It started so well. We had barely waved goodbye to yet another mediocre season at Leeds when the club surprised us all by announcing a reputable, well-known, youthful and driven manager in Garry Monk. But it wasn't just the name, it was the timely manner in which this was announced. June 2, to be precise, was the day we all held our breath wondering, hoping that this may be a sign of things to come - Cellino getting things done quickly isn't exactly his 'thing' - nor was 'quality', for that matter. But we all knew, deep down, the rollercoaster of supporting Leeds wasn't planning on stopping any time soon.
A 'Sunny' Beginning
Monk's arrival brought lots of hope for Leeds fans. A possible indication of genuine intent from the boardroom and Cellino that an operation was underway to reach the dizzying heights of the Premier League. It wasn't long before the new faces started to be brought on board, the first of these being Swedish striker Marcus Antonsson.
Leeds struggled for goals last season, with Chris Wood leading the line with 13, and although Antonsson was largely unheard of, his form in the Swedish Allsvenskan with 10 goals in 12 games turned heads. Leeds captured Antonsson at the end of June from Kalmar FF for a fee of around £2m. Monk will be hoping that the Swede can slip seamlessly into Championship life and hope that he and Wood can quickly become a force to contend with up top.
Leeds were guilty of conceding far too many goals last campaign, and it wasn't long before Monk looked to his previous club, Swansea City, to bring in reinforcements to a visibly weak area of the squad. Kyle Bartley isn't a household name in the top-flight, but at least it wasn't another unknown freebie from Serie B. Although spending much of his career within the realms of the Premier League, what will be alarming to Leeds fans is his lack of appearances. 16, in fact, over four seasons at Swansea which included a season-long loan at Birmingham sandwiching his time at the Liberty Stadium. The numbers don't make huge headlines, and so they shouldn't. We need that solidity in our defence, and we'll all be hoping that the reunion with Monk will give us no need to panic about the figures in the 'apps' column. Signing number two.
Another weak area in recent seasons for Leeds has been the width, or lack thereof. Another signing came in to strengthen the department. Was there a pattern developing here? Holes were being plugged, and Monk was seemingly fully aware of what we needed...wow, finally! Hadi Sacko was named as Leeds next signing, and the pacey Sporting Lisbon winger will be looking to make sure his season-long loan bears fruit. With a permanent deal potentially becoming an option, it'll be hoped that Sacko can bring an extra dimension to an ever-strengthening attacking pool. Monk will surely be looking to use Frenchman out wide and give Chris Wood the chance to show off his aerial ability.
Sacko was quickly followed through the arrivals door by veteran goalkeeper Rob Green. Green was brought in on a free transfer following his release from QPR, and while the method of Leeds acquiring his services doesn't seem overly attractive, there's no disputing his experience and playing history won't help shore things up at the back. Amassing 563 appearances at club level is some achievement, including 12 for England, and Green will be determined to establish himself back amongst the best in the league. At 36 years of age, Green is by no means a spring chicken, but Elland Road will be a much calmer place when we find ourselves on the back foot with him between the sticks.
Thrilled & honoured to have joined Leeds United.Can't wait to play a part in an exciting new chapter of a great club pic.twitter.com/jo2S6H9J3k— Robert Green (@Robert1Green) July 6, 2016
The exact same day brought another of Monk's acquaintances from former club Swansea in midfielder Matt Grimes. Grimes came into the limelight after shining in League Two for Exeter City before Swansea came in for the 21-year-old midway through the 2014/15 season. After completing the switch for just under £2m, Grimes has made only four league appearances for the Swans, and was loaned to Birmingham City for much of last season. Grimes has Championship experience, but it remains to be seen, much like the aforementioned Bartley, if he can ensure fans that his low amount of appearances won't be an issue.
