Tag Archives: striker

International Call Up for Leeds Striker Ekuban Proof of Quality – by Rob Atkinson

 

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Caleb Ekuban shows striking potential for United

It must be a bit of a kick in the teeth for the self-proclaimed experts on the Leeds United #LUFC Twitter hashtag, or feed, or whatever these geeks call it, to see that Whites striker Caleb Ekuban has been called up by the Ghanaian national squad. It’s always a bit galling when mere football professionals dare to set up their opinions against the omniscience of the Twatterati, but there you go. Some people just haven’t got a clue.

In the real world, of course, those in charge of the Ghana squad have seen the potential in Ekuban; possibly, they even feel all that’s required is for the lad’s confidence to be given a timely boost. It’s the sharp edge of his game that needs honing to perfection, that ice-cold instant of detached judgement that makes the difference between a finish and a miss. Even Roy of the Rovers had similar issues at some stage, even Jimmy Greaves, Robbie Fowler – any striker worth the name. Any and all of them will tell you that most of the art or science of playing in attack is to be in the right place at the right time. For the most part, Ekuban has demonstrated this facility, together with an appetite for graft that has endeared him to those in the Leeds crowd who appreciate that sort of thing. “You’ve got to be there to miss the chances”, as old-school centre-forwards would tell you – getting into the positions, that’s the secret. The rest is down to that elusive quality of confidence, something that has been shouted out of Ekuban’s game by the clueless mob who pour scorn out of their idiot box keyboards.

The call up to the national squad could make a big difference to our Ekuban, and the team may well reap the benefit of that when it matters, next season. Alongside the expected renaissance of Samu Saiz, and given a season a little more blessed, with no niggling injuries for Caleb and no bloody silly suspensions for Samu, there’s a formidable attacking partnership ready to blossom. Mark my words.

And, if you don’t believe me, put your faith in the judgement of the Ghana national tam selectors – they should know a decent striker when they see one. I’m not saying that Ekuban is another Yeboah. Then again, I’m not saying he doesn’t have the potential. All I want is for the lad to be given a fair chance, without a bunch of clueless yahoos just waiting to pounce on any missed chance and jump on an easy bandwagon. Yep, that’d be nice.

I won’t hold my breath, though. Good luck, Caleb Ekuban – and I hope you ram the flawed judgement of our resident online idiots right back down their throats.

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Bony to Stoke City Equals Peter Crouch to Leeds United?   –   by Rob Atkinson

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Leeds United, Abbey Clancy and Peter Crouch – a threesome made in heaven

It would seem that, after the signing of Bournemouth midfielder Eunan O’Kane, efforts are still being made behind the scenes at Elland Road to add another striker – probably a loan deal – to the Leeds United squad.

In the light of Stoke City‘s loan acquisition of Manchester City’s under-employed forward Wilfred Bony, it does seem that gangly veteran Peter Crouch has been pushed even further down the Potters pecking order. But here is a striker, admittedly no longer in the first flush of youth, who is still very much able to do it. Obviously a threat in the air, Crouch is also surprisingly effective with the ball nearer to Mother Earth. He also scored a hat-trick recently in a rare first team outing for Stoke, in an EFL Cup victory – could this have been his last contribution for City, at least for this season?

A loan move to Leeds for Crouch would, on the face of it, suit all parties. Stoke, with Bony on board, are unlikely to be able to give ex-England striker Crouch much, if any, playing time. At this veteran stage of his career, first team football is a must for a striker who still has a lot to offer. And Leeds, with their striking options depleted compared to last year, despite the addition of Marcus Antonsson, badly need a proven performer up front. Peter Crouch would fit the bill admirably.

Will it happen? It’s probably a thing too good to be true. But it’s something those men in suits at Elland Road certainly should be trying their level best to make happen. As a rest-of-the-season striking solution, it’s a complete no-brainer. 

And it would also add the delectable Abbey Clancy to the current list of LS11 attractions. Really – who could possibly argue that that would not be A Very Good Thing?

New Leeds Striker, But Cani Manage Without a New Winger or Two? – by Rob Atkinson

Cani - raring to go, but where's the supply coming from?

Cani – raring to go, but where’s the supply coming from?

Leeds United’s month-long pursuit has paid off with the capture of Cani, the striker that most of us probably wanted the least – against the rival attractions of the somewhat more exotic Leonardo Pavoletti, who opted to stay in Italy despite the temptations of a West Yorkshire winter. So it’s Cani for Leeds, a 6’4″ beanpole of a striker who, it is said, will suit the Redders style of play. He appears to be the non-prolific, target man type of striker – so we can anticipate that he will rival Steve Morison for a place in the starting line-up. The question is: will Cani help to improve the supply to the real goalscorers in the squad? That supply needs to come at least in part from out wide as demonstrated in the win at Huddersfield when Antenucci put over the sort of cross he’d love to be on the end of himself, for the hungry Billy Sharp to gobble up.

