First it was Beckford, then Gradel and Johnson, now we've accepted an offer from Norwich City for Jonny Howson, our skipper. I predicted it in this piece...
Leeds United Have Become A Selling Club, And No-One’s Noticed
Someone tweeted me the other day asking what I thought was going wrong at Elland Road and my immediate thought was ‘our status has been downgraded.’
It’s not just a problem with the sluggish midfielder or the stodgy right-back, or the inconsistency up front. It’s much bigger than that. We’ve become a selling club and no-one seems to have noticed.
As such our current malaise goes back three seasons to the departure of Fabian Delph. No one in their right mind would turn down an offer in the region of £8million from Aston Villa for a League One/third division player. Not when Arsenal were also giving the player their seal of approval by watching him for half a season.
Where the problem lies is that such a deal is no longer unusual for a club who would surely be back in the Premiership if we’d managed to retain the services of Jermaine Beckford, Max Gradel and Bradley Johnson.
Look at the current Leeds team and you’d still see that, despite new players emerging, these three players would improve the first team. Max and Jermaine would give us the threat of pace and variety up front and Johnson steel in the middle. Other decent players like Adam Clayton and Ross McCormack have emerged in their wake but you’ve only to look at Norwich City to see how the retention of Grant Holt and Wes Hoolahan have given them a consistency that allowed them back to back promotions.
I always associate the phrase ‘Selling Club’ with smaller teams who know that every time they find or produce a diamond in the rough they are going to have to sell him because the size of the club and it’s support doesn’t allow it to run on the economic model modern football dictates.
But this just doesn’t ring true at Leeds. The club, as the chairman points out, has up to 17 revenue streams. All of these would be pumping with vitality had the best players of the last four years been kept by the club.
The refusal to commit to well paid long term contracts for these players half way through their own contracts is so short sighted. Sure the owner wants to balance the books but all football clubs must stive to keep their star players to allow them to achieve success on the pitch.
When a key player goes a manager needs to find a replacement and then re-mould the team. You’re pretty much starting again. That in itself can take ten games to get going. Games we’d most likely have been winning if we didn’t sell or give away our best players every year.
For Leeds fans it’s impossible now not to read transfer rumours associating our talented right winger Robert Snodgrass, young captain Johnny Howson, emerging centre-back Tom Lees and midfielder of the season Clayton and know there’s every chance they could be on their way to Stoke, Bolton or Norwich.
None of the those teams should, historically, be able to prize our talent away from us but all could if they write a big enough cheque.
Given that we are also no longer a Buying Team and that Simon Grayson has to shop in the market for free transfers and short term loans I’d put our current position – scrabbling for draws in the upper reaches of mid-table – down to the inability to keep hold of talent we’ve discovered and nurtured. It’s like growing your own flower garden and then inviting a gang of fat blokes to stamp all over it. And nick the best blooms. Bizarre realy.
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