Well, it’s March again and Leeds United fans are all but ready to draw a line under another season of average football on the pitch and ridiculous distractions off it. While Neil Redfearn will know that relegation and, theoretically, promotion are still possibilities, we all know how this story finishes. It will finish with Leeds in 15th position and going through the motions for the final few weeks of the campaign with nothing to play for other than the brief smattering of joy that comes when we inevitably spoil another team’s end-of-season party.
While there were 14 new players signed by the club last summer, a good few of those have found first-team chances hard to come by under Neil Redfearn. And it’s not only those players brought in by Massimo Cellino and Nicola Salerno who have struggled for regular first-team football this season, there are a lot of players who face uncertain futures come the summer. While there weren’t many punters rushing to betfair and other bookmakers at the start of this season to back Leeds for promotion, a productive summer of recruitment could convince the betting public that next year could finally be the time when Premier League football returns to West Yorkshire. While the majority of Leeds fans would agree that there is no question the likes of Marco Silvestri, Lewis Cook, Alex Mowatt, Sam Byram and Sol Bamba all definitely need to be here next season, what about the rest of the current squad?
Stuart Taylor: After spending a career as a backup goalkeeper at a number of clubs, Taylor is doing an admirable job at Elland Road. He may have only made two appearances for the club – both in the Capital One Cup earlier in the season – but the important thing is that he is not Paul Rachubka. With Taylor seemingly satisfied with his role as a number two, there really isn’t any reason why we need to be looking at signing another keeper this summer.
Alex Cairns: We’re still waiting to see how good Cairns really is. Next season could be a make-or-break campaign for the 22-year-old. With Marco Silvestri and Stuart Taylor ahead of him, another loan move could be on the cards, although you would like to think it would be to a team in the Football League after two spells in the Conference. So, we could see whether or not Cairns can handle regular first-team football.
Giuseppe Bellusci: The Italian centre-back has certainly split opinion among Leeds fans. Some see him as a passionate, ball-playing defender capable of weighing in with some important goals. Others see him as erratic and a player who has more than a handful of mistakes in him each game. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, it’s hard to argue that Bellusci couldn’t do with calming down a little bit. But there is probably enough to suggest he could improve next season.
Aidy White: After seven years in the Leeds first-team squad, White still can’t seem to make it work at Elland Road. Injury has sidelined the 23-year-old since the start of this season and it could be the time for White to move away from his boyhood club. Often played out of position, it’s been hard for White to impress in his favoured left-back slot. Any time he has been given an extended run in the team, White hasn’t let himself down. But his body often has.
Gaetano Berardi: Aside from his two red cards in his opening three appearances for the club, Berardi has slipped under the radar this season. While he may well be a decent player, there certainly hasn’t been a lot of evidence of that this year. It might be unfair to judge Berardi on this season but you won’t find too many Leeds fans disappointed if the right-back returned to Italy in the summer.
Scott Wootton: It’s been a weird season for Wootton. Loaned out to Rotherham earlier in the season, the former Manchester United defender has returned to the first-team picture and earned a new contract following a promising run of performances at right-back. While he might not be a natural full-back, Wootton’s versatility makes him an extremely useful player to have around the squad.
Charlie Taylor: The loss of Stephen Warnock to Derby in January could have been a massive blow to Leeds but Taylor has stepped up to the plate and shown just why he is so highly thought of at Elland Road. The left-back has shown he has what it takes to handle the Championship and the youngster is another who needs to be tied down to a long-term deal in the summer. Adding another left-back to the squad would be a wise move when considering Taylor is the only recognised player in his position. But there can now be little doubt that we know who will be starting next season in the left-back position.
Dario Del Fabro: The youngster has made just one appearance in the Leeds first team and there hasn’t been a lot to take from the youngster’s time at Elland Road so far. A return to Cagliari could be on the cards at the end of the campaign unless the powers that be decide Del Fabro is worth taking a punt on.
Rodolph Austin: There are few more infuriating players in the Leeds squad than Austin. Clearly a talented midfielder, Austin’s consistency has been a huge issue this season. But after a difficult start to the season, the Jamaican has been one of the club’s best players since Christmas and it is important Austin is given a new contract in the summer. Frustrating he may be, especially when thumping 50-yard shots into the car park, but there aren’t many players who can influence a game like Austin can.
