Following relegation from the Championship in 2007, Leeds United entered the darkest period in it's history. Three years in League One saw a host of players pass through the doors at Elland Road, many of whom could never have dreamed of playing for such a huge club. This week's selection sees a host of loanees, the odd trialist and very little in the way of real quality, except for one player who could well have made a difference this season.
Leeds United's current third choice goalkeeper is away on loan at the moment at Stalybridge Celtic, learning his trade. First team opportunities will always be scarce for a young goalkeeper, but last season saw Cairns thrust into action for his first team debut on one of the most bizarre nights I have ever had to witness.
Cairns had already come off the bench in pre-season, my first sighting of him in the 2-1 win over Motherwell, but he was drafted into the first team squad when Andy Lonergen broke his finger in the 3-0 win over Doncaster Rovers. With Paul Rachubka ahead of him, no one expected to see Cairns in action. That was until the former Blackpool keeper suffered his mental meltdown against his former club, literally handing the Tangerines a 3-0 lead with the worst display of goalkeeping I have ever seen. The sight of Cairns warming up before the break was greeted with huge cheers by the Elland Road crowd, and it was no surprise when he arrived on the pitch for the second half. Knowing he could not possibly perform any worse than Rachubka, Cairns was cut a little slack as he conceded two more in the 5-0 hiding.
Unsurprisingly Simon Grayson looked to bring in a more experienced keeper to replace Rachubka and Cairns returned to the anonymity of youth team football. He should be one who we see a little more of in the future.
The left back position has been a poisoned chalice for a long time at Elland Road and Northern Irish international Tony Capaldi was another failure in that spot.
Loaned from Cardiff City, Capaldi made his debut in the 2-0 win over Oldham in December 09. Simon Grayson named a virtual second string line up for the match played on a Tuesday night, with one eye on a local derby against Huddersfield coming up four days later. Capaldi kept his place for that game but was the definite weak link in a defence that were under the cosh for large parts of the game. He kept his place fro the FA Cup tie at Kettering but that was all we saw, Andy Hughes coming back into the side and Capaldi was sent back to Wales. He did make a return to Elland Road this season for Oxford United in the Capital One Cup. He was still crap.
A little bit of a rule bending with this one, Carole actually made his debut for Leeds in the Championship relegation season, a summer of 2006 signing by Kevin Blackwell., however appearances were few and far between. Instead he came to the fore at the start of the 2007/08 season and was a big part of Dennis Wise's team that overturned the 15 point deficit inflicted by the Football League.
Small and pacy, Carole was a regular on the right hand side under Dennis Wise, but as soon as the dwarfish one jumped ship, the free transfer signing from Brighton was surplus to requirements. He figured only as a substitute under Gary McAllister. Since then his career has drifted from Darlington to Knaresbrough Town via Brighton and Burton Leonard Squirrel of the Harrogate and District League. He currently resides at Bury under Kevin Blackwell, the man who introduced us to him.
At the turn of the 21st century Malcolm Christie was one of the brightest young talents in the English game. Fast forward eight years and he was attempting to resurrect his career with a short term spell at Elland Road.
Derby County saw the best of Christie where he scored 30 goals in a five year stay from 1998, only becoming a first team regular in 2000. His performances saw him on the fringes of the England set-up an earned him a big money move to Middlesbrough. It was there that injuries began to take their toll, restricting him to little over 40 games in 4 seasons.
He trained for over 10 months at Elland Road in a bid to regain his fitness and Gary McAllister offered him a short term contract, giving him his debut in an FA Cup tie against Northampton. He came off the bench to score in a 3-1 win at Stockport, the first of two memorable trips to Edgeley Park in consecutive Christamases, a goal which earned him his one and only start in a 2-0 defeat at home to Carlisle United.
McAllister had seen enough and it was the end of the line for Christie. Lee Trundle was brought in on loan and Anthony Elding was also signed. to join the competition for places alongside Jermaine Beckford and Luciano Becchio.
Christie never played professionally again, another injury finally ending his career. Just another of the driftwood that floated through the club in the wilderness years.
Another of the many players to try to fill the left back slot, Jamie Clapham had a short stay on loan from Wolves at the start of the 2007 season.
Clapham made his debut in the 2nd home game of the season, a 1-0 win over Luton Town as a substitute, before ousting Andy Hughes for the first team berth. Clapham looked a class act in the three months he was in the team, as the Whites started the season on fire. However the club were unable to negotiate a permanent deal and he returned to Wolves at the end of his loan, moving on to Leicester City in January 2008.
