Tag Archives: transfer window

Leeds Fans Flocking Back as New Owner Prepares to Acquire Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

Andrea

Radrizzani – master of all he surveys

Suddenly, there’s a feelgood factor about Leeds United, one that I’ve long predicted would come about when – and only when – the club became free of Massimo Cellino. Only when the maverick Italian was gone would we be able to look ahead with optimism. Only then could we start Marching On Together again, instead of being hopelessly disunited. And now it’s finally happened – Cellino has departed from Elland Road, a harmful and divisive influence whose supporters could see only good in him, and whose detractors could see only bad.

Whoever was right – and the truth, as ever, was probably somewhere in the middle – it was this dramatic polarisation of opinion in the support base that was so bad for Leeds. A support divided against itself could not be wholeheartedly behind the club. Now, the issue dividing us is gone, and it must be every United fan’s fervent hope that we can all start singing once again from the same hymn sheet.

New sole owner Andrea Radrizzani has certainly got off on the right foot, and we will expect him to maintain his positive outlook. For the first few days of his tenure, taking up the option on Garry Monk‘s extra year, with a longer-term deal to be discussed, would have been fine on its own. Add to that tying down one of the most exciting midfield prospects in the country to a four year deal, and we appear to be cooking with gas – because Ronaldo Vieira is every bit as hot a prospect as his famous names would suggest. And then, the cherry on the icing on the cake for this momentous first week of Radrizzani – it would seem that the club will once again own its spiritual home of Elland Road “by the end of the summer”.

That stadium purchase timescale lacks the immediate impact of Cellino’s “off down the ATM to get the money to buy the ground on Day One” promise. But the difference is, of course, that Radrizzani will probably deliver on his less sensational claim, whereas Cellino’s soundbite was just the first of many he failed to bring to fruition. Any Leeds fan will tell you it’s always felt better when our home was our own – it’s a reassuring prospect to look forward to and, at last, we can look forward with confidence.

And the summer as a whole is looking a lot brighter than previous summers have turned out to be, irrespective of the amount of sunshine we get. Radrizzani has stated that he is “here to make history, not money”. That’s a very sensible and realistic plan for any owner; making good on it is something else, but the intentions are spot on. It’s rightly said that the only way to make a small fortune out of football is by starting off with a large one – but the owner who has his eye on making history will inevitably find that financial rewards accrue also. Just getting into the Premier League would yield a bountiful harvest, as either Huddersfield or Reading are about to find out. The difference is that, when it’s Leeds United’s turn, there will be a new force in the top league capable of building on the financial bounty to make a mark in the game.

These are exciting times, as witness the flood of season ticket purchases for the next campaign. United have hit 15,000 already, before the old season is actually finished. That’s an impressive performance compared to other recent years, and a sign of the new feeling around the club. What divided us has gone, what has always united us is still alive and kicking; that big club buzz of an awakening giant.

Good luck, Andrea, and all your new backroom staff. As for the future – bring it on. The way things have started, it should be one to relish.

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Jonny Howson Back to Leeds United, But NOT Jermaine Beckford – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United v Bristol Rovers

Jermaine and Jonny during THAT Bristol Rovers game

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.

 

Leeds’ Promotion Push Bolstered by £17m Worth of New Talent   –   by Rob Atkinson

Modou Barrow (left) and Alfonso Pedraza (right)

The Leeds United powers that be have thankfully shown a pleasing amount of last-minute transfer market acumen with the deadline day acquisition of two pacy, talented wide players whose effect will potentially be to enhance the attacking unit’s potency all the way across the forward line. 

With the “try before you buy” loan signings of Alfonso Pedraza from Villareal, with an option to buy in summer for £8.5m, and Modou Barrow (purchase option £9m rising to £11m) from manager Garry Monk‘s former club Swansea City, Leeds have not only added options out wide, they have made the whole offensive situation that much more fluid. Both new signings are able to play out wide or more centrally, but their addition to the squad frees up the likes of Roofe, Doukara and even Dallas, none of whom are natural touchline-huggers, to operate further infield in support of lone spearhead Chris Wood. The advantages of this increased flexibility could be considerable, both game-to-game and within games, to stir things up as may be necessary. And suddenly having two proper wingers could even reap a bonus in terms of increased effectiveness for the misfiring Marcus Antonsson, a good striker who has starved for lack of service on his rare appearances for the first team. 

