by James Oddy
It was a summer that started so well. Neil Warnock wasted no time in attempting to purge the large Leeds squad of some of Simon Graysons more questionable purchases, ruthlessly allowing five players to leave on frees and transfer listing six more players. Alongside that, he moved quickly to secure Jason Pearce, a young, imposing defender who was popular at Portsmouth.
What was surprising about the signing was both how quickly it was done in the transfer window, and that Leeds had actually paid money for a player. The last few years has seen our recruits mainly being secured via the loan market or snapping up older players on free transfers, and it suggested that Ken Bates had decided that he needed to back his manager with cash to bring in good quality players.
But then that was it. Warnock had stated openly that he wanted lots more players in, and quickly, but there was neither comings nor goings at Elland Road as other clubs stepped up their recruitment drive. We were outbid by Crystal Palace for Joel Ward, which suggested that the spending spree hinted at by the signing of Pearce wasn’t to be. Instead, it became apparent that Warnock would have to move out some of those he had placed on the transfer list first, and there was depressingly little interest. It was a frustrating period for the fans, so lord knows what it must have been like for the manager. As the club made seemingly zero movement in the market, alarming rumours that Warnock was set to resign began circulating.
Eventually, however, solid pros Adam Drury and Paul Green were announced. Free transfers they may have been, but it was a relief to finally seem some new faces arrive at the club. Paddy Kenny seemed to be arriving all summer, and eventually did, resolving perhaps the most uninteresting summer transfer ‘saga’ I’ve witnessed, as decent a keeper as Kenny is. Right back Lee Peliter and Jamaican international midfielder Rudolph Austin were the pick of some of our other legion of recruits.
Two rumours that persisted for most of the off season – the departures of captain Robert Snodgrass and leading scorer Ross McCormack – were of more concern. With Warnock seeming to focus on making sure his defence was solid and building from the back, the creative onus would rest with these two. But both were in similar contractual circumstances of only having a year left, and appeared hesitant to commit. Snodgrass in particular seemed keen to reach the Premier League sooner rather than later.
In a move that’s become depressingly familiar to Leeds fans over the last 18 months, Snodgrass followed the well-trodden path form Leeds to Norwich, his last outing for the club being a forgettable pre season friendly in Devon. It’ll be interesting to watch the winger’s progress in the Premier league. He has great technique and close control, but also lacks any real pace and can often take the wrong option in the final third. McCormack is still a Leeds player, but with the persistent rumours of interest from the likes of Wigan and Brighton, how long for is anyone’s guess.
The sub plot to the wheeling and dealing has been the mysterious on, off now apparently on again takeover of the club. The exact nature and composition of the consortium, apparently based in the Middle East, is completely unknown. For all the negatives Bates has brought to the club, it could be a case of out of the frying pan into the fire, if the group ends up being a new Venkys.
Some investment is clearly needed however, as the signing of El Hadji Diouf illustrates. The loss of Snodgrass was cushioned by three million we received for him, and rumours of a move for Nicky Maynard or Jermaine Beckford would have been great business. Yet Warnock was forced to attempt to sell more of his squad to fund a move for another attacker, despite the funds already raised. With the season approaching and with little time to manoeuvre, Diouf rocked up at Elland road complete with his sunglasses, despite the overcast skies that greeted him. Regardless of his character, the Senegalese forward was one of the more impressive players to visit Elland Road last season, and seemed to thrive in front of the vocal, aggressive crowd that greeted him.
Thing are never clean cut at Leeds, as this summer has proven. How the team performs is anybody’s guess, with a team of largely new faces playing under a manager who has the weight of 20 odd thousand people’s expectations on his back. Whatever happens, it’s guaranteed to be an eventful season.