While most Premier League and Championship level managers focus on Leeds will primarily be on striker Jermaine Beckford, Leeds United boss Simon Grayson may well be pleased at one aspect of the media circus surrounding his freescoring striker, as it is keeping the focus off another young and very talented Leeds player who looks to have the ability and skills to play at Premier League level one day; 21 year old midfielder and vice captain Jonny Howson.
Howson made the breakthrough into the Leeds first team aged 18 under manager Kevin Blackwell after impressing in the reserves. Blackwell was sacked immediately after Howson’s debut for Leeds in the Carling Cup and new boss Dennis Wise handed Howson his first league start in December 2006 against Hull City. Howson had an exceptional game in midfield, his industry and passing catching the eye and deservedly earning him the Man of the Match award for his performance.
Despite the quick start Howson found himself in and out of the team under Wise and it was only when Gary McAllister became manager that Howson became a regular in the heart of midfield, winning many plaudits with his performances. Howson first really came to national attention however during the 2007-2008 play offs when he had something of a sweetly-bitter experience. The midfielder scoring the two goals against Carlisle United that took Leeds to the play off final, where Leeds lost to Doncaster Rovers a single goal scored by James Hayter. A goal for which many felt Howson was at fault for not marking the Doncaster striker a little more tightly.
A year later and Leeds made the play offs again but this time were defeated at the Semi Final stage by Millwall. For Howson it was an up and down season, the emergence of Fabian Delph initially saw his place in the team under threat, but Howson bounced back to reclaim his regular place in the side by the midpoint of the season and since then, he has been an established and first choice member of the team ever since, eventually earning the honour of being named captain on the eve of the 2009/2010 season when current club captain Richard Naylor was injured. Howson led Leeds to an impressive undefeated start to the season before Naylor returned and his performances since have been outstanding including playing a huge part in the sensational victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford. It was Howson’s fantastic long ball that sent Jermaine Beckford into the clear to score the decisive goal.
What impresses most about Jonny Howson is his all round ability. Nowadays many midfielders are typecast as either defensive midfielders, like Mascherano or attacking midfielders like Gerrard. Howson is a true all rounder in the style of Bryan Robson. He can defend capably, he can create and he can also score goals. He has a fantastic shot on him from distance, he passes accurately and incisively over all distances and he has a tremendous workrate and an application that are a fine example to any player in the game. Physically he is stronger on the ball than he looks and perhaps what Leeds fans like about him the most, is that he is an ardent Leeds supporter and has been since childhood.
Howson certainly has the ability and potential to play at the highest level, but the player may well hope to continue his success at his boyhood heroes in the hope that he can achieve that goal while playing in the all white kit at Elland Road.