The sixth and final signing of United's summer so far comes in the form of Kemar Roofe. Arriving merely a day after Green and Grimes, Roofe's capture brought yet more optimism to the Whites fan base. It seemed as though the club were signing players at will, and we didn't want it to end. Roofe cost £3m, which, as we know in recent seasons, isn't anything to sniff at. Just seeing the news of Leeds buying players as opposed to signing one on loan or on a free comes as a surprise. Roofe had been on the radar before, and his 18 goals in 40 league games last season must have generated a tight grip from Oxford on their key asset. A bit of perseverance from Cellino and company, now that's what we like to see. In the early knockings of this upcoming campaign, if friendlies are actually anything to go by, it seems that Roofe will be employed slightly wider than he may have been familiar with last season, but is showing plenty of promise and ability on the flank. I don't want to speak too soon and jinx it, however I can see Roofe becoming the next Andre Gray...which of course means we'll sell him on - but that's a rant for another day.
The Revolving Door
After the arrival of Roofe, the free-flowing river carrying the new boys to our shores quickly dried up. It has become business as usual: rumour, free signing gossip, rumour, ongoing saga, a trialist, a bit more of the saga, rumour - you know how it goes. But if nothing else, at least we had done better than we had in previous off-seasons at this point. At least we hadn't sold anyone...
Delighted to sign for @afcbournemouth looking forward to meeting the team and excited for the season ahead!— Lewis Cook (@lewiscook_) July 8, 2016
Oh yeah, forgot about that one. Lewis Cook's sale was hurtful enough on its own, put that together with the fact the initial fee was only reported to be around £6m makes it even more so. And so began the inevitable crash that we all knew was coming - all that optimism from the beginning of the summer, all those players coming in, all those steps forward... it suddenly meant nothing. We can't keep players of that promise and potential at the moment, and we're sat tight hoping it doesn't get any worse. Perhaps slipping under the radar underneath all the impending news and rumours of Cook's departure was the sale of midfield outcast Casper Sloth. The Dane struggled to get going in a Leeds shirt and made only 13 league appearances in his two seasons. So far, and I stress, so far, they are the only departures from the club this summer window in terms of sales. Giuseppe Bellusci and Lee Erwin are the other two who have left, but on season-long loans to Serie A side Empoli and Oldham Athletic, respectively.
What Happens Next?
The club have left many a carrot dangling for the last few weeks that the transfer business isn't done. The Liam Bridcutt situation has now gone on for far too long and it remains to be seen whether this will actually materialise. Although if the history books were to be consulted, it seems less and less likely as the days trickle by - not that I'm a glass half-empty kind of guy.
It's very well-known that a central defender is still very much required, Monk himself seems quite agitated to get this particular area of concern addressed at the earliest opportunity. Time, though, is running out, with QPR merely one single week away. A central midfielder, be it Bridcutt or someone else entirely, is also required to steady the midfield and dictate play. Again, Monk seems to be very aware of the fact this one needs sorting out, too.
While it may not come before we kick off the campaign next Sunday at Loftus Road, I would be very, very surprised if at least one more recognised name didn't join the ranks. The speculation, rumours and constant 'assurance' that more are coming can't now be ignored by the powers that be. Something has to be delivered after all that, right? For now though, it remains to be seen. But let's not knock it before we've tried it. There is more than enough talent and quality now in that side that are capable of doing some damage in this league, and if the new signings' words are anything to go by, it seems as though they can't wait to get started.
So, another summer of ups and downs. Another summer of promise, shattered hopes, optimism and disappointment all rolled into one. But there is more than enough on show at Elland Road to get us rocking again, and here's a quick summary of the new boys hoping to do just that:
- Rob Green - Free Transfer
- Kyle Bartley - Loan (Swansea City)
- Matt Grimes - Loan (Swansea City)
- Hadi Sacko - Loan (Sporting Lisbon)
- Kemar Roofe - Transfer (Oxford United)
- Marcus Antonsson - Transfer (Kalmar FF)
What do you think of the new recruits and our activity this summer? Which of the six are you most looking forward to seeing in a Leeds shirt? Who else would you like to bring in before the end of the window? Let us know in the comments below.