An awful lot has changed at Leeds United this summer and I’m genuinely excited about the start of the pre-season friendlies.
Two months ago the whole club seemed directionless but the work that’s been done since the end of last season has been really impressive and a breath of fresh air.
I’m hugely encouraged to see us putting our faith and money into young, hungry players and it’s pretty clear that we’re going to see a change of direction in our football under Uwe Rosler.
He’s made no secret of the fact that he’s got two preferred formations – 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 – so the friendly at Harrogate Town tomorrow is our first chance to see what the plan will be.
I’m not expecting him to show all of his cards straight away and players like to ease their way into pre-season but there are only five friendlies planned before the start of the new season so I’m sure that Rosler will want his squad to hit the ground running.
Because of the recent signings, he can be a bit more flexible in the way he plays than previous coaches. He can probably be more positive too. The diamond midfield didn’t win many plaudits last season and I’m not a big fan of 4-5-1 either. To me, playing with one man isolated up front isn’t going to get you high up the Championship. It’s not ambitious enough.
That’s not me being critical. I actually think we did well to finish as high up the league as we did last season because at one stage I was seriously worried about relegation. The 4-5-1 system got us out of trouble and in fairness, it made sense given the personnel in our squad.
As it is, Rosler has a couple of new strikers to work with – Lee Erwin and Chris Wood – and I expect a more aggressive approach from him. It’s a case of horses for courses and this Leeds team is shaping up to be quite an attacking side.
Obviously I’m looking forward to seeing our new signings, particularly Erwin and Wood. We’ve been crying out for goal-scoring forwards for a while and these two have years and years ahead of them.
I can’t deny that experience is needed in any squad but too often this club have signed older players in the hope of finding a quick fix. The risk with that strategy is that if it doesn’t work, you’re left with lads who are running out of time and possibly ambition.
The current strategy is totally different and far more healthy. Yes, it might not pay off immediately but having a young, talented group of players means you don’t have to go back to the drawing board time and again. You just need to tweak and build until the balance is right. Much as I’d always champion youth, you need your Sol Bambas in there too. Building a team is all about finding the right blend.
What I’m hoping for at Harrogate tomorrow is a performance full of life and vigour. I’m probably most interested in seeing how fit the players look and what sort of condition they’ve come back from their holidays in. I’d like to see them play well, bag a few goals and win convincingly.
Opinion seems to differ when it comes to pre-season. Some people think results don’t matter. Some people think performances don’t matter either, provided the players are getting plenty of minutes under their belts.
My own view is that results and performances are a big part of pre-season. It’s a prime opportunity for players to gain a bit of confidence, to get into a groove and to edge towards top form in time for the start of the new term.
When I played in friendlies, I didn’t just want to run around for an hour. I was a goalscorer so I wanted to score goals. And if we were playing against lesser opposition – for want of a better phrase – I wanted to murder them. If that sounds harsh then it’s really not. It’s more a case of starting the way you mean to continue.