Chief football corrspondent Richard Sutcliffe on the current state of White Rose football, with a little help from the fans.
THE more things change, the more things stay the same.
Twelve months which have seen five managerial changes, two relegations, one promotion, a foray into Europe and an FA Cup final appearance has left the Yorkshire football landscape looking remarkably similar to this time last year.
Christmas will arrive on Thursday with two sides occupying a play-off place and only Bradford City of the rest being in the top half of their respective division.
Considering there are 11 White Rose clubs in the Premier and Football Leagues, it is a poor record and one that is identical to Christmas, 2013, when Leeds United and Rotherham United could be found in the play-off places and Bradford were sitting in the same ninth place of a year ago.
All in all, therefore, a bleak winter seems to beckon for most of our sides with Yorkshire’s sole Premier League representative in as sorry a state as anyone.
No wins in 10 games and just two goals in the last nine, the Tigers are in danger of being left behind in the race to avoid the drop.
The festive double-header against Sunderland and Leicester City does offer some hope but, on current form, it would be a brave – or foolhardy – gambler who backed Steve Bruce’s men to emerge with all six points.
Delving into the Championship and the picture is hardly any rosier for the county.
Only Middlesbrough, sitting fourth after the weekend defeat at Ipswich Town, can be found in the top half of the table, while supporters of Leeds, Rotherham United and Huddersfield Town will surely be spending the festive season looking nervously over their shoulders at the bottom three.
Sheffield Wednesday, too, are not totally clear of the relegation scrap, though of the four Yorkshire clubs currently residing in the bottom half of the table they look best equipped to stay out of trouble.
As with last Christmas, League One has the healthiest look, at least from a White Rose perspective.
Not only have Sheffield United been in the play-off places for the past six weeks, they are also once again bringing some Cup cheer to the county thanks to a series of impressive wins in the Capital One Cup.
West Ham United and Southampton, fourth and fifth respectively in the top flight, have both succumbed against the Blades, who early in the New Year will face Tottenham Hotspur over two legs for a place in the Wembley final.
Bradford, too, are in a promising position, just one point adrift of the top six after a five-game unbeaten run in the league. Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers, meanwhile, may not be quite doing as well as forecast in the summer but impressive wins at the weekend have, at least, sent the South Yorkshire duo into the festive season on a high.
Another club hoping for a Christmas lift are York City, who, as they were exactly a year ago, sit one point clear of the relegation zone in League Two. A truly woeful home record is the cause and that has to change soon.
Here, members of the The Yorkshire Post’s fan jury give their half-term reports on how all 11 of the county’s Premier and Football League clubs are faring.
Ben Lockwood, Age 30, Wakefield
Verdict: Inconsistent. But in the main, the entertainment value and quality of football has been good. We suffered from completing our transfer business late in the summer, but appear to have unearthed some potential diamonds. The future is bright.
Best player: Toss up between Conor Hourihane and Sam Winnall.
Biggest disappointment: Keith Treacy.
Best moment: Winning away at Sheffield United.
Lowest moment: Drawing 0-0 with Chester.
Where this season gone right/wrong: Moving on last season’s top earners – we were not able to strengthen early in pre-season.
What needs to be done in the transfer window: We lack an experienced head in the middle of the pitch.
Advice to manager: Keep it simple, play to our strengths, and continue blending in the academy lads.
Predicted finish: 8th.
Mike Harrison, Age 53, Editor, City Gent
Verdict: After a good start that included beating Leeds, injuries to key players saw our form dip in September/October. But since the second half at FC Halifax Town in the FA Cup, it has been all good. Crucially, Phil Parkinson now has a settled side and City look like challenging for a play-off place.
Best player: Gary Liddle, calm influence in midfield.
Biggest disappointment: Aaron Mclean, a square peg in a round hole.
Best moment: Two goals in two minutes to beat Leeds. Could not have been scripted better.
Lowest moment: Losing 3-1 at Barnsley on the TV.
Where this season has gone right/wrong: Injuries hit usearly on but a good team spirit is building now.
