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Leeds United: Finding Footballers – 2009/10

Leeds United’s 2009/10 season finally saw promotion from League One. Seven years later, I take a look at where some members of that team are today.

Simon Grayson started his first full season in charge of Leeds emphatically, as Leeds lost just once in their first 24 games of the campaign. A nervy Easter saw the club drop out of the automatic spots but a strong run-in ensured Leeds United beat off Millwall and Charlton Athletic by finishing runners-up to Norwich City and promoted from the third-tier.

The squad contained some great players, such as the 31-goal Jermaine Beckford, but where in the world are other members of that side now playing their trade?

Mike Grella

The forward was playing in the fourth-tier of American football before being chosen to play for MLS franchise Toronto in the 2009 draft. However, Grella rejected the move to Canada and opted for a move to Europe. He impressed on trial at Leeds United and signed later that year. Grella made his full debut against Stockport County and scored the goal in a 1-0 win, having being made to wait seven months before he won his first start for Leeds. Grella was often used as a substitute as he was unable to break the prolific partnership of Beckford and Luciano Becchio.

After 43 appearances in West Yorkshire, he signed for Brentford but failed to establish himself in Uwe Rosler’s plans and left for Bury. A brief spell in Greater Manchester was ended as Grella preferred a move to Scunthorpe United, which finished by the American being released. In 2013 he signed for Vigborg FF in the Danish Superliga. Just two appearances later, Grella moved back to his native country to join Carolina RailHawks. Today, the former US U20 international is a key member of the New York Red Bulls in the MLS after joining the franchise in 2015.

Neil Kilkenny

The English-born midfielder was instrumental in the 2009/10 season for the Whites. Kilkenny, who has numerous caps internationally for Australia, made over 150 appearances for Leeds over four seasons and his time at Elland Road concluded after contract negotiations failed. He went on to sign for Bristol City before linking up with Simon Grayson once again in 2013 at Preston North End and won promotion back to the Championship. The 2008 Olympian currently plays in the A-League for Melbourne City after being released from the Lilywhites.

Lubomir Michalik

The huge 6ft 5in centre-back was signed by Leeds for £500,000 from Bolton Wanderers, who signed a young Gary Cahill as Michalik’s replacement. The Slovak’s performances were initially inconsistent but he went on to play a vital role in defence under Simon Grayson. However, a poor end to the promotion season saw Michalik transfer-listed and, after making over 50 appearances for Leeds, eventually signed by Carlisle United. After just a year and a half at Carlisle, he rejected a new contract and signed for Portsmouth. When released from Pompey, the Slovakia international moved to FC Kairat in the Kazakhstan Premier League in 2013. Today, Michalik plays in his native country for Dunajska Streda.

Neill Collins

The Scottish centre-back was originally signed on loan for Leeds United after injury to Patrick Kisnorbo midway through the promotion campaign where Collins played an instrumental part in the League One success and was signed permanently. A drop in form and a fall from the starting eleven resulted in a transfer to Sheffield United, where Collins would be a key member in The Blades’ defence for years to come. After over 200 appearances for the South Yorkshire club, Collins left to join Tampa Bay Rowdies in the North American Soccer League this summer. The no-nonsense defender has this month joined Twitter and launched his own blog, where he provides interesting insights to the world of professional football.

 

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