The 25 Best Players in the Championship - as voted for by you: Part 16 of 25
Leeds United’s second name in our alternative Football League advent calendar is an obvious one. Wingers come in all different shapes, sizes and varieties, but one thing they tend to lack, particularly beneath Premier League level, is consistency. He may not turn in virtuoso performances in every single game he plays, but one Leeds wide man is about as consistent as they come in the Championship and one of the second tier’s chief candidates for a key role in the top flight.
Robert Snodgrass (Leeds United)
To begin with, he was a bit of a curio. A player who had carved out a decent reputation with Livingston north of the border, it seemed that any mention of Robert Snodgrass was incomplete without talk of his tenuous link to Barcelona. Some said he had undergone a trial while at Livingston. Some said he had turned a trial down. In fact, Snodgrass told The Independent earlier this year that he heard nothing directly from the Catalan club and that “to this day, I don’t know much about it”.
The intrigue of that phantom trial with Barcelona has been extinguished now, replaced by the question of how long it will be before Snodgrass takes to the field in a Premier League game. He has been one of the best players in his division ever since his arrival at Leeds, then in League One. So far this season, he has helped propel Leeds into the play-off places in which they resided for so long of the previous campaign before falling away at the last. Once the busy Christmas fixture list is out of the way, the run-in will be in sight and Snodgrass will be aiming to ensure those final four months are not characterised by a wobble.
A poor run in early 2010 – following a strong showing in the FA Cup – almost denied Leeds promotion from League One, before a similar dip just over a year later removed a chance of that crucial top six Championship finish. Snodgrass has experienced all of this and knows that it must not happen again. There is a sense that the Scot should not play outside of the Premier League past next summer and the responsibility falls partly on his shoulders to ensure that is the case by winning promotion with Leeds.
Former Leeds player Dominic Matteo calls a January bid for Snodgrass from a Premier League club “inevitable”, with Everton having been credited with showing a recent interest. In truth, it appears unlikely that the cash-strapped Toffees would be able to afford him and Leeds also have the advantage over most Championship teams when the size of the club comes into play. If he has faith in his team-mates, the lure of playing in front of home Premier League crowds at Elland Road must be a tempting incentive even if any bid is accepted next month.
While there has been upheaval throughout the rest of the Leeds side, Snodgrass has been a rare mainstay since their League One days. The goalkeeper changed in the summer, the defence has been a constant puzzle, only Luciano Becchio remains in attack and the likes of Bradley Johnson, Neil Kilkenny and Max Gradel have all made an exit having previously played alongside Snodgrass in midfield. In these times of reduced expectations for Leeds fans relative to their par position in the top flight, Snodgrass – along with Becchio and Jonny Howson in particular – has been a source of comfort. He is a reminder that their best players do not necessarily have to leave despite their current status as a Football League club.
Touching on his qualities briefly, Snodgrass is a player better described as gifted than merely hard-working. His close control when dribbling is exceptional and he has an eye for a spectacular goal. He utilises these resources to excellent effect, posing a real threat to any defender despite not being the quickest winger in the division by any means. Tellingly, Snodgrass has generally performed well when facing Premier League opposition in cup competitions. If he isn’t facing Premier League opposition week in week out next season, it will come as a huge shock.
Who else did you vote as one of the 25 best players in the Championship? Read about the rest so far here.