Callum Gordon is a Leeds fan, a beat producer and a right laugh on Twitter. Follow him.
“We all make mistakes when we’re young. Mine was becoming a Leeds fan.” – Callum
Well, the 15/16 season had ended the same way every season before it had, in lower league table and the usual off field bollocks. In the three seasons before this we’d finished 13th and 15th twice, had six different managers and a dressing room so divided it led to six players faking injury in apparent strike in 2015. And then there was Dave Hockaday.
This season started with the usual pessimism because are far as I’m concerned nothing positive can happen with Massimo Cellino as our owner. There have been mass protests against him and despite early promises on his part he has since stated that he regrets the takeover of Leeds. In June he had decided he wasn’t going to renew our then manager Steve Evans contract, Steve Evans of course known from his previous managerial stints at Crawley Town and Boston Utd.
But then, days later it was announced that Garry Monk was to be our new “head coach.” Garry Monk was such a managerial signing for us, I mean the Leeds job is a poisoned chalice – a mad house. Rumour has it that the owner picks the team and managers get five games to prove themselves (see Darko Milanic).
In terms of transfers we sold academy graduate and fans favourite Lewis Cook to Bournemouth. That was the only real loss. We sold/loaned out ten players but Lewis Cook was the one that really pissed off the fans.
We brought in nine players but the bigger names were ex-Swansea attacking midfielder Pablo Hernandez and Bournemouth’s Eunan O’ Kane. Kyle Bartley was also brought in on a season long loan.
Pre season didn’t start well. It never does, though, and again we had a new squad to gel. I wondered whether that donkey Chris Wood would ever develop a first touch. Couldn’t believe he cost us £3million.
The first game of the league campaign was away to QPR. Hernandez hadn’t signed by this time and a fella on loan from Swansea called Matt Grimes played No.10 in a 4-2-3-1 instead. You won’t see his name mentioned again, I mean that in life, not just this piece.
We were played off the park and comfortably beaten 3-0 with the third coming from an almost cliche howler from debutant Rob Green.
Following that up with a home defeat, home draw and a penalty shootout victory against Fleetwood Town in the EFL cup, the papers were already at it with “Cellino to axe Monk” headlines. No Leeds fan wanted him gone, though.
In September we played Blackburn at home. We’d just been beaten at home by local rivals Huddersfield and we were yet to win a game at Elland Road. Had we lost this game, we would’ve been bottom of the league. There was a strong suspicion that Monk would’ve been out the door in that case.
We won 2-1. Chris wood scored his 2nd goal of the season and Kyle Bartley won it with a header in the 86th minute. Sure, everything was grand then. We began steadily picking up points and Chris Wood was in hot form (which would surely never last).
By Halloween we were 9th. Having not finished in the top half since 2011, I’d have taken a 9th placed finish at the start of the season. We were playing well, Monk said we hadn’t actually peaked yet and we were in the quarter finals of the EFL cup. Thankfully as Leeds fan we’re incapable of optimism. It’s been drilled out of us long ago, so no one was getting ahead of themselves.
Into January though and we’d won six of our last nine, only beaten by the top two, Brighton & Newcastle. We were 5th. 5th in the league, half the season gone and we were in the play-off places. Nobody would have predicted it.
The wheels didn’t come off though, the defence of Luke Ayling (summer signing of 700k from Bristol City) Kyle Bartley (loan) Pontus Jansson (loan) & Gaetano Berardi (free, Sampdoria) was an absolute wall. In our next eight home games we kept six clean sheets, with Chris Wood at 20 goals and only needing one chance to score. Could Wood last?
In March we were 4th in the league with wins away at Birmingham, home to Brighton 2-0 (Wood x2) and finished the month unbeaten.
April, seven games to go, still 4th. Two point off 3rd and six clear of 7th. Could we see it out? No one had expected us to get here.
Of course, we won one of the the next seven games, Preston at home, with defeats to Brentford, Reading, Wolves and Burton Albion seeing us slide into 7th place and be out of sight of 6th with a game to go. For those of you who do not know, this is classic Leeds United. We truly were the April Fools of the of 16/17 season.
Still though, this was a good, almost great season. We finished on 75 points, which in four of the last five seasons would’ve secured a play-off place. This season though, Fulham finished 6th with 80. Chris Wood finished the season with 30 goals in all competitions and defensively we conceded a quite respectable 47 goals in 46 games. But somewhere in amongst all that, the wheels came off.
At the time of writing this Huddersfield & Reading are through to the play-off final on May 29th. Huddersfield beat Sheffield Wednesday on penalties and Reading beat Fulham 2-1 on aggregate. I would like to see Reading go up as Huddersfield are our local rivals, also from West Yorkshire. They’ve always been like our annoying little brother, and to see them in the Premier League before our (hopeful) return is like your annoying little brother growing up and suddenly being able to kick your head in. I don’t think I’m ready for that.