Thanks for your feedback and kind words, it's what motivates me to post stories like this.
Also, apologies for the recent lack of posting. I've been busy with university work, I was going to do an update yesterday but the game wouldn't load. It's been fixed now, so here goes another update
Pre-season fixture 3: Gainsborough Trinity vs Leeds United @ The Northolme
Saturday 26th July 2014 KO 3pm
Weather: Breezy 17C
We made the short trip to Gainsborough for our final fixture of pre-season. Having just the three fixtures suits me down to the ground. I see it more as an opportunity to get the squad to gel in fixtures, they could get their fitness in training. We also need to break in the narrow 4-2-3-1 formation I'm trying to implement. I don't mind the diamond, but there's something about the setup of the former that I just love.
During the week, Scott Wootton traded the bustling urban life of Leeds for the slightly more subdued township of Rotherham, joining the Millers on a season-long loan deal. We had right-back covered with Byram and Berardi, centre-back was taken by Bamba, Bellusci, Cooper and Del Fabro whilst we had Austin and N'Goyi covering the holding midfield role, meaning Wootton would be temporarily surplus to requirements this year.
Another such departure was young goalkeeper Dan Atkinson, who left to spend the rest of the season at Hednesford. Another goalkeeper spending the season out on loan would be Eric Grimes, who left for nearby affiliates Guiseley. Centre-back Afalobi Coker also left on a season-long loan for Colwyn Bay.
Speaking of love, the travelling fans were out in force in the North Lincolnshire-based market town. Having read that the Northolme doesn't have segregation in force, I was expecting a unified community feel to the game, with fans of both teams mingling and getting along, which seemed like an idyllic way to round off pre-season on the pitch.
The stadium itself looked pretty nice for a sixth tier club. There was the classic main stand straddling the touchline, a covered terrace opposite and another to the right and an open terrace at the other end. The pitch was also well looked after, and probably the nicest we had encountered of all three fixtures- it was like someone had airlifted the the pitch at The Emirates and dropped it on a small town in North Lincolnshire.
Perhaps taking cover against any potential rain, a few hundred Leeds fans had congregated in and taken over the terrace behind the goal, to the right of the main stand as you face the pitch. There was loud singing and chanting coming from them, and to add atmosphere to the occasion, a few rule breakers had thrown blue and yellow smoke grenades onto the pitch. This was a proper Leeds United away day.
First half XI (4-2-3-1 narrow): Silvestri, Byram, Bamba, Cooper, C Taylor, N'Goyi, Cook, Ivan, Adryan, Sloth, Antenucci
Second half XI (4-4-2 diamond): S Taylor, Berardi, Bellusci, Del Fabro, White, Austin, Mowatt, Benedicic, Doukara, Sharp, Morison
After just 8 minutes, our away day was in full swing. Gainsborough were caught napping as David Ivan's long ball picked out an onside and unmarked Casper Sloth in the box. The young Dane couldn't miss and he didn't, burying for 1-0, sending the Leeds fans into delirium.
The creative hub of our team continued to cause Gainsborough problems, and it was almost 2-0 when after some good build-up amongst Adryan, Cook and Sloth, Antenucci sent a 20-yard effort skidding past the post.
It was a much more encouraging start than in the preceding two fixtures, and I was off the bench relaying that to the team not too far into the first half.
We came close again after 25 minutes, when a decent Adryan free kick whistled over the bar from 30 yards out.
We were forced into an early change 10 minutes from half-time however. Adryan picked up a knock which I didn't want to risk playing him on, so I pulled Antenucci back behind Sharp, who came on to replace Adryan.
6 minutes following the change, we were two goals to the good. Antenucci seemed to fit into his new attacking midfield role seemlessly, as he linked up with Cook and Sloth before hitting a low drive towards the bottom the corner. The keeper got a hand to it, but it wasn't enough to keep Sharp from the rebound, with the Yorkshire-born forward living up to his surname from the tightest of angles on his weaker foot.
