Stop me when this sounds familiar: Leeds United are playing on the road, getting outplayed and only in the contest because of a lucky, four leaf clover hovering between Robert Green’s backside and the magical woodwork supporting his aging frame. A guaranteed loss, right?
Leeds United spent the first 45 minutes of Saturday’s contest at Cardiff living up to their well-deserved reputation. Shaky defending, Chris Wood passing his golden opportunities straight to the keeper, dubious challenges which could arguably warrant an early shower.
It was everything we know all too well.
See, I somewhat disagree with what our resident United optimist Matt Robinson wrote in his match recap yesterday. For mine, the first half performance was largely average at best, littered with the odd highlight to keep us interested.
Luckily for all involved with this little website, Leeds rode their luck to a half time stalemate. Was it deserved, warranted, earned or reasonable? Who bloody cares? It just was, and it allowed Leeds United to do what they almost never do.
United weathered the first half storm, executing an A-Grade smash and grab job in the Welsh capital. A second win for the week, and a welcome release mechanism for the ridiculous Cellino-inspired pressure gauge hanging over Garry Monk’s head this time last week. These are the obvious benefits of a triumph over Cardiff.
But for me, the importance of such a victory goes beyond three points or positioning on the league table in September. It speaks to what we can become, and where we are going under Garry Monk. First, is competency, and second, well… elite must be the goal. And for an English football side, elite status can only be achieved when playing alongside the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool every week.
Saturday’s second half was the first time in years I enjoyed watching United’s game and thought there was something bigger at play. We’ve had nice wins under every manager that has ridden on the Cellino merry-go-round, but upon reflection, they were all just false hope during the final moments of the Titanic. Things just feel different with Monk at the helm, and they have since the start.
Elite sporting franchises don’t panic when things are going bad, and more importantly, they don’t believe the hype after a good performance.
Same goes for those leading the way. I’m sure part of Monk was sh**ting himself before Kyle Bartley scored to secure victory over Blackburn on Tuesday, but you would have never known.
As for Monk’s thoughts about the Cardiff victory? It was the same good cop, bad cop routine we’ve seen every week. There is no unnecessary lavish praise or moaning about what could have been, just a warranted dose of reality.
Monk is like a duck gliding across the water. It doesn’t matter what’s underneath the surface because everything above looks so majestic. From my perspective, Monk has shown why he is the man to lead us back to the promised land since arriving at Elland Road. But Saturday was evidence for the masses. United did something from the realm of what they are aspiring to be.
Away trips are business trips for sporting teams. The elite sides in football go on the road and win games which their opposition should have. It’s the classic Americanism of Survive and Advance: get the points and come home victorious, it doesn’t matter how, just get it done. Leeds did just this on Saturday, and showed enough class along the way to have us all dreaming of Wembley Stadium.
This team feels a lot like Daisy Ridley’s character at the beginning of Star Wars Episode VII. Nothing much makes sense just yet, but there is greatness lurking over the horizon if the force can be harnessed.
Does this make Garry Monk the Luke Skywalker of Leeds United? Han Solo perhaps?
Regardless of who our fearless leader draws parallels to in a galaxy far, far away, my warning to the other 23 teams in the Championship is this: you best kill us off when you get the chance. The squad under Monk is starting to gel, and improvement is slowly seeping its way into Elland Road.
Whether said improvement will translate into a top six finish, that is the great unknown. How fast can the revolution move from theory into action, I truly have no idea.
But the European winter suddenly looks much brighter than it did when the last one ended.