With the season whimpering to a close on Saturday against Preston, most minds are already starting to wander towards this summer’s big questions. Talk of Steve Evans' contract dominates the press conferences, rumours of players coming in are already starting to emerge, and the big one for me is where on earth preseason will take us this summer? A trip to the sunny continent to take on the likes of AC Milan, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, or a kick about in the rain somewhere in the north of Scotland against the Elgin City? I know where my money's at.
Before we take a look at some of these big issues however, there is a looming date that brings about much debate and disagreement amongst Leeds fans. Retention Day! It was as early as May 13th last year when we learned players such as Rodolph Austin, Michael Tonge and Aiden White would not be offered new contracts (along with a whole host of other first team and graduate players). Leeds are accustomed to a summer clear out following a disappointing season, and while this summer may not be as extreme as some previous, I still expect a fair few players to be hanging up their white shirts come mid-May.
Strangely enough there is only one senior player who reaches the end of their contract with Leeds in the summer: Mirco Antenucci. And so the debate begins. Mirco has had an on-and-off season, finding the net 9 times in all competitions but not being a regular starter for much of this year. I must admit every time he has come on he seems to cause problems for the opposition and as an off-the-bench danger man, I like him a lot. With goals like the below, who can’t like him? (Any excuse to include that video.) There is already much interest in him from several Serie B clubs and I would be surprised if we see him in a white shirt again after Saturday. My opinion though: offer him a 1 year extension or be prepared to shell out a fairly large amount of cash for a replacement.
With the season ticket promise, I see us signing a fair few quality players in the summer (please, please, please) and contract or no contract, other players will have to leave in order to make room. There are a few names who spring to mind straight away when trying to shed some dead weight around Thorp Arch, Casper Sloth being the first. Having not played a first team game in what seems like an age, I don’t think the question is do we want to sell Sloth, the question is who can we sell him to? In January, we failed to offload him, and I think it may be a struggle again unless we practically give him away, an option I wouldn’t be opposed to in order to free up some wages.
Scott Wootton is next on my list. After various howlers early on in the year he hasn’t featured much, and rightly so. Is there any way back for Wootton? I really hope not. Considering we are admittedly not good enough for a promotion push at the moment, do we honestly believe a defence with Scott Wootton playing regular football ever will be? There is a simple answer to that question and for me I would try and offload Wootton this summer as quickly as possible.
The final two I would try and shuffle out the door this summer are Jordan Botaka and….wait for it…. Souleymane Doukara. Controversial perhaps given his good run of form prior to eating a Fulham player, but for me he falls into that category of "will he feature in a promotion winning side?" No, he won’t, and neither will Botaka. We need proven quality who can provide consistency week in week out next year, and these two don’t fit that bill.
As well we permanent contract players leaving, we'll also have to consider the three who may return to parent clubs in the summer: Mustapha Carayol, Tom Adeyemi and Liam Bridcutt. Let’s start with an easy one in Bridcutt, who has for me been one of the stand out players of the season. The partnership he has formed with Diagouraga has been incredibly efficient at sweeping up in that sitting midfield role, and despite the fact Leeds can easily be accused of not having enough attacking flair, I see both of them staying in that position next year. Forget another loan deal, I think we need to snap him up on a permanent if the deal is there to be done. Also, with tackles like the one above….it’s a no brainer.
Another player who fills a Bridcutt style role is Tom Adeyemi, who despite playing a fair few games upon his arrival hasn’t featured as regularly as he may have expected in the second half of the season. He’s a relatively decent player, but given we will probably need to buy him from Cardiff in the summer rather than extend his loan, I think it best he returns to Wales.
Finally Muzza Carayol, another contentious decision. He’s shown flashes of genius in the past few months and is clearly a player with a lot of skill, but is he consistent enough? Boro look likely to be promoted, I don’t think they will want him back in a hurry so I don’t particularly see the downside in keeping him on loan if we can, at least as an off-the-bench option. If we need to fork out cold hard cash for the lad though, I’m not so convinced and it would have to be a bargain deal.
So after Cellino makes the decision on champagne or another year of mid table mediocrity............ the team has some moves to make. To summarise, I think we should get rid of Sloth, Wootton, Botaka and Adeyemi. Not exactly the mass clear out of previous years. There are a few dubious players I haven’t mentioned so far, such as Bamba and Murphy, but given we have a relatively small squad I believe the likes of these two at least deserve a place on the bench next season.
But this is just my opinion, and I’m sure everyone will have a different one. So what’s yours? Comment below and let me know who you want to see never return to Elland road after this summer.