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leeds united on deadline day: the excitement is the dream

leeds united on deadline day: the excitement is the dream


Ultimately the numbers of mysterious unknown arrivals at Leeds United during the summer transfer window mean it must be judged a tantalising success.

Transfer deadline day, however, must be judged as a harsh lesson for anyone who tries to make entertainment out of football from anything other than the actual football.

Unusually for Leeds in recent seasons the bulk of the business was done early, and it was very bulky business: fifteen players have arrived, and although there was a late flurry of new signings – a player a day over the last three days – all of them were either already or already known about by the end of last week.

Which made the official LUFC Twitter account’s attempts to make sport of the least-sporting part of the game on Monday night all the weirder. With Sky Sports News hyping up the day beyond belief, fans at our level looking to take part have nowhere to turn to but Twitter, with official club accounts as the only reliable source of news rather than rumour.

Stand by…we are about the enter the #DeadlineDay action… #lufc

— Leeds United FC (@LUFC) September 1, 2014

…ours tweeted, stirring up excitement before confirming the arrival of Brian Montenegro, who we all knew was just crossing ts and dotting is anyway. Next came:

Further developments coming in the next few minutes… #DeadlineDay #lufc

— Leeds United FC (@LUFC) September 1, 2014

Which, with Montenegro confirmed, was genuinely exciting; there were no other known names in the frame, so this promised to be someone entirely new. It wasn’t:

BREAKING: Souleymane Doukara signs a permanent deal. The club can confirm the striker has signed a 3-year deal #lufc

— Leeds United FC (@LUFC) September 1, 2014

So desperate was the club to sign more striker that it seemed to have settled on strikers we already have, repeating the Bellusci trick of turning a loan into a permanent move after barely enough time to judge the player. This tactic does free up space in the squad for other loans, though, and with the official count telling fans:

Don’t go to bed just yet…there is still work to be done #DeadlineDay #lufc

— Leeds United FC (@LUFC) September 1, 2014

…there was reason to believe something was going on behind the scenes, even before the same account retweeted captain Jason Pearce announcing, “Oooooo this is decent…..”

What, J-Dog? What’s decent? Is Leonardo Pavoletti signing? Are we going to hijack Jermaine Beckford’s stalled move to Fulham? Could it be, as a final treat, Max Gradel is coming home?

The announcements, when they came, were not what Leeds fans had stayed up for.

CONFIRMED: Matt Smith completes move to Fulham for an undisclosed fee and signs a 3-year deal with the London club #lufc #DeadlineDay

— Leeds United FC (@LUFC) September 1, 2014

BREAKING: We can confirm that striker Dominic Poleon has signed for Oldham Athletic for an undisclosed fee & signs 2-year deal #lufc

— Leeds United FC (@LUFC) September 1, 2014

After a busy last hour that is us done for the 2014 Summer Transfer Window #DeadlineDay #lufc

— Leeds United FC (@LUFC) September 1, 2014

To compound the situation, within moments of Leeds dusting its palms and declaring a good night’s work, Rotherham United announced this:

BREAKING NEWS: Rotherham United have completed the long-term loan of @NorwichCityFC striker Luciano Becchio. #rufc

— Rotherham United (@OfficialRUFC) September 1, 2014

We should just be thankful that nobody else signed Gradel in the end, or else there might have been angry mobs on the Lowfields overnight.

Anger in the end might be too strong a word for it, but it’s hard to be too angry with the inept. Whatever you think of Smith and Poleon, their departures weren’t something to be teased and trailed on Twitter; and their departures weren’t anything a Leeds fan was staying excitedly glued to the transfer window to see.

While Sky Sports News might shriek and scream over every player movement in every direction, these announcements were for Fulham and Oldham to hype up, not us.

Mathieu Smith’s departure does leave a funny feeling behind in this window. The forward line was the part of the squad that had become most overloaded this summer, but Smith was the one player in that bunch who offered something legitimately different; he’s also a player, along with Sharp, that we know is a goalscorer as this level. The lack of a forward in the box to get on the end of chances was one of the downers of a good performance against Bolton on Saturday, and with Morison and Hunt still here, there’s a feeling that we’ve sold the only striker that’s actually any good because he’s the only one anyone would actually want.

Smith has also improved game-by-game since he arrived from Oldham for nothing, something that seemed to be as much to do with his personality as with the training methods at Leeds; a late starter in professional football, he made it his mission to become the best he could be, and made more progress from potential to product last season than many younger and apparently more talented players we’ve seen come out of the Academy over the years. He’s also a nice guy. Selling him, for around £750k, feels like a loss and a waste.

Dom Poleon has made less impact at Leeds over the years despite encouraging early signs; Neil Warnock’s faffing around with his loan to Bury might not have helped, and another loan always seemed like the key that could be the making of him. Instead he has a permanent move to Oldham for about £100k, but the possibility that he might deliver is not being discounted; in a world of 10% sell-on clauses, United have a 25% one for Poleon, so if he does come good we’ll at least have the money, if not the player.

The only other failing in this window is that there weren’t more outgoings for our official Twitter account to turn into entertainment; Phil Hay of the YEP reports that enquiries were made for Morison and Wootton, and the day could truly have been declared a success if they, along with players like Norris and Hunt and maybe Tonge and White could have been moved off the wage bill.

With the sheer number of incoming players – enough to completely replace the first team and half the sub’s bench – pretty much any first team player from last season looked fair game, and I wonder if there weren’t more mooted transfers out that didn’t come off; Byram obviously was attracting interest in recent weeks, while it felt odd that Sheffield United were so public about wanting Jason Pearce.

Phil Hay thinks that Leonardo Pavoletti was the player that didn’t come in at the last moment, another striker who has done most of his work in Serie B; perhaps he was the bauble that would have made Leeds United’s messing with our bedtimes make sense.

But even that would only have made sense if he was any good; what transfer deadline day always fails to acknowledge is that a transfer alone is seldom the exciting part. I’m old enough to remember Frank Strandli, the new David Hirst, arriving from Norway to fill Eric Cantona’s boots; it’s always better to see what these guys actually do before staying up all night for them.

Mysterious foreign signings only become real when they start to deliver on the pitch, and that delivery is the stuff that dreams are made of. So let us sleep, LUFC, and we’ll see you in dreamland.

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