Robert Snodgrass, Adam Clayton and Aidan White

Three Leeds fans would be loath to lose

Robert Snodgrass, Adam Clayton and Aidan White
Adam Clayton, Aidan White, and Robert Snodgrass (Clockwise)

The transfer window is generally a disappointing time for Leeds fans. The summer brought rumours of Smith, Bowyer and Woodgate, and finished with Rachubka, Brown and O’Dea. Whilst two of these three have turned out to be serviceable players, the departure of several others rendered that particular window in a negative light. Already club captain Jonny Howson has departed in January, and rumours still abound about the loss of several other players. For fans, however, there are three key players, linked with other clubs, that for various reasons they’d be particularly distraught about losing. Here I explore these, and why.

Robert Snodgrass

In discussions about Leeds, there have been accusations at various points this season that Leeds have been rendered a one-man side. Analyst and Leeds United legend Eddie Gray has often said at the end of games that he’s whenever Snodgrass doesn’t play, whether this is due to injury or he doesn’t ‘play’, having a poor game, he’s convinced Leeds are unable to get a result. Snodgrass is undoubtedly Leeds’s best player, and he has shown himself to be a wonderful example of a modern inside winger. Playing on the wrong foot, Snodgrass finds himself in a right-wing role. With enough tricks to fool even the most competent of full-backs, Snodgrass will often find himself cutting inside to provide provision balls, or put the ball in the back of the net himself. Leeds fans already knew of his ability as a provider, but this season he has already scored 4 more goals in the league, having played 15 games fewer. As both a goalscorer and a provider, he is therefore key to the manner in which Leeds play. With rumours throughout the window that he is departing, and concrete offers for him having taken place in the summer, there is a constant fear that Snodgrass will depart.

Adam Clayton

Last season, when Adam Clayton made his debut against Derby County whilst on loan from Manchester City, it looked as though the young midfielder would be completely unable to control a bag of cement, never mind a football. Therefore, when Leeds found themselves in the position of naming him a first-choice central midfielder after the departures of Bradley Johnson and Neil Kilkenny, fans were rightly concerned. For those who tracked him through the reserves and two loan spells last season, however, they will have been aware of the great change that occurred. No longer a weak-looking young central midfielder, Clayton has often been responsible for the bite in the Leeds midfield. For a significant part of the early season, Clayton was Leeds’s best player, and looked a class above the rest of the team. Whilst his form has dipped somewhat, he clearly has the potential to play in a better league, and with Leeds particularly weak through the middle, the 23-year old Clayton would be an incredible loss. Already linked to Bolton, those in charge at other clubs have clearly taken notice of this young upstart.

Aiden White

There is an odd occurrence that takes place on a nearly bi-weekly basis at Elland Road. The right winger of the opposition, known throughout the league as a speed-based player, will knock the ball past the Leeds left-back. The away fans will rise, cheering their man on as he seems set to beat the young player to the byline. Suddenly, however, a dawning realisation will occur. Their man cannot beat Aiden White. White will easily beat him to the ball and deal with the danger. A prospect who came through the academy, White has spent years on the fringes of the Leeds set-up, finally becoming a first-team player this year. Blessed with bags of pace, White has shown himself to be an immensely talented left-back. The problem, however, is that his contract will run out in the summer, and there has been little word as to the potential for renewing this. White could possibly be the sort of left-back Premier League clubs covet, and given his pace, he could easily be crafted into a player in the mould of Gareth Bale by the right top-flight manager. Given the contract situation, Leeds fans are therefore concerned the club will either cash in on the academy product, or simply allow his contract to wind down.

Honorable mentions: Ross McCormack, Tom Lees, Luciano Becchio.

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter @awinehouse1

Football’s Away Days

Every fan remembers their first away day. I was part of the first generation to grow up away from the terraces, and instead experience the comforts of the all-seater stadium with its ample legroom and aesthetically pleasing surroundings. You can imagine then how much of a culture shock it was when I went to my first ever away game in the late 90’s – an F.A. Cup game at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground.

The first thing I remember thinking was – let’s be honest – this place is a dump. Following the considerable commute to North Wales I decided to visit the toilets. However rather than being confronted by a row of glistening urinals and cubicles, I was met by a brick wall and the stench of urine and beer. As I sat down at my seat feeling a bit dazed and confused I realized that something else was wrong.  Where was the legroom?! The seat in front was mere inches away from my legs and the man next to me was virtually sat on my knee. However once you get over this, you begin to realize that away days are a bit different. There is a special atmosphere amongst the fans. The acoustics of a tightly packed away support in a rickety old stand behind the goal generate an atmosphere rarely paralleled at home games. For instance, old-fashioned grounds like Hillsborough, Oakwell and the City Ground are not necessarily the most pleasing on the eye but the atmosphere they create is often electric. There’s a certain something, a je ne sais quoi, in the air at away games, which is hard to describe. Whether it’s a Tuesday night away at Chesterfield in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy with just a handful of fans or an F.A. Cup tie away at the Emirates with a travelling army, the experience is incredible.