What needs to be done in the transfer window: Sign Jon Stead permanently.
Advice to manager: Keep doing the good work that you and your staff do.
Predicted finish: 9th.
Steve Waddington, Age 41, York
Verdict: Inconsistent. Great away form, but awful at home, with one win since March and six home goals all season. Loan signings in defence have been good, but goals are the worry.
Best player: James Coppinger.
Biggest disappointment: Harry Forrester.
Best moment: Opening day 3-0 win at Yeovil/3-2 win over Chesterfield at home.
Lowest moment: Defeat at Fleetwood.
Where this season has gone right/wrong: On July 18 when John Ryan/Louis Tomlinson takeover did not materialise.
What needs to be done in the transfer window: Two new strikers with pace or strength in air and know-how to score, particularly at home.
Advice to manager: Play a more attacking system at home. Get some height and pace into the forward line and defence, plus a box-to-box midfielder.
Predicted finish: 19th.
David Fryer, Age 46, Leeds
Verdict: The club has regrouped under the stewardship of Chris Powell but consistency remains the key. The biggest frustration is how the performance varies from one week to the next. We know we can do it but the team look devoid of ideas on the ball at times.
Best player: Harry Bunn. Has complemented his overall play with a few goals.
Biggest disappointment: Radoslaw Majewski. Looked a good, comfortable player to start with but that didn’t last.
Best moment: Forest at home, we were class and on a good roll.
Lowest moment: Bournemouth at home. We may as well have stayed in the dressing room.
Where this season has gone right/wrong: We just don’t look comfortable on the ball and lose focus at key points in the game.
What needs to be done in the transfer window: Need a leader on the field and someone to drive the midfield forward in support of the strikers.
Advice to manager: Drill some confidence into the team and let them have a go.
Predicted finish: I suspect a (successful) battle to stave off relegation.
Gareth Richardson, Age 35, Beverley
Verdict: Two goals in nine games just about sums it all up at the moment. We keep getting told that we have the best squad in the club’s history but where is the proof of that? My dad said in the summer that losing the British core of the squad was a mistake and I’d certainly rather have the likes of Shane Long and George Boyd here than some of the foreign signings. I also can’t understand why our manager Steve Bruce won’t play with wingers.
Best player: Andrew Robertson. Great going forward, though needs to work on his defending.
Biggest disappointment: Abel Hernandez.
Best moment: Nikica Jelavic’s goal at Newcastle.
Lowest moment: Losing to a poor Burnley side last month.
Where this season has gone right/wrong: We have sent something like £40m but the signings haven’t worked.
What needs to be donein the transfer window: I doubt we have any money left.
Advice to manager: Play 4-4-2, with Ahmed Elmohamady in front of Liam Rosenior on the right and Robbie Brady with Robertson down the left.
Predicted finish: Relegated.
Paul Taylor, Age 54, Dewsbury
Verdict: The Leeds United fiasco shows no sign of ending any time soon and the performances on the pitch increasingly mirror the mess behind the scenes. My expectations were pretty low this season, but even I didn’t anticipate what looks like being a relegation scrap.
Best player: Mirco Antenucci. His goals have been vital.
Biggest disappointment: Spoilt for choice but, after a bright start, Bianchi hasn’t really delivered.
Best moment: Our third goal in the 3-1 win at Bournemouth. A great display.
Lowest moment: Losing to a dodgy penalty at Blackburn after dominating.
Where this season has gone right/wrong: Another poor close season of recruitment with far too many mediocre Italian players brought in. The teams doing well in the Championship are once again the ambitious ones, which says it all.
What needs to be done in the transfer window: We are too often a soft touch and need a steely spine inserted.
Advice to manager: Get some Championship experience in the club and quick.
Predicted finish: 18th.
Graeme Bandeira, Age 40, Harrogate
Verdict: Fantastic progress so far. Aitor Karanka has made some astute signings, there is a tremendous spirit and we are playing some wonderful football. We can score goals and look capable of keeping clean sheets. The wheels have come off many times before at this stage but I am convinced that this season we can go up.
