Date:Friday May 28 2010
Leeds United`s departing striker Jermaine Beckford looks back on a memorable three seasons in the side at Elland Road, as do Vital Leeds who have enjoyed the ride.
Beckford has been with the club all the way through their League One stay and has played a massive part in the clubs progress during the period.
Speaking on LUTV, Beckford said, "You don`t see as much as I`ve seen in four and half years at Leeds and I`m so proud to say I was here. I really loved it,"
Beckford initially joined Leeds United in 2006 under the management of Kevin Blackwell and struggled to break into the first team after his arrival from non-league Wealdstone.
The 26 year old eventually made the breakthrough at the start of the 2007/08 season and he hit the ground running scoring 20 goals in his first season, as the club turned around a minus fifteen-point penalty to reach the end of season Play off final only to lose to Doncaster Rovers.
The following season he was at it again and he netted 34 times in all competitions, including three hat tricks.
Leeds once again reached the end of season play offs but this time lost out at the semi final stage to Millwall.
It was in the 2009/10 season that the Jermaine Beckford legacy with the club was written, in a rollercoaster season for the player, club and fans.
It started with Beckford turning down the offer of a new contract with his current one due to end at the end of the season.
Leeds quickly slapped him on the transfer list only for it to be withdrawn a few weeks later with the club saying 'he will go nowhere this season`.
It didn`t take long for him to get amongst the goals, he scored two on the opening weekend of the season to set Leeds on their way to winning nine and drawing one of their first ten games of the season.
Despite the team and Beckford doing well, there was unrest between the player and fans and after a few confrontations between both it made headlines after his substitution in the home win over Southampton in December.
As his number was held up a section of the fans greeted this with cheers and Beckford showed his disgust by snubbing manager Simon Grayson and storming off down the tunnel.
Beckford was to answer his critics though and in the next two games he would score four goals.
Despite the often-tempestuous relationship between player and fans, Beckford looked back on his time and relationship with the fans as an amazing experience, continuing he said, "The fans have been amazing and they have opened up my eyes to what football should be about. I want to say thank you for everything because it has been amazing."
In his first game of 2010, Jermaine Beckford made sure that he wrote his name in Leeds United folklore when he scored the only goal of the game in the shock result of the round in the Fa Cup, when they knocked out old foes Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford.
Leeds were now eight points clear at the top of League One and had just beaten the old enemy on their own patch for the first time since 1981 but the love/ hate relationship between player and fans would sour before ending on a magical high at the end of the season.
Just days after the famous win over Manchester United Beckford was to stun the fans by putting in a transfer request, something he withdrew a few weeks later stating 'he wanted to finish off what he had helped start and get Leeds promoted.`
As usual Leeds found a way of throwing away an eight point lead at the top of the division and by early April found themselves down in fourth place in the table after a awful run of results, which saw them win only three out of seventeen league games.
Beckford`s goals had also dried up and he had only managed to find the net five times in the league during those seventeen games, fans were really beginning to question his commitment as he seemed to swan through games without a care in the world.
Eventually Simon Grayson dropped his leading goalscorer, Leeds began to get their promotion push back on track as Luciano Becchio and Max Gradel formed a good partnership up front.
Beckford was reduced to cameo appearances from the bench, but his hunger and fight seemed to have returned and he scored three goals in two games as Leeds won four out of five games to regain the initiative in the promotion fight as the club reclaimed second spot.
The goals had seen him go through the 30 goal barrier for the second season in a row and he became only the second ever Leeds player to go through 30 goals for the club in a season.
Leeds missed a great chance to clinch promotion in the final away game of the season with results going their way they lost 1-0 at Charlton, once again Beckford came off the bench and only a fantastic save from the keeper stopped him equalising in the final minutes.
It left Leeds needing to win their final game of the season against Bristol Rovers at Elland Road to claim promotion.
Simon Grayson recalled his leading goalscorer to the starting eleven and made a superb managerial decision by handing the captains armband to Beckford for the game.
Beckford led by example on the pitch and helped Leeds battle back from a goal down and down to ten men with just over thirty minutes remaining to win 2-1.
As if it was written in the script Beckford scored the all important winner as he was the quickest to pounce after a Bradley Johnson cross was only partially cleared.
Speaking about the final game of the season, he said: "I got in the changing rooms and put my head in my hands and the tears dripped down my face. I can still feel it now talking about it. It felt like such a weight had been lifted. It`s what we`ve been searching for, for the past three years."
After four and a half years at the club and 85 goals in 150 appearances, Beckford was released from his contract by the club on May 28th so that he could pursue his ambitions of joining a Premiership club with Everton the likely benefactors.
Despite a rollercoaster ride of three full seasons in the side, it is one ride that I have enjoyed immensely and will never forget Beckford`s massive contribution in getting Leeds back into the Championship.
Who can also ever forget that goal at Manchester United and his two goals at Spurs in the fourth round that helped Leeds to a replay.
More importantly the most important goal of all against Bristol Rovers, which helped Leeds to promotion and justified the clubs decision of turning down a £1.5 million offer from Newcastle United in the January transfer window and allowing him to leave on a free at the end of the season.
Thanks Jermaine and Good luck in the future.
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Date:Friday May 28 2010
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