As I write, there yet remain six long hours of this transfer window – time enough for one or two wide boys to be recruited. Michael Tonge has had his inoculations and has headed off to Millwall; one theory was that this move might pave the way for Castleford-born, scum-supporting ‘Wall winger Martyn Woolford to link up with Leeds. No sign of that as yet – and really, he’s not exactly Maxi Gradel, is he?

Sharp’s emphatic finish at the Puppy Farm at the weekend emphasised the fact that, if you give a finisher some quality supply, he will deliver the goods. If Leeds are to capitalise fully on the potential of Sharp, then we must pay attention to our options in those wide areas. Byram and some of the other junior talents available will not do, not just yet or for the longer term. A winger, either in the last few hours of this window or in the emergency loan market to follow, is a real necessity. Two wingers would be even better.

The next few hours could go a long way towards defining our goals potential for the rest of the season, and the escape bid that lies ahead. The new man has the desire and potential to help – but he “Cani” do it on his own.

Leeds to Recruit Again From the “Other” United? – by Rob Atkinson

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Will Keane: could he make the difference?

Rumours abound that young Man U striker Will Keane is to follow in Scott Wootton’s footsteps in furthering his career by making the cross-Pennine move from wrong side to right.  Leeds seem to have figured out a way here to keep to the letter of their commitment without breaking the bank or at least adding too many straws to that particular tottering camel’s back. The luminaries of the Pride of Devon development squad will not command lavish wages, and yet the promises of a “high profile” loan will be trumpeted as having been met; any signing from the Theatre of Hollow Myths will automatically be accepted by the Press and even some fans as high profile, regardless of whether we’ve ever heard of him before.

For those more inclined to think for themselves, though, this trend might appear a little worrying and for more than one reason.  Firstly, Premier League development squads, crammed with potential though they may be, do not necessarily produce players ready to enter the hurly-burly of Championship football.  The trouble is, many fans will see pictures of the new boy in the colours of Man U or whichever other top-flight juggernaut, and they will automatically have these expectations – expectations that the callow youth in question may not yet be ready to meet.  This is a problem which is especially acute at Leeds with its notoriously demanding support and intimidating atmosphere.

Secondly, in this particular case, we have another lad on the way back from a season-ending knee injury – that familiar nasty, the ruptured cruciates.  Too often, we appear to be linked with players who are not only trying to make their way in the game and therefore have startlingly little on their CV, but who also have these orthopaedic skeletons in their closets; the kind of injuries that raise doubts over the patient’s ability to thrive or even survive in an unforgiving environment like the English second tier of professional football.  And it’s not the first time this week that our hopes seem to have been in danger of pinning themselves to footballers with less-than-perfect medical histories.  The spectre of Davide Somma’s career, previously thought dead and buried in June, has been detected floating along the corridors of Thorp Arch this last day or so. Leeds’ immediate prospects, in their current poverty-stricken circumstances, seem a little shaky to be entrusted to playing staff fresh out of the convalescent wards.

That said, these injuries are not necessarily career-enders these days.  Somma showed plenty of class in his too-brief spell in and around United’s first team a few years back – and young Keane was the bright hope of his age group at Man U until his own agonising setback whilst on England U-19 duty.  It’s just that there’s this worry, that we’re placing all our hopes on beardless youth, or chronic injury victims, or both.

If such gambles were to pay off, then I’d be the first to hold my hand up in joy and relief because Leeds United certainly do need something right now, some injection of pace, quality, that lethal finishing ability we’ve so palpably lacked.  But as ifs go, it’s a big one and I’d feel a lot easier in my mind if the allegedly relaxed GFH purse strings could make possible one or two signings of quality and experience who have been there and done it, in cauldrons that bear comparison to the unforgiving white heat of Elland Road.  That’s the kind of high-profile needed right now – not the sort that depends on the media-hyped status of the loaning club, nor yet the kind that brings back fond memories of what a player was once able to do in a Leeds United shirt.

Nobody wishes Davide Somma restored fitness and some reprises of those terrific performances, more than I do.  And nobody would be happier to see a young lad walk in through the doors of Elland Road and carve himself a reputation in the game, to the advantage of my beloved Leeds.  It’s just such a gamble and it seems to me at the moment that gambling should be kept to a minimum.   We should instead be hedging our bets and looking for some tried and tested quality.