Indeed, in my opinion some of the best away days have come at the older, more decrepit grounds, and with not necessarily the largest away followings. Travelling to a midweek game miles away from home with a group of fans who have often dedicated their entire weekly wages to follow their team, the hardcore and the lifeblood of any team, you realise those who surround you are the real diehards. If you go to enough away games you will start to recognize the same faces and distinctive shouts of ‘Get into ‘em!’. These people represent the soul of British football. These supporters would never even contemplate missing a game because it’s on television or because their team is languishing in mid-table. Obviously all clubs need casual supporters in order to flourish. This is the type of fan who goes to one or two away games for the local derbies and attends home games when the club is playing well. They provide a vital revenue stream for the club, by purchasing tickets, programmes, merchandise and so on. It is however those fans who rigidly attend away games, no matter what, who give the club its identity.

Away days are therefore something that every true football fan relishes. Sure, the food and the drink can be outrageously priced (£4 for a roast vegetable and cauliflower pie at the Emirates anyone?), and you have to pay £3 for a programme which features a usually error filled two pages on your team. Despite this, the away day is engrained in the football fans psyche and is indeed a rite of passage for all fans. The away day transcends social barriers and for 90 minutes you are among people who live and breathe football. The passion on display is startlingly refreshing in this age of Sky Sports and inflated prices. This is not to say that home games are undervalued by fans, nevertheless there is no better feeling than coming away from a rival’s ground surrounded by likeminded fans with 3 points in the bag – it even makes the arduous trek home seem bearable.

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Ambition? Why Howson leaving has caused so much ire…

When people in the future look back at the departure of Jonny Howson from Elland Road, hindsight may get the better of them. Should Jonny not succeed in the Premier League, hampered by his injury, little will be said. Should Leeds United manage to get promoted from The Championship, Howson’s departure may become little more than a footnote in the annals of Leeds United, overwhelmed by the end result. However, as I feel, this day will be looked upon in the future as a genuine low point at Leeds United, on par with Woodgate’s departure that symbolised the end of the ‘living the dream’.

For a man who inspired such extreme opinions, Howson’s transfer to Norwich has inspired an incredible outpouring of grief. Social networks were ablaze with anti-Bates sentiment when initial news of the transfer came out of the club, and on Saturday, a size-able protest aimed at Bates gathered before the Ipswich match and continued to voice itself throughout the match. One of the moments which symbolised the extent of the fan’s ire was the seconds that followed McCormack’s equalizer. As is natural, following a turnaround to lead 2-1, those in the Kop celebrated, but immediately followed this by chanting “Bates out” once again.

Protests existed at the beginning of the season, but tailed off. Why did Howson’s sale symbolise such a momentous shift in the mindset of Leeds fans? In the view of this writer, Jonny Howson, Leeds United club captain, is simply the symbol of much of the success that has occurred at that club in the last five years. Not only this, but Howson had great potential to be the player that Leeds built the next few years of the club around.

Carlisle, Jonny Howson scored the two goals that sent Leeds to Wembley under Gary McAllister. Manchester United, the day that is still sung about around the goal, Howson played the impeccable, incredibly under-rated long pass that led to Beckford’s match winning goal. Bristol Rovers, Howson scores the equalizing goal that led to the win Leeds required to gain promotion from League One. Last season, Howson scored ten goals from midfield to supplement the strikers in what was ultimately a failed joust at the play-offs.

This aspect of last season truly revealed how great a player Howson could ultimately become. Simon Grayson, making him vice-captain and ultimately captain of the club, clearly saw Howson as the first name in any match day squad. In naming sides, he sacrificed prolific strikers in order to play one up front, with Howson slipping in behind Becchio. It is here that Howson revealed the force Leeds fans hoped he would become, showing himself to be a potentially great trequartista, playing as an advanced playmaker. As part of a front four of himself, Becchio, Max Gradel and Robert Snodgrass, Howson brought the other three men into play, caused havoc on the opposition back-line and looked simply unstoppable when running at a center back. Played in what had become his ‘natural’ position, given his forced adaptation into a central midfielder after a youth career playing as a striker, Howson looked a player worthy of building a team around.

Whilst he played incredibly infrequently in this role this season, on the few occasions he did he looked just as devastating. Against Nottingham Forest, for example, only the second time he appeared there, with Becchio ahead of him for the first time, Howson ran the game, even scoring a spectacular volley from the edge of the area against one of the league’s top goalkeepers. Injured in the next match, Leeds fans hoped for the best when he returned. A bright future seemed ahead, with a team built around this trequartista.

Yet Howson will now ply his trade at Norwich City. His potential is such, and especially considering that he came through the academy, that I feel this is a momentous event. Howson, upon recovery from his injury, could prove to be the most astute signing of Lambert’s yet. Genuinely a player to build a team around, Howson could easily prove to be a Premier League standard modern attacking midfielder. His potential, given the improvement over the last year alone, is almost limitless, and you can easily understand why Leeds fans are so unhappy at his departure.