Our creative hub were back at it again shortly before half-time. Cook and Ivan linked up brilliantly, playing in the pressing Charlie Taylor, whose initial cross was cleared back to him, and the follow-up cross almost found its way in, only to be tipped over for a corner.
We went into the break 2-0 up, and as I made my half-time changes, I was feeling positive. The new formation finally seemed to be clicking, and I felt the time was right to begin learning the diamond, so that we had a couple of plans to choose from in a couple of weeks at The Den.
We almost had our third ten minutes after the restart, when after some patient build-up play in the middle, the ball broke to White on the left. He delivered an early cross into the box which found the criminally unmarked head of Billy Sharp, whose goal-bound header was tipped over the bar.
We threatened again a few minutes later. A brilliant ball from Benedicic found White out wide. White put the ball into the box but Sharp's first touch was poor, forcing him into an impossible angle from which he invariably missed.
We had another brilliant chance fifteen minutes from time when Billy Sharp's cross was cleared only as far as Berardi. The Swiss right-back went on an amazing run towards the 6-yard box and probably should have buried it, but full marks to the keeper for tipping a thunderous point-blank effort over the bar.
They pulled one back entirely against the run of play in the last minute of the 90, when a long ball from Billy Lobjoit launched a route one counter. Darryn Stamp broke free of the defence and intially fired his shot straight at Stuart Taylor. The experienced goalkeeper should have held it with no problem, but he parried it straight back into the path of Stamp who made no mistake second time around.
Those of a Gainsborough persuasion (read: anti-Leeds fans in the area that just wanted to pop down to see a local friendly) were given something to smile about, but we were always going to be heading home with a win, even though we didn't get the 3-0 scoreline our play deserved.
Gainsborough Trinity 1-2 Leeds United
Gainsboro': Stamp 90
Leeds: Sloth 9, Sharp 42
Man of the Match: Darryn Stamp
not much of a fan of leeds, but good update.
GO LEEDS GO.
Solid result and as always, well written.
Thanks guys, I appreciate the support. Stay tuned, the start of the season is just around the corner
The following Friday brought the start of my first full month in charge of the club I've supported since I was no taller than knee-height.
As I rolled into training, I opened my phone to find a text from Massimo Cellino.
"Don't worry about the monthly meeting today, we'll do our first one next month when we've seen the team play in competitive fixtures"
That was fine by me. I had a difficult away trip at Millwall to prepare the squad for and in the nicest possible way, I could do without to-ing and fro-ing between Beeston and Thorp Arch.
Now that I had seen the players go through pre-season and now that we have a week until the first game of the season, I decided to make plans for a provisional 18-man squad to take to London. We have no injury worries, so I had a fully changeable squad to pick from.
In goal, I went for Marco Silvestri. I had a good idea from day one that he'd be my first choice and he's proven that to me over the past few weeks. Furthermore, after the blunder Stuart Taylor made at Gainsborough last week, I didn't really have any other choice.
At right-back, Sam Byram would be my first choice. Both the diamond and the 4-2-3-1 narrow formation require full backs to come forward and provide width, and he's done that impeccably in the friendlies. He's also quite reliable for defensive duties which is obviously what you look for in any defensive player.
There have been a few cock-ups at centre-back during pre-season, but due to budget limitations, we would just have piss with the cock we've got, so to speak. With that in mind, I decided to select Sol Bamba and Liam Cooper as my first choice combination. This was mostly down to the good job they did together at centre-back last week against Gainsborough, as we kept a clean sheet in the half they played. Bamba's goal against Dagenham & Redbridge did little harm to his chances either, which shows he can provide a service when he goes up for corners.
At left-back, I was left with no doubt. Aidan White was great going forward, but couldn't defend for his life and it showed in the last minute at Gainsborough when he completely abandoned his duties and they broke down our left-hand side. Charlie Taylor on the other hand is a brilliant all-rounder, capable of posing a threat going forward and doing a solid job at the back, pretty much like a left-sided Byram.
