Sport Soccer

Thursday 26 April 2018

Grayson sees positives as Leeds earn fortune

Arsenal 1
Leeds United 1

Leeds goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel makes a spectacular injury-time save from Arsenal's Denilson to earn his side a replay on Saturday. Photo: Getty Images
Leeds goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel makes a spectacular injury-time save from Arsenal's Denilson to earn his side a replay on Saturday. Photo: Getty Images

Henry Winter

Superstitions have been the match-day companions of many managers, such as Don Revie with his lucky blue suit.

The current driver of Leeds United's fortunes, Simon Grayson, has tried everything from wearing a lucky waterproof top well into summer to religiously attending the same car-wash en route to Elland Road. Now he owns a lucky pen.

"I got it before the Scunthorpe game 12 games ago," Grayson reflected after the 1-1 draw with Arsenal. The winners of next week's replay will host Huddersfield Town. "The pen nearly went out of the window after Cardiff (last week's defeat) but I still have it today."

Good move. Grayson's lucky pen is scripting another Cup run and, more importantly, another promotion drive. "I would swap any draw here for three points against Scunthorpe on Saturday," said Grayson of his Championship focus.

For all his prioritising, Grayson still ensured Leeds gave everything at the Emirates. The club's tradition demanded it, as did 8,500 travelling fans.

"We had nothing to lose," continued Grayson. "No one expected us to get a result. We might as well have gone down with a positive approach rather than sitting back and still losing.

"Within the group I haven't got too many that can sit back and defend anyway. Snodgrass, Gradel, Howson, Johnson, Becchio and Watt are all attack-minded. We probably haven't got the personnel to defend for 90 minutes, which our goals conceded this year (43) probably shows!"

Yet Leeds took the lead, Denilson fouling Gradel, and the outstanding Snodgrass driving in the penalty. It was the greatest of compliments to Leeds and Grayson that Arsene Wenger began sending on his A-listers like Theo Walcott and Cesc Fabregas. "The changes he made, made a big difference, Walcott especially," said Leeds 'keeper Kasper Schmeichel. "He gave us a torrid time."

Right until the dying moments, Schmeichel, Alex Bruce and Andy O'Brien all rose to the challenge, keeping Arsenal at bay. Such was Arsenal's mounting desperation that Walcott dived in a vain attempt to win a penalty, an act of calumny he later apologised for. "I own up to it," said the Arsenal winger. "I dived."

He was eventually pulled back by Ben Parker and Fabregas calmly stroked the ball home. Arsenal could have won it but for Nicklas Bendtner's profligacy and Schmeichel's reflexes, particularly in tipping away Denilson's drive.

"I wasn't even sure it was going in at the time," shrugged Schmeichel. "It's what I'm there to do."

Schmeichel was upbeat about the replay: "With the players we've got we should be confident against anybody especially at Elland Road."

"The atmosphere we can create there is very intimidating. Arsenal will be used to playing in that sort of atmosphere but we're confident.

"Leeds fans are always magnificent, they're unbelievable."

The revenue from the extra, televised game and the heightened profile of the club should assist Grayson bring players in through the transfer window.

"Hopefully it will help us," said Grayson. "If we have a few more pounds and pennies to spend then I can go and get a couple more players. I'm sure the chairman (Ken Bates) is sat in his apartment now rubbing his hands."'

Leeds' greater prominence also means clubs, particularly in the Premier League, may look more closely at Snodgrass and company.

"Every player has a price on his head, that has been proved in the past with Ronaldo going to Real Madrid," said Grayson of the winger's world record £80m move from Manchester United.


"It might take that sort of money to let go of one or two of my players! There aren't too many clubs bigger than Leeds United and hopefully one day a lot of these players will fulfil their potential with this football club in the Premier League."

Just as his players showed they can live with elite teams, Grayson relished pitting his wits against Wenger. "It's great to test yourself as a coach against the best ones," said Grayson. "He said 'well done'.

"He's one of the best managers and coaches in the world and has been for many years.

"He has a fantastic football club and has laid all the foundations for his club to be successful over the next 20 or 50 years. He is someone to look up to because I want to play the passing game in a good manner and there is no better team than Arsenal on their day."(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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