Like a multi-million pound tornado ripping though Europe’s top leagues, the January Transfer Window has once again been and gone. January is always a month full of rumours, speculation, heartache and disappointment as a Leeds United fan and this year has been no different. Let’s actually take a moment though to look at the business that’s been done for the Whites this winter, and where I think we have fallen short.
Starting January off on a high, Liam Bridcutt extended his loan deal with Leeds until the end of the season and this was a deal that, in my opinion, needed to be done. Bridcutt has made a solid start to his life at Leeds and put in some good performances before Christmas giving some more than needed extra cover to the back four. It took a while to get this deal over the line, fighting off several other clubs for Bridcutt’s signature, but at the end of the day I thought this was a good statement of intent at the beginning of January. How wrong I was soon to be.
Moving onto Mustapha Carayol: for me the jury’s still out on this one. Coming in on loan from Middlesboro, Carayol came with mixed reviews. His first few Leeds games have been up and down too. He started very well at Rotherham, putting in an energetic performance and capping it off with a cracking debut goal. This was soon followed however by a forgettable display at Ipswich and for the games following this, he has been subjected to the bench. Scoring the equaliser at Brentford put him back in the good books once again and I’m never going to complain about Leeds United signing or playing wingers. But with a mixed bag of performances so far, I’m still reserving my judgement on Carayol just yet.
Leading into mid-January, the inevitable happened. Graduating from the academy to the first team in 2012, Sam Byram has been without a doubt one of our best players we’ve had in recent years and was a genuine reason to look forward to the future. In his breakthrough year he was breathtaking and he kick-started an ever-growing list of youth that keeps coming from the academy. We all knew it was going to happen this January though, and those who didn’t were just kidding themselves. With Sam’s contract left unresolved for far too long and the offers made to him by Cellino falling well short of the mark, he really had no other option to move on. And when you have clubs like West Ham and Everton courting you, its’s very hard to say no. This is the transfer this window will be remembered for by Leeds fans and without a doubt the key reason why most of us are currently unhappy.
Tomasso Bianchi was the second and final name out of the door at Elland Road with the Italian midfielder heading back to Serie B. Ascoli showed interest in Bianchi from the start of the window, and to be honest, Leeds didn’t put up much of a fight. After a long stretch on the sidelines he never really got back into the team and only making a total of 24 appearances for the Whites, I think he will be a player many Leeds fans forget in the years to come.
Big Toumani Diagouraga was the final signing in the door at Elland Road and the only permanent addition of this window. Having only played one full game so far, it’s hard to make an assessment yet, but the signs look good for Diagouraga. A mainstay in a solid Brentford side in the last few years, he was wanted by a few Championship clubs. With Diagouraga and Bridcutt sitting deep in the midfield, this really gives Leeds a platform to build on going forward.
On to Deadline day itself: with Steve Evans saying all January that he wanted to bring more players in, we really shouldn’t have been leaving it to the last day to sign them. With Leeds still in desperate need of a good quality striker and extra cover at the back this was destined to be a day of disappointment. I started the day thinking it could go one of two ways though. We make a few signings, including a proven goal scorer to round off an alright January. Or, more likely, we would sign no one, the whole day would be full of recycled Twitter banter of fake new signing photos, that famous tweet from the LUFC twitter account last summer telling us all not to go to bed just yet, and Neil Warnock watching his favourite type of films in the Elland Road office.
The day started with rumours of Kyle Lafferty, Kike, Winnall, Maddison and Limbombe but it didn’t take long before I started bargaining with myself. By lunch time I was thinking, "Two signings would do it. An improved bid for Winnall, Kyle Bartley from Swansea to sure up the back. That’ll be perfect." By 5:00, it had reduced to, "Just a striker will do. Keep Antenucci and add Kyle Lafferty. Sure." By 9:00 though, Twitter had descended into making up rumours of a Qatari takeover bid to escape the boredom, and I had resigned myself to the reality of it all.
Watching Middlesboro sign Jordan Rhodes for £9 million and Sheffield Wednesday getting proven quality in Gary Hooper and Aiden McGeady highlighted just how far Leeds were off the pace in this transfer window. The money was there, Evans said several times. It was clear what we needed, the holes in the current Leeds lineup are not that hard to spot.
Why then, at the end of the day, are we all sat here thoroughly underwhelmed and slightly angry? The signings we have acquired have improved the squad, no doubt about that. But if the aim is genuinely to be a club challenging for promotion, then Cellino has fallen well short of the mark this January.