Best player: Grant Leadbitter. Captain fantastic. Double figures in goals and instrumental in dictating the tempo of our play.
Biggest disappointment: Albert Adomah, scintillating last season but not reached his potential this time.
Best moment: Leadbitter’s last-minute penalty at Huddersfield. A fine way to win a game we should have had wrapped up inside half an hour.
Lowest moment: Losing to Leeds again at Elland Road. A gift-wrapped goal.
Where this season has gone right/wrong: Season so far is nigh on perfect. We look strong all over the park and possess a winning mentality.
What needs to be done in the transfer window: Maybe experienced midfield cover for Leadbitter.
Advice to manager: Maintain the high standards that have been set and continue to be honest in interviews.
Predicted finish: 2nd.
Sam Rowbotham, Age 23, Rotherham
Verdict: We are outside the relegation zone which is what counts. But the season has been tinged with a feeling of what could have been. Negative displays versus teams with weaker squads and/or managers severely under pressure has resulted in dropped points. The feeling among some is too much respect has been handed to teams coupled with an approach of quantity over quality in the summer transfer window.
Best player: Kari Arnason.
Biggest disappointment: Matt Derbyshire.
Best moment: Coming from behind to beat Leeds.
Lowest moment: A sobering 1- defeat at home against Birmingham City.
Where this season has gone right/wrong: Poor summer transfer window coupled with negative tactics against teams that were there for the taking. We are better than what we think we are and deserve to be playing at this level.
What needs to be done in the transfer window: Positions that need to be looked at are right-back, right-wing and centre-midfield.
Advice to manager: Be positive in the correct games and make additions that will actually start and improve the quality of team.
Predicted finish: 19th.
Jim Blackburn, Age 54, Millhouses
Verdict: A curate’s egg of a start. Sometimes we really look the part and then we go and play like strangers in the next game. We also lack a regular goalscorer. but I do feel we will get stronger and possibly reach the top two.
Best player: James Wallace, when fit.
Biggest disappointment: Michael Higdon, laughably immobile.
Best moment: Jamie Murphy’s 97th-minute winner against Gillingham.
Lowest moment: Orient’s late equaliser at the Lane.
Where this season has gone right/wrong: Some signings have not bedded in and others inexplicably disregarded. The Ched Evans affair hasn’t helped matters, either.
What needs to be done in the transfer window: A right-back; John Brayford would be nice.
Advice to manager: Be less cautious at home.
Predicted finish: Top two (heart), play-offs (head).
Terry Hibberd, Age 39, Ossett
Verdict: Up and down, but more positives than negatives. After a great first month or two, it was strange to see us not manage to win a game for so long. Back-to-back wins in early December have perked us up.
Best Player: Keiren Westwood or Tom Lees.
Biggest Disappointment: Sam Hutchinson.
Best Moment: Going unbeaten in August.
Lowest Moment: Cup defeat at Manchester City.
Where this season has gone right/wrong: Clean sheets and defensive strength are the obvious plus points, but a lack of strength in depth has cost us.
What needs to be done in the transfer window: Keeping Lewis McGugan would be a huge boost. Also a little more depth in terms of creativity.
Advice to Manager: Get things working up front. Concentrate on our attack, not that of the opposition.
Predicted finish: 12th.
Andrew Briggs, Age 52, York
Verdict: We undoubtedly over-achieved last season but
no one expected what has unfolded. Losing three of the back five, including goalkeeper, during the summer was a big blow and their replacements are way short of what is required. Our League status is under severe threat.
Best player: Diego De Girolamo.
Biggest disappointment: Wes Fletcher. Has the ability but doesn’t seem up for the fight.
Best moment: I’ve only been to home games and there hasn’t been one.
Lowest moment: No home wins before Christmas.
Where this season has gone right/wrong: Dreadful summer signings by Nigel Worthington.
What needs to be done in the transfer window: Change the full-backs and get us some creativity.
Advice to manager: Get everyone fighting for the ball.
Predicted finish: Bottom four. Hopefully not bottom two.