After a 14 year stay in the top flight, Leeds United returned to the second tier with a bump. Now christened as the ‘Championship’ the Whites had to set about rebuilding the team with new manager Kevin Blackwell stating that the start of pre-season training was just Gary Kelly and himself.
The club managed to assemble a squad for the start of the 04/05 season, mostly made up of players signed on free transfers or for very little money. If I were to try and talk through all of the incomings in this article it would be longer than my university dissertation so we will just focus on the surprisingly few loanees.
Still in a pre-transfer window world, players were coming and going every month and this was no different for the short termers. In many cases, these players only managed a handful of games before returning to their parent clubs.
First through the door was Brett Ormerod from Southampton FC on a one month deal. The, erm, highlight of Ormerod’s brief stay was missing a penalty on his debut against a Sunderland FC which would have secured a point for the Whites. I still haven’t forgiven him for this. Afterall, had he scored this Leeds would have finished 2 places higher and been even more midtable than they already were.
John Oster was next up with a brief stint. Going one better than Ormerod and actually scoring a goal, Oster would find his loan terminated for being “clearly in breach of club rules.” He had also been fined and warned about his conduct two weeks previously after getting arrested in Durham. Upon his return to Sunderland he was sacked.
France U21 international Leandre Griffit and Wales’ Nathan Blake both arrived and left within a couple of weeks. Griffit managed a sole appearance whilst Blake would make a pair and even bagged himself a goal against Coventry City, the final league goal of his career as it would turn out as he ruptured his Hamstring in the same game. However, he did play two-months in non-league with Newport County.
Paul Harrison had the easiest task of any player loaned in that season, coming in from Liverpool as part of the deal that saw future England international Scott Carson head to Merseyside.
Carson had made his debut for Leeds in the Premier League and was seen as a future number one. With the arrival of Scotland’s Neil Sullivan to provide an experienced stopper, Carson didn’t feature in the Championship and with Leeds having allowed his contract to enter the final 6 months, Leeds agreed a deal with Liverpool with Paul Harrison joining for the rest of the season as substitute goalkeeper.
Jamaica international Marlon King made 9 appearances for Leeds, mostly on the right wing but failed to make much of an impact. Like Ormerod, he is mostly remembered for missing a penalty, this time against Leicester in a 2-0 defeat. Not long before his arrival King had spent 9 months in prison for receiving stolen goods, namely a convertable BMW. Fortunately he was able to put his incident behind him and stay cle...oh. My bad.
The final two on this list are the true contenders for this prestigious award. First up, Michael ‘Mickey’ Gray. No relation to the club’s clan Gray, Mickey would become a fan favourite filling in at left back. His tough tackling quickly endeared him to the Elland Road faithful and it seemed a shame that he wouldn’t join on a permanent deal. Unfortunately for him, this won’t be the last we see of the Blackburn Rovers loanee.
Leeds went through a long list of strikers during the campaign. They started the season off with Julian Joachim, Brian Deane, Michael Ricketts and Danny Cadamarteri. However, Leeds ended the season with a much stronger group to choose from. Northern Ireland hero David Healy had signed from Preston North End and Ian Moore (later Ian Thomas-Moore) from Burnley FC.
Leeds still needed someone to lead the line. With a few months of the season remaining, Rob Hulse would join from West Bromwich Albion. After guiding the Baggies to promotion, Hulse would receive limited playing time in the Premier League, falling behind Robert Earnshaw, Kevin Campbell, Geoff Horsfield (who’ll be making his return with Michael Gray shortly) and ever young Nigeria international Nwankwo Kanu. Scoring two goals on his debut against Reading, Hulse would find the net six times in 13 appearances and form a strong partnership with David Healy.
The success of this move would lead to the move becoming permanent, signing for £1.1m in the summer. In all, Hulse would score 20 goals in around 60 games as well as establishing a record that saw Leeds never lose when he scored.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Leeds United Loan Player of the Year 04/05: Rob Hulse.