Stewart hoping change of luck at Leeds starts against leaders

Cameron Stewart
Cameron Stewart
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Cameron Stewart could have been forgiven for believing he was cursed last season.

The winger, a mainstay of the Hull City team under both Nigel Pearson and Nick Barmby, started the first two games of Steve Bruce’s reign, but it soon became clear that the former Manchester United defender did not consider Stewart would fit into his plans.

So, he moved on loan to Burnley and quickly became a regular under Eddie Howe. An extended run in the Clarets’ side seemed likely only for those hopes to be shattered by Howe’s decision to leave Turf Moor and return to Bournemouth.

Sean Dyche came in as the new manager and, just as Bruce had done a few months earlier, made it clear that Stewart was not seen as vital to Burnley’s future.

A return to Hull followed, which saw Stewart play a couple of times in the FA Cup against Leyton Orient as Bruce took the opportunity to rest his first-choice XI.

In the Championship, however, little had changed so when the opportunity came to join Blackburn Rovers on March 1, he jumped at the chance.

Any hopes of a change of fortune were, though, to be dashed as Michael Appleton lasted just 19 more days before being sacked and replaced, initially on a temporary basis, by Gary Bowyer.

Stewart was promised a chance, but just 104 minutes of playing time later, most of which came from the bench, he was back at the KC Stadium the morning after the party of all parties to celebrate Hull’s promotion to the Premier League.

All in all, therefore, a campaign to forget for the 22-year-old, who admits to being relieved that this time around has been different thanks to a successful loan spell at Charlton Athletic that caught the attention of Leeds United manager Brian McDermott.

Stewart endured the debut from hell a week ago as Leeds crashed to their heaviest defeat in 55 years with Sheffield Wednesday running amok at Hillsborough.

But today he is eagerly looking forward to a possible home debut as leaders Leicester City come to Elland Road for a fixture that will be shown live by Sky.

“It is great to be here at Leeds,” Stewart told the Yorkshire Post when speaking at Thorp Arch.

“Everyone has made me feel very welcome. Obviously, my debut didn’t go to plan. But this past week has been good, as it has allowed me to get to know the boys.

“I have enjoyed this season much more than the last one. I had a great time down at Charlton. I went down on loan and managed to play football.

“It might sound daft, as that is what my job is, but, for so long last season, it just wasn’t possible – even though that was all I had been wanting to do.

“The big thing about Charlton was that I started to enjoy myself again. I probably put my name back out there again after a quiet time. It was nice to be able to do that because last season was such a long one for me. I didn’t play much at all and I hated it.

“I’d say it was one of the toughest times of my career. I had been injured previously and not playing, but that is totally different to what happened to me last year.

“At least when you are injured, you are not playing for a reason. But when you are fit and not playing, that is a whole new thing, and a little bit tougher.

“I didn’t really see it coming at Hull. I’d gone there from Manchester United at 19 and things had gone really well. I was playing games and doing well in a team that was chasing the play-offs.

“Even the manager changing with Nick Barmby replacing Nigel Pearson (in November, 2011) didn’t change things and I kept playing every week.

“So, to go from that to not being able to get a game at three different clubs in a season – well, that was not easy to deal with.

“I couldn’t work it out and it was difficult. I went to Burnley but didn’t really play. Then I signed on loan for Blackburn and the manager changed. By the end of the season, I was just glad to put it all behind me.”

Stewart’s season to forget was made that bit more painful by it being in such stark contrast to how things had first gone following the big decision to cut ties permanently with Old Trafford, where he had played since being a young schoolboy.

Even a cruciate ligament injury sustained just a couple of months after signing for £300,000 could not dissuade the powers-that-be at Hull that they had a special talent. It was why a bid of £1.5m was turned down a couple of years ago when Pearson, after leaving the Tigers to take charge of Leicester City, came calling.

Now, though, Stewart is keen to look forward and is already eyeing Leeds following Hull’s example in trying to win a return to the Premier League.

“My debut was heartbreaking,” he said. “It was an awful afternoon. But, at the end of the day, it is one defeat.

“You move on to the next match. You have to do that in football and not beat yourself up too much about what has happened. After the Sheffield Wednesday game and into the Saturday night, I still couldn’t stop thinking about it.

“I then came in for our team meeting on the Sunday and the game was still on my mind.

“But, after that, you have to move on and look to the next game. If we get in the play-offs come May, will anyone remember Sheffield Wednesday away? That is the challenge we face, to make that happen.

“Even if we beat Leicester, I am not saying people will forget what happened a week earlier. But it will make it a bit easier. We’ll have the three points.”

richard.sutcliffe@ypn.co.uk