Leeds’ FA Cup humbling they’re trying to learn from: ‘Nobody knows what to say’

By the time Histon closed the gates, their stadium looked like a swimming pool with blades of grass to see. that FA cup Tie was played here and there was commotion but the evening was pitch black and most people were trying to get out of the rain.

A few hours ago, Gary McAllister stood up and tried to explain the how and why Leeds United They lost to a non-league team for the first time in their history. Burdened by a stinking cold and an ugly defeat, McAllister was asked how he felt. “How do I feel? I’m not well,” he said. “My stomach is rumbling.” Football did it, not the virus. Soon he’ll be on a flight to Monaco, and he’s been called in for questioning by Leeds chairman Ken Bates.

Leeds, of late, has a history riddled with FA Cup torture, and Histon away in late 2008 are at the center of that history. “Awful,” says Ben Parker, who was grateful McAllister left him on the bench that day. “It’s the one word that sums it all up. On the bus home, I couldn’t turn around. I was completely shocked. Did this just happen?”

Different players in different seasons have found themselves asking the same thing about different games: Sutton United, Newport County, Rochdale and Crawley Town. But over the years, Leeds have tired of the habit of giving the competition the headlines they want up front this season, and for the first time in a long time, meaningful participation is a set goal. When the club came A third round replay against Cardiff City last weekCEO Angus Kinnear reacted by giving coach Jesse Marsh a big hug in the corridor outside the media conference room.

Ben Parker was left out for the FA Cup match against Histon in 2008 but, in hindsight, he believes he “dodged a bullet” (Photo: Pete Norton/Getty Images)

There was more to this hug than progress itself. Marsh is in that elusive territory where a manager needs results, but no matter his position, Leeds have been keen to avoid The distress that almost befell them in the first game with Cardiff. Survival is more important at Elland Road but the council’s position is why not have both? Why not try to shake off the apathy and incompetence that have made the FA Cup a minefield in which Leeds so excel?

The stories behind their various plights cover almost every base when it comes to the reasons for the club being escalated by a lower-ranked opposition: bigger priorities, risky team choices, internal politics, the weather, basically poor performance. Three coaches – McAllister, Brian McDermott and Thomas Christiansen – hit the slippery slope as a result of the defeats their teams suffered, and were sent on their way to being fired. Only one, Marcelo Bielsa, was in a situation where the discomfort he suffered didn’t matter. And nothing before or since has quite compared to Histon’s record-breaking FA Cup run by Leeds.

Heston was unsurprisingly chosen for the television coverage on ITV’s Steamy Sunday in November. Leeds would attract a good crowd and have offered some risk. Histon used to be a National League club, although these days they compete at the ninth tier of the English pyramid. The team at Leeds studied their footage in advance and McAllister’s staff took some games personally but as Parker says, “everyone needed an AA roadmap” to locate Heston, a village on the outskirts of Cambridge.

Parker was expected to start the second-round tie but McAllister told him on the morning of the match that he had been ruled out. Alan Sheehan, who is back in shape after an injury, was playing at left back. “I was getting angry,” says Parker. “I had been on the team for a while and wasn’t expecting to be dropped. I wanted to play, especially because it was on TV. But when we got to Heston and got into the ground, there was a part of me thinking ‘I might have dodged a bullet here.’ It was the weather and the pitch. Awful. I’ve always said that if it hadn’t been on TV, I don’t think the game would have moved forward. I’m sure they would have canceled it.”

Leeds boss Gary McAllister picked a strong line-up to defeat Histon (Picture: Pete Norton Getty Images)

In miserable conditions, the day got out of hand. Leeds, A.; The first league On the side, they lost Jermaine Pickford who had a torn hamstring, but they were confident of keeping Histon out. The tie was exceptionally drained and rained throughout. At one point supporters at the far end got hold of a microphone placed near the touchline and began shouting “ITV is fucking shit” at it, forcing the announcer to cut off the live audio and isolate the microphone. Wrapped in a long black cloak, McAllister had no choice but to stay under cover in the hole.

Histon scored six minutes before half-time when Lubomir Michalik deflected under a cross and Matt Langston, the postman, headed home. Andy Robinson pulled a hamstring in the second half. Michalik hit the upright as Leeds fought forward desperately near the end of normal time, trying and failing to prevent a 1-0 defeat. “With the warm-up there was no spark around but I was sure we had the quality we needed,” says Parker. “Fight, scrap and then let the quality tell. That was the plan. Even at half time I’m thinking ‘we’ll turn this around’, but in Midway through the second half you could tell that didn’t happen. We were in trouble. And even though the weather was bad, no one wanted to hear blame for that.”

