Last weekend, together with the finale of the January transfer window preceding it, was a period which hardly qualifies as a highlight of Leeds United’s season so far.
Taking transfer deadline day first, we had the protracted Dan James transfer saga finally coming to a conclusion, but not in a good way. All seemed agreed; Dan had travelled up to his native Yorkshire to conclude what was, evidently, a move he was very keen to make from Swansea City to Leeds.
The lad duly passed his medical, and went from Thorp Arch to Elland Road for his unveiling as a Leeds United player. He’d got the Leeds kit on, and was being filmed for a video announcement – and then, from early evening until the 11 pm deadline itself, Swansea City simply “went quiet”, refusing to answer increasingly urgent calls from Leeds. Even the player himself tried to call his reticent employers, but to no avail. And so, the deadline passed, and the deal fell through.
There were no winners here, despite some defiant glee from the Swansea fans, many of whom had been saying good riddance when they thought the deal was being done. Leeds United lost out on a valuable squad addition, the player lost out on a move he really wanted – and Swansea could well have lost most of all, as they now have a very disappointed footballer on their hands, one they had seen fit to leave cooling his heels for hours at Elland Road, in the dark as to exactly what was going on. As deals go, it was a bad deal all round. It would be very interesting to know what the Football League, so keen to pronounce on whether “Spygate” amounts to a failure of good faith by Leeds, make of Swansea City’s idiosyncratic approach to transfer dealings.
Quite possibly, we shall be denied this knowledge. And then it was Saturday, and the much-hyped meeting of the Championship’s top two at Elland Road, with Norwich City in town.
Sadly, just as the transfer window had ended disappointingly for Leeds, so this match turned out to be a veritable damp squib for the home side. Norwich City showed up in a determined frame of mind, ran hard, fought hard, took their chances, rode their luck in the first half especially, and ultimately emerged as fairly comfortable winners. They had exacted revenge, in all but perfection, for United’s 3-0 success at Carrow Road back in August, only Patrick Bamford’s late consolation goal preventing an exact reversal of that scoreline. And there might we, just possibly, identify a crumb of comfort.
The Norwich game had been frustrating from the very start, with Leeds battering away up to half time and getting nowhere, while Norwich profited from two defensive indiscretions and, aided by two deflections, scored twice. After half time, United played as though they’d forgotten what football was all about, Norwich added a third through yet another deflection, and that was pretty much it.
Bamford’s late header from a corner hardly eased the gloom, but it did give some cause for optimism about the rest of the season.
Because Bamford, if only he can stay fit, is probably the most natural finisher on United’s books – and that cutting edge, for all of Kemar Roofe’s industry and endeavour, is what has been lacking to top off all the attacking verve Leeds have shown throughout this campaign.
It may well be that the Norwich game, as well as highlighting United’s deficiencies, might have shown the way forward - if Bamford can finally be accommodated within the philosophy of Bielsaball.
And after the last week or so we’ve had, we can only hope and believe that this is how it turns out.
Rob Atkinson is a lifelong Leeds United fan. He writes a column for the Yorkshire Evening Post every fortnight.