Leeds United fans certainly have plenty to be optimistic about next season. Earlier in the month it was confirmed that Brian McDermott was the man to lead them forward in their hunt for that elusive return to Premier League football and after years of lower league misery there is genuine hope that the man that took Reading to the brink in one year and all the way the other may be just the right appointment to take Leeds United back where they belong.
As is to be expected when a manager who has had such a previous strong relationship with the players at his former club there will be links with several of former pupils over a potential move to Elland Road; but the most recent of these is certainly eye-catching.
Not only does he have probably the hardest to spell name in world football Zurab Khizanishvilli also has over 80 caps for his Georgian national team and European experience from his time with Rangers and Blackburn Rovers. He also was an important cog in the revival of Reading under Brian McDermott. Signed on loan from Ewood Park originally in 2010 he agreed a full season deal ahead of the 2010-11 campaign.
It was an exciting one for Reading with Zurab at the centre of things. He formed an impressive central defensive partnership with Matt Mills almost instantaneously and played a vital role in the teams march toward the 2011 play-off final against Swansea City.
As a Reading-lad myself I remember being impressed with the stalwart every time I saw him playing and was ready for another such assured display ahead of the final. Pretty much everyone I could call a friend travelled to Wembley that day to soak up the atmosphere but me. I was instead at home writing a final year university piece on the ‘Impact Football had in the changing of Jewish hegemonies post the 1948 partition of Palestine’; it was a riveting read.
Nowadays my mates still tell tales of that day as I silently go sombre and bury my head in whatever drink I have in my hand.
But I still managed to give myself time off and watch the exciting game on television; where Zurab had an absolutely torrid time in his final game under McDermott.
All season it looked as though he would become a permanent member of the squad in the summer but after his abysmal display in the loss to Swansea such a deal never looked possible and instead he headed over to Turkey to play for Kayserispor; nearer to his Georgian homeland.
This summer his contract again expires and the Turkish outfit are not expected to offer him an extension so McDermott was always going to be linked with bringing him in. The Reading fans may not have forgiven him for such a poor performance that cost them dearly that season but McDermott will know there is far more to the player then that fateful day in London.
So do not be surprised to see the former Dundee man playing in Yorkshire next season. But if Leeds make the play-off’s it might be best to rest Zurab for the final.
image: © Chris Robertshaw