A new season is upon us and that means an endless amount of largely uncompetitive pre-season friendlies. Not today. A Yorkshire derby at Hillsborough you say, press box you say. Yes please! Leeds United making the short journey south to take on Sheffield Wednesday in what was billed as a pre-season “friendly”. High hopes that niceties would be thrown out the window on the M1.

To bring everyone up to speed, gibfootballshow towers moved location two weeks ago and is now based in Sheffield. A number of reasons for the move but the main thing is GFS has a new base camp and there could be more stories emanating from South Yorkshire this season.

Sheffield has two big teams who are going through a bad patch, with both teams in League One it could be a great season for a neutral to enjoy some football. However telling Mrs GFS, a life-long Blade (Sheffield United fan), that I would be going to Hillsborough did raise an eyebrow.

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The wonderful people over at Pan Macmillan have given me FIVE copies of Philippe Auclair’s superb book

CANTONA – The Rebel Who Would Be King

All you need to do to be in with a chance is answer the question below and enter your email address

Competition is now closed for entrants, winners will be announced on Thursday

Good Luck!!

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A quiet pint with fellow blogger Hayden Shaw turned into a mini-Socrates type meeting. Scott Johnston from thefootyblog.net made the 4 hour trip from Glasgow to join Hayden & I in The Library pub in Leeds as we watched the early match between Arsenal and Leeds United.

Between our frantic beer-fueled dicussions that put the football world to rights I was armed with my trusty dictaphone so thought it would be nice to record our pre, during and post match thoughts.

The audio is only five minutes long and I’m sure it will make you laugh if nothing else.

Enjoy

ARSENAL v LEEDS UTD – MINIPOD

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The Third Round of the FA Cup was drawn on Sunday, and before 2nd round ties can be concluded the excitement has already begun to build around West Yorkshire as Leeds will travel south to take on Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. Matthew McKeith explains the history between the two clubs and reasons for the fans to be optimistic.

Leeds United have once again been drawn a mouth watering FA Cup 3rd round tie, away against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. The Elland Road side famously beat Arsenal 1-0 in the Centenary FA Cup Final back in 1972 with Leeds legend Alan Clarke heading home a 53 minute winner. 100,000 fans packed into Wembley to witness Leeds win their only FA Cup to date.

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Disappointed that it’s took me a week to write this, but hey better late than never, as Alex Ferguson once said. Last Saturday saw my first visit to the Galpharm Stadium to watch the mighty Huddersfield Town. I had already booked plans to attend the match against MK Dons on the Tuesday but the lovely Grant at STV managed to arrange a ticket. So I was off to see Town versus Exeter City. Two games in four days bliss.

In my six year stay in Leeds I have yet to hoist the colours of my chosen team, spent some time with Sheffield United, the fiancés team, then everyone says “Leeds United” yes the ground is walking distance away, but I just can’t support them, not sure why just something inside me screams NO!

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Davide Who? A Question all Leeds United fans asked themselves when the South African striker was given a trial during the summer of 2009. It began a search scrolling through Google looking for reports or YouTube clips of who Davide Somma was or even a short clip to see him play. Somma remained a mystery as most searches returned limited results.

Born in Johannesburg, he moved to America at the age of 12 and began his football career with college team Tyler Apaches. After a short time in the States he moved to Spain to join the youth set up at Regional side UD Logrones, the red tape was quickly cut through as he help Dual-Nationality with an Italian passport his dream of playing European Football was a step closer.

That passport came to great use when in 2004 he signed for Italian club Perugia. Perugia at the time had ambitions to dominate Serie A and made some extraordinary signings including Jay Bothroyd. Davide never got a game in his first year at Perugia and was quickly released.

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The coldness of winter descended into West Yorkshire this evening and it wasn’t just the 19,000 Leeds United fans that will need some warming up before taking on their next 90 minutes, with only one win in five matches and two defeats in a row at Elland Road maybe the last team Simon Grayson would have wanted to face on a cold Monday night would have been Dave Jones red hot Cardiff City, six games unbeaten four wins in a row, a win would take them level on points with pace setters Queens Park Rangers a top the Championship table.