In the 4-2-3-1 formation, there are two central midfielders: a playmaker and a ball-winner. It was tough to select a ball-winner, but for my money I wanted Austin to fill the role. He's a great leader on the pitch, has a dominating midfield presence and on his day, could probably keep Lionel Messi in his back pocket. If we were to stand a chance on such a notoriously difficult away trip, I needed him putting a shift in and bossing the midfield.
The playmaker was difficult to select, but on form Lewis Cook just about edged it. He's a joy to watch when he runs at the opposition and can make creating chances look easy. He's not a bad finisher either on the evidence that I saw at Dagenham.
My attacking midfield three would consist of two support strikers and a 'hook' (better known as a Trequartista) to link the midfield with the attack. I thought Casper Sloth did the best job for the hook, and being the best passer and the more athletic of the three natural attacking midfielders, it was a no brainer to put him in the middle of the three.
My support strikers therefore, would obviously be Adryan and David Ivan as they are the only other natural attacking midfielders we have. Don't let that detract from their overall ability as footballers. Adryan brings some flair to our attack whilst David Ivan can pick a pass as much as he can beat a couple of defenders and stick it in the back of the net.
Up front, I had my heart set on Mirco Antenucci. He can naturally play as a false nine anyway, and he showed this during pre-season, linking up brilliantly with the midfield, creating goalscoring opportunities.
So that is my preliminary XI. My subs, will probably come to mind over the next week or so, but I now have a clearer idea of what my starting XI will look like come 9th August.
Sky Bet Championship fixture 1: Millwall vs Leeds United @ The Den
Saturday 9th August 2014 KO 3pm
Weather: Calm 20C
I knew, as soon as we rolled into Bermondsey, that we were up against it. Millwall, playing at home to dirty Leeds scum? It was a no brainer.
But we went with character. We went without fear. I knew we'd get get a strong representation from the travelling White army, and we had to please them. We had to fight for the shirt. We had to be willing to do anything to not let those fans down.
The upper tier of the North Stand was packed with Leeds fans. They were all in good voice, and they were expecting something in return, we had to deliver that to them.
Throughout the rest of The Den were the Millwall fans. They don't half fucking hate us. I can't even begin to describe the verbal abuse I got as I emerged from the tunnel to call the squad in for their final pre-match briefing.
It was always going to be a tough afternoon, and it would be a long one if things didn't go our way. I was desperate to assemble a team that could do well in such circumstances, so with that in mind, I assembled the following squad:
Leeds (4-2-3-1 narrow): Silvestri, Byram, Cooper, Bamba, C Taylor, Austin, Cook, Ivan, Sloth, Adryan, Antenucci
Leeds subs: S Taylor, Berardi, Bellusci, N'Goyi, Mowatt, Doukara, Sharp
We came close within the first 8 minutes, when a loose ball from a tackle on Adryan fell to Casper Sloth. Unfortunately for us and the 2,000 Leeds fans in the upper tier behind the goal, his shot thundered against the under-side of the crossbar and bounced back out.
Millwall dominated possession for a short period, and came close on 22 minutes when a cross from Lee Martin found the head of Ed Upson. The former Yeovil man could only blaze his header over the bar.
We were in front three minutes after however. A brilliant long ball from Sam Byram found Rudy Austin. The captain made it to the byline before drilling in a low cross which was converted first time by Antenucci. 1-0 to Leeds, a scoreline which sent the travelling army ballistic.
Millwall responded well, and within a minute, Maierhofer had some space in the box. He teed up Ed Upson who blazed his effort over the bar.
But just after the half-hour mark, we were awarded a penalty. After some good link-up play between Adryan, Sloth and Cook, Ivan had a run into the box. He was taken down by Dan Harding and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Antenucci stepped up and fired it into the top corner to put us two up, and silence the noise being made by the home support.
