few frowns & fewer browns as leeds united release thirteenBack
When Massimo Cellino talks about cutting down on the largesse at Leeds United, it’s not always easy to understand where he hopes to make savings.
Then you remember the last accounts showed the club paying £100,000 to a charity called the El Hadji Diouf Foundation in advance of the striker playing 186 minutes of football this season for around £10k a week.
And you remember that Michael Brown would in all likelihood have left the club at the end of last season had not he played just enough under Neil Warnock to trigger a renewal clause in his contract. He’d probably have gone at the end of the previous season when his initial contract ended had not Warnock signed up him again.
Then you recall that Danny Pugh spent all last season on the transfer list as well as trading the left-back spot with Stephen Warnock, but that Sheffield Wednesday – who were quite keen on him after a loan spell the previous season – couldn’t be provoked into taking him off our hands, whether for reasons of wage or quality.
Then you remember that Stephen Warnock, who couldn’t consistently keep Pugh out of the team, is one of the club’s highest paid players and still has a contract for another season.
And then you start to feel like Massimo Cellino and you want to have a drink and complain about the aeroplane and the luggage and the witches.
The release today of seven first team players at the end of their contract is said to be saving the club around £3m in the year ahead, and when you look down the list, that’s £3m immediately taken from the club’s overheads without any discernable loss in quality of the team.
It’s now two seasons since Michael Brown and Danny Pugh combined for one of the laziest pieces of play I have ever seen from Leeds players; even if it was the last day of the season, I have been waiting for both to leave since the moment Brown booted the ball backwards over his head and Pugh, chasing backwards with an attacker, collapsed like a rag doll.
Since then Pugh has spent time on loan, on the transfer list and at left-back, but apart from a late-season goal at Birmingham did little to suggest he warranted a place even in our failing first team.
Michael Brown offered also offered a late-season flurry of form that was said to have played him into Massimo Cellino’s thoughts and another new contract, but that only obscured his cameo around Christmas when he turned in a characteristic display of fouling, diving and referee-marking against Blackpool, and charged with man-marking Andy Reid against Forest he followed his opponent around the pitch kicking him until a stupid foul gave away the free kick from which Forest took the lead.
Paul Green ended the season on loan at Ipswich, complaining that “For some strange reason I wasn’t getting in the squad,” at Leeds, forgetting that for some strange reason at Derby he had seen fit to execute a slow Cruyff turn in his own half and allow Craig Bryson to kick the ball out from between his legs, and allow Derby to break away and take the lead.
Luke Varney is Luke Varney; he was delighted to leave Leeds on loan for Blackburn in February, but by April some of Blackburn’s fans were asking us to take him back – “Joke’s over. Cheers.” Endearing himself to fans has been difficult for Luke since he was spotted on Sky refusing to applaud our away support at Hillsborough, and since he was irredeemably rubbish almost every time he played.
Of El Hadji Diouf we saw glimpses of a brilliant player, especially at this level, in his first season; but in his second, we only saw glimpses of sunlight while the rest was obscured by the tremendous girth Diouf developed during his summer spent fighting in nightclub toilets in Senegal. His few appearances in the side this season seemed to be Brian McDermott’s way of saying, ‘look at the state of him before you ask why he isn’t playing.’
Of the last two on the leaving list, Adam Drury was described by Neil Warnock as “better than a lot of full-backs in the Premier League” but only managed a handful of appearances due to injuries and the millions of other left-backs on the books at Leeds; while Jamie Ashdown lost the entire season just gone to injury, after looking like a viable contender for Paddy Kenny’s place in his first year.
Some players have managed to get extended contracts: Alex Cairns, who understudied for Kenny and then Jack Butland all season without getting a game, will be staying; he has half a Leeds game under his belt after rescuing Paul Rachubka from further shame against Blackpool in 2012, as well as a full season as first choice on loan at Stalybridge. Young central defender Afolabi Coker is also staying.
The money saved from the wage bill looks likely to stay saved, with Cellino and his consultant Benito Carbone putting the emphasis on youth from now on. To that end, one of the decisions about three of the club’s young players looks surprising: of the trio who spent the year on loan at Chester, 19 year old defender Ross Killock is retained, while the Turner Twins are both released despite Lewis winning all three player of the year awards on offer at Chester this season.
Lewis played 43 times for Chester and enjoys a strong connection with the club, after scoring the goal that won them the Blue Square Bet North title in 2013; his twin Nathan played 19 times this season and Killock 17. It wasn’t a vintage season for Chester as they struggled to adapt to life in the Conference Premier and they finished 21st with the sixth worst defence in the division – Killock’s future seems to have been assured by his comparative youth, at just 19 years old, compared to the Turner Twins who are both 21.
Another young player who has been offered a new contract is Charlie Taylor, who is expected to sign following the end of his loan spell at Fleetwood Town – they just beat York in the League Two play-off semi-finals, and will face either Burton or Southend at Wembley a week on Monday.
The young players released, as well as the Turner Twins, are Simon Lenighan, Richard Bryan, Smith Tiesse and Gboly Ariyibi, the last of whom appeared briefly for the first team shortly after he was signed from Southampton by Brian McDermott.
Brian McDermott is said not to have had any input into deciding the retained list, which has been largely Massimo Cellino’s work, with advice from Neil Redfearn and Benito Carbone; the decisions around the first team seem to have been very simple anyway: if they would cost any significant amount to keep, they go. The club still has a number of high-earning, high-aged players on its books, and the transfer list may prove more interesting than the retained list: Kenny, Tonge, Norris, Warnock, Morison, Peltier, Hunt and Zaliukas all have uneven reputations at United, and with the need to urgently reduce costs having resulted in the training ground being temporarily closed, Cellino is likely to be open to offers.
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