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Championship

Samuel Saiz has not proved to be the messiah for Leeds United

The Spaniard was billed as the second coming when he returned from suspension, but is now being left out of the Leeds United starting XI.

Mathew Coull

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Back in mid-February Leeds United fans were hailing the upcoming return of one of their star players. Fans of the West Yorkshire side were hailing the upcoming return to action of Spanish playmaker Samuel Saiz with almost messiah like fervour.

The summer signing from SD Huesca had been Leeds’ standout player throughout the first half of the season. He then commited a despicable act, by spitting at an opponent in the FA Cup loss to Newport County and, rightly, received a six-game ban.

Newport County v Leeds United - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round

NEWPORT, WALES – JANUARY 07: Leeds player Samuel Saiz (21) is held back by team mates after being red carded during The Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Newport County and Leeds United at Rodney Parade on January 7, 2018 in Newport, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

During that period Thomas Christiansen got the sack and Leeds went on a winless run through the duration of Saiz’s ban.

Then he returned, risen, Leeds’ hero to lead them back on a play-off charge. He made an excellent cameo off the bench in the 2-2 draw with Derby County on his first game back before Leeds finally won again, for the first time since Boxing Day, in his next game. Saiz played nearly the full 90, before coming off in the final minute of added time to rapturous applause from his adoring fans.

However, Saiz has not dragged Leeds back into form.

The Whites have won just once in the eight games since that fixture. Saiz, despite the odd moment of brilliance, had not recaptured the form that saw him tearing through Championship defences earlier in the season.

(during the Sky Bet Championship match between Fulham and Leeds United at Craven Cottage on April 3, 2018 in London, England.

Much of that is down to the manager. Paul Heckingbottom appears reluctant to allow Saiz the freedom to cut loose, unlike his predecessor. Now, the Spanish wizard is struggling to start games with the unpopular Dutchman Jay-Roy Grot and returning Kemar Roofe preferred for last night’s loss at Preston North End.

Saiz, perhaps, only has himself to blame. His indiscretion v Newport was appalling and disrupted the rhythm of his season.

He has not proven to be the messiah that Leeds United fans hoped he would be. Hopefully next season he can start much as he did this term, but then continue to perform that way for an entire campaign.

Derby County

Newcastle United should take advantage of Matej Vydra’s low asking fee

The Czech international has scored 20 goals in the Championship this season.

Josh Kerr

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Matej Vydra
Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United ensuring another season of Premier League football represents one of Rafael Benitez’ most impressive achievements in football to date.

The job done by the Spaniard is all the more admirable considering the Magpies striker options have been thin for large periods of the season, and the arrival of a goal-scorer is surely imminent for the Tyneside club.

According to The Telegraph, Derby County are likely to list their top-scorer Matej Vydra for sale after their failure to earn promotion to the Premier League.

This comes as massive news to a number of clubs in England’s top-flight, and Newcastle should be one of the front-runners queuing for the 26-year-old’s prolific services.

The Czech Republic international has been excellent this season firing 20 goals in 35 appearances for the Rams.

Reports suggest the club may be forced to sell their star striker in order to reduce the club’s £35 million wage bill ahead of next season.

The 26-year-old’s sale this summer will be Derby’s attempts to slash their budgets and form a strategy that is going to enable the club to push for promotion once again next season.

A fee of around £8 million could prove a major boost for Newcastle, considering the club’s financial restraints, and a 20-goal striker would surely be an improvement on Benitez’s current front-line options.

(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Islam Slimani’s loan move from Leicester proved to be a disaster, and the arrival of Joselu was one of the most disappointing transfers of the season.

The club are in desperate need of a goalscorer, with Perez leading the club’s individual efforts, despite being a number 10 and not an out-and-out goalscorer.

Vydra also has rare Premier League experience with West Bromwich Albion, as well as Watford, and his graft in the Championship may mean he’s ready for a return back to the top-flight.

The former West Brom striker guarantees goals and if there is one thing Tyneside supporters have missed in recent years, it is a goal-scoring hero.

At a little over £8 million, he could still prove a real bargain and a relatively insignificant risk.

Benitez has been wanting to break the bank since his arrival in 2016 but may be tempted do a deal on the cheap for the highly-rated striker.

Newcastle will be looking to improve on their impressive 10th place finish next season and the firepower of a genuine goalscorer could see them surpass the highs of this campaign.