The scenes in the away end were what could only be described as sheer carnage, and I was loving every minute of it from the dugout.
Millwall almost pulled a goal back within the last five minutes of the first half. Martin's cross found the head of Maierhofer, who headed it agonisingly over the bar.
Shortly after we were straight up their end. The resulting goal kick reached David Ivan in the Millwall half. The Slovak played an effortless through ball to Casper Sloth who probably should have done better one-on-one, but on this occasion, he blazed it over.
We went into half-time 2-0 up, much to the vocal displeasure of the Millwall fans. It was my job to ensure the players' heads were screwed on and that we didn't throw this lead.
Casper Sloth seemed to be struggling from a knock he picked up in the first half. He was brought off five minutes after the restart and replaced with Doukara. David Ivan took up the vacated 'hook' role whilst Doukara played as a support striker alongside Adryan.
Shortly after the hour, Millwall almost pulled a goal back. Lee Martin sent in a low corner, and with blistering power, Jay Bothroyd sent a shot fizzing just past the post.
With 20 minutes left, a few players were beginning to look tired, and my next substitution saw Lewis Cook replaced with Alex Mowatt.
With just over ten minutes to go, Millwall broke again. Jay Bothroyd found an unmarked Jimmy Abdou (crusher of Leeds fans' dreams in the League One playoffs in 2009) who could only drag his first time shot wide.
A couple of minutes later, we put the game to bed. David Ivan whipped in a free kick from the right hand side. Liam Cooper headed against the bar, but the rebound fell straight at his feet, and he buried it at the second time of asking.
Just a couple more minutes later, and Millwall had a consolation goal. Magaye Gueye broke down the left and swung in an early cross, which was met by Lee Martin on the volley. 3-1.
With two minutes to go, our two-goal cushion was halved. Lee Martin sent a long free kick into the area which found an unmarked Mark Beevers on the edge of the box. The rest was history, 3-2. Game on.
Millwall did little else to threaten and we came away from The Den as winners, but only just. Fair play to Millwall, it was a ballsy performance near the end, but sometimes a three-goal deficit is just too much.
I rounded up the players and marched them towards the away end, to salute the fans that had got behind them, and seen them over the line under difficult circumstances, This one was for them
Millwall 2-3 Leeds United
Millwall: Martin 84 Beevers 89
Leeds: Antenucci 26, 31 (pen) Cooper 82
Man of the Match: Mirco Antenucci
Tough place to win, The Den. Millwall is decent in my save too so this is a quality away win to start the season. Good stuff. You brought the match alive with your writing -- nice job.
Capital One Cup Round 1: Burton Albion vs Leeds United @ The Pirelli Stadium
Tuesday 12th September 2014 KO 7:45pm
Weather: Calm 14C
Having run it by the appropriate people, I came up with a plan to only head up as far as Burton-upon-Trent immediately after the Milwall game. I called a few players that didn't make it to Milwall down so that I have a squad to pick from.
We stayed in a hotel and booked a couple of 3G pitches for training on Monday and for a short session during the day on Tuesday at the Shobnall Leisure Complex, a five-minute drive from the Pirelli Stadium.
It's a rare occasion for Burtonians to see their local team come up against opposition from the top two divisions, so naturally we had locals gawping from outside the perimeter of the sports complex whilst we trained. It didn't bother me much, I was happy to mingle with the locals, pose for pictures and sign autographs outside of business hours.
Speaking of business, we meant business. We dominated away at one of the most notoriously difficult places to visit, so we were right up for the challenge that faced us in midweek.
I want to get past the first two rounds. If we get a side like Man United at home in the third round, it will generate a lot of money in gate receipts and TV revenue, and could also lead to higher attendances if we mix good form in the league with a cup run.
And then we all know what revenue can do. The club is already forecast to make a profit of £5m by the end of the season, and anything I can do to help increase it, I'll do it. It means we have more money to throw around for me to implement my vision of nourishing our youngsters, which will be hugely beneficial in the future.
