Here we were, at our lowest point. For the first time in our history we were playing in the third tier. Just one year previous we were a step away from the Premier League, now it might as well have been in a different solar system. Things were bad, and they were only going to get worse.
The summer of 2007 was a long, drawn out affair of Ken Bates - having put the club into administration before the final game of the season - now trying to cling on to ownership with threats of liquidation. Despite interest from other parties, all of whom were willing to pay creditors more than Bates’ penny in the pound, the threats worked and Bates remained in charge. He did, however, bring Leeds out of administration illegally and after a vote amongst the clubs of the Football League, Leeds were docked 15 points before a ball was even kicked.
Through the summer Leeds had depended on the few players they still had under contract to turn out in pre-season friendlies with the rest of the team being made up of trialists, hoping that Leeds’ ownership situation would be dealt with so they could be signed. The only thing Leeds had at this point was name value. Players wanted to come and play for Leeds.
Jamie Clapham was the first loanee to come in. Through the summer Leeds had been selling anyone of value. Healy, Cresswell and Blake were all moved on, if not for the transfer fee, then to get them off the wage bill. The last of these players remaining was Eddie Lewis. He played all through the summer and started the first two games of the season. But when Derby swooped, Leeds needed a new left back. The veteran full back would slot straight into the team after the American’s departure, holding down a place until the end of his short term loan in November, playing 13 times in a run that saw Leeds lose only once.
At the start of October, Leeds were forced to look into the loan market again as they would be without strikers Jermaine Beckford and Tresor Kandol, who was fresh off winning the League One Fans Player of the Month having scored five goals in eight games. Leeds dangled their fishing rod and found Wayne Andrews from Coventry and Mark de Vries from Leicester, both brought in on one month deals. Signed solely for the Oldham game, the two started but were largely ineffective in a game that was won by a late Ian Westlake goal.
Andrews would just make one more appearance for Leeds in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. De Vries on the other hand would go on to leave more of an impression at Elland Road. After their suspensions Beckford and Kandol returned to the starting lineup for Leeds as they took on Yeovil. With quarter of an hour remaining and the game still goalless, Leeds threw on de Vries as well as Tore Andre Flo on to form a four man attack. The gamble paid off. In the 88th minute, de Vries looped a header into the far corner to secure all three points for the Whites. He would do nothing else of note in his time at the club but for a brief moment in time Mark de Vries was a hero.
Radostin Kishishev would secure a loan spell at Leeds for the second season running. A surprising move as he had only recently joined Leicester, Kishishev was brought in as cover after injuries to Alan Thomson and Andy Hughes. Kishishev himself would be battling injuries from the moment he joined Leeds and struggled to get back to full fitness. He was unable to capture the form he had shown the previous season and across the seven games he featured in was unable to impress enough to earn a permanent move.
Darren Kenton was another brought in on a short term loan, before being signed permanently at the end of January when Leicester agreed to terminate his contract. Kenton would be a regular in the Leeds side until the end of March. He was joined by another Leicester player, Alan Sheehan. The Irishman would feature 10 times under new manager Gary McAllister but after picking up a red card against Yeovil. His big contribution would be to score the only goal in a 1-0 win away at Doncaster which, of course, was a free kick.
One of the most unfortunate loanees in the club’s history was Stephen O’Halloran. The Irish youngster had come through Aston Villa’s academy and after a loan spell with Wycombe in League 2 the previous year joined Leeds, another one on a month’s loan. Set to make his debut against Swindon, O’Halloran would suffer an anterior cruciate ligament injury, keeping him out of the game for around a year.
The final loanee of the season would be Crystal Palace striker Dougie Freedman. Leeds had gone six games without a win and dropped out of the play off positions. It looked like Leeds had run out of steam and that this season would be all for nought. After making his first two appearances from the bench, Freedman announced himself to the Leeds faithful on his first start by grabbing two goals in a 3-3 draw away at Port Vale. He would bag another brace against Carlisle in a 3-2 win and a winner against Yeovil in the penultimate game of the season. Freedman’s greatest contribution came in defeat however.
Leeds had managed to regain their form and won seven of the final nine games to secure fifth place, pitting them against Carlisle in the play offs. In an end-to-end game, Leeds were trailing 2-0 after being denied by a number of good saves by Carlisle keeper Kieren Westwood. In the 96th minute Paul Huntington sent a high, hopeful ball into the penalty area, finding the head of Tresor Kandol. The ball bounced down, hitting Andy Hughes before falling to Freedman who struck it home, giving Leeds a fighting chance for the second leg. Jonny Howson would be the hero of that second leg, striking twice and taking Leeds to Wembley where, like always, they succumbed.
In spite of Jamie Clapham’s early season form there is only one contender for the award. He came to Leeds at a time when they needed a boost and provided vital goals. The 2007/08 Leeds United Loan Player of the Year: Dougie Freedman.