If you made a list of the dozen or so things that are wrong with Leeds United at the moment, on the pitch that is, a good 75% of those would be solved by the signing of one player by the name of Fabian Delph. He won’t solve everything, I am aware that he might not be match fit and he may have lost some of the magic he once had through a series of debilitating injuries.
I am also aware that loaning players is a well-trodden path as far as Leeds are concerned, with a pretty sparse success rate. For every Dougie Freedman, there are a couple of Liam Dickinson’s and a pig-pen full of Gary McSheffrey’s. Numerous have been the occasions where a loan signing of some stature has spectacularly flattered to deceive. Huffing uncomfortably around the pitch, bearing the weight of rustiness and a sudden projection into the Elland Road limelight, big names have failed to produce and brief excitement has dimmed into a hollow glow of disappointment, resentment and sometimes, in Lee Trundle’s case, ridicule.
The arrival of Fabian Delph, if it happens, and surely it must, seems different in every way; almost a no-lose scenario. Even if Delph is only a quarter of the player he was in 2009, anyone who saw him perform at that time would relish the opportunity to have him in a White shirt again. It is hard to explain, but he’s ‘Leeds’, and he knows he is. Furthermore, it’s the ‘Leeds’ that Leeds so patently need right now.
At Crystal Palace on Saturday Leeds once again lacked the vital ingredients that promotion-seeking sides need, ie. the quality to make the most of a promising opportunity and get results from difficult games. Sounds simple, but it is something Leeds have lacked in the Championship, even last season, which was viewed as largely successful. When we can string three passes together we lack invention and spark; no ideas, nobody thinking, nobody really wanting to make that difference. For the second league game running we played a large portion of the game against ten men, but this time we couldn’t rely on an own-goal or a calamitous goalkeeping error to grant us three unlikely points.
Leeds need inspiration, we need stimulus, we need to get Elland Road buzzing again, we need a local hero, we need swagger, we need arrogant disrespect and barefaced effrontery
Throughout 2011/12 Leeds have lacked bite in midfield, we have lacked leadership, we have lacked pace throughout the side, we have lacked anybody in the team that is good in the air, we have lacked distribution from defence. We have lacked a ‘blood on your boots’ desire to get on the end of crosses, at times we have lacked passion, we have lacked midfielders who are comfortable in possession, we have lacked players with vision, mobility and intelligence, and we have lacked someone truly inspirational to take a game by the scruff of the neck. We have seen good things very occasionally, but our current position of eleventh is a true and honest one.
The loss of Jonny Howson at the beginning of December has been more critical than most people would like to admit. In simple terms we have won only one of the seven games since, and that with outrageous good fortune. Howson may not be the inspirational captain he is billed as, but he does have quality, he does have ideas and he is capable of influencing tight games, as is the returning Snodgrass. We have missed Howson recently, and anyone who can’t see that is blinded by an irrational mis-trust in Simon Grayson’s apparent favouritism of him. That said, Howson alone is not the answer.
Fabian Delph ticks almost all the boxes of the things we lack, he did three years ago and he surely must do now. He certainly ticks as many as you can rightfully expect from one player. The brash 19 year old who burst onto the scene under Gary McAllister in 2008/09 was as refreshing a sight as I can remember seeing as a Leeds fan, akin to the early Harry Kewell performances amid the suffocating dirge of watching George Graham’s Leeds in 1997.
In League One, Delph shone like a diamond in an ocean of steaming excrement. I remember his energy, his almost serene relationship with the ball, his elegant running, his step-overs and flicks that weren’t flash but purely natural, his desire to win a tackle, his impudence in leaving Robbie Savage flat on his arse during his loan spell with Brighton, and I remember his goals. Two long range pearlers against Crewe and Walsall, a forty yard lob into an empty net at Stockport, and a length-of-the-pitch run and finish of outrageous quality and composure at Brighton.
It is hard to see Delph not having some kind of positive effect, so the club has to seize the opportunity and do what is so undeniably right. Delph’s bullish character was just the right side of over-confident, because he had it, that one thing that is so rare to find in a footballer; ‘it’, an intangible ability to excite, engage and uplift. He had the mobility and athleticism, the charge, focus and desire to run the game at number 11 setting, a Steven Gerrard that we knew did not belong in League One. His sale was inevitable and accepted once our Play-Off failure of 2009 had sunk in, for fans used to the Lennon’s and Milner’s vacating for a rightful higher plane, this was just another all-to-brief flirtation with the previous exhilarating existence we continue to hanker for. The fact that we have to loan him rather than love him as our own, is simply an indictment of the times. This is our lot right now, we might as well make the most of it and it would be foolish to pass on this opportunity simply because it is a loan.
Sage observers say ‘never go back’, but just to try and re-create that thrilling surge of excitement again is worth taking the risk, our season is dependent on the seismic shift in expectation this would create, otherwise five months of dispirited chagrin awaits. Leeds need inspiration, we need stimulus, we need to get Elland Road buzzing again, we need a local hero, we need swagger, we need arrogant disrespect and barefaced effrontery. All our heroes had it, we need another.
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