The Leeds United Twitter timeline was a toxic place to be, though, up until the signing of Barrow, with much wailing, cursing, rending of clothes and gnashing of teeth. Even after the arrival of the Swansea man, there remained some truculence and discontent. But many more were quite happy in the end, with a window that had added two quality arrivals to a highly effective if hitherto slightly patchy squad. Among those satisfied, we can presumably count Monk himself, who had appeared somewhat tense and distrait as the transfer clock ticked down. He wanted two signings and that’s what he eventually got. We can surely assume that he has the plan to make best use of the squad now in place. 

So, attention now turns to Ewood Park on Wednesday, and the urgent necessity of dealing with Blackburn Rovers. The standard approach of concentrating on each three points up for grabs as they coma along will continue to serve Leeds well, and the club will be acutely conscious of the need to restore face after the embarrassment of Sutton United

Neither new signing is available for Wednesday’s encounter, but both will be up for consideration at Huddersfield on Sunday. Six points is a lot to ask from these two tricky fixtures, but the form of our play-off and promotion rivals makes it almost a necessity to secure a maximum return if at all possible. But, according to the Monk Mantra, it’s still one game at a time and steady as she goes. 

The rest of the season beckons, with no Cup distractions. The opportunity is there for Leeds United, suitably bolstered by increased pace and width, to write another glorious page of their illustrious history. A promotion charge is a clear and present possibility, one glance at the table confirms that. In the race for the top-flight, fortune will surely favour the brave. Bring it on. 

Leeds United Will Ignore Manager Monk’s Warning Tone At Their Peril   –   by Rob Atkinson

Garry-Monk

Monk: time for the club to support him

As the January transfer window draws inexorably to a close, Leeds United‘s highly-rated young manager Garry Monk has delivered himself of a cleverly-loaded quote – one that his employers would do well not to ignore.

On the same day that academy graduate Alex Mowatt finally moved on to Barnsley (despite assurances that nobody in and around the first team would be sold) Monk has reacted thus: “I can only assume that the players the club have talked about will come through the door as soon as possible. I am excited. We need to strengthen.”

It’s a statement loaded with subtextual significance. Reading between the lines, the manager’s “excitement” sounds more like the onset of frustration. When he says “I can only assume” in reaction to Mowatt’s departure, it sounds very much as though the sale was not entirely desirable from his point of view – unless there are incoming reinforcements due. The unsaid addendum to “I can only assume” is “because otherwise, the club is messing me about and not supporting me as promised”.

Time is running out, fast. There is 4th Round FA Cup business to attend to this weekend, a potential banana skin of a game at Sutton Utd in which, ironically, Mowatt might have been expected to play a prominent role. But, beyond that, there will then be mere hours to provide the couple of players that Monk has continually said he needs. It would not do to frustrate and stymie a manager who has made this season so much more memorable, and for all the right reasons, than the past few have been. Garry Monk has done wonders for Leeds United, and the club is honour-bound to back up his efforts with quality recruits to give his squad the best chance of success.

Furthermore, if Leeds are once more to disappoint their fan base as well as their manager, with yet another window in which expectations have been merely managed and not met, then it really does make no sense to lose Mowatt now, with so many potentially vital games left to play. The mercurial midfielder with that wand of a left foot may not be the kind of player to build a team or a promotion challenge around but, on his day, he could be a game changer with his undoubted potential to grab a spectacular goal like a bolt from the blue. You need that kind of unexpected element in a squad. With Mowatt gone, and even Murphy and Diagouraga too, the first team pool is markedly weaker than it was at the start of January – when the aim surely had to have been to strengthen.

Make no mistake, Garry Monk is putting the pressure on his employers to deliver, and rightly so. He’s saying that, with Mowatt sold, it would make no sense for there not to be incomings over the next few days. It would be against all logic, it would be foolish and it would be a betrayal. It’s all there. That one quote says it all, quite subtly, but nevertheless unmistakably. Garry Monk expects and requires action, not just words. If the club lets him down, they will potentially risk losing the best thing to happen to them in a long, long while.

