Rodolph Austin - Before he broke! - Alex Livesey
As the elder statesman of the TIAT writers, Stephen Clark has been asked to look back at the players who he has seen wear the colours of Leeds United in his 20+ years of watching the Whites. Whilst he will look at the good, the main focus will be on the bad as we remember some of the lesser lights to represent the club. This week we look at the A Team.
All White: Leeds United's 100 Greatest Players was recently published to great acclaim. John Howe and Andrew Dalton compiled a list of the legends to have worn the shirt as voted for by the fans. It's a fantastic piece of work, but it was one that got me thinking, particularly at this current time of mediocrity, of some of the worst players to represent this fantastic club.
With emergency loans, and lower league football, the turnover of players has been quite frightening in the years since dropping out of the top flight in 2004. Kevin Blackwell famously stated that there was just him and Gary Kelly at the first day of pre-season training as the club got ready for life in the second tier of English football for the first time since 1990. However he was soon surrounded by a host of young bucks, old has-beens and a sprinkling of never were's. In the years that followed, no new season has been complete without a collection of new faces eager to impress the United faithful. Sadly not many of them have.
I started watching the team on a regular basis the last time we had played outside the top division, getting my first season ticket for the promotion season of 1989-90, the start of the club's renaissance that saw them win a title and become a real force in the Premier League, something that seems as unfeasible to the youngsters of today as the glory of the Revie Era was to me in the mid 80's.
So that's where my search for the worst player to represent Leeds will start. I have seen others wear the white shirt in the 70's and 80's but they are but just fleeting memories. I remember vividly pretty much of the motley crew we are about to look at. So over the next few months I'll be talking about the 300+ players I have seen since August 1989, including any who appeared on trial or in friendlies. The only criteria is I had to see them live and in the flesh, TV does not count. So here we go with the A's.
That very first season in 1989/90 saw Leeds in a titanic three way struggle for promotion with Newcastle United and Sheffield United. Whilst the Toon were there or thereabouts for most of the season, the real battle was with Sheffield United. The Blades took the championship race down to the final day, spearheaded by the striking partnership of Brian Deane and Tony Agana.
Agana had become the record signing for Notts County in November 1991, a side managed by Neil Warnock, who were playing in the top flight at the time. However in February with Leeds in the middle of their battle for the 1st Division title, they suffered an injury crisis up front, with Lee Chapman out injured with a broken hand.
In those days emergency loans really were only used in emergencies, and Howard Wilkinson brought Agana in for a month as cover in case Chapman didn't recover. Unfortunately for Tony, Chapman was back quickly and Agana had to settle for a place on the bench, making his debut as a sub for Rod Wallace in a 2-0 win over Luton Town.
Agana did start the next game at home against Aston Villa and it is this game I remember him most for. Desperate for a win and having missed a penalty through Gordon Strachan, Leeds were in dire need of a goal. The best chance fell to Agana, but with the goal at his mercy, he missed, causing me to jump up in frustration and smack my head on the ironwork at the back of the Kop. Agana was replaced by Eric Cantona and the rest is history.
Another striker crisis saw the next entrant into the hall of shame make the only appearance of his Leeds United career. With Jermaine Beckford and Tresor Kandol having been sent off in the previous game against Gillingham, the firepower which had helped Leeds wipe out their 15 point deduction at the start of their first campaign in League One were suspended for the trip to Boundary Park.
Dennis Wise moved quickly to bring in reinforcements. Mare De Vries we had heard of. Andrews we most certainly hadn't. Prior to his move to Leeds his biggest claim to fame was a role in Vinnie Jones version of Mean Machine, the highlight of a career flitting around the lower and non leagues. Loaned from Coventry City, Andrews did pretty much nothing as Leeds struggled to break down (or rather get round) a defence marshaled by Sean Gregan. That was until Ian Westlake's last minute winner at least made Andrews debut (and farewell performance) a memorable one.
