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The Leeds United Monthly: 2015 A Year Older and None-the-Wiser

7 January 2016
The Leeds United Monthly: 2015 A Year Older and None-the-Wiser
As another calendar year draws to a close with Leeds United lurching erratically between hope and mediocrity, while maintaining a stance only one impatient fit of pique away from fresh scattergun madness, we ask ourselves what we have achieved in the last 12 months. Well, not a lot that we didn’t know this time last year, when the team was struggling to find a pattern and keep the relegation zone at arms’ length, while wondering who would be head coach this week.

Still, we’ve had some laughs and some brief euphoria along the way, yeah? Can’t remember those bits? Let me remind you with:

Leeds United: The Award Show

Best goal of 2015

Pretty much every one of Alex Mowatt’s seven goals in 2015 was a spectacular strike befitting of a far better stage. His run and curling finish in the 4-3 defeat at Wolves last April is a contender, as is the match-winner at home to Cardiff. But for pure, brazen splendour and a hot-dog-in-the air moment of craziness, the 30-yard strike away at Huddersfield Town in early November took the ‘has-that-just-happened- ometer’ off the scale.

Best win

Not so many contenders here, but this season has seen us bury a hoodoo at Derby County with a spectacular late strike from Chris Wood, and the 3-0 win at Huddersfield was peppered with great goals, but the previous win at our nearest neighbours in January was perhaps the most satisfying. Billy Sharp’s injury-time winner sparked knee-breaking scenes in the away end but, more significantly, it changed the course of the season and gave Neil Redfearn’s embryonic team some belief.

Cellino-ism of the year

Given he spent almost half of the year serving a Football League ban, Cellino remained omni-present. The stage was set for him to return when he asked the Football League for permission to attend the final game of the 2014/15 season against Rotherham. Permission was granted but instead he decided to scout a goalkeeper at Wycombe, while still succeeding in grabbing the attention. But this prank was upstagedby THAT car crash press conference a few weeks later. A full, toe curling hour into it, nobody quite knew – and to this day we remain blissfully unaware - what the purpose of the press conference was, as Cellino let fly with a flurry of arbitrary and barely coherentramblings, and halfway through walked out unannounced for a cigarette. Of course.

Worst defeat

Where to start? Watford at home last season when we lead 2-0 but ended up losing 3-2 was tough, but at least we lost to a team heading for promotion. Cardiff, on the other hand, were a very average side who won 2-1 at Elland Road, and the fact they had zero away fans due to a boycott was particularly galling. This season, home defeats to Ipswich, Birmingham, Brighton and Blackburn have been hard to take, but the defeat to bottom-of-the-table Rotherham resoundingly grinded the gears.

Best Signing

In the summer you would have said Sol Bamba, after his imperious loan spell, and we all applauded the securing of a dominant centre half with clear leadership qualities. This season, however, we have seen the familiar case of a loan-spell-made-permanent go somewhat pear-shaped. Bamba hasn’t been a disaster this season by any means, but his recent spell on the sidelines through injury and suspension was possibly a timely one. Elsewhere, it must be noted that Stuart Dallas has proved an astute purchase from Brentford and continues to be the hardest-working, most consistent, most assured and most productive player in the Leeds team.

Worst signing

Edgar Cani. Possibly the worst ever in fact.

Best head coach

It has come to this. Although 2014 saw four permanent head coaches as opposed to a mere three in 2015 (at the time of writing). The award must go to Neil Redfearn who battled against enormous odds to fight off the very real threat of relegation last season. At the turn of 2015, Redfearn showed bravery in changing formation, and with his assistant Steve Thompson somehow found a winning formula whilst utilising Steve Morison, against all forms of logic, as a lone front man. Redfearn had his limitations, but was a perfect fit for Leeds United in their predicament and did nothing to deserve the unpalatable circumstances that were built up around him.

LUFC circus act of the year

Roll up, roll up, Leeds United are in town. Take your pick here from somehow engineering the removal of Steve Thompson as Neil Redfearn’s assistant despite losing only three of the first 15 games of 2015, amid self-evident harmony in the dressing room (Leeds immediately lost their next five games). Second act in the ring is the ‘Sick note six’ episode at Charlton last season, when six players declared themselves injured on the eve of the game and to the astonishment of all concerned. After the interval we have Massimo Cellino’s decision to punish the Football League by allowing only 2,000 Leeds fans to get their regular fix of away game jollity. But the winning actis the ‘Pie Tax’ debacle; enforcing already disenchantedsupporters to pay an extra £5 on top of already-extortionate ticket prices for something they don’t want.

'I'm ready to pack it all in' moment

We’ve been here quite regularly over the last twelve months. Remember when the ball fell to Steve Morison on the edge of the area during a 0-0 draw with Nottingham Forest and while we waited for the net to bulge, we in fact saw the ball career o like a dodgy Chinese firework and hit the corner flag? Remember leading 2-0 at Bristol City and then Marco Silvestri dropping a routine cross and allowing the home team to equalise in the seventh minute of injury time? Remember Adam Pearson resigning on the same night as our first defeat of the season? Remember Blackburn scoring after 17 seconds of a game billed as our best chance of winning at home for the first time since Moses was a lad?

2016 can only get better……surely?

Jon contributes sports content for Leeds Living, he is an established sports and lifestyle writer for various organisations, and is a twice published author.
Photography by Mark Wheelwright