Although he has only been at Leeds United since the 2012 season, midfielder Rodolph Austin is one of the longest serving players on the club’s books. Amidst an ever-changing cast of characters on and off the pitch, Austin has remained a constant in the lineup. The Jamaican international, who is best known for his tackling, has the ability to inspire his teammates and give the fans something to rally behind.
In his first two seasons at the club, Austin wasted no time acclimating to his new environment as he amassed 71 appearances and 66 starts in total for Leeds. The former SK Brann midfielder even found the back of the net five times throughout those two seasons, despite deputizing mostly in a deep-lying midfield role.
All of these statistics and characteristics suggest that Austin is vital to Leeds’ play and arguably indispensable. However, in the most recent run of games, Austin has fallen out of favour, fought through a slight knock, and been subject to mostly a substitute role. There are many things that have contributed to this, but it’s interesting to consider how Leeds could have fared with Austin in the starting eleven as well as who has displaced him.
As every fan Leeds fan knows, the club has seen a fair share of managers come and go this season and Austin has surely fallen victim to this fluctuation. The likes of Brian McDermott, Dave Hockaday, and Darko Milanic, all of whom have managed Leeds in the 2014 calendar year, consistently penciled Austin’s name onto their team sheet. Unlike his predecessors, current gaffer Neil Redfearn has not always preferred the central midfielder.
In the last five games, Austin has only been a part of Redfearn’s starting lineup once. In fact, one has to look all the way back to the October 21st 1-1 draw against Norwich to see Austin’s name in the starting lineup. Since, he has been subject to substitute appearances against Ipswich, Derby, and Blackpool. In the Blackburn match, Austin made the 18, but was ultimately an unused substitute.
This stretch of games strongly suggests that Austin has fallen out of favour, but what is even more interesting is who has started in his place. Since Redfearn was given the job permanently on November 1st, he has largely preferred Adryan, Lewis Cook, Alex Mowatt and Tomasso Bianchi.
Adryan brings great dribbling skills, a keen eye for a penetrating pass, and a decent amount of flair to the squad. Meanwhile, Bianchi admirably shields the back four and acts as a passing link from the backs to the strikers or wide players. The Brazilian has taken on an advanced role and his skill-set is probably better suited for this than Austin's. However, Bianchi is largely the same type of player that Austin is.
It seems at the moment Redfearn prefers the Adryan-Bianchi duo and what they bring to the squad. As the season carries on, Austin may have to be content with his substitute appearances. He could also very well work his way back into the lineup if the club struggles to get results or Adryan or Bianchi fall out of form.
Another interesting aspect of this trend is how Leeds has fared without Austin in the lineup. They’ve managed to trump league leaders Derby 2-0, defeat a struggling Blackpool team 3-1, suffer defeat by a score of 4-1 against Ipswich, and surrender a lead late to Blackburn in a 2-1 loss. These are mixed results so it’s inconclusive as to whether Austin’s inclusion would push the Whites to victory against Ipswich or Blackburn.
One argument for Austin though is that he brings a great deal of bite and leadership to the squad, which were two things that arguably were missing in the two most recent defeats. After all Austin was captain of the club for a short time in the 2013-2014 season, so the Jamaican could utilize this experience in his quest for a starting role.
Austin even has the potential for an occasional spectacular moment, as the brilliant screamer below from last season against Reading shows. He may not produce that week in week out, but a strike of that quality will be welcome in Redfearn’s starting eleven any day of the week.
As the season progresses it will be interesting to see how Austin’s role develops. He surely will be looking to get on the pitch more often and perhaps even displace Adryan or Bianchi. Should he work his way back into the fold, Leeds will have a strong, experienced, and reliable presence in the heart of midfield with the ability to push the Peacocks up the table.