Luke Murphy: Murphy’s sending off against Bradford City in the Capital One Cup earlier in the season seemed to have all but ended the midfielder’s Leeds career. That has all changed since the start of the year, however, and Murphy has been without a doubt the best player at the club over the past couple of months. He has been genuinely like a new signing. If he can continue his recent form until the end of the season, next year could be a big campaign for Murphy. Playing alongside Cook and Mowatt, Murphy adds something different to the Leeds midfield and the trio have been crucial to the promising run of form since the turn of the year.
Adryan: After arriving with all the hype that comes with once being labelled the next Zico, it was always going to be hard for Adryan to live up to the expectations. Apart from a handful of eye-catching appearances earlier in the season, Adryan has been average at best. The potential £3 million transfer fee he would command in the summer definitely doesn’t look worth it.
Tommaso Bianchi: It seems to a lot of Leeds fans that Bianchi was given a free ride by some sections of the supporters during the first half of the campaign based on an impressive pre-season showing against Dundee United. The likes of Cook, Mowatt and Murphy have now climbed ahead of the Italian in the midfield pecking order and Bianchi has been linked with return to Italy. That wouldn’t be the end of the world for all parties concerned.
Chris Dawson: Despite continuing to look unplayable for the development team, Dawson is still finding it hard to break into Redfearn’s first team this season. The youngster is clearly blessed with buckets of talent but a loan move could be what Dawson needs to make the next step up in his career and get him used to the physicality of the Championship.
Casper Sloth: The Danish midfielder has found himself in and out of the first team since his move to Elland Road from Aarhus in the summer. While he might not have found his groove yet, Sloth has done enough to convince a lot of Leeds fans that he could be worth hanging on to in the summer. But after making it known he isn’t happy with his current situation, it remains to be seen whether Sloth tries to push for a move this summer.
Zan Benedicic: The Slovenian could have been a decent player for Leeds but injury has restricted Benedicic to just two appearances and it looks as though a return to AC Milan could be a distinct possibility this summer. Unlikely to return to full fitness before the end of the season, it is hard to see how the club could justify a permanent deal to sign the 19-year-old.
Zac Thompson: At 22, Thompson really needs to be playing regular first-team football and it’s looking less and less likely that that is going to happen at Leeds.
Billy Sharp: While you could have been forgiven for expecting a lot more from Sharp than we have seen this season, the striker hasn’t been given the sort of extended run in the team that he needs. But despite spending large spells of the season coming off the bench, Sharp has scored some important goals and is a player who could still be a massive success at Elland Road. A consistent goalscorer wherever he has played, Sharp looks and sounds determined to make it work at Leeds. Those are the type of players who definitely need keeping at the club. His goal in the 2-1 victory over Ipswich showed just what he can do when given a run in the team. We are beginning to see just what Sharp is capable of.
Edgar Cani: He is big. And an international, apparently. But not good enough to replace Steve Morison, which says a lot.
Brian Montenegro: The most peculiar signing of the season and a player we are still yet to really see in a Leeds shirt at this late stage of the campaign. Currently at the club on a loan deal from Paraguayan side Club Nacional, it would be odd if Montenegro is still at Leeds next season. That means he’ll almost definitely be at Leeds next season.
Steve Morison: It might not have been Morison’s fault that he was part of one of the most confusing transfers in the club’s recent history, but the striker has done almost nothing to win over the majority of Leeds fans. While there is no doubt Morison is hard working and more than ready to weigh in with his fair share of defensive work, he is nowhere near good enough to lead a frontline that achieves promotion to the Premier League. We really need to be looking at better options if we’re going to get anywhere near the top flight any time soon.
Souleymane Doukara: After an encouraging start to the year, many thought Doukara would be a big player for Leeds this season. The goals have dried up, however, and it turns out the Frenchman might not have as much to his game as some thought earlier in the campaign. The decision to make the forward’s loan deal a permanent one now doesn’t look as wise as it might have done at the time and it remains to be seen what will happen to Doukara in the summer.
Mirco Antenucci: Antenucci has shown that he has what it takes to score in the Championship during his time in England, although the Italian has struggled to find the back of the net on a regular basis since the turn of the year. A regular scorer in the Italian lower leagues, the 30-year-old has proven some doubters wrong with his early-season goalscoring exploits following his arrival at Elland Road. While Antenucci’s season might have slowed down somewhat in recent weeks, his performance after coming off the bench against Ipswich showed what else he brings to a team. There have been plenty of positives to take from his first season in England.