Recently this has become one of my favourite times of year. The end of the football season. Finally, some respite from the constant abject misery that I’ve had to endure for the last eight months.
Like many other Leeds United fans I’ve run my completely unprofessional eye over the current squad and have decided who is deserving of a second (third, fourth?) chance and who Massimo Cellino should make disappear. I’ve tried to be moderately realistic with this, considering what is and isn’t likely to happen with contracts and the current market for lazy, has-been journeymen.
As you’ll see I’m advocating pretty wholesale changes but I don’t really see what option we have if we want to improve. I doubt we could really overhaul the squad to this extent but I live in hope. There are a number of players which I have doubts over and who I’m not sure whether we should retain or let go. Many of the decisions would depend on what replacements we could get in.
I’ve included contract expiry dates, as reported by YEP, in brackets.
This is the list they should all want to be on.
- Sam Byram (2016) – I’m hoping he recovers from this year’s injury problems, gets a full pre-season and is ready to go as one of the first names on the team sheet next year.
- Jason Pearce (2016) – Hit and miss this year. Either needs replacing with someone far superior or at least provided with a semi-intelligent, moderately pacey partner.
- Marius Zaliukas (2015) – We’ve only recent signed him up. He’s just not going anywhere yet.
- Tom Lees (2016) – I’ve had more patience than most with Lees but people’s frustration with him is really starting to show. Seemingly quite a limited player but if, as is likely, we can’t buy a replacement, he should be retained. Otherwise, he would probably go elsewhere and do quite well, as is the way with Leeds players.
- Luke Murphy (2016) – Started and finished the season brightly. I’m hoping for more consistency next year. There’s talent there and he could be pretty valuable for us.
- Alex Mowatt (2017) – Thrown in at the deep end and excelled for some time. Now some regular playing time and consistency is required.
- Cameron Stewart (2017) – Having just signed on a long contract, he just isn’t going anywhere unfortunately.
- Rodolph Austin (2015) – The honeymoon period is definitely over and people are expressing their frustration. He still has stuff to offer though.
- Ross McCormack (2017) – If we can. (Please stay.)
- Dom Poleon (2015) – Needs game time and I would perhaps suggest a loan but if we ship out most of the other strikers (which I think we should) then he could find himself playing through sheer necessity. He has some of the pace and fearlessness that can genuinely frighten some of the dross defenders in this league. Just needs to get his head down and keep working.
- Matt Smith (2015) – Unfairly criticised at times. A limited player but not a bad first season in what was a step up for him. Hopefully our Plan B next year. (i.e. chuck him on when we’re in a panic, lumping long balls to scramble a late equaliser.)
- Alex Cairns (2014) – Out of contract but would be worth renewing for a year or two. Would loan him out but we should really get shot of the other two so he would need to be retained as a back up.
- Scott Wootton (2016) – Bit sketchy when called upon and could probably do with settling into regular football somewhere. Will probably be retained for squad cover. If we buy other defenders he should be loaned out.
- Chris Dawson (2016) – Would love to see him near the first team but maybe he needs to go to positive, attacking League One or Two side and try and tear apart a few teams there. If we ship out Brown, Norris, Green (and maybe Tonge) then we’ll probably keep him around the squad. I just hope he gets game the opportunity to develop one way or another.
- Simon Lenighan (2014)– Don’t know nearly enough about him. Supposedly promising but he’s out of contract. Given recent allegations I can see him being let go. Renew for a year and send out on loan. Possibly an emergency option when we realise we didn’t replace all out aging, out of contract central midfielders.
- Lewis Walters (2015) – Let’s see if he can grab a few goals in League Two.
- Ross Killock (2014) – Out of contract but worth renewing for a year or two and shipping out on loan.
- Eric Grimes (2015) – Needs experience. A loan is surely better than the development squad.
- Luke Parkin (2015) – Needs experience and looks like he could be handy. Like Walters, let’s see if he can grab a few goals in League Two.
- (Also Dom Poleon and, if renewed, Alex Cairns, if we can get in adequate replacements.)
- Jack Butland (Loan) – Obviously.
- Jimmy Kebe (Loan) – Obviously.
- Paddy Kenny (2015) – Past it. Sheffield United will want him, surely? However, I can see him running out his contract with Leeds and retiring in 2015.
- Jamie Ashdown (2014) – To be honest, I completely forgot about him. Still crocked isn’t he? Out of contract either way.
- Lee Peltier (2015) – Had quite a bit of football this year but got shipped out on loan which is either because he’s rubbish and not in the manager’s plans or because of his wages. Either way, someone should take him.
- Adam Drury (2014) – Out of contract. Retiring?
- Stephen Warnock (2015) – Past it, too slow and too expensive. Let’s hope we can ship him out and replace him.
- Danny Pugh (2014) – Someone please take him.
- Michael Brown (2014) – Please, god, get rid of him. Surely retiring.
- Zac Thompson (2015) – Is he ever going to develop into the footballer he was supposed to be? League One beckons.
- Aidy White (2015) – I’ve had so much patience but I just don’t think he has what it takes. Should have moved to Derby or Celtic when he (supposedly) had the chance.
- El Hadji Diouf (2014) – Never liked him, still don’t. Get him out of my club. He’s past it. (And out of contract.)
- Noel Hunt (2015) – Just go.
- Gboly Ariyibi (2014) – Hasn’t done much. Probably won’t ever.
- Lewis Turner (2014) – Out of contract.
- Nathan Turner (2014) – Out of contract.
- Paul Green (2014) – Out of contract.
- Luke Varney (2014) – Blurgh. Glad he’s out of contract.
- Michael Tonge (2015) – A year left on his contract. Cash in while he still has some value.
- Steve Morison (2016) – Another I forgot we actually own. Will probably be retained because of a shortage of options once we ship out the deadwood but with the length of his contract we should really cash in if possible.
- David Norris (2015) – Why is he still here?
- A goalkeeper
- A centre back
- A decent left back
- A right winger
- A striker
- The next round of journeymen. We need to bulk out the squad somehow.
This is pretty optimistic but in reality it’s just the start of what the shopping list should be. Requiring so many new players means that the budget needs to stretch further. This usually results in lower quality players as they’re all we can afford which mean the problem perpetuates. Until significant investment is made we’re in a vicious circle only scraping by. If we’re going to compete with teams making major investments and teams relegated from the Premier League then we’re going to need to punch above our weight with seriously good scouting, identifying bargains or quality/underrated players we can take a punt on. Either way this needs to be combined with much better coaching and management than we’ve seen in recent years. I haven’t mentioned anything about Brian McDermott but I can only really see one thing happening to him.
Maybe I’ll look at actually identifying some targets for my next post. But then again, maybe not.