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The strange case of Cody Drameh
Wednesday, 22nd Nov 2023 21:46 by Tim Whelan

The news this week that Cody Drameh has no intention of signing a new contract with Leeds United came as no surprise to anyone, but will we come to regret that he hasn’t been given more of an opportunity at Elland Road?

Earlier this week Phil Hay told his readers in The Athletic that Drameh has no intention of taking up the offer a fresh deal to extend his stay at Elland Road beyond next summer, due to the lack of first team opportunities afforded to him by the club. You may be surprised that we’re even thinking of offering one, but that would be purely a device to make sure we are entitled to receive a transfer fee.

The right back is already in the final year of his contract, but as he is 21 years old we only have to offer him an extension on his existing terms to be entitled to compensation when it expires. So the loan deal which took him to Birmingham included an option to convert it into a permanent transfer in the summer of 2024.

So how did it come to this? His future seemed very different only two years ago, as he was making good progress after joining us from Fulham in August 2020, having made a couple of appearances for our first team and also for England under 20s and under 21s. But the first rumblings of discontent were heard when Marcello Bielsa was displeased that he insisted on going out on loan in search of game time rather than continuing his development at Elland Road.

He was to impress at Cardiff, being voted their player of the year despite having only been there for half the season. So in the 2021 close season I thought he would be Luke Ayling’s natural successor at right back, and the timing would be about right. Drameh could be phased in while Ayling approached the veteran stage of his career and needed to be rested for some games, and he would be sufficiently mature to take over once Ayling was finally put out to grass.

But instead, Jesse Marsch opted to sign his old mate Rasmus Kristensen from Red Bull Salzburg. The Dane might have stood out in the Austrian league but was never good enough for the much higher standard of the Premier League, even if he was one of the few who still seemed to care as our season fell apart. None of us are shocked to hear that he is now struggling to impress Jose Mourinho at Roma.

Limited as he was Kristensen’s addition to the squad killed off any chance of giving Drameh the game time he needed in 2022/3, so in January he was off for another loan spell, this time to Luton. He was to make 16 appearances in the remainder of their promotion campaign, and by the end of it he was sufficiently highly thought of for the Hatters to make a bid to sign him permanently.

When that didn’t materialise I thought his time at Elland Road had finally come, as he now had two impressive loan spells under his belt in the same division that Leeds would be gracing in 2023/4. He did start in the pre-season games but then a minor injury cost him the chance to stake a claim for a regular place, though it’s been suggested that Daniel Farke wasn’t that keen on him anyway.

Rather than relying on Ayling until Drameh was fit again, Farke tried to sign another right back in the shape of Norwich City’s Max Aarons. This might have been a case of him wanting to reunite with one of his key players from his Norwich promotion campaigns, but Drameh would only get one more chance when Aarons opted to go to Bournemouth instead.

Perhaps the final straw came in the game at Ipswich at the end of August, when a first half injury to Byram meant he finally got on the field, but in the unfamiliar role of left back. He struggled to adapt to this position, and just before half time a lapse in concentration meant he let the ball run under his foot. He raced to stop it going out for a throw, but had then completely lost sight of where the players were on the field behind him.

In a panic he played a backpass, but straight to an Ipswich player, starting the move that led to their second goal. Farke had seen enough, and Drameh was ‘hooked’ at half time, suffering the humiliation of being a substitute who is then substituted, after less than 25 minutes on the field. And it now seems almost certain that this was the last time we will ever have seen him in a Leeds shirt.

By the end of the transfer window Djed Spence had arrived on loan, and Drameh had exited through the same revolving door, to start yet another loan spell of his own, this time at Birmingham City. Farke described the deal as a “smart move for all parties”, stating the defender wanted to play regular football, but the manager must have known this was effectively the end of Drameh’s Leeds career.

By all accounts he struggled during his first appearance for the St. Andrew’s mob due to a lack of match fitness, but his form has picked up since. Leeds Live asked their Birmingham colleague Alex Dicken how he was getting on, and were told "Drameh has improved noticeably in the past month to the point where he was one of Blues’ best players in their victory over West Brom before the international break.”

"He recorded back-to-back assists last week and defended superbly. He hasn’t been perfect but Drameh has improved with pitch time." And so it seems likely that Birmingham will exercise that option to sign him, though he will need to impress his new boss Wayne Rooney. And he seems to be acutely aware of the need to do so, having made one or two comments to the local press in support of the spud-faced scouser.

Will Leeds come to regret his departure in the years to come? It may be that he reach the premier league by the peak years of his career, even though he’d be unlikely to do so with Birmingham City. There have been hints that an attitude problem has been behind his lack of progress at Elland Road, but he seems to have got on well enough at the clubs he’s represented on loan.

And some fans think he’s not good enough for Leeds or that we’re too big a club for him, but I’m sorry to see him go, and I think he could have done a job for him. Djed Spence will probably prove to be a more than adequate alternative once he gets fit, but come the end of the season we will have to pay a fee to sign him permanently, instead of using a player we already had and keeping the cash to sign someone else.

I for one will wish Cody Drameh well for the rest of his career.


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