Leeds United Nostalgia: First-ever ‘window’ proves prophetic for United

Jonathan Woodgate.
Jonathan Woodgate.
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FOR Leeds United fans, a winter of discontent is a concept that needs no real introduction.

Inevitably, as the weather turns foul so does the situation at Elland Road, and there is no place that this is more obvious than in the transfer market.

Leeds’ first-ever January transfer window in the 2002/03 season saw the departure of Jonathan Woodgate, with the sale of one of the club’s crown jewels to Newcastle United a sign of the club’s fall from grace.

The only truly successful January window came with the appointment of Simon Grayson in late 2008 and the signing of Richard Naylor, which heralded a turnaround in form and run to the play-off semi-final, where Leeds lost against Millwall.

Grayson’s side’s collapse in the second half of the 2009/10 season almost saw his team miss out on a promotion that seemed inevitable prior to the January transfer window.

In part, this was a result of Jermaine Beckford’s demand to leave the Whites, with his transfer request, which was turned down, impacting on his form, aside from two famous FA Cup clashes against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.

While Grayson led Leeds to a second-place finish that season, the following year, a lack of investment in January cost the Elland Road side a real chance at promotion from the Championship.

Grayson’s attacking side were second at Christmas but had clear issues in defence which had cost them points repeatedly over the first half of the season.

Quality players added throughout the side would have likely ensured a play-off position at the end of the campaign, but recruits were lacking aside from the questionable Andy O’Brien and George McCartney, and Leeds ultimately slumped to a seventh-place finish.

A year later, January’s deadline day saw the end of Grayson’s time in charge of Leeds, with a 4-1 loss against Birmingham City at home compounding the manager’s frustration at a lack of quality additions. The sale of the talismanic Jonny Howson, an academy graduate who Grayson had made captain, also heralded a period of sustained protest at Ken Bates’ ownership of the club. Grayson was sacked the day after the window shut.

The same day in 2013 was arguably more damaging to Leeds’ season.

Heading into January, Luciano Becchio was comfortably Leeds’ top scorer under Neil Warnock.

A falling out occurred between the Argentine striker and the ex-Crystal Palace manager, and Warnock was keen to sell him.

Deadline day therefore brought a deal, struck with Norwich City to swap Becchio for Steve Morison, who has scored only three competitive goals for Leeds since his arrival.

The Whites also brought in Michael Tonge, Habib Habibou and Stephen Warnock during the window, but went from promotion hopefuls to relegation threatened fodder by the time of Warnock’s dismissal as manager on April 1.

January 2014 brought the highly demanded but ultimately disappointing wing duo Jimmy Kebe and Cameron Stewart to the club, but also the arrival of current majority owner Massimo Cellino and the dismissal of manager Brian McDermott on deadline day.

A crazy 24 hours culminated in his reinstatement after a 5-1 win over Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town.

The side went from a relatively stable situation to one of utter chaos, and Leeds fell away from the promotion chase again.

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