In McAllister’s defence, he had picked a very special lineup. A visit to Leeds in the third round for Crawley in 2021, when Bielsa was not He left senior players behind, made pre-arranged substitutions and lost 3-0 to a more aggressive side. Leeds at that time was in a very good middle Premier League Season, and against that backdrop, no one at Elland Road has lost much sleep. And the team he chose was nothing like the one used by Gary Monk in a 1-0 defeat by Sutton United, another non-league team, in 2017.

Conversations were dominated by who Leeds were signing or, as Monk saw it, who did not. It was the end of the January transfer window, and Monk, with his team in the Championship play-offs, wanted more players. Asked at the end of the match if the newcomers were likely to arrive before the deadline, he said plainly that the media would be better off asking the club instead. None of the Leeds boarders who traveled to Sutton and watched the upset unfold on an artificial pitch would have suspected much that Monk’s approach to the tie was designed to make a point about the depth of his resources.

Garry Monk made some strange selections as the Leeds side were beaten by Sutton (Picture: Brian Lennon/Getty Images)

Monk made 10 changes and his choices were so bizarre they were ridiculous. He was first introduced to Billy Whitehouse, a young winger who had never played for Leeds before – nor would he again. Within months, Whitehouse left for Alfreton Town. He made his debut for centre-back Paul McKay, one of two sons of agent Willie McKay who joined the Leeds Academy in 2016. Some of the coaching staff at the academy were confused as to why McKay was there. To them, the pair did not look better than the under-21 crop or more likely to be good enough for the first team. Paul, like Whitehouse, would never play for the club again.

“Our performance does not guarantee a result,” Monk admitted afterwards. “I take responsibility for that.” Despite the humiliation, he managed to bypass the criticism. Leeds were doing well in the league and won Blackburn Rovers After a few days to calm the waters. Even more significant was Thomas Christiansen’s failure to obtain the measure of Newport County the following year. Christiansen’s grip on the manager’s job was already starting to slip and Leeds’ owner Andrea Radrizzani exited the third-round defeat suspecting a change might be necessary. Within a month, Christiansen was gone.

Once again, picking a team against a solid lower-league side required trouble. At the last moment, before Leeds traveled south, Christiansen decided to strengthen his hand a bit by taking it Samuel Says, a skilful Leeds midfielder, and was appointed to the bench. It even backfired as Saiz appeared as a substitute, was sent off for spitting and was handed a six match ban. One Leeds official commented privately afterward that the line-up, which included many alterations at Newport, was “asking for trouble”. Too weak to get away with it. Leeds looked to be holding on for a 1-1 draw until Sean McCulsky headed in with a minute left.

McCulsky celebrates his Newport County goal that sent Leeds out of the FA Cup (Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images)

At the end of those disasters, there was nowhere to hide. Parker recalls “disbelief” in the dressing room after Heston. “It wasn’t like people were arguing,” he says. “Nobody knows what to say.” Matt SmithThe former Leeds striker, was part of the team that lost under Brian McDermott 2-0 to Rochdale in the FA Cup in 2014 and then 6-0 to Sheffield Wednesday the following weekend, a desperate spell that crushed McDermott’s authority. Smith heard the choice’s words and heated comments after the defeat at Hillsborough. Rochdale, on the contrary, elicited deathly calm.

“If I’m being honest, Rochdale was worse (than Sheffield Wednesday),” said Smith. “Bryan sent us out to cheer the crowd on, and understandably they beat us up. It was quiet in the dressing room. Not much was said. At Hillsborough, much was said.”

Marsh almost had a taste of routine away from Cardiff two weeks before scoring a stoppage time goal Sonny Perkins He earned a 2-2 draw and a replay. When the replay came around, he didn’t take any chances and Leeds led 5-0 before conceding two late goals. It was like a coin dropped at Elland Road: an assurance that a no-nonsense approach against lower league opponents would often pay off.

Tomorrow, live on BBC One, it will be Accrington Stanley away at Leeds City, a fourth-round tie played out after non-league Boreham Wood lost a replay at Accrington in extra time on Tuesday. Boreham Wood was a bit like a ghost of seasons past, Histon in a different Halloween costume, but Accrington is mid-table in League One with a 5,500-capacity stadium and the kind of bomb Leeds previously let go. This, in the context of the FA Cup, is the day when the club from Yorkshire can prove that their character has been positively reformed.

(Main image: Getty Images)

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