Crysencio Summerville picked worst possible time to deliver dismal display for Leeds

Crysencio Summerville is consoled by Archie Gray
Crysencio Summerville (centre) failed to deliver on the biggest stage - Getty Images/Mike Hewitt

The best player in the Championship spent the final 25 minutes of the play-off final on the bench, removed from the action and totally unable to reverse the course of a match that was sliding away from his team.

This was surely not the sort of day that Crysencio Summerville had expected, and it was certainly not the sort of performance that Leeds fans had expected from their 22-year-old star. The Championship’s player of the season, for some reason wearing gloves in late May, relegated to the role of observer at the most important moment of the campaign.

It was a sight that said it all for Leeds, beaten for the third time this season by a Southampton team that evidently has their number. Leeds finished three points clear of Southampton in the regular season but, over their three matches, the aggregate score is 6-2 in the south coast side’s favour.

For Summerville, this had been an occasion to prove his status as a big-game player and, possibly, demonstrate to Premier League clubs that he could be worth a significant investment in the coming months. He finished the campaign with 21 goals and 10 assists in all competitions, standing out as the most exciting and dangerous attacker in the second tier.

When it came to the decisive minutes, though, Summerville was not even on the pitch. His removal was a surprise, obviously, but it was hardly an injustice: he had struggled horribly when he had been involved, wafting shots over the bar and picking up a yellow card for a lunging tackle.

To be clear, Summerville was not alone in enduring a difficult afternoon. Joel Piroe offered little in attack, Wilfried Gnonto faded badly after a bright start and Georginio Rutter totally failed to justify his own place in the Championship team of the season, losing possession 19 times over the course of the day – more than any other player.

Over the course of 100 minutes, Leeds produced just two shots on target. Their most dangerous attacker, by far, was Daniel James, who struck the crossbar and almost scored from the edge of the penalty area after coming on as a second-half substitute for Gnonto.

“Whenever we could play a final pass, we were not precise and not tidy enough,” said Daniel Farke. “Obviously when you don’t score, the more offensive players can be more effective. But it is not the day to criticise my offensive lads too much. There were many tears on the pitch. We are suffering a lot.”

Ethan Ampadu and Wilfried Gnonto feel the pain of defeat
Ethan Ampadu (right) and Wilfried Gnonto feel the pain of defeat - Getty Images/Mike Hewitt

As ever with teams who lose in the play-offs, there is an uncertain future for Leeds. No other game offers such swings of joy and despair: a day of rejoicing for Southampton and now a time of recrimination for Leeds. Win one match of football, and the project continues as planned. Lose, and everything suddenly needs to be rebuilt.

Summerville probably will not be around for too much of the next chapter. The same could be true of Gnonto and Rutter, too. Teenage sensation Archie Gray is certainly heading for the top, with or without Leeds.

As for Farke? Again, the future is far from clear, although the expectation is that he will remain – even if the need to raise funds means the same cannot be said for his best players. “There is a lot of work to do in the coming weeks,” said Farke. “But today is not the time to speak about what we will do, what we need for next season. Obviously in my mind I have prepared what is necessary.”

It proved to be yet another gruelling day at Wembley for Leeds, who have now lost three matches in a row at the national stadium. It was also their fourth consecutive defeat in play-off finals, and one wondered whether the weight of that unwanted history had contributed to their performance. In play-off campaigns, they have failed six times out of six.

It could be argued that “failure” is too strong a word for a team that accumulated 90 points in the league season. Such is the brutal nature of the play-off final, though. This is an occasion that deals only in extremes. Once again, Leeds were on the painful end of them.