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Forward, not back: the time is now for Leeds United to be rid of the old guard
Sunday, 9th Jul 2017 22:49 by @LucasMonk_

Since the Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani acquired overarching control of Leeds United, it would be an axiom for one to declare that tangible change has occurred.

Change for the better. Gone are feelings of insecurity and fatalism; in their place now is a feeling of boundless optimism and a firm belief that a new dawn has broken.

Talented young players, who most certainly would have departed had the tyrannical reign of Cellino been perpetuated, have agreed contract extensions. Among them, Ronaldo Vieira, Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Lewie Coyle - players who have already made clear their potential and who now have been enabled to fulfill it at a club transformed.

In addition to the retention of superlative home-grown talent there has been the appointment of a new head coach, Thomas Christiansen, who in his limited time in club management has excelled. He, like Radrizzani, is a man of a wondrous vision; a vision of Leeds United competing at the highest level once again, for the first time since relegation from the Premier League in 2004.

With the new head coach have come new players. Acquisitions from abroad have included a Poland international - former FC Twente midfielder Mateusz Klich - and an esteemed goalkeeper in Felix Wiedwald, a remarkable capture from Werder Bremen. Further purchases are certain to follow.

An assiduous effort is being made by a new hierarchy intent on moving Leeds United forward and not back. But in spite of all that has been achieved so soon into the premiership of the new owner, there remains much to accomplish if a comprehensive revival of the club's fortunes is to be achieved.

There remains, within the playing staff, a small clique. An old guard synonymous with debacles and hapless incompetence all over. The recent pre-season fixture away to Guiseley displayed once again the necessity of ensuring of, in the interest of nothing other than the club's health, ridding Elland Road of the rotten eggs and pariahs that remain.

Defender Giuseppe Bellusci, having returned from an ill-fated loan spell with Empoli in his native Italy, was the subject of much odium from portions of the crowd yesterday. Some among the support deemed the abuse to have been gratuitous. Others, embittered souls, thought it to be entirely within reason. The ineluctable fact is this; there exists a deep rift in opinion among Leeds United fans concerning Bellusci's future at the club and, given the toxicity of the predicament, it is clear that the only conceivable option for United's management to take is to arrange for his departure.

Of the clique that I had made a previous allusion to, Bellusci is but one member. The others may not have incurred invective abuse in consequence of needlessly provoking supporters, but their abilities are just as inadequate as those of the Italian. Players such as Lee Erwin, Liam Cooper and Marco Silvestri must also be auctioned off to any club foolish enough to take an interest in them.

Erwin, a 23-year-old who attained widespread infamy for an acrid altercation with Rangers defender Bilel Moshni in 2015, has found first-team opportunities to be scarce since joining from Motherwell two years ago. A player who arguably enjoyed his halcyon days in the colours of Arbroath in 2013, he was purchased by Leeds having scored a derisory 5 goals in 34 domestic appearances for the Steelmen. A loan spell with Oldham Athletic last season yielded 10 goals in all competitions but in spite of that moderate success, in addition to strikes for United in the current pre-season campaign, it is clear that the ungainly forward is not a player of the requisite standard.

Cooper, who was signed from Chesterfield on the orders of the then Leeds director of football Nicola Salerno in summer 2014, is a functional central defender capable of little other than long balls and headed clearances. The 25-year-old has spent three years in West Yorkshire, but it became apparent after is his inaugural season that he is not in any way suited to the rigours of Championship football.

Finally, Marco Silvestri is a name that has become associated with ignominious failure. Prone to calamitous errors and an infamous member of the so-called "sick-note six", it is an insurmountable task to envisage a future at Leeds United for the 26-year-old. This is, in no small part, due to the aforementioned arrival of Felix Wiedwald and the presence of the former England international Robert Green. Among Silvestri's most inglorious outings are encounters with Sheffield Wednesday in 2016 (a game in which he made two costly errors in a pitiful defeat) and Bristol City (the Italian gifted two precious goals to the Robins who salvaged a draw having trailed 2-0).

In summation, the departures of each of this quartet of chaos would represent a decisive severance with our recent past. Each are - by and large - held in contempt for one proximate reason; they are not players of sufficient quality, who can lead Leeds United back to the promised land and the (frankly) obscene riches of the Premier League. For Thomas Christiansen and his staff to mount a serious assault upon the upper reaches of the Championship in the forthcoming season, the old guard must depart - taking with them painful memories of mid-table mediocrity.

Photo: Action Images

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