It’s not promotion chances we’re weighing in the balance here, after all.  Those prospects already seem dim and distant, as the club’s owners appear to acknowledge.  And yet still Leeds United have to be seen to be trying to compete as far up the league as possible. The supporters will rightly demand that, and if they don’t see that competitive edge and the work ethic that’s always expected at Leeds, then there will be a continuation of that change of mood, that downward spiral of morale which has seen the atmosphere over LS11 dying a slow death over the past decade.  That’s the real challenge for the moment – inspiring the fans to keep the faith.  And whatever attention the owners have so far paid to “engaging with the fans” and other items of PR propaganda – they don’t yet appear to have managed this feat of inspiration.  A more ambitious and realistic attitude to transfer recruitment would go a long way towards that.

Somma Time Some Way Off for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

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As rumours of an impending “high profile loan signing” continue to waft around Elland Road, there is also news of the possible return of an old favourite, a star that shone so bright and yet so briefly, a man who stood out as an instinctive finisher one moment and then collapsed as a serial treatment-room habitué the next. Davide Somma, powerhouse striker and ruptured cruciate victim extraordinaire, is on the brink of another comeback. Could these two rumours somehow be related? As “Private Eye” would agree, I think we should be told.

Somma appeared to have earned himself such a bright future with his gamble on the price of a transatlantic air ticket to seek his footballing fortune. A successful trial, a contract and a flurry of goals – some bearing the unmistakable hallmark of class and composure – and the world was the likeable hitman’s lobster, or so it seemed. Then, injury, rehabilitation, setbacks, the cycle of despair. His hopes shattered, his prospects doomed, Somma fell out of contract in June. And yet he’s now back at United, seeking to prove his fitness – and who knows? The dreaded cruciate injury is not the football career’s death-knell it once was. A nifty bit of key-holing and a man can be fit for purpose again. Look at Gazza. Well, maybe that’s not the best example of redemption – but he came back from a wrecked knee to play for England again, didn’t he? Of course he did.

The thing about Somma is – good though it would be to see him back at his best and bunging in the goals for Leeds United – it’s all about context. In the club’s current straits, there really is an injection of top-class ability needed, both in a supply-line of chances and a taker of them too.

The cropping-up of Somma’s name just now has to be purely incidental to more urgent requirements. It couldn’t really be that our high-profile loan will come from the physio department of the local orthopaedic hospital. We need more of a Sharp than a Somma right now to salvage the hopes of this season. And despite the seeming prevalence of them in and around Leeds United, we could do with a Burke too. Birmingham’s tricky winger looks ever more a snip at £600k, but that boat has probably sailed.

The news that Davide Somma may yet be on the verge of a return to fitness, with the potential to function as a professional footballer is good and welcome. If such a comeback from apparently career-ending injury is ultimately to the benefit of Leeds, then so much the better. But the fact that social media outlets are currently all a-Twitter with hopes that Somma might be the saviour we need right now – that surely must be a rumour too far.

The very best of luck to the lad in his latest attempt to regain fitness – and thousands will be hoping he can fulfil his early, rich promise in a Leeds United shirt. But our immediate salvation must surely lie elsewhere.

Leeds Chasing Top Gun – But Who Will Supply the Ammo? – by Rob Atkinson

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Striker Who??

It’s now an open secret that Leeds United have listened to manager Brian McDermott’s warnings about the lack of a prolific striker at Elland Road, and that they have heeded his words of wisdom. Now, they are prepared – so we understand – to go out and secure a goal-scorer. Such exotic beasts do not come cheap.

Speculation is rife as to who the target might be. Old-boy Becchio gets a mention, as does Leeds fan Shane Long, out in the cold at West Brom. Reading appear to covet another reputed Leeds target in Billy Sharp – could this pave the way for Adam le Fondre, known to his fans as “Alf”, to breeze into LS11?

Whoever gets the nod might be expected to make significant inroads into Leeds’ manifestly limited wages budget – unless the loaning club are willing to do the decent thing and subsidise whatever fat contract their surplus striker is on. Paying a hefty amount of wages would pose a problem for Leeds – namely, how are we going to afford a winger, if we put all our eggs in the goal-poacher basket?

Because, make no mistake, a winger – or preferably two – should be as much a priority as any striker. Our existing strikers have starved for supply for most of the season so far. Ironically, the defeat to Burnley was notable for the amount of chances created and squandered, but this has not been the story of our campaign to date. With better supply, Hunt, Varney, McCormack and even Smith might well have weighed in with more goals. Getting another striker and neglecting to address the problem of supply from wide areas would be like purchasing a lethally-efficient gun – yet economising on bullets.

If GFH have been listening to Brian’s gloomy warnings, as we keep hearing in the Twittersphere – then let’s hope we’ve heard only half the story. Let’s hope that digging deep means really deep, and that the shopping list has “two decent wingers” scrawled at the bottom of it. Otherwise, in trying to solve our goal-shortage problems, we might just be adding to them.