Casper is one of those we will remember a little more fondly. The Danish keeper was a hero in the cup win at Old Trafford, had a superb game in the following round against Tottenham when he saved a Jermaine Defoe penalty, and was an integral part of the side that finally won promotion from League One.
It was a penalty save that earned him almost instant hero status, saving a last minute spot kick to preserve a 1-0 win in a relegation six pointer against Luton Town in March 2007. Taking over as first choice, he was powerless to stop Leeds dropping out of the Championship.
However he hung around, spurning other offers to remain at Elland Road once the club came out of administration. He was pretty much an ever present in the first season in League One, and without his heroics would have been destroyed in the first half of the play-off final against Doncaster.
The following season saw him in a battle for the shirt with David Lucas, but once Simon Grayson took over, he was first choice. Prone to going walkabout in his area, I personally hold him responsible for Millwall's eqauliser at Elland Road in the play-off semi final at Elland Road, although the fact that he stood up to their fans attempts to chin him in the first leg earns him a bit of kudos.
He lost the shirt to Shane Higgs at the beginning and the end of the promotion season, but was first choice throughout the middle including those memorable cup games.
Released at the end of that season, he is currently with Gus Poyet at Brighton. Casper is probably the pick of the A's I have seen play for Leeds.
Casper could be run close if Jamie Ashdown ever gets a chance for a run of games. The summer signing from Portsmouth has been pretty decent between the sticks when he has come in for Paddy Kenny in Cup games this season.
Although he can be faulted for letting Juan Mata's shot squirm under his hand for Chelsea's equaliser in the recent League Cup clash, without his saves in the first half we could have been well behind before Becchio's opening goal.
Although he is unlikely to see much first team action after Saturday, at least he is not Paul Rachubka. For that reason only we should be thankful.
This is one of those names that will be forever associated with a pivotal moment in Leeds United's history. With Leeds United's defence a shambles in the closing days of Gary McAllister's reign as manager, Assoumani was drafted into the team for the visit to MK Dons after impressing in a trial match.
Selected at right back, he had a harrowing afternoon as Milton Keynes tore Leeds apart in the first half, going two goals ahead as Leeds continued a trend of being totally incapable of defending a set piece.
Shoved into the centre of the defence following the withdrawal of Lubo Michalik, Assoumani looked quite steady in the second half, but as Leeds fell to a 3-1 defeat, so the axe was poised over the head of McAllister. When he was sacked the following day, Simon Grayson came in and Assoumani was never to be seen again, the innocent victim of a managerial bloodletting.
The YouTube videos that pre-empted the Jamaican internationals signing made Leeds United supporters very excited in the summer of 2012. Hard tackling, strong running and powerful shooting made Austin a cult hero in the making. In his early days, it looked as if we had unearthed a gem as Austin did all of those things in his first few games for the club.
A superb strike against Oxford in the League Cup and a free kick from an improbable distance against Cardiff cemented his hero status, sparking socks of Rizla's and reggae from the United fans.
Then like all those Christmas toys that are played with too much he broke. When he went down injured against Watford and had to be stretchered off we feared the worst, particularly when Neil Warnock said his leg was "broken in two places" to hide his own tactical ineptitude following the 6-1 defeat. With a reputation for being unbreakable, no one was surprised when that had healed to a broken ankle later that evening.
However since he has been rushed back to fitness, he is not half the plaything he was before. He's not as fierce and his radar is bust, with passes wildly overhit and shots troubling roofs rather than nets. A slight improvement on Saturday might have signalled he is on his way back, but at the moment Rodolph looks like being a one month wonder rather than the midfield collosus we all wished for.
So that's it for the A's and it's time for your say on the mater. Please vote in the poll, and use the comments below to give us your thoughts on these players. Next week we look at the B's a range of players from the fantastic David Batty to the simply fat Tomas Brolin
Who is the worst of "The A Team"
Tony Agana (31 votes)
Mansour Assoumani (86 votes)
Wayne Andrews (108 votes)
Casper Ankergren (5 votes)
Jamie Ashdown (3 votes)
Rodolph Austin (9 votes)
242 total votes