By Joe Behan
Now that the World Cup is over and the sleep is well wiped from the eyes the EPL is right on top of us. If you fancy a team or two to win the premier a wee bet might just be the very ticket to keep your interest ticking over. After all, you are going to follow the league so why not splash a dollar or two on your team.
While soccer scene does not encourage gambling, there is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping your interests alive and kicking.
The investment is well worth it and it will not break your bank. Besides, traditional bets made on yearly events only last minutes while league football takes you almost through the year. Knowing that your are going to follow the league with a digestive interest that wee bet will simply put icing on the cake, if indeed you pick the right team.
For soccer scene a very small dollar will go on Leeds United rather than Liverpool or Newcastle United. Of course, the other two giants, Manchester United and Arsenal, will be too short odds and those kinds of bets are not necessarily for the interest.
So for the record, Soccer Scene is against those kinds of wagers. The simple reason Leeds is fancied is because of Terry Venables otherwise known as El Tel.
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After much speculation that Leeds under-achieved last time out there was rumors that the gifted Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka were packing their bags for bigger clubs. Both players and Venables enjoyed a very good relationship when El Tel coached Australia.
That international history has set up Elland Road for some serious creativity that will keep fans wide awake throughout the year and that wee dollar of investment will be value for money and interest. The Leeds attack isn’t just about the Aussie duo that is backed up by the talent from Tallaght, Ireland’s Robbie Keane. Under immense pressure to move to Sunderland, Keane insisted on staying put, as he obviously likes his chances at the Road. He has made the right decision to stay after he was beginning to have more clubs than Tiger Woods.
Like the Aussies, Keane is very unpredictable on the field and his trickery and work rate has impressed Venables in pre-season. If you think this attacking triangle will cause headaches for El Tel, which any coach will tell you is a nice headache to have, well Venables is in for some serious migraine with Robbie Fowler.
When Fowler signed for Leeds he said, “one thing I shall predict is that I can win the league here at Elland Road. At Leeds, there is a great team and we feel we can go all the way.”
Upon his arrival at Leeds Fowler continued to show he can still be regarded as one of the best finishers in the EPL and he can play a bit too.
He exploded onto the world of football for Liverpool in September 1993 when he scored a handful of goals against Fulham in the League Cup. In 1994-5, 1995-6 and 1996-7 he scored over thirty league goals convincing all he was indeed very special.
Fowler is injury prone and he has somewhat dirtied his bib with some silly antics but under Venables he may well clean up his act even more so. Now if you are not convinced that the Leeds attack is loaded and you are still unsure about splashing that dollar or two (only) then what about the forgotten Alan Smith.
At only 5 feet 8 inches and about 150 pounds, Smith is a fierce competitor. The 22 year-old made a name for himself in the Champions League when he was first team material at Leeds under David O’Leary. Smith complements the elegance of the aforementioned forwards at Elland Road and he is by no means a slouch when it comes to first touch and goal awareness.
Just to thicken the attacking plot for Tel Boy one should be reminded of Michael Bridges and Jason Wilcox. Bridges scored a hat trick for Leeds in his second appearance against Southampton.
In his first full season he scored 20 goals with a combination of nice touches and skilful finishing power.
While it may seem that perhaps there is one striker or forward too many at the Road, Wilcox gives Venables that extra width on the left that will allow Leeds to mix up home and away strategies, never mind giving players a break here and there. Like Smith, Wilcox has a fantastic work rate and his sweet left peg gives Leeds a nice balance going forward.
The Leeds forward line alone has the potential to be one the best in Europe never mind the EPL. If goal-scoring midfielder Lee Bowyer pays attention to the guidance that Venables can give him not only as a footballer but also as a professional, some forgiveness may come Bowyer’s way.
It is hard to forget his arrest on the alleged attack on a student outside a Leeds nightclub. Only Bowyer himself can make up for such a disgrace and remaining at Leeds is truly his best option while Venables has given him a deadline to sign the dotted line.
However, it is in midfield that the question mark remains to bring this entire goal scoring talent into play.
There is such a potential playmaker in the club in Irishman Stephen McPhail. Very much like the brilliant Chippy Brady, McPhail has one of the best left feet in the league and if nurtured in strength that playmaking roll will mature.
The best defender at Leeds is goalkeeper Nigel Martyn and that could be the downfall for Leeds winning the title. Rio Ferdinand leaving for Manchester United has left a gaping hole in the Leeds back line and this is where El Tel’s work is cut out for him.
But the tactician will make up for the weak defense by simply putting emphasis on team defense and teamwork. Let us not forget that it was Venables that saved the day for Middlesborough to avoid relegation last year and that was all about not letting goals in.
Leeds ended last season looking like a scrappy team and yet there were signs that they could put some very creative stuff together. Venables has kept the backroom staff of Brian Kidd and Eddie Gray on board at Elland Road. Be reminded that Manchester United played their best football under Kidd and Leeds started out looking like that attacking outfit when Kidd arrived under O’Leary.
So if you don’t place your dollar on Leeds to win the title you cannot say that soccer scene didn’t at least try and give you the attacking tip.