He struggled to make the first team at Leicester and after a couple of years at Notts County, Clapham ended his career at Kettering Town.
Clapham's time at Leeds is typical of many of the players in that League One era, a short term fix, something that the club is guilty of in all aspects of it's running.
When you look at the Leeds United midfield this season it has been crying out for a box to box player who can pass the ball with quality. Unfortunately for Neil Warnock he had one at his disposal but decided he could get better.
Adam Clayton first came to our attention as an annoyance, netting for Carlisle United in the JPT semi-final 2nd leg at Brunton Park, a goal which helped the Cumbrians end our Wembley dreams. On loan from Manchester City, Clayton obviously found his way to the first team blocked by the world class players at the Etihad and he turned up at Eland Road as a loanee on the eve of the clubs return to the Championship.
He made his debut as a sub in the opening day defeat at Derby and looked quite frankly out of his depth. Another shocking performance at Nottingham Forest in the next match did not fill the fans with confidence that the by now permanent deal was going to be a good one.
He was quickly loaned out to Peterborough and then MK Dons to pick up experience, and his signing looked a very strange one. However with the loss of Bradley Johnson and Neil Kilkenny at the end of the season, Clayton had to grasp the opportunity.
He looked a different player, confident and displayed a good range of passing. As Leeds suffered a difficult start to the 2011/12 campaign, Clayton was one of the shining lights. A stunning late equalizer at West Ham and the celebration with the crowd that followed made him a fans favourite.
Criticism could have been levelled that he was "over confident" in his abilities and there was a definite air of self confidence bordering on arrogance. However when he was on his game he was a superb player. His strike at Leicester City to earn Leeds a 1-0 win is one of the best goals I have seen in the flesh, and prompted one of the most memorable celebrations by a crowd I can remember.
However when Neil Warnock came in, Claytons performances, along with the rest of the team, dropped off. He failed to score in the final quarter of the season, his last strike another cracker in the come from behind win over Doncaster, the first match that Warnock witnessed as Leeds boss.
With his contract entering its final 12 months, Warnock decided any wages on offer to him would be better spent elsewhere, and he was put on the transfer list, Simon Grayson snapping him up again to join him a Huddersfield Town.
A dog botherer at work has been astounded that we let him go, describing him as one of the best passers he has seen and the driving force behind their midfield. He has been a big miss this season, although he let himself down by his pathetic celebration of his penalty in the last meeting between the two sides.
Hopefully that won't offend so many of you, whilst never ever threatening to be a great, he is certainly the pick of the bunch this week. The play-offs might not be so far off with him in the side every week instead of Rodolph Austin.
Nerves kicking in at Elland Road when glory is in sight is a phenomena that is common to Leeds United. With a huge lead at the top of League One in early 2010, the Whites saw Cup glory hinder league progress and a string of poor performances saw that lead eroded and promotion look like slipping away.
With the loan window about to close, Simon Grayson made a couple of signings to firm up a wobbling defence and one of them was Neill Collins. The centre back had been through promotion campaigns with Sunderland and Wolves before moving to Preston North End.
He made his debut at Norwich City, and despite Leeds losing the game he seemed to have added some reliability to a a shaky back line, playing well in a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat. His next match saw the Whites torn apart by Charlei Austin and Billy Paynter (yep you read that right!) as they slipped out of the top two with a 3-0 home defeat to Swindon Town. However Leeds lost just once more as they recovered their composure and Collins earned his third promotion.
The deal was made permanent in the summer and Collins started the season as first choice centre back. However he was a shaky presence in a creaking back line as Simon Grayson tried to find a blend of his best centre backs. Richard Naylor was struggling, Paddy Kisonorbo was a long term injury casualty and Alex Bruce had failed to make an impact. He lost his place after a 3-2 win at Coventry, as Andy O'Brien came into the reckoning after his signing from Bolton. He returned briefly but when a bid came in from Sheffield United it was surprisingly accepted and he moved onto Bramall Lane to join the Blades relegation struggle. He remains at Bramall Lane as fixture in Danny Wilson's side.
The full back positions were problem spots throughout the League One promotion campaign, and it was no suprise that one of the first pieces of business done in the summer of 2010 was the signing of a right back.
