Star turn: Leeds United may have had an indifferent campaign, but Ross mcCormack’s goals have helped keep them afloat. Leon Wobschall reports.
Leeds United players may have been conspicuous by their absence from the PFA’s Championship Team of the Year line-up for the past three seasons, but fans are entitled to call for a stewards’ enquiry if that doesn’t change this year.
United’s campaign on the pitch may pretty much be encapsulated under the term ‘average’, but there has been nothing ordinary whatsoever about the contribution of comfortably their one shining light in Ross McCormack.
A total of 25 goals in all competitions in a moderate side who have been the embodiment of inconsistency pretty much speaks for itself.
While the Scot may have been pipped by Burnley striker Danny Ings for the prestigious Sky Bet Championship Player of the Year trophy at the Football League Awards night on Sunday evening, it would be a major surprise if he wasn’t honoured by his peers at the PFA awards dinner at London’s Grosvenor House hotel on April 27. Make that staggering.
His latest goal arrived in typically deadly fashion by way of a nifty header at Turf Moor on Saturday, with his haul of 24 Championship goals exactly half of United’s league goals tally for 2013-14 thus far. A remarkable achievement in anyone’s book.
His fundamental importance to the United cause is such that Brian McDermott’s side have won just one league game so far this term in which he hasn’t scored – that coming when Luke Varney netted the only goal of the game in a 1-0 victory at Bolton Wanderers way back on September 14.
The Championship’s top-scorer has already picked up one Football League Player of the Month award, for his sterling efforts in November when he fired seven goals, including all four in a virtuoso showing at Charlton Athletic.
A nomination also came his way for his four-goal bounty in February, although the monthly gong was ultimately destined for Burnley’s Sam Vokes, busy showing the predatory prowess that he lacked in the low-key loan spell he had at Leeds in 2009-10.
In a season of firsts for McCormack, the Glaswegian is the only Championship player to be nominated for two monthly awards this season, but the fact remains that the competition to take one of two striking berths in the team of the year is seriously strong, with Clarets duo Vokes and Ings, Leicester pairing David Nugent and Jamie Vardy and Blackburn’s Jordan Rhodes among a number hoping for personal recognition.
But none of their claims are as convincing as those of McCormack, whose list of personal accomplishments in 2013-14 are considerable.
He became the first United player in nine years to score four goals in a match in the win at Charlton on November 9 - following on from Brian Deane’s four-goal salvo in the 6-1 triumph over QPR on November 20, 2004.
Other records have been achieved, such as becoming the first United player since Jermaine Beckford to find the net in six successive matches at Elland Road between October 1 and December 7 last year.
As it stands, McCormack is one goal short of reaching the 25 league goals’ seasonal milestone, something Beckford did in 2009-10 and 2008-09.
In both those goal-laden campaigns, Beckford broke the 30 goals-a-season barrier in all competitions, something which is very much in McCormack’s sights between now and May 3, a month when in all likelihood he will pick up a plethora of awards on the club’s awards night, much in the same way that Sam Byram did last year.
Byram somewhat controversially lost out to Burnley’s Kieran Trippier in the quest to be named as the Championship’s top right-back in the divisional team of the year just over 12 months ago and the absence of McCormack from this year’s line-up would be just as big a shock.
Trippier was one of just two Championship players who didn’t represent clubs who were either got promoted or reached the play-offs in 2012-13, the other being Blackpool’s Tom Ince.
The season before that in 2011-12, there were no players from outside the top six named, while in 2010-11, the only players from sides who didn’t make the play-offs or who were promoted automatically were Leicester City pair Andy King and Kyle Naughton.
That campaign saw Robert Snodgrass and Max Gradel beaten for selection by Norwich’s Wes Hoolahan and Swansea’s Scott Sinclair, while King beat Jonny Howson to recognition, with the absence of the United trio, who enjoyed impressive campaigns and a line-up being devoid of United representation was something that rankled with many supporters.
You have to go back to 2009-10 for the last time United had any players in a PFA team of the year, with Patrick Kisnorbo and Snodgrass named in the League One line-up, following on from Fabian Delph (2008-09) and Jermaine Beckford (2007-08).
Looking back over history, three United players have been named in a PFA side in three separate seasons since the awards began in 1973-74.
That inaugural season saw United not only lift the Division One title, but have five players named in the top-flight team of the year – Paul Madeley, Norman Hunter, Billy Bremner, Johnny Giles and Allan Clarke.
Classy utility man Madeley was named in the Division One line-up for three successive campaigns in 1973-74, 1974-75 and 1975-76, while the consummate skills of John Sheridan earned him recognition by his Division Two peers in 1986-87, 1987-88 and 1988-89.
England international goalkeeper Nigel Martyn emulated the feats of Madeley and Sheridan in being named in a best divisional side for three years running in 1997-98, 1998-99 and 1999-2000, with Gary Kelly earning recognition in the Premier League line-ups of 1993-94 and 1999-2000 and in the Championship team of 2005-06.