Leeds United must listen to their manager, and they must heed his between the lines warning. It’s high time for the club to put its money where its mouth is.

Snodgrass: Ultimate Statement Signing for New Era Leeds   –   by Rob Atkinson

snoddy-1

Come back, Rob. You know it makes sense.

Every now and then a new story emerges from that part of the rumour mill labelled boldly “Too Good to be True”. Some you can dismiss out of hand as slightly less likely than Elvis appearing at the Batley Frontier Club. Diego Maradona to Division Two Leeds in the 80s would be an example of this. Others – well, you can’t help wondering. Sometimes, circumstances out of the ordinary can lend credence to whispers you normally wouldn’t even dare whisper.

The circumstances right now are out of the ordinary for Leeds United. Change is afoot, right at the top of the club and, not exactly coincidentally, things are going well on the field too. With new ownership a distinct probability, any incoming regime will be looking to stamp their mark on a slowly awakening giant of a club. The approved method is to make signings that materially improve first team options and, at the same time, send out an unmistakable message that these guys mean business. They’re called “statement signings” and they say, hey – look who we’ve got on board. This club is going places. Does the name Gordon Strachan ring a bell?

The news is that Rob Snodgrass, formerly of this parish but latterly plying his trade in the colours of a fishing village on the Humber, has turned down a new contract with his current club. This has been enough to set eyebrows twitching and tongues wagging around LS11 as well as further afield. What a signing he would be, if he could be persuaded to give Elland Road another try. And what a bold statement by the club’s new powers that be. As rumours go, this one is just so sexy you want to buy it dinner and then take it home to have your wicked way with it. Unlike some rumours, you might even find you still respect it in the morning. 

Could it happen? Well, almost anything could happen in the wake of our beloved Whites being freed from ownership that has ranked highly on the lunacy scale. If new chiefs wanted to come in and say to the United support: “Here you are. It’ll all be OK now” – then this would be one way of doing it. Manager Garry Monk would probably be quite pleased as well, adding an experienced head to his young group. 

This blog feels that some sort of transfer coup next month is more likely than not. A statement of intent needs to be made and a statement signing is an excellent way of making it. Snodgrass alone would not address all of the issues facing Monk and his squad – a backup striker is needed, for a start, and other areas call for attention. But Snodgrass, who embellished Leeds before, could do so again – he could be the X-Factor in a genuine promotion push as well as putting bright lights around a new owner’s name.

If Leeds United are to have a fresh start in 2017, then the recapture of Rob Snodgrass would be the ideal way to get it off the ground. 

Potency and Penetration Issues When Leeds United Haven’t Got Wood   –   by Rob Atkinson

kyle-bartley-leeds-united_3785886

Cometh the hour, cometh the Kyle

Leeds United 1, Brentford 0

All’s well that ends well, as some Stratford bloke once said – and the throaty roar of joy mixed with heartfelt relief that lifted the roof off Elland Road in the 90th minute on Saturday was ample proof of the Bard’s ageless wisdom. Kyle Bartley‘s late, late header secured a hard-fought victory over troublesome Brentford that had looked for so long like being a frustrating stalemate, and the atmosphere at the end was worthy of far greater triumphs.

It was a victory wrought out of adversity, though – the cracks are beginning to show in a threadbare squad and the few precious days between now and a Boxing Day date at Preston are welcome indeed. Apart from Bartley’s golden last-gasp winner, one of the better bits of news after the Brentford game was that Chris Wood, much-maligned in various quarters but much-missed against the Bees, has a chance of being involved at Deepdale. The fact is, whatever his detractors might say, Wood is vital to this Leeds United team. Without him, the attack lacks something important. Wood is able to hold the ball up, securing a beachhead for any attack to be reinforced by runners from midfield. His unselfish work appears to pass a section of the support by; the welcome fact that he’s received less criticism this year is probably down to his admirable goal return. But Wood is more than just a goalscorer and, without him, Leeds offered much less in the attacking third and looked more laboured all over the park.

