TO MANY observers, Leeds United have done a very passable impersonation of a basket case club this calendar year, but outgoing defender Danny Pugh insists the chaos behind the scenes can’t excuse what happened on it.
Wage deferrals, huge uncertainty surrounding the future of Brian McDermott and serious off-the-field strife has bedevilled United so far in 2014, with what has occurred on the park not exactly lightening the mood and lifting the intense gloom.
Pugh is one of those who now finds himself out of it having recently been named as one of seven senior players to be shown the door by the club with their deals expiring next month. Some may even venture he is one of the lucky ones, although the utility man certainly doesn’t see it that way.
It’s fair to say his second spell at Elland Road didn’t quite happen for him. But despite everything, his experiences at United are mainly ones he will treasure.
The second half of 2013-14 may have been a collective struggle for Leeds, but the Mancunian feels it was the players who were the only ones who could be blamed for a miserable return of just six wins in 24 games this year, with the club copping some embarrassing beatings along the way.
The fortunes of the club may have unravelled off the pitch, but on it, the implosion was all down the players, Pugh says.
Pugh told the YEP: “As players, you can’t blame any external issues. You just go out and focus on the game and we can’t blame anything like that. After Christmas time, we just sort of blew up and struggled so badly. That was disappointing.
“It obviously wasn’t an ideal situation and in an ideal world, everything would run as smoothly as possible. But I don’t think as players you can look to the wages thing or the takeover and use them as an excuse personally.
“The manager has taken the brunt more than most and it’s been a difficult time for him.
“It’s been quite well documented regarding the manager not knowing his entire situation. If that’s the case, you don’t really know who is making decisions and such like.
“But I think when you are coming to Leeds, it’s not going to be straightforward. There’s always issues and dilemmas all the time. It’s never a straight road.
“He’s obviously had his difficult times. But hopefully, he will be given the chance to put things right.
“Hopefully, the new owner will bring the club the success it deserves in the not-too-distant future. I think that’s everyone’s aim who is connected with the football club.”
Pugh’s future at the start of 2013-14 looked likely to be away from United, with the 31-year-old spending the second half of 2012-13 down the M1 on loan at Sheffield Wednesday.
He had to wait until an historic afternoon at Charlton on November 9 – when Ross McCormack found the net four times – for his first involvement of 2013-14 in a Whites jersey and for a month or so, there were hopes that Leeds might, just might, make a serious play-off push.
Pugh’s highlight arrived in the 3-3 home draw with Watford on December 7 when he found the net for Leeds for the first time in over two years – all this coming a few days after the birth of his second daughter Isla.
But post-Christmas saw his and United’s fortunes head south although a late goal in United’s 3-1 success in their last away-day of last term at St Andrews at least enabled Pugh to finish his second spell with something to take away with him.
He said: “Getting back into the team at Christmas was a big buzz and I got a good run in the side and scored a couple of goals such as against Watford.
“To finish with a goal against Birmingham was nice as well and I have some great memories to take with me.
“I was in and out of the side really and to get back in was good and I thought I was playing quite well. It’s a shame it didn’t ultimately work out for the team after the run we were on before Christmas really.”
Pugh was informed by letter that his contract would not be renewed earlier this month, but for a while had been resigned to the fact he would be leaving.
While his second spell at United probably didn’t pan out the way that he would have wished, he has no recriminations, with his sole focus now being on his next challenge.
On his exit, Pugh said: “It’s part and parcel of being a footballer and something that I half-expected anyway.
“It’s disappointing, but you move on and hopefully something else and another challenge will turn up.
“I didn’t really hear from Leeds (in person). I did get the letter to confirm things and it was disappointing. But you get on with it.
“It will be a new challenge for me somewhere and I am quite looking forward to it.
“I have got positive things to say about the place. I still had fantastic and great times there. The main goal in one of my spells was to get promoted and unfortunately that never happened. So if you look at it in that sense, it was a disappointment.
“Like anywhere and in life, there were ups and downs. But I can’t really say a bad word about the place and I loved being a Leeds United player.
“Now as a player, you are going into the unknown really and it’s a funny time when players and managers go away and things shut down a little bit. But hopefully, something will turn up. I still feel like I have a lot to give and am fit and hopefully, I’ll find somewhere.”