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.
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.
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.
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