LUFC 200 up for Becchio
Leeds United striker Luciano Becchio made his 200th appearance for the club at Bristol City on Saturday.
The Argentinian has become a cult hero at Elland Road since turning up for a trial in Ireland with just a pair of football boots in the summer of 2008.
He impressed the then Leeds manager Gary McAllister enough to earn a three-year contract.
Becchio quickly got into his stride at Elland Road and he started to form a formidable partnership with Jermaine Beckford.
He scored his first goal for the club at Yeovil in his fourth appearance for the club and he went on to finish the season with 19 goals.
Fans quickly took to Becchio with his hard working, combative displays and 100% commitment that always endear a player to the heart of the Leeds fans.
The following season, Becchio and Beckford once again proved a constant thorn in the sides of the League One defences.
Becchio once again went close to the 20-goal mark, finishing the season with 17. His hard work however was allowing Beckford the freedom to grab the limelight by outscoring Becchio.
By now, the fans had thought up their own catchy tune for Becchio. 'Luciano, costs less than Berbatov and he scores more goals` and it still continues to reverberate around Elland Road and away grounds across the country.
He hit a purple patch in April of that season with Beckford out of form and dropped from the side when he score five goals in four games at a crucial time for Leeds, with promotion beginning to slip out of their grasps.
Leeds clinched promotion on the final day of the season with a dramatic win over Bristol Rovers and despite failing to score; he once again worked himself into the ground with Leeds playing for almost an hour with ten men.
The following season, he had lost his regular strike partner for the past two seasons when Jermaine Beckford left for the bright lights of the Premier League.
Many were asking the questions. Could Becchio score in the Championship and how would he do without his partner up front?
Becchio was off the mark in Leeds first game when he scored in the 2-1 defeat to Derby County and he made it two in two with a midweek goal against Lincoln City in the Carling Cup in midweek.
He continued his hard working displays for Leeds and the goals continued to come, including a stunner in the 2-1 win at Middlesbrough in front of the live TV cameras.
He scored his first hat trick for the club in the home win over Bristol City in November, made all the more remarkable by the fact that he didn`t start the game and had to wait until the hour mark before making his appearance.
Becchio netted his hat trick in a seventeen-minute spell, giving England international goalkeeper David James no chance.
His form during the month of November saw him named the Championship player of the month.
Having already seen fellow striker Jermaine Beckford leave for nothing in the summer after running down his contract, Leeds fans were desperate to see Becchio sign a new deal, with just over six months remaining on his current deal.
Three more goals came in the first two games of December and Becchio was drawing interest from a number of clubs.
After Leeds beat table toppers Queens Park Rangers 2-0 at Elland Road later in the month, a win that moved Leeds into second place in the championship, Becchio gave everyone involved at Leeds the perfect early Christmas present by signing a new three and a half year deal with the club.
Becchio continued to score on a regular basis until a hamstring injury against Watford in April ruled him out for the rest of the season.
The Argentinian had netted 20 times in 44 appearances for Leeds in their first season in the Championship.
When the players returned for pre-season training in July, Becchio suffered a re-occurrence of the hamstring injury and after undergoing surgery he missed the rest of pre-season and the first month of the season.
Becchio made his first appearance of the season on September 10th when he came on as a substitute in the home game against Crystal Palace.
Leeds trailed 2-1 when he entered from the bench on 58 minutes and within 13 minutes a trademark Becchio header had Leeds on level terms and was the springboard for Leeds to go on and win the game 3-2. It was also his 50th league goal for Leeds.
Becchio though was struggling to catch up with the fitness of the rest of the squad and he was a shadow of the player the Leeds fans had grown so fond of in the three previous seasons.
He was also struggling to get into the starting eleven and he had to wait until the home game with Barnsley on November 26th for his first start of the season in the Championship.
Becchio lasted 68 minutes before being substituted. He started the following game at Nottingham Forest and he was on the scoresheet in the 4-0 win at the City Ground.
He became a regular once again in the starting line-up and his form started to return.
He scored four goals in six games during January and February, including a 99th minute winner against Doncaster at Elland Road.
New Leeds boss Neil Warnock was earmarking Becchio as a pivotal part of his squad and he was regularly quoted as saying, 'When Becchio plays, we are a different side.`
Becchio netted in three games in a row in March and despite a dip in form during the season, he still managed double figures for the season, netting eleven times.
Warnock continuously tipped Becchio to have a great season in 2012/13 during the summer and he has hit the ground running at the start of this season.
He netted the only goal of the game in the opening day win over Wolverhampton Wanderers at Elland Road. It was a characteristic goal from Becchio. Whilst most players would have looked to guide the ball home with their foot, Becchio dived in to head home.
By the end of August, Becchio had netted four times in four games.
He is looking back to the Becchio of old this season and he has netted seven goals in the opening ten games this season.
Becchio has netted 74 goals in his 200 appearances for Leeds in just over four seasons and he is well on his way to his best return in a season for Leeds.
It seems a long time since a 24-year-old unknown turned up in Ireland, with no grasp of the English language, no kit and just a pair of football boots.
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