But enough of ifs, buts and maybes, we had to focus on the task in hand first, and this is the squad I chose to send out:
Leeds line-up (4-4-2 diamond): S Taylor, Berardi, Bellusci, Del Fabro, White, N'Goyi, Bianchi, Mowatt, Doukara, Montenegro, Sharp
Leeds subs: Silvestri, Byram, Murphy, Antenucci, Cooper, Austin, Morison
I wanted to keep those that played against Millwall sharp for the visit of Middlesbrough at the weekend, so with that in mind I went for complete squad rotation.
As ever, the away terrace was packed to the rafters, which is a hell of a lot more than what can be said of the home stands. They were virtually empty, and Leeds fans dominated the numbers, filling out the 1,400 allocation given to away fans in the East Terrace.
We broke the deadlock after just 80 seconds. Brian Montenegro broke down the right, and his early cross found an unmarked Billy Sharp 10 yards out. He could hardly miss, and he struck a sweet first time effort into the far bottom corner. 1-0.
Twenty minutes later, he had a penalty call waved away. We broke away with Mowatt and Montenegro, Montenegro picked out Doukara with a through ball and the Frenchman was tripped in the box by right-back Phil Edwards.
I was out of my seat, screaming at the ref for a penalty but nothing was given. After giving the fourth official an earful, I returned to my spot.
A minute later, we were outraged further, when a similar foul was committed on Dario Del Fabro inside the area, by the same player that tripped Doukara.
The ref was getting some serious stick from the fans, as the chant 'The Football League's Corrupt' rang out from the away.
Shortly before the half hour mark, we should have doubled our advantage. A free kick from Bellusci found Billy Sharp unmarked in acres of space. Nine times out of ten, he'd bury it, but this was the one occasion where he wouldn't and instead, screwed it horribly wide.
Ten minutes before the break, Burton were nearly level. Jimmy Phillips was picked out inside the area, before he thundered a goal-bound volley that acrobatically tipped over by Stuart Taylor.
A few minutes later, another glaring opportunity went begging. This time it was a Doukara through ball that picked out Montenegro on the penalty spot, but the Paraguayan mishit his first time shot and sent it wide of the left hand post.
We had another opportunity seconds before half time. Doukara launched a counter attack from deep inside his own half. He played in Sharp, but instead of going for glory, he passed it to Montenegro who fired it straight at the keeper.
I was happy with how we started the game, but much improvement was needed in the final third, otherwise we'd be punished. I made sure the players were fully aware of that in the half-time team talk.
Five minutes after the restart, my worst fears were realised. Our poor finishing in the second half cost us, as Akins found himself in space inside the area. He slid it across to Stuart Beavon, who made no mistake from five yards. 1-1.
I was furious with how we let that goal in and how we failed to dispose of them earlier, and the players felt the full force of my anger, as I began to lose it at them on the touchline.
Mowatt was among the under-performers, and he just didn't seem to have turned up at all. He was dragged off on the hour mark and replaced by Luke Murphy.
We continued to massively under-perform, and with fifteen minutes of the ninety remaining, I threw the team forward, sending them up the pitch to flood the final third, screaming for urgency.
White was beginning to look exhausted, and I couldn't blame him, given he was one of the wide players that were carrying the team. I had to bring him of with ten minutes to go, so I replaced him with Byram, switching Berardi out to the left so the substitute could play on the right.
We continued to refuse to pose a threat, and much to my frustration, we were taken into extra time. The players got a bollocking from hell and were sent back out there. There were 1,400 Leeds fans that had turned up for this, and they deserved much better than the passionless drivel that was on display at the moment.
We thought finally regained the lead five minutes into extra time. Doukara picked up the ball 30 yards from goal and slid a through ball into Sharp. The striker that had been so profligate save for his earlier goal took his first touch past the keeper and tucked it into the empty net.
