Tim Steere writes his weekly article for Vital Leeds United. This week he focuses on the news that club captain and local boy done good Jonny Howson is on his way out of Elland Road.
When it came to writing a column for this week, I was struggling to think of what to write about. Until the news came through today that stunned many Leeds fans.
The club`s captain and home grown talent Jonny Howson looks set to join Norwich City. A bid was accepted today thought to be in the region of £2m from the Canaries.
I was stunned when I woke to see the news. I was even more stunned when I read the official statement on the clubs website.
Howson had 6 months left on his contract and had expressed a desire to play Premier League football ‘at the earliest opportunity`.
So an ‘acceptable` offer has been ‘reluctantly` accepted. No doubt it was accepted very reluctantly, for many reasons and they were also unhappy that it had been made public.
There`s no wonder they didn`t want it to be made public. Most Leeds fans have accused the club of a lack of ambition and selling the crown jewels on the cheap. You can probably guess at who these accusations are thrown at.
But, sadly, with this has come a realisation with fans that the best players will come and go, and they will have offers from the Premier League and will continue to leave until we get back there. There`s also the mentality of if they don`t want to stay then fine, let them go. We`re better off without them.
Which is where the official statement makes for interesting reading. According to the club, Howson has expressed a desire to play Premier League football immediately. If that is the case, then why is there such uproar about his inevitable departure? If he wants to go, then why aren`t the fans saying, “fine if he doesn`t want to play for us?”.
It`s all thanks to the proud history the club has of bringing through young talent from the Thorpe Arch academy. All football fans love to see young players coming up through the ranks from their own academy. The instant argument for when the first team is doing badly, is sack the lot and bring in players from the youth team/academy, at least they`ll be proud to play for the club and will give it everything.
And that`s what fans like at Leeds. They like young, hungry, local players who have a knowledge and passion for the club. And for many, Howson as captain epitomised that.
He has been criticised recently for his performances, but no-one was in any doubt how much he loved the club and how he always gave everything. He came up through the academy, he is a Leeds fan, and being captain was a dream come true.
When fit, he was almost the first name on the teamsheet with manager and fans. He was the link between the fans and the team. He`s been with us through the highs and lows, and so when this news hit, it hit hard.
No-one could believe at still a relatively young age, Howson would want to leave the club he`s supported all his life to get Premiership football. No doubt he wants to play in the Premiership, who wouldn`t but he`s always said he wants to do it with Leeds.
Instantly, alarm bells ring. Those immediate responses of “fine, let him go”, are now more a case of, are the club being truthful?
Does he really want to leave now? Or has just no contract been forthcoming and the club were ready to sell him on? Ultimately in the press saturated world that circles football, we will never know the full story. The first interview with Howson will probably have him saying he never wanted to leave, but is delighted to be at Norwich now and to get the chance to play in the Premier League.
There is one certainty; the fans won`t believe what the club is saying. They can accept Beckford, Gradel, and many others leaving, just. But with other young talent that has come through the club to leave; Woodgate, Lennon, Kilgallon, Delph and now it seems Howson, they will never accept it.
And with this move in particular though, and the history Howson has at the club, this deal could be the straw that breaks the camel`s back.
There has been no inclination of this, but even though he will be desperate to see Leeds in the Premier League, a career in football is short.
Recently, many fans have said that we aren`t good enough to reach the top flight. Howson may have thought this as well and seen that only way to play in the Premier League was to leave Leeds. And with 6 months left on his contract and that reported £2m offer, aren`t Leeds just cutting their losses?
Ideally a contract, like with Tom Lees recent extension, should`ve been sorted by now. Who is at fault here and who actually wants to go or get rid will never be known as I`ve mentioned. But for now Leeds have to focus on the season ahead.
Howson was ruled out until March anyway with an injury, so Simon Grayson has to carry on regardless anyway. The idea of Delph coming back on loan may have a strong correlation with this deal and that the club didn`t want the Howson deal to be known until they had secured the return of Delph. Though I can only guess that this deal would be an attempt to quell the anger of Leeds fans for selling Howson. It wouldn`t have worked.
But having Delph in the team would undoubtedly help. Alongside Clayton it has the potential to work well, with Pugh as a back up.
That, however, would only be a loan. Howson in the eyes of many Leeds fans would`ve been here for life, and he would`ve been instrumental in getting us promoted.
He was one of the fans, but in the end the lure of the Premier League may have been too much, or he quite simply was pushed for the money. We`ll never know for sure.
And out of all of this, that is the most disappointing thing.
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