TOP scorer Jermaine Beckford is set for showdown talks with Leeds manager Simon Grayson today.
Judging by their reaction at Elland Road on Saturday not too many fans will be sorry to see him go.
Beckford petulantly shrugged off Grayson's handshake on being substituted in the 74th minute and stormed down the tunnel while Jonny Howson, who had also made way as Max Gradel and Bradley Johnson came on, calmly took his place in the dugout.
"There's only one Simon Grayson," bayed the Kop in support of their manager, who, however, seemed more aware of Beckford's value to the squad as they take a four-point lead at the top of League One into Christmas.
Grayson's switch had been vindicated within three minutes, Gradel having added zest to the Leeds attack and the pressure paying off when Andrew Hughes threaded the ball down the left channel for Robert Snodgrass to shape to shoot with his left before curling it with his right into the far top corner – a goal worthy of winning any encounter.
The Leeds manager spoke afterwards over the indiscipline of Beckford, who has scored 12 goals in 19 league appearances this season and 69 in 107 starts for the club.
"I'm disappointed when that sort of situation happens," said Grayson.
"Any decision I make is trying to be for the benefit of the football club. I'm prepared to take off my leading goalscorer, I'm prepared to take off my captain if I feel it is the right decision to make on that particular day.
"Today wasn't Beckford's day, he wasn't getting decisions going for him, he'd missed a couple of opportunities and I didn't want him to do something stupid which might have ruled him out for the next few weeks.
"We have players in this squad who are capable of coming on and affecting the game and sometimes I have to make those decisions which are going to benefit the club. I'm not going to get every decision right but it was a decision which I felt would help us and that's why I did it."
Asked if Beckford will be punished or sold in the January transfer window, Grayson added: "I had a brief chat to him and will speak to him on Monday and we will deal with it internally and get to the bottom of
it. It happens all the time. You saw Robinho do it the other night for Manchester City. We'll get it addressed and the next time he puts on a white shirt, hopefully the game will go his way.
"What happened doesn't make any difference at all to his situation. I'm quite happy that someone has come off disappointed. I'm not happy when a player comes off smiling and joking. It won't affect my thoughts on him.
"The only thoughts we have about Jermaine is of him probably leaving in the summer unless an offer comes in for him in January which we are not looking for."
The comments of Southampton manager Alan Pardew and Leeds midfielder Michael Doyle are also worthy of note.
"When Beckford came off I thought we had done three-quarters of the job but we just switched off, perhaps feeling the full job was done," said Pardew.
Doyle added: "I didn't see the incident but I just think that we've all had the situation where we've been disappointed at being taken off. You have to just respect the manager's decisions but I am sure it was a case of him being just disappointed. He's the type of player who will be looking to bounce back and give the right response and score a few goals.
"Too right, we need to keep him. We have some really good players here, although Jermaine is a special player who has been at the forefront of some good Leeds teams, knocking goals in left, right and centre. He's a really big player and, hopefully, we can keep a hold of him to get ourselves to the next level."
Leeds got an early taste of the next level against Southampton, who were relegated with a 10-point deduction but who arrived at Elland Road with eight wins from the last 11 games.
Such was the dominance of the Leeds defence, however, that Casper Ankergren did not have a save to make. However, Leeds survived some jittery late moments as Oscar Gobern sent a free header wide and Rickie Lambert shot across the face of goal in stoppage time after his supplier, Michail Antonio, had been taken out in the area.
Southampton's centre-backs were also in determined mood, Bartosz Bialkowski making only one notable save in the opening stages of the second half, going full length to keep out an effort from Howson.
Both Beckford and strike partner Luciano Becchio wasted near-post chances at the close of the first period from chances supplied by Snodgrass, who took matters into his own hand with his sixth goal of the season.
Leeds United: Ankergren, Bromby, Naylor, Kisnorbo, Hughes; Howson (Johnson 74), Kilkenny, Doyle, Snodgrass; Beckford (Gradel 74), Becchio. Unused substitutes: Martin, Crowe, Kandol, Grella, Ephraim.
Southampton: Bialkowski, Thomas (Gobern 86), Jaidi, Perry, Harding; N'Diaye (Antonio 79), Hammond, James, Lallana; Connolly (Trotman 90), Lambert. Unused substitutes: Davis, Wotton, Mills, Mellis.
Referee: N Miller (Co Durham).
Hero: Patrick Kisnorbo
The Australian just shaded honours from fellow centre-back and captain Richard Naylor. Between them, they ensured Casper Ankergren did not have a save to make as Leeds made it three consecutive clean sheets for first time this season.
Villain: Jermaine Beckford
The top scorer had a poor game and his petulant act in shrugging past his manager and down the tunnel may have been caused by the crowd cheering when his number went up for substitution.
77th minute: The game was heading for stalemate until Robert Snodgrass produced a brilliant finish.
Nigel Miller: The official clearly believed by his decisions that Leeds strikers were going to ground too easily.
Leeds came through a stern test with flying colours, the back four being particularly impressive until the jittery late stages.
Leeds United v Hartlepool United, League One, Boxing Day, 3.00pm.
Quote of the day
There's only one Simon Grayson.
– Leeds fans show who they are backing as striker Jermaine Beckford storms past his manager after being substituted.
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