Leeds United fan Matthew Brown-Bolton assesses the club's transfer options...
Leeds’ home draw to Barnsley should come as little surprise to most Whites fans. Victories against our Yorkshire Neighbours have been at a premium over the last 5 years.
Given Danny Wilsons return as prodigal son, the Tykes were only ever going to give 110% in their `cup final’. A stoical display from Jack Butland ensured that shots usually nailed on for the back of the net flew over the cross bar or were finger tipped to safety.
One thing Saturday did suggest is that Leeds do lack a `game-changer’ one whereby a dogged rear-guard action can be broken down by a change of system.
The current 3-5-2 seems to be working well, but how long before opposition managers know what to expect? Leeds in that situation do not want to risk becoming a one-trick pony.
When you look at Leeds next 7 games that challenge becomes all the more real. Only 3 are home games, improving Blackburn and Ipswich and High flying Leicester.
Away games at resurgent Brighton and Blackpool (sides against whom we tend not to do well recently) and promotion rivals Notts Forest and you’ll see that even at our best those games will be tight to call. Calling any `winnable’ is a stretch.
What do we already possess to change those games? Diouf is one name that springs to mind, but he has proven a fleeting presence this season and has barely settled into full training, as likeable as he now (unbelievably) seems to be he’s surely a candidate for the exit door and a fat contract in the Gulf or the USA. Other than that there is little else to look at past McCormack (who as per the Barnsley game can expect at least 3 men marking him out)
It’s vital now then that (if and when) the Haigh takeover is ratified by the Football League that any money spent, and sales outwards are done so quickly (given the demanding timetable) and that the balance of the squad is not detrimentally affected.
Its in the wide areas and attacking midfield options that Leeds certainly do need to invest, and Max Gradel is now mentioned regularly in dispatches, a pacey winger, also able to play just behind the strikers if needed seems a no-brainer if the player wishes to return.
Tommy Rowe or Lee Tomlin at Peterborough, and Lewis Grabban of Bournemouth are other names that may well fit the bill. All are game changers who can do more than simply tap a ball into the net. Leeds need players to put crosses in and balls to feet, as in terms of finsishers we already possess the leagues best (McCormack) and Matt Smith with a creditable 7 to his name this season. This was where Dexter Blackstock showed his worth (especially in the Charlton game)
McDermott has already spoken about bring `2 or 3’ new players into the squad, and while you can’t see Gradel costing a lot less than £2m, St Etienne may well be prepared to listen to a loan offer that sees Gradel get match time under his belt as he continues his recovery from a serious injury.
Certainly Leeds wouldn’t want to risk their recent riches on a player who may end up on the treatment table.
If Leeds did plump for an outright purchase the concern might be that we blow the entire budget on Gradel - Its likely though that the canny Brian McDermott as a former scout may well look to deploy Gboly Ariyibi our recent free signing in a Gradel-type role on the other wing – the cup game at Rochdale seems a likely stage for his talents. If that gamble pays off then he may well be able to concentrate on further signings for the club.
Another name that springs to mind is Jerome Thomas. Hardly setting the world alight at Crystal Palace as Tony Pulis engages his usual `dogs of war’ approach to football, he may well be someone McDermott considers. Thomas certainly has unfinished business at Elland Road, departing to try and force his way back into the West Brom Line-up earlier this year, a decision that landed him at Crystal Palace – surely a promotion campaign is more appealing that a relegation dogfight? Another option may be David Templeton of Rangers, rumoured to have interested Warnock in summer 2012, he plumped for Rangers (presumably as Bates & Co Stalled) but surely for a full Scotland International the chance to follow in the footsteps of McCormack, Snodgrass, Strachan and McAllister at Leeds may well be hard to resist. Rangers could do with the cash, and surely exchanging away days at Cowdenbeath and Forfar for matches at Leicester, Forest, QPR and (coughs loudly) Yeovil (god bless you) would be an incentive for Templeton.
A final (and risky in my opinion) option might be to go for West Ham contract rebel Ricardo Vaz Te. Vaz Te tore up the championship when playing at Barnsley, with a memorable performance against leeds the season before last at Oakwell. Like St Etienne, West Ham may well listen to offers covering Vaz Te's wages for the rest of the season.
One thing’s for sure Leeds need to step it up over the next 7 games or forget about promotion.. Oh and Alex Mowatt? Forget about it Hughton.
image: © Chris Robertshaw