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Championship

Mirco Antenucci continues excellent post-Leeds United career with new contract

The Italian striker has become a hero at current club SPAL.

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It would be fair to say that Mirco Antenucci has not let his exit from Leeds United halt his career. The Italian today signed a new deal with Serie A club SPAL. It keeps him with the club until the summer of 2020 – when he will be 35-years-old.

It signifies his importance to the side, who are currently engaged in a thrilling fight for top-flight survival in Italy. Antenucci is the club captain and played a key role in their promotion to Serie A last season. The Italian striker scored 18 goals last season and this season he has performed well in the top-flight. Antenucci has scored eight goals this season, making him the club’s top scorer.

For Leeds fans however, it will not come as a shock.

Antenucci was one of the few signings brought in under Massimo Cellino’s ownership that the fans really got behind.

The bearded striker was a popular figure at Elland Road because of his passionate displays and goalscoring prowess. The Italian was ruthless in front of goal, even if his figures only showed 19 goals in two Championship campaigns.

At the end of the 2015-16 season Antenucci’s contract was up at Leeds and the club did not tie him down to a new one. The striker, who had just had a newborn baby, wanted to head back to Italy.

LEEDS, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 29: Mirco Antenucci of Leeds applauds the fans following the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Derby County at Elland Road on November 29, 2014 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

But Leeds fans will wish they had Antenucci at the club now. The striker is enjoying a traditional Italian striker’s Indian summer at the moment. Leeds meanwhile have lacked goals, since the departure of Antenucci’s former team-mate Chris Wood to Burnley.

An experienced Serie A captain who is still scoring goals – Leeds United must wish Antenucci had wanted to stay in West Yorkshire.

Championship

Conor Coady shows Liverpool what they’re missing in masterful Wolves campaign

The Wolves captain was tipped for big things at Liverpool but never made the grade.

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Back in 2011, Liverpool had one of their young starlets being tipped to become the ‘next Steven Gerrard.’ It was a tag being occasionally branded around the club about young talent Conor Coady. With good reason as well. The teenager was looking like the most natural successor to Gerrard yet.

The summer previous, he had helped England win the UEFA under-17 Championships, which is where the hype all began. Liverpool had unearthed a gem who immediately found himself tipped to become a future Kop captain.

But it never happened for the young man.

(Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

Instead, he headed to Sheffield United on loan – where he excelled. After getting a taste for regular football, the idea of returning to the reserve life with Liverpool clearly did not appeal to the utility man. Therefore, he left Liverpool in 2014, joining Huddersfield Town.

Liverpool fans soon forgot about him. Just another hyped up youngster who could not match the expectations laid at their door?

Well, this season Coady has finally looked like the real deal.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

The Melwood talent did not stick with Huddersfield for long. In 2015 he joined Wolverhampton Wanderers and he is now looking like the talent Liverpool thought they had at Molineux.

One issue with Coady has always been his position. Often moved around the park, this season he has played as a settled central defender. The results have been exceptional. Coady has been one of the best players in the Championship this campaign. That was highlighted by his inclusion in the Championship team of the season. The 25-year-old is now looking like a future Premier League star and will be playing in the big time next season after captaining Wolves to the Championship summit.

When Liverpool sold Coady to Huddersfield, they did so for a fee reported to be just £500,000 by the Liverpool Echo. The Reds obviously felt he would not live up to those once lofty expectations.

Based on his form this season, Liverpool could be rueing this mistake in the not so distant future.

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Aston Villa

Should Paul Lambert consider a Gabriel Agbonlahor reunion at Stoke City?

The Stoke City boss got the best out of Agbonlahor at times during his spell at Aston Villa.

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Reports in the press this week are suggesting that Aston Villa forward Gabriel Agbonlahor may decide to retire from the sport this summer. The Sun is suggesting the striker may decide to hang up his boots this summer should he not receive an offer he deems appropriate.

The former England international is out of contract in the summer and his club has little or no interest in keeping him at Villa Park. After coming through the ranks at the club, Agbonlahor will bring an end to his 17-year association with Aston Villa.

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The striker has struggled with his fitness in recent years and his form has also dropped dramatically but, at just 31-years-old, it would be a strange move to quit altogether.

What Agbonlahor needs is to work with a former boss of his who got some of the best out of him. Paul Lambert had such an impact at Aston Villa. Agbonlahor pushed for an England recall in 2013 under the guidance of the Scottish manager. Lambert had him leaner and smarter in attack and generally, it was a good working relationship.

So could Lambert hand him a life-line?

Lambert looks like he will be managing in the Championship next season. The Stoke City boss saw his side draw 1-1 with Burnley today. The gap between the Potters and survival is getting no smaller.

In order to return to the top-flight Stoke will need some new recruits and Agbonlahor could be perfect.

(Photo credit should read GRAHAM STUART/AFP/Getty Images)

Whilst not the player he was five years ago, the experienced attacker has played just six times this season, scoring one goal, this is still a player who was a Premier League star under Lambert’s rule just five years ago.

Of course, he won’t be outpacing many players these days. But his experience and nous could be a vital addition to Stoke’s cause if they are fighting to return to the Premier League next season.

If Lambert can get Agbonlahor anywhere near his best, then the Potters would be on to a winner.

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Championship

Has Adam Forshaw been getting off lightly for Leeds United?

Leeds United’s January recruit finally got a win with his new club this weekend.

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Leeds United picked up a win in the Championship yesterday, with Paul Heckingbottom getting one over his old side Barnsley. Goals from Tom Pearce, his first for the club, and Ezgjan Alioski gave the West Yorkshire side all three points. It was only Leeds United’s third win of 2018. But once again Leeds did so largely without their January transfer window signing Adam Forshaw.

Forshaw came into the game in the 84th minute. It is now the first time he has enjoyed a win as a Leeds player.

When Leeds turned over Forshaw’s former club Brentford in a 1-0 result back in February the midfielder was with his wife, who was giving birth. He was also injured when Leeds beat Bolton Wanderers on Good Friday, with a calf problem.

In fact, until yesterday’s cameo appearance, Forshaw had a record of played nine, lost five drew four and conceded 20.

Of course, this is not a case of pinning the blame on the new boy. In general, Leeds’ entire first-team squad has performed badly since the turn of the year.

However, since his January arrival, Forshaw has been well received by Leeds fans for his performances. In a season where the likes of Eunan O’Kane, Kalvin Phillips and Ronaldo Vieira have been roundly criticised the new recruit was getting off very lightly.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

When you consider the fact he has not yet made a real contribution toward Leeds United winning a game, it is perhaps a shock to see him being so well received compared to the other central midfielders at Leeds.

O’Kane has had a poor season whilst Phillips just looks like being an inconsistent player. Vieira has struggled with tendonitis but, in recent games, has rediscovered his form.

Forshaw has not particularly performed any better than the other central-midfield options at Leeds, in particular, the younger pair, and he will need to improve next season if he is to have a major impact on the Leeds first-team.

 

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