The referee didn't approve, and Sharp was flagged for offside. This annoyed me and the fans even more, and "We Only Get Shit Refs" rang out loud and clear from the furious travelling army.
On the stroke of half time, we were almost in front. Byram swung in an early cross from the right hand touchline. The cross found an unmarked Doukara on the penalty spot who fired a volley straight at the keeper.
I was getting particularly infuriated with Montenegro, who had been coasting through the game and letting the team carry him, so he was replaced with Antenucci at half time.
Two minutes into the second half of extra time, we were in front. Doukara picked out Byram on the right wing. The young full back swung a brilliant early cross towards the six-yard box which found Luke Murphy, who volleyed home from two yards out. 2-1.
We were reduced to ten men with five minutes remaining. Doukara hobbled off with an injury and we had no subs left, so we had to make do.
We came close to doubling our lead right near the end, when Del Fabro was picked out by a Luke Murphy corner. The young Italian could only smash his volley against the post.
When the final whistle went, I cared little about the fact that we had won. That performance was completely unacceptable, and I told the players that their showing was inexcusable.
Burton Albion 1-2 Leeds United (aet)
Burton: Beavon 50
Leeds: Sharp 2 Murphy 107
Man of the Match: Robbie Weir
Sky Bet Championship fixture 2: Leeds United vs Middlesbrough @ Elland Road
Saturday 16th September 2014 KO 3pm
Weather: Downpour 15C
I had waited a long time for this. Most of the reason I took up the post at Leeds United was to experience the buzz of playing at Elland Road.
This historic bastion of Yorkshire sport has been around since the late 19th century, the pitch has been rotated and pushed further north, the oldest stand is the West Stand. That was erected after the fire in 1956 that burned down what used to stand there. Since then, it has been the hub of activity on a matchday during the Don Revie era which saw many footballing legends play at Elland Road.
The ground has also seen many great games, including wins against Barcelona, AC Milan, Lazio and many other European heavyweights. Even in the modern day, the hallowed turf has been graced by players who have appeared in cup matches, such as the likes of Fabregas, van Persie, Nasri and Sagna of Arsenal; Bale, Defoe, Crouch and Van Der Vaart of Tottenham; Hazard, Mata, Luiz and Cech of Chelsea and Rooney, Giggs, Owen, and Pogba of Man United.
I want to get such illustrious names back on this pitch playing against us, because I know the buzz and excitement that it generates. I want to see this club mix it with the best.
When there's a decent turnout, Elland Road makes a formidable noise. It's probably one the only grounds where you hear "Your Support Is Fucking Shit" at the away fans: usually that chant is directed at home fans but not here. Over the past year or so, the South Stand has become like an away end for the home supporters with how full it gets the atmosphere it generates.
There is no better sight at Elland Road in the modern day than watching the South Stand bounce to "Na Na Hey Hey Leeds United" (to the tune of Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye by Bananarama); scarves being waved around to We Are Champions, Champions Of Europe; or the classic mayhem that comes with Let's Go Fucking Mental.
I reminded the players that the fans want to see a performance, and sent out the same side that won at Millwall last week:
Leeds starting XI (4-2-3-1 narrow): Silvestri, C Taylor, Bamba, Cooper, Byram, Austin, Cook, Ivan, Sloth, Adryan, Antenucci
Leeds subs: S Taylor, Berardi, Bellusci, N'Goyi, Mowatt, Montenegro, Sharp
[chorus]Marching On Together,
We're gonna see you win,
(na na na na na na)
We are so proud,
We shout it out loud,
We love you Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!
We've been through it all together,
And we've had our ups and downs (ups and downs!),
We're gonna stay with you forever,
At least until the world stops going round.
Everyday, we're all gonna say we love you Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!
Everywhere, we're gonna be there we love you Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!
It never seems to get old, hearing Marching On Together ring throughout Elland Road. Once it ends, there's a unified battle cry around the ground before we finally get to business.