Vydra offers pace and is even an aerial threat at just 5ft 2, so it has to be a priority for Newcastle to capture one of the bargains of the season and bring Vydra to St James’ Park.

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Birmingham City

Leeds must take advantage of Garry Monk’s misstep and snap up David Stockdale

The experienced shot-stopper would be a useful addition at Elland Road.

Max Cohen

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David Stockdale
Photo: Getty Images

Rarely is a goalkeeper who was previously named in the Championship Team of the Year told he is surplus to requirements, but this fate appears to have befallen Birmingham City’s David Stockdale.

Leeds United must act quickly and sign Stockdale from Birmingham, reuniting the former Premier League goalie with his favourite club.

Stockdale starred for Brighton and Hove Albion in the 2016/17 Championship campaign, steering the Seagulls to automatic promotion while being named in the PFA Team of the Year.

When the Englishman signed for Birmingham the following summer, many lauded the move as one of the coups of the transfer window.

Yet, Stockdale endured a turbulent year at St Andrew’s as the club went through three managers and narrowly avoided relegation.

Nonetheless, it came as a surprise when the Birmingham Mail reported that manager Garry Monk would allow the 32-year-old keeper to leave this summer.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Stockdale enjoyed a strong end to the season as the Blues won five out of their last nine to stay up, keeping three clean sheets in the process.

Given his strong Championship pedigree and impressive recent form, it seems odd that Monk would allow Stockdale to depart this summer.

However, Birmingham’s loss could turn into Leeds’ gain, as the Yorkshire club would do well to acquire the Leeds-born shot-stopper.

The goalkeeper grew up in the city and is a Leeds supporter, and even had a trial with the club when he was 12.

Stockdale failed the trial back then but has a superb chance to move to Elland Road and deputise for his beloved childhood club.

The goalkeeper has been a problem position all year for Leeds.

According to Phil Hay of the Yorkshire Evening Post, summer signing Felix Wiedwald has “struggled to adapt” to the Championship, while Bailey Peacock-Farrell is relatively inexperienced at only 21 years of age.

The signing of David Stockdale would benefit all parties involved, reuniting the goalkeeper with his boyhood club and solving the positional dilemma at Elland Road.

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Leeds United

Turfed out by Leeds, Souleymane Doukara is relegation hero in Turkey

The forward was released by Leeds United last August.

Mathew Coull

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Leeds United fans were likely left very surprised when they heard who had been signed to replace the legendary Samuel Eto’o at Antalyaspor in February. The Turkish side were in the relegation zone at the time and decided to cut down on wages and big-name players. The Cameroonian headed to rivals Konyaspor, whilst Antalyaspor pillaged fellow relegation battlers Osmanlispor. The player they stole away? None other than former Leeds United forward Souleymane Doukara.

Of course, Leeds fans were right to find the idea of Doukara replacing Eto’o somewhat unbelievable. Doukara had an indifferent spell at Leeds after joining from Catania in 2014.

(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

He was, however, one of the few Massimo Cellino led signings who managed to stick around and put in some good cameo performances, particularly under the management of Garry Monk. He will always be remembered for an incredible volley v Nottingham Forest that nearly ripped a hole in the back of the net and won the 2016-17 goal of the season.

Indeed, he always seemed to be a player up to the challenge of trying to prove those around him wrong. Despite his good moments, he was released last August after falling out of favour with new boss Thomas Christiansen.

(Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

After impressing in his first six months in Turkey, Antalyaspor decided he was the man to save them from relegation. They were right.

Doukara has been fantastic for the club since joining in the winter. The 26-year-old has scored six goals in 14 games for the club. Earlier this month, he raced away from Genclerbirligi defender, and Paul’s older brother, Florentin Pogba to slot home a 1-0 winner against their relegation rivals and secure Antalyaspor’s place in the Turkish Super Lig for next season.

Leeds fans know that when Doukara was in the mood, he had all the tools to be a real handful in the Championship. Unfortunately, those days were often few and far between. But this year so far has been excellent for the attacker who, based on recent evidence, could have played a major role at Elland Road this season.

Replace Eto’o he certainly did and he will now forever be a hero in Antalya. Leeds might regret deciding to cut their losses on the versatile French-Senegalese attacker.

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