Leeds United v Chesterfield: New Cup campaign to boost feelgood factor

THE League Cup may lack the lustre, history or glamour of its big brother, the FA Cup, but last season was undoubtedly a shot in the arm for English football’s second knockout competition.
Leeds United's Luciano Becchio celebrates scoringLeeds United's Luciano Becchio celebrates scoring
Leeds United's Luciano Becchio celebrates scoring

Bradford City’s exploits in becoming the first club from the basement division to reach a Wembley final saw to that. So, too, did what was undoubtedly one of the most dramatic ties seen in many a long year as Arsenal came from four goals down to triumph 7-5 after extra-time against Reading.

Brian McDermott, now of Leeds United, was in the home dugout at the Madejski Stadium on that unforgettable October evening. As his new charges prepare to face Chesterfield tonight, the 52-year-old believes the Capital One Cup has taken on a new shine thanks to what happened in 2012-13.

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“The League Cup was a fantastic competition last season,” said McDermott. “Bradford going all the way to the final was brilliant and I was so pleased for Phil Parkinson.

“Then, there was the Reading v Arsenal tie. We were 4-0 up and it could have been five, six, anything but they got one back just before half-time and we went on to lose the game 7-5.

“I spoke to Arsene (Wenger) after that game and he looked at me as if to say, ‘What happened there?’ It was one of the nights where you were left thinking, ‘How did that happen?’

“We had a chat and he said he had been 4-0 up against Newcastle once and then drawn 4-4. So it had happened before and it had happened to the best. I don’t feel too bad about it.

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“But a lot of people remember that game and I suppose if we’d won it 4-1 then nobody would have spoken about it but people do tend to talk about it.”

United, of course, enjoyed their own success in last season’s competition with the Premier League scalps of Everton and Southampton being claimed before the Yorkshire side bowed out 5-1 at home to Chelsea in the quarter-finals.

For a repeat this time around, Leeds will first have to negotiate their way past a Chesterfield side who enjoyed an encouraging opening day win at Bury.

McDermott will again be without suspended duo Rodolph Austin and El-Hadji Diouf, who has also been nursing an infected shin in recent weeks. Sam Byram is also still out amid increasing concerns that the teenager may require surgery to cure a hip problem that led to his withdrawal from the Under-20s World Cup earlier this summer.

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If an operation is required then Byram could be out for longer than the anticipated month, which had already dampened talk of a possible move from Elland Road.

Ross McCormack and Aidy White are two more who have been linked with possible transfers but both appear to be staying after a bid from Blackpool for the pair was rejected.

The news that the offer has been turned down will further cheer United supporters still on a high from the dramatic opening day win over Brighton & Hove Albion.

Luke Murphy’s stoppage-time winner sparked joyous scenes around Elland Road and McDermott admits he would love to bottle that feelgood factor for the rest of the season.

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He said: “As a club, we are all trying to do the same thing and go in the same direction. One of the owners said to me, ‘We want you to be backed’. But don’t talk about me, talk about all of us.

“To be fair they (the owners) have done a lot of good things, especially in the last month, especially in trying to bring the fans back.

“Someone said to me, ‘The thing I like about you is that you are honest in what you say and if you are honest, the fans will accept that’. Tell them the truth and they will deal with the truth. You can’t deal with things that aren’t true or half-truths or innuendos.

“Say it how it is and if you do that here then sometimes it won’t be what the supporters want to hear but they’ll deal with what they know is the truth and they’ll back you because of it.”

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McDermott has been attempting to strengthen with Bolton Wanderers defender Matt Mills believed to be a major target.

When asked if there would be any imminent new arrivals, McDermott said: “The player I was trying to sign, it is becoming very difficult. It is getting the point where I’ll have to leave it behind. It can’t go on for ever.

“We have had a couple of bids for players which we’ve rejected.”

Asked if the bids were from Blackpool for White and McCormack – who was also linked with a move to Middlesbrough last night – McDermott replied: “Yes but I am not interested and it would be wrong for us, in my opinion. Wrong for the players, too.”

Danny Pugh is out tonight through illness.

Last six games: Leeds United WWLLWW, Chesterfield WDLWWW.

Referee: C Boyeson (East Yorkshire).

Last time: Leeds United 2 Chesterfield 0; October 21, 1950; Division Two.