Manager Garry Monk looked as much relaxed as relieved after the match, and he has the air of a man whose plans are in place and who knows they will probably be carried through. The wind of change has been blowing around Elland Road for a while now, and January may well be a very exciting and productive time for the club. One priority publicly acknowledged is the acquisition of another striker – in placing so much reliance on Wood, United simply have too many eggs in one basket. Despite the efforts of Souleymane Doukara lately, and partly due to the relative ineffectiveness of Marcus Antonsson, Leeds are light up front. This will have to be addressed if the promotion challenge is to be maintained and Monk has been quite explicit in confirming his intentions.

For now, though, as the manager says, it’s about fighting for each batch of three points and doing what we can. Ahead of the Liverpool EFL Cup tie, I said I’d be happy with an honourable exit from that competition, plus between 6 and 7 points from the following three tricky-looking fixtures against Villa, Brighton and Reading. Well, we went out with richly-deserved accolades and got six out of nine points, topped up nicely by the three from Brentford, so this is a happy blog. If we can secure four points from away matches at Preston and Villa, then that happiness will grow into something more like ecstasy. And then, lo and behold, it’ll be January and – hopefully – game on.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! MOT.

January Could Be A Very Exciting Month for Leeds Utd Fans – by Rob Atkinson

Elland Road

Elland Road awaits a brighter future

It’s never wise to pay too much attention to rumour mills, as they do tend to churn out conflicting stories – just in the interests of keeping those speculative wheels grinding away and earning revenue. Sometimes, though, there’s that enticing morsel of consistency in what you’re hearing – and that’s when you start to take some notice, because there’s a general and possibly meaningful trend in the tone and content of what you might normally dismiss as mere flim-flam and tabloid fodder.

Such is the case right now with Leeds United. And it’s not just the relative consistency of the rumours, it’s also a new feeling about the way things are going at Elland Road; one that might just herald the end of the old order, ushering in something new and – if we can dare for a moment perchance to dream – positive. Until a few weeks ago, that word positive would have seemed rather incongruous as applied to our beloved club – but, recently, there’s been little alternative other than to resort to such an unlikely description of the feeling and atmosphere in and around Yorkshire‘s Number One club. Results, performances, things the players have been saying, the way the management team have been quietly and serenely getting on with their jobs – all have justified repeated use of the P-word. It’s a little odd and unfamiliar but, oh brother, does it feel good.

Taking the concrete facts first, we have in the relatively recent past seen a novel solidity in our defence, courtesy of Messrs. Bartley and Jansson above all, that has spread confidence further forward in the team, leading to all-round better displays. We’ve seen some highly competent performances in matches we’d certainly have struggled with in previous seasons, and we’ve put together a run of form that puts us in the top three teams in the division over the past ten games. Furthermore, we’ve progressed to a domestic cup quarter-final, where we’ll renew hostilities with that old friend and foe from Anfield, Liverpool. That’s such an iconic fixture for English football, and its one-off reappearance will whet the appetites of many for a return of Leeds United to the top flight. We have a sell-out home clash with Newcastle to look forward to, as well as a double header with another formerly big club in Aston Villa. Things are, in brief, looking up.

The rumour side of things is, as ever, more problematic. But, as mentioned earlier, there is a certain unanimity in the whispers emanating from various sources, with more and more reliable journalists, as well as some Sun “writers”, agreeing that a deal to sell a stake in the club to Italian sports rights mogul Andrea Radrizzani is more or less imminent. This takes place against a background of the FA having apparently made a decision over current owner Massimo Cellino‘s latest alleged flouting of the rules, although there is some delay in announcing that decision. The man himself, meanwhile, has been as quiet as a severed horse’s head on a pillow, which does not conform to his usual manner at all. It must all add up to something – but what?

It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that quite a few people out there are in the know, but subject to some sort of embargo in which the FA may well be instrumental. The whole Leeds situation, particularly in connection with this third-party agent case, is described as “sensitive”. You get the feeling that, behind the wall of silence, there is plenty of loud stuff going on. Meanwhile, the football end of the club has been able to function perfectly well, thank you – almost as if it had not a care in the world. Do they know something good that we don’t, these football people? Time will tell.

If Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything might be permitted to don its Nostradamus hat for a moment, then I think it’s fair to say that all of the above factors, when taken all round, add up to the inescapable conclusion that something big has been brewing for a while now – and that it might just be about to come to a boil. While the playing and coaching staff get on with preparing for the undoubtedly stern challenges that lie in wait in the pre-Christmas period, we might just be able to look a little further ahead, post Festive celebrations, into the New Year – and, if those of us nursing optimistic hopes and dreams are right, it could be a very exciting mid-season transfer window for us all.

With a bit of luck and a lot of very hard work, Leeds United could well be in a challenging position by the turn of the year. If we are – and if the current crop of promising signs bear fruit – then the time and circumstances could be ripe for a bit of a splash in the transfer market to set us up for the run-in and endgame. This blog has a distinct feeling that this is what may come to pass.

Watch this space, fellow MOT-ers. We could be in for a thrill-a-minute ride from January onwards!

Leeds United In Double Swoop on Free Agent Market – by Rob Atkinson

Trab

Essaid Belkalem – bargain?

Now that the option of emergency loans after the transfer window closure is no longer available, Leeds United will have to look elsewhere to make up for their shortcomings in the regular market. The squad as it stands is neither strong nor deep enough to inspire confidence in the club’s ability to be competitive towards the top end of the Championship between now and the January transfer window – so, without the option of loaning contracted players, United will be forced to scrape the very bottom of the barrel: those players that, up until now, have been unable for whatever reason to secure a professional playing contract for this season.

Leeds have been accused often enough in the past of shopping at Lidl instead of Waitrose, looking to spend as little as possible whilst capitalising on their own home-produced young talent. It’s an accusation that stands up quite well to an examination of the evidence; of all the current Championship clubs, the Whites have been the most niggardly net spenders over the greater part of this century. But it seems that things are getting worse; having failed to secure even a bargain buy in areas where the team needs strengthening (I submit attack AND defence, m’Lud), United somehow contrived to release their club captain Sol Bamba the day after the transfer market closed down. Bamba had been in appalling form, and personal reasons were cited; still, it seems rather careless when you consider that our senior central defensive section now comprises Liam Cooper and two loanees.

Obviously, we did sign one player on deadline day – Eunan O’Kane from Bournemouth was welcomed to the club, where he becomes our 17th or 18th central midfielder – frankly, I’ve lost count. The club also failed to offload any deadwood in that engine room part of the squad – you might say that we now possess an embarrassment of poverty there.

So now, we’re reduced to looking among the players nobody else wants. From shopping at Harrods around the turn of the century, we’ve lowered our sights continually, down through Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, the basic own-brand of Asda, the bargain aisles of Aldi, right down to the dubious delights of Lidl. And now – well, it has to be the rubbish bins behind B&M and Home Bargains, doesn’t it? How very depressing.

Then again, it’s quite surprising what you might find when rummaging about in this professional footballer detritus. The name of Kieran Richardson has cropped up, released at the end of last season by Aston Villa, and with some half-decent clubs on his CV, as well as manchester united. I’ve put the case myself for giving Luciano Becchio a crack at being striker cover in case Marcus Antonsson gets injured or Chris Wood grinds to a complete halt. And the wild card among current rumours has to be Essaid Belkalem, late of Trabzonspor in the Turkish league among others. Belkalem is an Algerian international who was on Watford‘s books last season, and he’s said to be looking for regular football to push his claims for further representative honours.

Something clearly has to be done, though, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a couple of deals being sealed in the not too distant future, with Richardson and Belkalem the likely names on the contracts. That would shore up the defence somewhat – but we’d still be short, in this blog’s opinion, of sufficient strength in depth up front. Then again – you can’t have everything.

Particularly not when you’re rooting through the refuse bins at the bargain end of the market.

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

Peter-Crouch-and-Abbey-Clancy-wedding

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?

Bridcutt Signing Confidently Expected in Time for Leeds 2019 Centenary Season – by Rob Atkinson

Bridcutt

Bridcutt – it could just be a matter of years now

Leeds United and Sunderland are now so close in their negotiations over midfielder Liam Bridcutt, that discussions over personal terms could begin as soon as the Christmas after next. If all goes well, that should pave the way for the combative former United loanee to join his new team-mates for at least part of the Elland Road club’s Centenary season, 2018/19.

More on this fast-developing story sometime in 2017, or after the finalisation of Brexit, whichever is the sooner.