Luke Ayling joins Middlesbrough

Defender makes loan switch.

Luke Ayling Web 3.jpg

Leeds United full-back Luke Ayling has today joined fellow Sky Bet Championship side Middlesbrough.

The 32-year-old moves to the Riverside Stadium for the remainder of the 2023/24 campaign, at which point his existing contract at Elland Road will come to an end.

Joining the Whites from Bristol City in the summer of 2016 for a fee of £500k, Luke, or as he is affectionately known, Bill, would go on to become one of the best ever signings in the club’s history.

Making the first of his 268 appearances against Birmingham City at Elland Road, Ayling went on to be almost ever present during his first campaign, making 42 outings as the Whites narrowly missed out on the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off places.

Remaining a key player under Thomas Christiansen and Paul Heckingbottom, as fans became accustomed to the ‘Ayling Flop’, his career with Leeds excelled with the arrival of Marcelo Bielsa ahead of the 2018/19 campaign.

After helping Leeds defeat Stoke City and Derby County at the beginning of the season, Ayling scored his first goal for the Whites, the opener against Rotherham United at Elland Road, with his diving header just crossing the line, as we began to see the first of many trademark celebrations, this one, a click of the heels.

He popped up with another vital goal in March 2019 against Millwall. When Barry Douglas, who infamously played with virtually one leg in the second half crossed from the left, Ayling was on hand to head home to make it 2-2, before Pablo Hernandez netted the winner seven minutes from time to keep Leeds in the automatic promotion places, however, the season would ultimately end up in heartbreak in the Play-Offs.

After missing the start of the following season through injury, Ayling returned to help Leeds defeat West Bromwich Albion 1-0 in October 2020, whilst he was also made vice-captain. Perhaps the most memorable game of Ayling’s Leeds career followed in December. A rocket launcher celebration to mark a special strike against Birmingham City to make it 3-2, before his 95th minute cross led to a Wes Harding own goal, which sparked crazy scenes at St Andrew’s, as the Whites came away with a 5-4 victory.

Not only on the pitch, Ayling was also exemplary off the field too, taking part in visits in the heart of the community and named a PFA Champion, whilst stepping up to do media duties, despite having a stammer, even in the toughest of situations. This was highlighted none more so than after defeat at Nottingham Forest in February 2020, where promotion hopes looked to be in the balance.

From that point onwards, Ayling played like a man possessed to get the club over the line. After helping Leeds secure a vital point at Brentford, he followed it up with the winner against Bristol City at Elland Road. A crazy chicken dance came after he netted the opener against Hull City, along with the “we’re up here and you’re down there” clip after the 4-0 win.

His finest goal in Leeds colours came in the next match against Huddersfield Town. A thunderous volley cannoned in off the crossbar, nearly bringing the roof off Elland Road, which led to the legendary commentary line “he’s even got the ponytail out!”. Leeds had won five on the spin, but this match would also hold extra significance, as it proved to be the final game in front of supporters for over 12 months, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Once football did eventually resume in June 2020, Ayling featured in all nine of the remaining matches of which Leeds won seven and he provided the assist for Hernandez’s iconic last minute goal against Swansea City, with a bombarding run down the right flank.

With promotion secured on 17th July 2020, Ayling was part of the memorable scenes at Elland Road and then Pride Park, before the trophy celebrations following a 4-0 win over Charlton Athletic.

Ayling made his Premier League debut at Liverpool with a nutmeg on Sadio Mane and started all 38 matches, to help Leeds finish with the highest points tally for a newly promoted side since 2001.

He scored his first Premier League goal against arch rivals Manchester United and in back-to-back seasons netted memorable goals in victories against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux, followed by a somewhat questionable Robbie Keane celebration attempt.

This season, on a return to the Championship, Ayling started the first seven league matches and scored an equaliser against West Bromwich Albion, but has found minutes limited since October.

His 268th and final Leeds appearance came in the Emirates FA Cup victory over Peterborough United at London Road last Sunday.

Now moving to Middlesbrough on loan, he leaves with the very best wishes of everyone at the club.

Luke has been a tremendous servant and representative of Leeds United, he has written his name into the history books and is respected by all connected with the club.

He will always be welcome at Elland Road and we wish him and his family all the very best for the future.

Subject to Luke’s availability, we hope he will be able to attend our next home match against Preston North End, on Sunday 21st January, in order for supporters to be able to give him a true Leeds United send off.

Thanks for everything, Bill.

Related Content

  1. 01
  2. 02
  3. 03