Brian McDermott insisted last night that Ian Harte would not be returning to Leeds United, despite claiming the veteran full-back will “give someone great service” next season.
McDermott dismissed claims that out-of-contract Harte was closing in on a move back to Elland Road and said he would put his trust in United’s existing group of left-backs for the new Championship term.
Harte, 35, is looking for a new club after three successful years at Reading and McDermott paid tribute to a defender who was believed to be past his best when he unexpectedly moved to the Madejski Stadium from Carlisle United in 2010.
The ex-Leeds trainee’s time at Reading earned him one play-off final appearance, one Championship winners’ medal and a season in the Premier League.
McDermott, the manager who took Harte to the Madejski Stadium, said: “Ian’s one of the most hungry players I’ve ever worked with.
“He was 33 when I signed him and at the time he was winding down apparently. There were question marks about him in the minds of other people. He was right in the thick of everything we achieved at Reading, a fantastic asset.
“But he won’t be coming to us this summer. We’re well covered with full-backs in that area so it won’t be happening. He’ll be a terrific player for someone, though. He’ll give someone great service.”
The left-back slot at Leeds has been regularly filled by Stephen Warnock since United signed him from Aston Villa in January, though McDermott chose to use Adam Drury against Watford on the last day of the season. Both players are under contract for the 12 months ahead.
McDermott has former academy player Aidan White as a third alternative and the United boss will apply his budget to other parts of the squad at Elland Road. He confirmed that Leeds have so far tabled offers for four players, with bids for a number of others planned.
Harte was linked with United immediately after confirming his departure from Reading last month and he is fondly remembered at Elland Road where he played as a senior professional for almost a decade.
The former Republic of Ireland international made more than 200 appearances for Leeds and shone during the club’s fine Champions League run in 2000 and 2001.
He later signed for Levante, Sunderland, Blackpool and Carlisle before McDermott approached him ahead of his first full season as Reading manager.
“Gylfi Sigurdsson was sold that summer and I needed someone to replace his set-pieces,” McDermott said. “Ian was ideal. He was at Carlisle but I thought he had something to offer at a higher level.
“He’s been a great player over the years, a really top pro, and I don’t think he got the respect he deserved for the time he spent at Leeds or the number of games he played. That was a great team back then.
“He’s 35 now but you write off Ian Harte at your peril. I don’t think he’ll be short of people wanting to sign him.
“Hungry players are what I’m most interested in bringing to this club. Age doesn’t really come into it, or not always. You can be 21 and hungry or you can be 33 like Ian was and still be massively driven.
“I need my players here to be massively driven and those are the type of signings we want - driven players with quality too.”