Leeds made three changes from the side that won 2-1 at Middlesbrough, Bradley Johnson replacing Sanchez Watt on the left of midfield and Richard Naylor losing his place to Alex Bruce, Naylor’s form has been questionable as of late but manager Simon Grayson was quick to point out the club captain was injured. Leeds fans also welcomed the return of Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. Cardiff team remained the same after the 2-1 win at Coventry.

Grayson set up his side in a 4-4-2 formation. George McCartney on loan from Sunderland at Left Back, Paul Connolly on the right with the Centre Back pairing of Alex Bruce and Neill Collins. Johnny Howson and Amdy Faye in the midfield flanked by Johnson on the left and Robert Snodgrass on the right. Luciano Becchio partnered the inform Davide Somma upfront, Somma has six goals already this season.

Cardiff also lined up in 4-4-2. Tom Heaton in goal, Kevin McNaughton, Mark Hudson, Gabor Gyepes and Lee Naylor made up the back line. Seyi Olofinjana and Peter Whittingham played centrally, Chris Burke on the right and Craig Bellamy on the left. Michael Chopra partnered 7 goal striker Jay Bothroyd upfront.

It was a very scrappy opening ten minutes, both teams struggling to get their foot on the ball and as a result there was no rhythm to the match. Cardiff began to take the upper hand the good play of Chris Burke down the right causing Leeds problems his appetite for taking on defenders was evident to see.

Against the run of play Leeds had the first clear chance when Alex Bruce headed just wide from a corner, this seemed to spur Leeds on and they began to control more of the game, feeding the ball wide Johnson and Snodgrass fed balls into the box however Hudson and Gyepes had the measure of the Leeds attack and won most aerial battles comfortably. Captain Jonny Howson should have tested Heaton when the ball broke kindly on the edge of the box; the skipper struck the ball well but also wide.

Much comment was made about centre back Bruce playing in front of Schmeichel in net, a reference to the old Manchester United team of the past, this was a different United however. A long punt up field from Heaton, Bruce let the ball bounce, Schmeichel lost sight of the ball and Bothroyd nipped in to sneak the ball past both and into the net. The image of Steve Bruce in the stands said plenty about the quality of defending.

Cardiff turned the screw and with an obvious pace advantage the Leeds back four struggled at times to keep up, Bellamy causing problems down the left, Burke impressive on the right, Chopra at time went missing but Bothroyd’s work rate more than made up for it.

One talking point in the first half was Jay Bothroyds tackle on Becchio his studs were high and he made contact with the Leeds strikers ankle, nine times out of ten the striker would have saw red, at game speed the tackle looked reckless. In slow motion you could clearly see the contact made, the referee can be forgiven for not seeing the incident as at the moment of contact Robert Snodgrass clearly impeded his view of the incident, Bothroyd lucky to stay on the pitch.

When not in possession the Cardiff midfield worked very hard to win the ball back, harrying every Leeds player who touched the ball, the home sides midfield lacked the pace and ability on the ball to make a difference, Cardiff were worthy leaders going into the half time break. A chance for Grayson to regain his team’s composure and figure a way to combat the Cardiff attack.

Unfortunately whatever teamtalk Grayson gave his side it was the away team that emerged all guns blazing, within six minutes Cardiff increased their lead. Hudson caught Somma in possession his pass found Chopra in what looked like an offside position; the striker didn’t hesitate though firing across Schmeichel and into the corner. Leeds defence were slow to react once the pass was made, Chopra was sharply onto the ball and for a striker with no goals so far this season the finish was deadly.

Leeds looked bereft of ideas the formation with two upfront did not work, Somma and Becchio are good players, however they are two similar in styles and instead of striking up a partnership they looked lost, a more effective strategy would be to play 4-2-3-1 and have a more mobile forward or midfielder play behind Somma or Becchio. The Beckford/Becchio partnership worked because of the contrasting styles of both players.

Grayson must have had similar thoughts as Somma was replaced not long after the goal and Honduran International Ramon Nunez made his debut, small but stocky he looked comfortable in possession seems to have a yard of pace, the kind of player that could link up well with a target man in front of him.

