At the end of a game of Bullseye, in the ‘BIG prize’ round where you gambled your smaller prizes from the ‘get nothing in this round for two in a bed’ round, if you were unsuccessful in winning Bully’s star prize gamble, would hear a saddened version of the theme tune, host Jim Bowen used to put an arm around the contestant shoulder and say, “Come and have a look at what you could have won.”
As the grand prize was revealed, usually a caravan or a speedboat – some such ‘luxury’ as that, Bowen used to prod his glasses back up onto his nose and the unlucky contestants were left to stare morosely at their gambled prize drifting away with only BFH (bus fare home) as consolation.
That particular analogy and nostalgic nod back to Bullseye could very well be applied to Leeds United and what they’ve gambled away and what they could’ve won. In particular I am talking about three players that are going great guns for their respective sides after being shown the door at Elland Road: Nicky Ajose, Billy Sharp and Adryan.
Nicky Ajose – Swindon Town
Bury-born Ajose, once on the books of Premier League giants Manchester United was bought by Leeds United from Peterborough for a fee of around £140,000 on August 5, 2014. He featured in only the first three games of the season for the Whites, gaining only 199 minutes of action in Leeds colours.
Left out of the squad, Ajose didn’t get a look-in and eventually moved out on loan to League One Crewe where appeared as a centre forward for the Railwaymen, scoring eight goals and providing five assists. Returning to Leeds, it was common knowledge that he wasn’t in the plans of then coach Uwe Rosler and the then 23-year-old moved on a free transfer to Swindon Town.
It is this season where the former Leeds man is showing the Whites just ‘what they could have won’ with 22 League One goals at a time when Leeds themselves are struggling to find the net as a team, never mind as individals. Ajose was never given a chance at Elland Road, but he’s tucked away 22 of them at the County Ground.
Billy Sharp – Sheffield United
The same month that Leeds brought Nicky Ajose to the club, they also signed Billy Sharp from Premier League Southampton for a reported fee of £225,000. Featuring in 33 games for Leeds United last season, but rarely lasting for a full game, Sharp scored five times and laid on one assist over the course of the season after scoring an 89th minute winner on his debut for Leeds against Middlesbrough at Elland Road.
With it becoming increasingly clear that his future in football lay away from Elland Road, the self-styled ‘fat lad from Sheffield’ ended up moving back to his boyhood Blades for a reported transfer fee of around £530,000. Sharp is repaying Sheffield United’s faith in him with a 17-goal, 7-assist return – the goals coming at the rate of one every 186 minutes.
With his goals this season, Billy Sharp is definitely showing Leeds United that they should ‘look at what you could have won’.
Adryan – Nantes
The arrival of Brazilian wonderkid Adryan, dubbed the ‘next Zico’, to Elland Road last season has Whites fans breaking into a sweat over his YouTube highlight reel and the expectations that came with such high recommendations – recommendations that he ultimately failed to fulfill.
Featuring only 12 times for the Whites (nine starts), the youngster failed to spark and his only mark on the team was his two assists in 729 minutes of action in Leeds United colours. Dismissed by some as a show pony, others as not having either the right mentality or physicality for the rigours of Championship.
Adryan’s next loan stop on his mini-European tour after Cagliari and Leeds United was at French Ligue 1 side Nantes and it is here that his performances are crying ‘come and have a look at what you could have won’. In France’s top flight, playing alongside better colleagues and against better opponents than what he met in the Championship, Adryan is beginning to show glimpses of what he is clearly capable of. He has seven goals across all competitions (three in Ligue 1) and two assists. More importantly, he is also being seen as a player whose passes put teammates into shooting positions.
With Leeds struggling in all of these areas, areas that these players are now excelling in, I can still hear Jim Bowen’s less-than dulcet tones saying, “take it away boys” as Bully’s star prize drifts away from the unlucky contestants.