The familiar Elland Road roar was in full swing after just four minutes. Charlie Taylor swung in a corner from the left, which Lewis Cook nodded down into the path of David Ivan, who slammed his first goal for the club into the left hand corner of the goal. The young Slovak headed straight towards the South Stand, hurdled the advertisement hoardings and was mobbed by jubilant Leeds fans.
I wasn't sure what surprised me most, the early lead, or the fact that Ivan wasn't booked for over-celebrating. I myself indulged in fist pump time, and as I was finishing turned to the Kop and gestured for them to remain on their feet.
Similar scenes of chaos ensued almost immediately after, when Daniel Ayala put a Charlie Taylor cross past his own keeper. It was a dream start as we found ourselves 2-0 after just five minutes.
I knew there had to be some kind of catch to going two up so early, and it came on 13 minutes. Grant Leadbitter ran at our left hand side, before sliding the ball into Lee Tomlin. The Boro man had acres of space, and fired home to pull a goal back for the visitors.
Four minutes later, they could have been level, when Leadbitter slipped a through ball in for Patrick Bamford, and the Chelsea loanee's effort was parried behind for a corner.
Middlesbrough continued to press, and on 22 minutes, they had a golden opportunity to go level. The one stopping them was Silvestri, who pulled off a double save to deny Bamford and Clayton. The ball continued to pinball around in the box before Silvestri held Adomah's low driven effort from the edge of the area.
We weren't switched on. We had got over-confident after the first five minutes and we let our heads drop when Middlesbrough pulled one back. I was getting animated in my technical area, telling them to focus.
After that, we began to settle. And in our settled mentality, we restored our two goal cushion. David Ivan played in Adryan from the left. Adryan instantly had his route to goal blocked by multiple defenders so he played it back to Austin who was lurking outside the area. The captain's effort was too hot to handle for Konstantopolous, who spilled it to Mirco Antenucci, who made no mistake in front of an empty net. 3-1.
Just minutes later, we were nowhere to be seen. Sloth broke in a central right position and slipped a ball in to Antenucci, the Italian picked out David Ivan with a wonderful through ball, and the rest was a formality. 4-1.
Five minutes from time, Lewis Cook picked up a knock. There was no signal to the bench requesting that he be brought off, but I wasn't taking any chances. I sent Mowatt out to replace him.
Before I could implement that change however, we scored again. Cook played a short ball for Antenucci, who picked out a diagonal run from Charlie Taylor, and the young left back sent a sweetly struck first time effort into the bottom corner. 5-1 inside forty minutes.
On the stroke of half time, Middlesbrough pulled one back. We seemed to completely switch off as Clayton picked out Adomah on our right, who tucked it into the far bottom corner. It was a source of irritation for me that we couldn't stay switched on at the back.
On the other hand, as half time came, I was delighted that Middlesbrough's defence seemed to be completely baffled by our attacking setup. They simply couldn't cope, and it showed in the goals we scored.
I had to keep the players grounded though. It's not unusual for a three-goal lead to slip, and we had shown signs of being pretty complacent at the back.
As the half-time scores filtered in, fans checked their phones to find that we sat at the top of the table. Chants of We Are Top Of The League rang out around the ground, which I hoped would give the players a lift.
Ten minutes after the restart, the three-goal cushion was reduced to two. Bamba completely failed to mark Kike, who was picked out by a Bamford through ball, and the Spaniard buried it from six yards.
I was furious that we continued to play sloppy at the back, and I was screaming at the players (mostly the defenders) to pull their collective finger out.
Five minutes past the hour, and it was 5-4. The players seemed to refuse to concentrate, or put in any tackles for that matter. Friend's cross was cut out by Taylor, but he headed it straight to Clayton. The former Leeds man chested it down and played in Adam Reach who blasted home the visitors' fourth of the afternoon.
