Before we get started, by now you’ve likely seen our Reader’s Choice Player of the Month poll results. With 86% of the vote, Pontus Jansson won in a landslide, as none of our three other options topped 10%.
It's that time again: time to vote for your #LUFC Reader's Choice Player of the Month for September 2016. This one's difficult. Vote and RT!— Through It All #LUFC (@ThruItAllLUFC) October 3, 2016
But we had a more difficult time selecting our POTM in the Through It All Together offices. We were split between the options above... without Chris Wood’s goals, without Eunan O’Kane stepping up in the midfield, and without Kyle Bartley’s leadership, we couldn’t have won four matches in September.
And so, those who voted for Wood, O’Kane, and Bartley make their case below in our Awards Roundtable, and then our staff winner (by a vote of 3-2-2-1), Pontus Jansson, gets his award in the end.
The Case for Eunan O’Kane, by James Mahoney, 2 votes
If I am honest, I hadn’t heard of Eunan O’Kane when it was announced we had signed him from Bournemouth. As it turns out, the scouts at Leeds deserve credit for finding this Irish diamond and ownership deserves credit for signing him on deadline day.
After the dismal performance against Huddersfield, we were all disheartened and began preparing ourselves for another poor season. However, our fortunes changed with decent performances against Blackburn (twice), Cardiff and Ipswich. So what changed from the Huddersfield game to the Ipswich game?
My answer is Eunan O'Kane. He has been solid in defence and has also been a calming influence within the team. He hasn’t scored the winner or made the big cinematic tackles, he has just gone about his business quietly. He has done the needed dirty work which has allowed others to shine. He also had a pretty great assist on Pablo Hernandez’s goal last week.
Thanks to @WALMOT3 for that beauty.
O’Kane is the workhorse in the centre of midfield driving the team. Nearly every move he makes is a forward positive move. You can see him constantly organising and encouraging the players around him. He’s our very own N'Golo Kanté, our unsung hero, and I believe that his performances this month deserve the Leeds United family’s recognition and the TIAT POTM award for September.
Eunan O'Kane is massive for us. I personally think he's quality but could easily go under the radar. #lufc— I'd Radebe Leeds (@Radebe_Leeds) September 24, 2016
The Case for Kyle Bartley, by Ben Mallis, 1 vote
I know Chris Wood scored all the goals, and I will acknowledge the power of Pontus Jansson is a magical force brewing around Elland Road, but my choice is Kyle Bartley. The Swansea City loanee was an absolute force during the month of September.
While we have all fallen in love with Jansson (rightfully so, I must add), it would be foolish to overlook Bartley’s contribution to one of the best defensive parings in the division. Bartley played every minute of Leeds United football during the month, assisting in the establishment of a suddenly stingy backline.
Plus, he had the most important moment of the season so far, scoring this little beauty against Blackburn.
I wrote last week that Bartley’s goal saved September, and likely the entire season. That’s further proof that he was United’s main man for the month. Bartley has shown tremendous leadership since taking over as captain from the injured Liam Bridcutt, and there isn’t much else we could have asked from the great man. What more would he have to do to earn POTM honors?
The Case for Chris Wood, by Johnny Wakefield, 2 votes
You can’t ignore the contributions of O’Kane, Bartley, and Jansson this month, and I’d even throw Rob Green into the mix, he of the clean sheets and important saves in what might have been our best month this decade. But all of those pale in comparison to what our lone striker, Chris Wood, did in the month of September. How he received just 4% of the reader vote is beyond me.
After a deadline day of little action, Leeds United fans were furious we didn’t add someone up top. Chris Wood wasn’t good enough, they said. And even though Monk and company did make efforts (and failed) to supplement the attack, Garry stuck by his man, repeatedly giving Wood the vote of confidence.
And boy, did that pay off. Chris Wood scored 4 goals in September, one in each of the four wins in-a-row. His goals were game winners against Cardiff, Blackburn, and Ipswich, and without them, Leeds would’ve drawn all three of those matches at 0-0. No one else has stepped up to the challenge like Chris Wood, and the Kiwi Captain made his presence known. After several of the goals, a cupped ear let the fans know he heard their doubts... and then he silenced them.
In the right place, at the right time, all month long. Chris Wood is an easy choice for September Player of the Month, even if that backline played pretty well too...
But our winner was... Pontus Jansson.
With three votes amongst our staff, and probably all the second place votes if we took any, Pontus Jansson wins the September TIAT Staff Player of the Month award. He’s the second Swede in as many months to bring it home, and if you wonder why he won it, well, wake up. Pontus plays his heart out on the pitch, and for a new loanee to the club, that’s a refreshing surprise.
But he’s not just heart: he’s headers, tackles, and skill on the ball and off it. Jansson contributed to the remarkable clean sheet streak, solidfying a backline that was known as the “error prone back four” on these pages not too long ago. Set pieces aren’t a problem with #Bartsson in the centre of our defence, and then, of course, he did this against Barnsley in the first match of October.
Good god, man. How does that Barnsley midfielder go home to his family?
He’s also earned an amazing cover of a popular ditty in football circles, so we present that to you, probably worth more than the award card below it.
And so, Pontus Jansson, the man with the Magic Hat, wins our award for the month of September. Here’s hoping he repeats his magical month in October and for the rest of the season, and that Monk and Cellino find a way to sign him long-term. Congrats, Pontus. Keep it up.
Looking forward to seeing you and all the lads back on the pitch next Saturday. MOT.