A headline this morning screams that Leeds United should bring Jonny Howson and Jermaine Beckford, the two League One promotion goal heroes, back to Elland Road. As pre-transfer window speculative press advice goes, it’s nearer the mark than 90% of the rubbish out there – but it’s still only half right at best.
Judged on their merits, the two cases are miles apart. Howson is still the real deal, coming up to his 29th birthday, a mature goal-scoring midfielder who has performed creditably in the Premier League. He thrived at Leeds before the environment around LS11 turned toxic, at which time his best move was out. If he’s now available to bring back into the fold, it would be a very good option for a United midfield sorely in need of top-level experience and the kind of commitment that comes with a player who is also a fan.
Beckford, on the other hand, shows all the signs of having put the best of his playing career far behind him. I still believe that he should have given himself a chance of securing a second successive promotion with Leeds United, after helping get the club out of League One in 2010. Obviously, there were compelling financial reasons for his move to Everton, and he did make a mark of sorts at Goodison Park. But thereafter, it’s been a case of each successive move leading to a diminution of his reputation, and the signals have always been there that he left his heart and soul behind at Elland Road – he’s perhaps the opposition player best known for his ongoing rapport with our crowd, complete with Leeds salute. I can’t help thinking that he has his regrets, but realistically he’s not a viable option for a United squad on the way up (we hope). The rule of thumb here is, since he’s been released by Preston, there’s not too much – sadly – that he can now offer to Leeds United.
Many more names will be bandied about over the coming weeks, some of them formerly of this parish, and many more who might be new and exciting additions to the club. But if I could have one choice for a player to return, I wouldn’t look much further (with the honourable exception of Rob Snodgrass) than Jonny Howson, who I feel really could add that winning spark to next years United squad.