New Leeds United loanee Michael Tonge’s career could be argued to have being somewhat of an anticlimax. After getting promoted out of the championship under the stewardship a certain Neil Warnock at the expense of his current employers, Sheffield United’s stay In the promised land was short lived. But the same can not be said about Tonge’s. Relegation from the Premier League and failure to achieve an instantaneous return, opened the door for a transfer to now Premier League survivors, Stoke City. It probably wasn’t how he envisaged being a Premier League player.
In the seven years he stayed at Bramall Lane, he made 262 appearances, scoring 21 goals in the process, not half bad for a midfielder. And it was statistics like these that attracted the likes of Stoke City, and when they came calling, it was too good an offer to turn down. Tonge signed for the Potters on August transfer deadline day 2008, in a deal worth around ￡2 million. He made his debut in the first game after the international break against Everton, but Tonge failed to establish himself as a regular Premier League player in the Stoke side, and went on to make only 9 more appearances that season.
He was rated quite highly too, Stoke aren’t known for splashing the cash on just anyone, so they must have meant it when they thought he could be a real quality player for them. But his City career began to dwindle away, leading to loan spells at Derby County and Preston North End back in The Championship. He eventually developed a foothold in the team in their Europa League campaign in the 2011/12 season, making his European debut in the 1-0 play-off victory against FC Thun. But he was left out of Stoke’s squads for the Premier League and Europa League, restricting him only to domestic cup and reserve games.
In January 2012, knowing his Potters career was pretty much over, he left to join Barnsley on loan until the end of the 2011-12 season, making a total of 10 appearances without scoring a goal. He was again left out of Stoke Premier League squad, which invited his former manager and Leeds United to come calling. He signed a deal which sees him stay at Leeds until December 2012. So far this season for Leeds he has been played across the midfield, in his favoured central midfield, partnering Rodolph Austin, and also out on the left wing. He scored his first goal for Leeds in their 3-2 away win at Bristol City.
So far judging by his Leeds performances, it’s hard to see why he hasn’t been given more of a chance to prove himself at Stoke. He’s been the unsung hero in the Leeds team since his arrival, controlling the ball and tempo of play in midfield, and also allowing Austin to press forward while he stays back himself. To say he hasn’t played much football in the last couple of years, he’s come in and coped very well at Leeds, when many might have thought that his lack of action may have effected his ability to play. But Warnock knows him better than that, and giving him a debut against a very strong Cardiff City team emphasised that. It might be a bit early to say ‘sign him up’ permanently, but if he keeps showing the same positive signs he’s shown Leeds fans so far, it might well happen knowing Neil Warnock and his affiliation with former players.
Ryan is an IT professional by trade and bases all of his football knowledge off of the Premier League, Chelsea and Football Manager.