Optimism was high around Elland Road. Despite being just one game away from a quick return to the Premier League, Leeds fans had every reason to be confident going into the 06/07 season. Despite losing Rob Hulse to Premier League bound Sheffield United, Leeds still had three experienced options in David Healy, Robbie Blake and Richard Cresswell to lead the line. David Livermore had arrived but within 10 days would be sold on to Hull City after Leeds were able to sign Ian Westlake and Kevin Nicholls, a move which would give him the last laugh come the end of the season.
Leeds would go on to use 15 loan players over the course of the season but it started with just two. Tony Warner arrived from Fulham to become the new first choice goalkeeper, forcing Neil Sullivan to the bench. He had been the number one at Millwall for a few years before turning into an emergency goalkeeper, racking up spells with a number of different clubs over a long career. He would start regularly under Kevin Blackwell until the manager’s sacking, but would find opportunities harder to come by once his replacement arrived. Unfortunately for Leeds, goalkeeper was a position they really struggled to settle on all season.
Next in was Geoff Horsfield. He had moved to Sheffield United on loan the previous season but only played 3 times. The deal included a permanent transfer at the end of the season and despite both Horsfield and manager Neil Warnock wanting to cancel the deal, West Brom refused. He was loaned to Leeds, until January with the view to a permanent deal and he took over Rob Hulse’s number 10. Like Warner, he was a regular starter until Dennis Wise took over the Leeds job where Horsfield found regular game time harder to come by.
Results did not improve under Dennis Wise and despite winning his first game in charge, Leeds were in a scrap to try and avoid relegation for the remainder of the season. Alan Wright, Adam Johnson and Ugo Ehiogu would all make brief appearances before January with the diminutive Wright featuring just once. Johnson would play 5 times and whilst technically a good player, he was not equipped to be part of a Championship relegation struggle. Ehiogu would play 6 times, even getting a goal in a 2-2 draw with Barnsley, but none of those appearances were wins.
Graham Stack was the next keeper to have a go at being Leeds’ number 1. He arrived from Reading and despite Wise initially showing faith in him, he was unable to maintain consistent form which would lead to Sullivan and Warner featuring infrequently.
One of the stranger transfers of the season saw Tresor Kandol join on loan from Barnet. Having made what can best be described as a solid start to season in League 1, Kandol soon found himself regularly in the Leeds United team. He scored his only goal of the season in the same 2-2 draw with Barnsley as Ehiogu in just his third appearance, but it was not a sign of things to come.
January rolled around and Leeds were in an awful state. They would go without a win in 7, failing to score in four straight games and were being dragged deeper and deeper into the mire. Wise would look to bring in more loan players, hoping to add some grit and experience to what he was hoping to make Dirty Leeds 2.0.
Armando Sa joined from Espanyol until the end of the season. A pacey right back, he would also be utilised by Wise on the right wing. He would feature more after Gary Kelly was forced out of the team by Wise and more notably Ken Bates, who was looking to save money by not playing the former Ireland international, thereby not having to pay his appearance fee.
Alan Thomson made the move South from Celtic for the remainder of the season. A veteran at this point of his career, he had played for Bolton and Aston Villa before his move north to Glasgow. He made an instant impact scoring on his debut and followed that up with a goal and an assist in his second game. He would struggle for fitness throughout the campaign and couldn’t muster a regular run of games, but when he did, he brought a certain calmness amongst a sea of headless chickens.
Danish goalkeeper Casper Ankergren came in to relieve Stack of his duties. Little was known about the Brondby man but he soon got the Leeds fans on his side with a string of good performances, saving a couple of penalties in the process. Ankergren was the consistency in goal that Leeds had been crying out for all season. He did have a tendancy to annoyingly clean his boots on the post more often than you’d like and his goalkicks weren’t the most accurate, but Ankergren proved an excellent shot-stopper.
Despite the further signings Leeds were still struggling. It wouldn’t be until March Leeds managed to put together a run of performances that would give them a chance of survival. Leeds would win 4 and draw 2 of 7 games, a run which also saw the introduction of two more loanees. Michael Gray returned to the club on loan after previously featuring for Leeds in the 04/05 campaign. Already established as a fan favourite, Gray played in 6 of the final 7 games, becoming a more reliable presence than Stephen Crainey or Robbie Elliott at left back.
Radostin Kishishev joined from Leicester and played 10 times. A strong central midfielder, the Bulgarian added real quality to Leeds in an area they were desperate for it. Kishishev was the type of player to quietly go about his business, but his ball retention and tackling gave the defence, which was made up of the likes of Lubomir Michalik (another loanee) and Matt Heath, a much needed break.
Unfortunately for Leeds, their run of form was too little, too late. Leeds played Ipswich in the penultimate game of the season at Elland Road, knowing that they had to win and hope that Hull City’s result also went in Leeds’ favour. Leeds took an early lead through Richard Creswell which gave Leeds fans hope, In the second half Hull would take the lead courtesy of a Dean Windass goal and the tension could be felt at Elland Road. Ipswich began to pile forward and Leeds looked nervy, as they. They held out until two minutes from time when Alan Lee headed home a corner. Leeds fans rushed the pitch and caused the game to be delayed by half an hour, all just to play the final minute.
Leeds were down. Not mathematically, but they needed a 9 goal swing to turn it around. Dennis Wise knew as much, so opted for some younger faces with Jonny Howson, Fabian Delph and Tom Elliott all making appearances off the bench. It was Irish youngster Rob Bayly who would make the headlines, receiving a straight red for attempting to headbutt Craig Fagan. What a debut.
Leeds went into administration and faced a very uncertain summer.
Despite a terrible season, with Leeds falling to their lowest ever point, there were a couple of loanees who would provide some bright spots. Ankergren, like many other Scandanavians before him, quickly found himself taken in by the Leeds faithful. Kishishev was the tireless midfielder that Leeds were calling out for, if only Dennis Wise wouldn’t have had a petty squabble with Shaun Derry, we could have had both. This year’s award, however, goes to the former Celtic man, Alan Thompson. Even though he couldn’t get a good run of games together, he stood head and shoulders above our other midfielders, someone who had clearly played at a much higher level, and was set to slum in League One. Your Leeds United Loan Player of the Year: Alan Thompson.