I couldn't watch them continue to put goals past us as we continued to rest on our laurels, despite my strict instructions not to, and one of the culprits for our poor defensive display, Sam Byram, was dragged off and replaced by Gaetano Berardi. Equally poor was Liam Cooper, and he was substituted for Bellusci.
Three minutes later, the worst happened. Gibson was found at the back post by a long free kick. His effort struck the post, but there was no denying Kike on the rebound. 5-5.
On what was progressively becoming the worst second half Elland Road has ever seen, we were down to ten men, as Austin, already on a yellow card, abandoned all common sense when he could have won it fairly, but instead proceeded to shove Kike to the floor. The referee had no choice but to send him off for a second bookable offence.
We continued to take pressure, and in the end, I though we were very lucky to escape with a draw. We were and absolute shambles, and probably deserved to suffer defeat despite being 5-1 up at one point.
I was fuming, and I didn't hold back in the dressing room, locking the players in to feel the full wrath of my anger. The first real hairdryer treatment they received from me.
Leeds United 5-5 Middlesbrough
Leeds: Ivan 5, 35 Ayala OG 6 Antenucci 34 Taylor 41
Boro: Tomlin 14 Adomah 45+1 Kike 57,69 Reach 66
Man of the Match: Mirco Antenucci
Unfortunately, a ten-goal thriller
I'm assuming the hair-dryer was set on "melt steel".
I had another setting called "my girlfriend's period". That came in handy
I was visibly livid as I marched out towards the car park, even refusing to speak to the journalists that I normally have so much time for.
On the Monday morning, Messrs Byram, Cooper and Austin had a present waiting in their lockers. It was a fine of two weeks' wages, as I perceived them to be the major factor in costing us the game.
Byram and Cooper's performance was horrendous, putting it politely. The words to describe their performance would have made Gordon Ramsay squirm in his seat. The only thing stopping Bamba from getting a fine was that he was on loan, and we were under obligation to pay his wages. He was also an absolute crock of thunder-cuntish, mind-bogglingly extraordinarily passionless, gutless and bollockless shite. I believe that was the term I was looking for. The one that could even have a certain Scottish chef saying "woah, take it easy".
That didn't mean he avoided a bollocking from me in private after the game. I had a very good mind to drop the entire defence with the exception of Taylor, who seemed to be the only defensive player trying.
With the grievances from the Middlesbrough game now put to rest, I had to prep the team for the visit of Brighton on Tuesday. Chris Hughton's men had drawn twice, 1-1 at home to Sheffield Wednesday and 0-0 at Birmingham.
We are scoring a lot of goals, and with eight goals in two games, we are the top scorers in the league. However, our leaky defence is actually the leakiest in the league, conceding seven. It's an unenviable stat to hold, and I was now considering having two defensive midfielders sat in front of the defence.
That should give them some protection seeing as neither of them could be arsed going out and putting tackles in themselves, so 'safety in numbers' was the thinking behind that move.
At home, I had something to cheer about. Will got his AS results (the first year of A-Level), and they stood him in good stead to apply to the universities he was eyeing up.
He wanted to go to the University of Leeds. To be accepted onto a Sport and Exercise Science course, applicants require three As, including a science and PE at A-Level. Will was studying PE, Biology, Psychology and Maths, achieving three As and a B.
The B was in Maths, which he chose to drop as it was the subject he would need the least. We were sending him to Leeds City College, who offered to sit him on the same courses as he studied when we lived in Leeds. It was a huge weight off our shoulders, as finding Will somewhere to complete his A-Levels was a priority.
Caroline meanwhile, had a job interview lined up as a physiotherapist. It was at the Leeds General Infirmary, in a unit that treats sports injuries to get injured sportsmen and women back on track to a speedy recovery.
As a celebration of Will's results, we went to Carluccio's at the Trinity Centre in town. It was nice to just be together as a family, especially after the stressful week I'd had last week.
Sometimes, little things do mean a lot.
Okay, that 'hair dryer' setting made me spray coffee out my nose. Well done.
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