Leeds United Nostalgia: A goal-den campaign ultimately led to McCormack’s United exit

Ross McCormack.
Ross McCormack.
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How Thomas Christiansen would love for one of his forwards to be on 15 goals for the season at the moment.

Any manager would of course. Not many strikers reach that milestone in a season, let alone during the first week of December, but that’s exactly what Ross McCormack did on this week in 2013.

The campaign had been a flurry of goals for the Scottish international.

Sat at the top of the Championship scoring charts, McCormack scored his eighth and ninth in six games against a hapless Wigan Athletic to take Leeds into seventh place.

To say that their league position had been inspired by their frontman would be an understatement.

This Leeds team was far from memorable, managed by Brian McDermott and wildly distracted by the antics of new owner Massimo Cellino, but this was their fifth-consecutive win at Elland Road. McCormack had scored in each of them.

Wigan had arrived managerless after the departure of Owen Coyle only 24 hours previously and their vulnerability showed. Within 15 minutes McCormack had opened the scoring with a characteristically instinctive finish past Leeds academy product Scott Carson. The crowd, drunk on a run of victories they’d seldom seen for years, rose to their brilliant best.

A new contract in pre-season had served as the springboard he needed to become the hottest property outside of the Premier League.

Aged 27, the club had seen fit to offer him a four-year deal despite having scored only five league goals the season before.

With Wigan lacking in gumption and direction, Leeds piled on the pressure either side of the break.

Whites skipper and cult hero Rodolph Austin produced a vintage performance just weeks before he would resign from the role and hand the armband to McCormack himself, while Luke Murphy shone in his best few weeks for the club.

Despite their huffing and puffing, Leeds would have to wait until the 77th minute to effectively seal the match. Their second came in the form of a whipped McCormack free-kick into the far corner and whilst Jason Pearce tried to claim the faintest of touches, the forward’s 15th goal of the campaign was never really in doubt.

McDermott was full of praise for his star man after the game, of course, and was quick to confirm the second goal as McCormack’s.

He knew which way his bread was buttered, and that the league’s more eligible clubs would soon be circling.

He’d go on to score 28 league goals that season in a side that whimpered to a 15th-placed finish. A protracted transfer saga followed during which McCormack demanded a move and the forward’s reputation at Elland Road was torn to ribbons.

Despite the club’s assertion that they ‘no longer needed to sell their best players in order to run the club successfully’, he was sold to Fulham for £11m in July 2014, where he would score 42 goals in 100 games.

By now seen as the go-to Championship marksman, he made a £12m move to big-spending Aston Villa, where his career hit the buffers. Aged 31, hounded by a reputation as an unmanageable prima donna and seemingly unable to reprise any form, he’s currently farmed out at Melbourne City.

Like any painful divorce, it’s important to remember the good times. Ross McCormack was the best player in a competitive league during the 2013/14 Championship season and provided Leeds fans with a glorious focal point during a turbulent few months for the club.

They may have been the best days of his career.

MATCH STATS

Leeds United 2 (McCormack 15, 77) Wigan Athletic 0

Championship, Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Leeds United: Kenny, Peltier, Pugh, Pearce, Zaliukas, Lees, Murphy, Mowatt, McCormack, Smith, Austin. Subs not used: Varney, Warnock, Brown, Tonge, Byram, Poleon, Cairns.

Wigan: Carson, Boyce, Perch, McArthur, Ramis, Barnett, McCann, Watson, Powell (McManaman 67), Keane (Holt 55), Beausejour (McClean 55). Subs not used: Shotton, Nicholls, Gómez, Espinoza.

Referee: G Scott (Oxfordshire).

Attendance: 25,888.

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