"Our job's not to go (to Wigan) and
win, it's not about winning, it's not about......errrr, we've got
to make sure we play well".
The words of Leeds coach Brian McDermott ahead
of his sides trip to Wigan on Friday. I think that is the daftest
quote I've heard since Ian Millward said "Relegation is not an
issue" two weeks before he was sacked here in 2006.
In fairness I think McDermott just got his
words in a complete flap. I think what he was trying to say is
that he wants his side to come to Wigan and perform and if that
rewards a win so be it, if it doesn't at least it'd be something
to build on a week later.
Either way you look at it though, he is giving
tremendous respect to Wigan and it shows a lack of belief that his
side can come here and win. Not the kind of words I'd want to be
hearing if I was a Leeds supporter.
It's amazing how in just two years the fortunes
of Wigan and Leeds seem to have completely flipped. Go back to
July 1st 2009 and it was Leeds in second place chasing top spot
whilst Wigan were having yet another fanny about regular season
under Brian Noble with a lowly 8th place being our position.
Their is of course the old adage that the
regular season doesn't matter and you can just turn up for the
play offs but I think we've proved in recent years that good
strong regular season is required to take out titles and Leeds are
way off the mark.
The big games tell you how much Leeds have
struggled under McDermott. They bombed a win in amazing style when
Wigan went to Headingley in April. They've been hammered twice by
Warrington, twice by St Helens and once by Huddersfield as well.
Recently they nicked a late 12-7 win at Crusaders and lost at home
to the total garbage that is Bradford Bulls.
Perhaps those words from McDermott were sheer
desperation because they really need a moral boosting win here at
Wigan, or else they season could end up being over pretty quickly.
An away cup trip to Hull is not looking as easy for them as it
once might have looked.
I think the main problem at Leeds is not just
the fact the squad is getting old, but it has had no quality put
into it during the past couple of seasons. No top draw signings
and, for me, no top class youngsters. Their Under 20s side has
struggled badly in the last two seasons, finishing 6th in 2009 and
last year they didn't even make the play offs with a 10th place
finish in a 12 team league.
This year again they are mid table fodder in
the top academy division. That's a far cry from what it used to be
like. For the first half of the last decade it was always Leeds at
the top of the academy tree, with Wigan trailing a very close
second, but for whatever reason Leeds have stepped backwards in
the past three or four years and they can only pay the price for
that in the next few years.
I'm a firm believer that a youngster can have
all the talent in the world but if a winning mentality is not
groomed in the academy, then I think they will end up missing that
little bit extra when it comes to the crunch. Mental strength is
just as important as natural ability. That is why I think many
Wigan youngsters have come through recently and done really well.
A simple stat bares out why I think. In the top academy level,
Wigan have lost just 10 matches since the start of 2008. Leeds
have lost 6 in this season alone so far. A winning mentality in
the academy has been carried forward into the first team here at
Wigan. Leeds youngsters are bringing through the exact opposite it
Now, maybe McDermott was trying to lure Wigan
into a false sense of security with those comments he made, but in
no way will Michael Maguire fall for that load of old fanny. I see
him sending Wigan out to continue the big momentum we are building
and I wouldn't be surprised if we smash Leeds to be honest.
Especially with Leeds fans being resigned to defeat themselves. I
just cannot see Wigan putting in a poor performance and if we
match the level we've produced in the past fortnight, well I'm not
sure Leeds best could beat that!
But how often did we play Leeds under Noble and
claim a unexpected regular season win? Very often indeed and I've
made the point before that when we did beat Leeds under him, we
all but once failed to follow it up with a win a week later. So
who knows, Leeds may well come and play out their skins to beat us
on Friday, but I'm not convinced it will make any difference in
the long run. They look a side desperate for new blood, either in
new players or in a new coach. The current Leeds squad has gone on
a season to far for me and we'll probably see this highlighted on