m not alone in thinking he was at the centre of almost everything positive happening at Elland Road over the last few months, and had been the glue holding things together. It remains to be seen whether the club will return to the pantomime that prevailed before his appointment. Headlines for all the wrong reasons and the football suffering as a consequence.
Sure, Cellino is still the captain of the ship, but Adam had managed to keep him locked in the wheelhouse and the ship on course. His departure is a huge blow to Leeds United Football Club, and it is not yet clear how far and wide the shockwaves will travel. Only time will tell.
The Whites travel to the MK Dons next, the small crumb of comfort knowing that their away form has been far superior to their home. A win would go some way to calming the tumultuous seas, but that utopia seems to be slowly receding in the distance.
One thing is for sure. Things are looking a lot less rosy than they did five days ago.