Soccer - npower Football League Championship - Leeds United v Cardiff City - Elland RoadBothroyd put the game beyond Leeds before the substitute had chance to make an impact, terrific work from Bothroyd saw him advance down the right, his pass to Burke led the Scotsman to the by-line, the striker had continued his run into the box, Burke found him with the cut back and in this form he wasn’t going to miss, 3-0 to Cardiff and the game was all but over.

Four minutes later and it was ex-Celtic fullback Lee Naylor who rubbed salt into the wounds, after strong forward play by Bothroyd the ball was worked through Bellamy to Naylor at the edge of the box, known for his ability with his left foot, he decided to surprise everyone and unleashed an unstoppable shot with his right, Schmeichel was rooted to the spot as the ball whistled past his right ear, the contest was over.

The introduction of Max Gradel on the left for Leeds gave them two players with Nunez able to hold onto the ball and take some of the pressure off their defence, Cardiff defended well, limiting Leeds to shots from range, they did have the ball in the net late on, Snodgrass weaving his way into some space on the right the left foot cross found Becchio unmarked, the header found the net, the linesman correctly raised his flag.

The only other shining light for the home fans was the play of midfielder Jonny Howson, unfortunately the only mention he ever gets on TV is his love of the club “Leeds born and bred” “No one feels the defeat more.” Behind this lies a talented player, good on the ball, quick feet that allow his to beat players, a cultured left foot that can spray passes and also find the target with a few goals. Four goals last season, there is ability in there to add more.

The night belonged to Cardiff; their system was much more fluid than Leeds. Bothroyd, Chopra and Bellamy all have the ability to go wide or come inside, Whittingham can wander all over the pitch and cause problems, and since his move down south Chris Burke looks like a player reborn. Some questions why Bellamy was out on the wing and not partnering Bothroyd, it seems he is far more dangerous from this wide starting position, able to drift inside and finish with accuracy or stay wide to use his still electric pace and cause full backs no end of troubles.

Dave Jones has built an impressive side, they will be hard to beat this season as most teams have already discovered, usually on the cusp of promotion via the playoffs, this year when it comes to May, Cardiff will more than likely by the hunted not the hunter at the top of the Championship table.

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This weekend sees the climax of League One and League Two in England, the Bundesliga, Portugal’s SuperLiga, Scotland’s SPL and of course the English Premier League.

LEAGUE ONE

 


I’ll start with Saturday’s events, 5 teams in England are all fighting for promotion to the Championship; Leeds, Millwall, Swindon, Charlton and Hudderfield can all still mathematically make the leap to 2nd place.
Leeds have it all in their hands 9th place Bristol Rovers travel to Elland Road for what is expected to be a capacity Elland Road all eager to see their team make the jump finally out of League One, however this is a team made up of mostly lower league players, and how many have played in front of 45,000 people all baying for blood, the ocassion could be too much, or someone could become a hero.

Millwall v Swindon is a winner (maybe) takes it all situation, a win for either side along with a Leeds draw will give the victor passage to the Championship, Millwall’s 16 wins at home would make them favourites for this match, but Swindon can’t be ruled out.

Charlton travel to Oldham knowing that a victory along with a Leeds defeat and of course a draw between Swindon and Millwall would see them promoted, it is a lot to ask for but crazier things have happened in football, an even crazier situation would be a Leeds and Charlton defeat a draw at The New Den and Huddersfield go to Exeter and win, which against all odds would see them come from nowhere to get promoted, and what a story that would be.

2 Leeds United 45 32 83

3 Millwall 45 31 82
4 Swindon 45 17 82
5 Charlton 45 21 81
6 Huddersfield 45 27 80

Also in League One Tranmere visit relegated Stockport knowing a win could be enough to keep them in the division, Exeter, Hartlepool and Gillingham hover above the dangerzone looking down, Exeter have that difficult game against Huddersfield, Hartlepool travel to Brentford who have nothing to play for, knowing a win for the ‘pool would keep them up, Gillingham travel to relegated Wycombe and a point should be enough to ensure their safety.

