After announcing his retained list Boss Brian McDermott is keen to do some early deals in the transfer market. Phil Hay reports.
Leeds United’s players were called together after training on Thursday to discuss their individual fitness plans for the summer.
Brian McDermott wants no messing about next month; just a fit and healthy squad, ready to train on June 27.
Yesterday he followed up that meeting by announcing his retained list and telling 10 players that they would not be offered extended terms when their contracts expire next month. Four of those released by United are young professionals.
The senior contingent included Davide Somma, Habib Habibou and long-term injury victim Leigh Bromby who will retire and take on a permanent coaching role with Leeds next season.
The centre-back, 32, is more than 12 months into his recovery from a snapped patella tendon and has used an inactive year to clear the way for a career as a youth-team coach. He managed United’s Under-18s for a short time last month and will handle another of the club’s junior squads full-time.
Habibou was signed on loan from Belgium’s Zulte Waregem in January, moving to Elland Road with a view to a permanent transfer, but neither of his appearances nor his fleeting involvement suggested that McDermott would take up that option. The African striker has not played once under United’s new boss and rarely figured under Neil Warnock.
No less predictable was the release of Patrick Kisnorbo, Paul Connolly and Paul Rachubka, all of whom have been absent on loan for much of the term. Kisnorbo was recently linked with a club in China. They will be followed out of Leeds by Monty Gimpel, Sanchez Payne, Patrick Antelmi and Jordan Snodin; young footballers who developed in United’s academy but never broke through.
The name of real note in yesterday’s announcement was that of Somma, the South African striker whose existing contract has been thoroughly wasted by a chronic knee injury. Two years of the lengthy deal he signed in 2010 were lost to surgery and an operation carried out two weeks ago ended his season prematurely. Leeds are presently unwilling to commit to a player who has made six appearances since first going under the knife in 2011.
The club are allowing Somma to continue his rehabilitation at Thorp Arch, however, and will invite him to take part in their pre-season programme with a view to “assessing his fitness.” His spell with Leeds might yet be extended if the popular forward – the scorer of 12 goals in his one and only full season as a first-team regular at Elland Road – can rid himself of persistent niggles.
Somma’s initial target is Thursday, June 27, the date set by McDermott for the first session of pre-season training. United’s manager would also like to arrive at that point with his business in the transfer market complete or thereabouts. McDermott calls it “an ideal world” and, as Warnock found before him, recruitment at Elland Road is not always so quick or straightforward. But there are already signs of urgency in his planning.
United’s season ends at Watford this afternoon and the days that follow will take a typical course. With the club’s released list already announced, talks about incoming and outgoing transfers will continue next week, with McDermott stressing the need to “do deals early.”
Warnock made similar noises last summer after taking on the squad left behind by Simon Grayson but his call for rapid progress fell on deaf ears. Much of Warnock’s dealing took place during the early stages of GFH Capital’s takeover of Leeds, a buy-out which got off the ground in May but did not reach a final date of completion until December 21. Money was tight in the interim and has been since.
Warnock signed Jason Pearce from Portsmouth for £500,000 on May 4 but made no further inroads until free transfers were agreed with Adam Drury and Paul Green the following month. Goalkeeper Paddy Kenny was next to arrive, purchased from Queens Park Rangers on the first day of pre-season training. A shortage of cash was a constant problem, even after Robert Snodgrass was sold to Norwich City for £3million.
McDermott replaced Warnock as manager three weeks ago and came to Elland Road without discussing extensively the backing he would receive this season. He sought “assurances” from Leeds but said the question of his transfer pot would be “answered in the summer.” His intention in any case was to ask United’s board for specific players, rather than a specific sums of money.
The 52-year-old has submitted a rundown of targets to chief executive Shaun Harvey and made it clear that he is as keen on quick additions as Warnock ever was. While United’s players go their separate ways on holiday tonight, McDermott will get ready to throw himself into his first transfer window as Leeds boss.
“We’ll have a break and we need a break,” McDermott said. “Jon Goodman and Matt Pears (United’s conditioning coaches) have taken care of the players’ fitness programmes. We had a meeting about that after training on Thursday. The players have all been given individual programmes so that when they come back on June 27 they’ll be fit and ready to train straight away.
“The club have spoken to the players who’ll be moving on and after that we go into discussions with players who we want to try and sign. I’ve already given the club some players that I’ve earmarked.
“You identify targets and you try to speak to their agents. Then you try to do deals. But for me it’s better if you can do deals early. Sometimes these things drag on and my experience of the summer window is that it can drag on but in an ideal world we’d get the players we need in time for pre-season – which starts on June 27.”
In the past fortnight, McDermott has been repeatedly linked with Adam Le Fondre, the striker he took to Reading from Rotherham United for £300,000 in 2011. Le Fondre appears increasingly keen to free himself from his perennial role as a substitute at the Madejski Stadium, though sources close to him say he would want more involvement at Leeds than he saw during McDermott’s time as manager of Reading.
Leeds are also understood to have shown an interest in Motherwell winger Chris Humphrey, a 25-year-old Jamaican international, and wingers at Elland Road are notable by their absence. A five-game stretch in charge of United has given McDermott the chance to analyse United’s squad closely prior to the summer break. In the immediate aftermath of his sacking by Reading, the former Arsenal player initially planned to delay his return to management until July.
But McDermott said: “In hindsight, it’s better doing what I’ve done – coming in for five games – rather than coming in June or July. It might have taken two or three months to get going and to see what we had here so it’s been a really good thing for me to come in at this stage – to see everything and be involved in a few games. I can say that now because we’ve got enough points to stay up.”