You know when you are flicking through Facebook, trying to avoid those clingy mates that you had at school who pester your every social media step, and you come across those ‘If You Were A Kid in the 70s/80s’ posts? Well this is kind of like that.
Almost, well a little bit really – just a little bit.
I mean the 80s was a time of wonder, a time of bad ‘Flock of Seagulls’ hairstyles and a time of insipid Stock Aitken and Waterman pop whose saccharine-sweet verses repeated to fade and clogged up the charts like green algae clogs up summer rivers. It was also a time of fad toys, things that were but mere momentary distractions.
I remember the wind-up Evel Kneivel bike, but that was more 70s really – probably a hand-me-down toy to me from a neighbour. There was also the original Stretch Armstrong where primary school kids practised playground hung-drawn-quartering as they tried to rive poor Stretch apart. But what got me was that rubber octopus or alien that you lobbed at your bedroom wall and watched it drip down your wall bit-by-slimy-bit.
You see that’s what Leeds United’s transfer policy used to be like, and I stress the ‘used to be’ part quite strongly. Just as the rubber octopus was thrown vigourously at the wall, where it was hoped it would stick – so was what could loosely be termed a ‘transfer policy’ at Elland Road. This policy was figuratively hurled at a particular player, likely seen in the pages of some obscure football publication and the powers-that-be simply seemed to say “We’ll have ‘eem.”
I mean, how can any rational-thinking human being with even half-firing neurons even begin to figure out any other way that Leeds United ended up with Zan Benedicic, Granddi N’Goyi or the infamous Edgar Çani. If there is any other reasoning behind their transfers, other than an analogous lobbing of something akin to a fad rubber octopus-style policy at them, then I’m a Dutchman’s uncle – that should at least qualify me the chance of a signing.
Their signings are the modern-day, Leeds United version of strange transfers that have been present all through time and in many different guises elsewhere. The signing of Zan Benedicic is the Leeds United version of when Floey had to look for something different to offer when they purchased the striker Kenneth Kristensen. With money being tight in the Norwegian third tier, Floey needed some novel way to bring in striker Kristensen from rivals Vindbjart.
Rather than being ‘all English’ and offering a set of training vests or tracksuits, Floey offered their rivals a somewhat fishy deal – they’d pay a fee for Kristensen based on his weight in fresh shrimp. So that was 75kg of fresh shrimp for one striker – only slightly more bizarre than why Leeds United signed and didn’t play Benedicic.
What about Granddi N’Goyi and that one appearance. Do you ever think ‘Why?’, I mean simply just ‘Why?’ Signing him was almost as crazy as the time that Romanian defender Marius Cioara was outraged to find that his club, UT Arad, had accepted a bid for him that amounted to 15kg of fresh sausages from Regal Hornia in 1996. An angry Ciora promptly announced his retirement to go work on a Spanish farm. N’Goyi, now a free agent, played one game for Leeds United in a deal that was almost as strange as trying to negotiate a deal with a pocket full of Richmond Irish-style sausages.
For Leeds fans looking at modern-era transfers, nothing tops the loan deal that brought Albanian Edgar Çani to Elland Road – nothing does. The Çani deal was Leeds United’s version of the Ernest Blenkinsop Cudworth to Hull City deal in 1921. Hull were looking to sweeten the £200 deal with the club based in a South Yorkshire mining village, so they threw in 80 pints of ale. In fairness, Edgar Çani, kindly said to have “looked raw” by Neil Redfearn, played a little like he’d drunk some of those 80 pints, with Leeds fans wishing they’d consumed the rest.
But from weird transfers of three seasons ago, as strange as those involving body weight of shrimp, sausages and ale, to what is going on now at Elland Road there is simply no comparison. You only have to look at the quality that has been brought in to the side to see that, like Bob Dylan said, ‘the times are a-changin’. Madness and the rubber octopus policy have been ditched, reason prevails.
Players like Ezgjan Alioski, Samu Saiz and Pierre-Michel Lasogga have been brought to the club, players who have helped reinvigorate the Whites – leading to not only a change in fortune but an overhaul in ethos and style of play. Under Garry Monk, Leeds United were only too happy to grind out a result here, another one there and take a loss along the way. It was said by Monk to be a project that was on the right tracks – one that fans should buy in to.
But not now. Monk is history and the tracks have been torn up and relaid in a different direction. Now instead of a sterile midfield, Leeds United’s engine room fizzes and pops with bristling intent. Alioski and Saiz, ably back by a solid Kalvin Phillips and the reborn Lazarus-style duo of Eunan O’Kane and Pablo Hernández, take teams apart. New boys Saiz and Alioski, plus Lasogga, are all vital in the new surge instilled in Leeds United under new head coach Thomas Christiansen.
And for some Leeds United fans there is only one man who needs the plaudits, needs to hear the praise – it’s Victor Orta. Sporting Director Orta, said a failure at Middlesbrough when it can to signings, is definitely laying his scouting cards out on the table when it comes to unearthing gems like Alioski, Saiz and Lasogga – as well as Caleb Ekuban and others brought in to the club.
Orta, who learned his trade under the legendary Monchi at Sevilla, has tapped into that football version of what Billy Beane did to the Oakland As in baseball in what was called the ‘Moneyball Approach’. Rather than looking for big-money stars, Beane and his assistant Paul De Podesta looked for value players and wins as their baseline judgement.
In an arena where English-players are over-valued and definitely over-priced, Victor Orta has tapped into a rich vein of value, value that is paying dividends at Leeds United. To put things into a little perspective, Ashley Fletcher, once a target for Leeds United cost Middlesbrough £7 million this summer – his return being seven games, 185 minutes and one goal across all competitions. Meanwhile Orta has picked up Saiz and Alioski for a combined £6 million and the duo have played 16 games for Leeds (eight each) and scored seven goals between them (Saiz six; Alioski one) and provided four assists (Saiz one; Alioski three) across all competitions.
Seems that there is finally a transfer policy at Leeds United that is working and doesn’t involve the throwing of dated rubber octopuses in the vain hope that it’d stick to something half-useful. Those days are gone, the Orta days have arrived and Leeds United fans are truly grateful for it.