18 Gillingham 45 -13 50
19 Hartlepool 45 -8 49
20 Exeter 45 -13 48

21 Tranmere 45 -30 48

So a very exciting day for League One fans with 9 teams all waiting on their fate.

LEAGUE TWO

 
Loads of teams with things to play for, gonna try to break it down.

6 Morecambe 45 8 70
7 Dag & Red 45 9 69

8 Bury 45 -5 68
9 Port Vale 45 11 67
10 Chesterfield 45 -2 67
11 Northampton 45 9 66

6 teams playing for 2 playoff spots:
Morecambe v Aldershot
Darlington v Dag & Red
Northampton v Bury
Port Vale v Shrewsbury
Chesterfield v Bournemouth

Wins for Morecambe or Dag & Red would secure their playoff status even a point for Morecambe should be enough, however a slip up could give 1 or even 2 of the other 4 a chance to steal a playoff berth at the death, Northampton v Bury is another win takes all situation, Port Vale have a great chance to win at Shrewsbury, Chesterfield have a tough home game against Bournemouth, it’s all to play for though and a single goal could make all the difference.

At the bottom it is all to play for, 3 teams fighting for survival and it is still all to play for, Cheltenham, Barnet and Grimsby know that Non-League football could be their destination depending on how the results play out.

21 Cheltenham 45 -17 47
22 Barnet 45 -17 45
—————————————
23 Grimsby 45 -23 44

If Cheltenham draw at home to Accrington Stanley then they are safe,  however if 13th place Accrington can win, it means Cheltenham could be in danger, Barnet are at home to Rochdale: although already promoted, Rochdale could still come 2nd and places do mean more money, Grimsby travel to 14th Burton Albion knowing anything but a win and they are relegated, but a win would put pressure on the other two teams, could be a nail biting finish.

SPL

 
The bottom half of the SPL is in action today and all eyes will be on Rugby Park what a finish we have, Falkirk travel to Kilmarnock in what is a relegation dog-fight, Falkirk sit bottom of the table on 30 points but know if they can beat Kilmarnock they would leap frog above Jim Jeffries side and survive for another season in the SPL.
Relegation would be a disaster for Kilmarnock, reports of losses up to £1.5 million if they go down could cripple a team like Killie, which would be sad for Scottish football, Killie have it in their own hands though, avoid defeat and they could save their club.

Aberdeen travel to St-Mirren and St Johnstone host Hamilton but they have nothing to play for and the Aberdeen players will be happy to end what has been a poor season for them, St Johnstone and Hamilton will celebrate what has been a successful season for both clubs and another year in the SPL beckons.

BUNDESLIGA

 
The Final day of Germany’s Bundesliga kicks off at 14:30 today and it would take a miracle for Bayern Munich not to win the Championship, Schalke travel to Mainz knowing they have to do their job and pick up 3 points, but already Relegated Hertha BSC host Bayern Munich and for Schalke to lift the Title, Hertha need to collect all 3 points, Bayern will be hoping to complete part one of a possible Treble with the DFB Pokal Cup and Champions League final still to come.

Bayer Leverkusen or Borussia Dortmund could cap off wonderful seasons if they can pip Werder Bremen for the last Champions League place, both have already guarenteed Europa League football next season, the Champions League is where all teams want to be though.
Leverkusen travel to Monchengladbach who are save from relegation and nothing to really play for, Dortmund travel to Freiburg who are also safe, Werder Bremen host Hamburg who are trying to steal the Europa League place from Stuttgart so the pressure will be on the team from Bremen, Dortmund need Bremen to lose, however for Leverkusen a draw could be enough.
Stuttgart need a point against Hoffenheim that would secure that Europa League place, visiting Hoffenheim that will not be the easiest place to pick up that point.

At the bottom things are just at tight, Hannover, Bochum and Nuremberg can all still go down, Hannover are on 30 points and 2 points ahead of Bochum and Nuremberg, 1 will stay up, 1 will go down and 1 will have to play in the relegation playoffs, Nuremberg host FC Koln, and then in Bochum the biggest game of the day as they host Hannover, I am amazed how many times the fixture list brings up great fixtures like this.

Should be an exciting day in Germany.

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