Paul Connolly was little known, coming to the club from Derby County where he had fallen out of favour with Nigel. He signed on a free transfer and made his debut against his former club on the opening day of the season. An injury saw him miss out on a few games with Alex Bruce stepping in, but he regained hi spot when Bruce was sent off at Ipswich.
He built up a decent understanding down the right hand flank with Robert Snodgrass and provided good service from that side of the field. However defensively he wasn't the best, and was often booked for rash tackles.
Connolly started the 2011/12 season with a stinker against Southampton and an impressive display by Tom Lees against Bradford in the League Cup saw the youngster preferred for the next few games. Connolly did return but was singled out after the debacle at Barnsley and never played under Simon Grayson again.
Injuries left Neil Warnock with little option but to bring him back into the side for the closing weeks of the season but it was abundantly clear that he would be on his way in the summer. Unable to sell him, Leeds have allowed him to go on loan, first to Portsmouth and then to Preston. He will probably struggle to get a game at Deepdale now, with Simon Grayson now his boss.
My favourite Connolly memory is the goal he created at Turf Moor in the 3-2 comeback win, an inspired run down the wing ending with a superb cross which Becchio tapped home. Unfortunately his defensive weakness was too much for the team to endure.
The archetypal lower league striker, Leeds United were the 10th club in seven years that Constantine plied his trade for. Since leaving Leeds after making just a handful of appearances.
Signed in the summer of 2007 he failed to make an impact on the first team as Leeds turned the 15 point deficit around. His first appearance was off the bench in the first defeat of the season, a 3-1 loss at Carlisle. He made his first start in the next match a JPT tie against Bury where he opened the scoring. Unfortunately it was in a losing cause as the Whites lost 2-1.
I only saw him once more, another appearance off the bench in the following match, a win over Swindon Town. He did net on New Years Day in a 3-1 defeat at home to Oldham, but a broken arm suffered in the same match saw him ruled out for two months, and with a new manager in Gary McAllister at the helm on his return, he was allowed to move out on loan.
Oldham would be the first in another nine clubs he has played for in the last five years, having his most productive spell at York City where he netted eight times. Currently without a club, Constantine's tally of 19 clubs in 12 seasons must be some sort of unwanted record.
A single apperance in a pre-season friendly at Farsley Celtic sees Crainie make this list. Brought in on trial by Neil Warnock after being out of contract from Coventry City, he was hardly tested against the non-league outfit and having failed to impress in other matches on the tour of Cornwall he was not offered a contract, moving on to Barnsley.
Despite not having the best of times at Elland Road, Leeds United supporters will always be grateful to Jason Crowe for one particular moment on a very special day.
He made a spectacular debut for Arsenal as a teenager, managing to get himself sent off after just 33 seconds against Birmingham City. Unable to displace Lee Dixon he was moved on to Portsmouth for £1M, where he helped the South Coast club to promotion to the Premier League.
Released by Pompey he moved on to Grimsby Town and Northampton, scoring twice for the Cobblers against Leeds in a 5-2 FA Cup defeat.
Simon Grayson brought him to Elland Road on a free in the Summer of 2009 and was a regular in the early weeks of the season before pulling a hamstring against MK Dons. The signing of Leigh Bromby added competition for his place but when Bromby was suspended following a booking against Stockport County, Crowe was thrown into the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford against the Scum.
It was in that game that he produced his most memorable moment in a white shirt. Leeds were 1-0 up when Casper Ankergren half blocked a Wayne Rooney effort, Crowe running back to hook the ball of the line and preserve the lead which the Whites held on to for a famous win.
Crowe netted in both legs of the JPT semi final against Carlisle, but lost his place for good in the promotion run in, with an ankle injury ruling him out of the final weeks. After the signing of Paul Connolly, Crowe was put on the transfer list before eventually having his contract cancelled, moving to Leyton Orient.
Crowe is currently at non-league Corby Town, a long long way away from the glamour of Old Trafford and the glory of January 3rd. We will be forever grateful for his small part in Leeds United's greatest cup win of recent years.
So that is it for this week, and once again it's over to you. The poll below needs your votes and there once again is a wide choice for the worst player to play for Leeds United in my time watching the club. Please vote and feel free to add your comments below or via Twitter @TIAT_LUFC or to me @clarkyboy72.
Next week we move onto the D's from Mervyn Day to Adam Drury.