Michael Duberry believes Leeds United would be taking a worthwhile gamble by signing Kemar Roofe, claiming the Oxford United forward has the quality and the confidence he needs to cope in the Championship.
Duberry, a former Leeds and Oxford defender, said he understood why numerous second-tier clubs were considering bidding for Roofe after the 23-year-old won League Two’s player-of-the-year award this season.
United are one of the teams closely monitoring Roofe with a view to financing a summer transfer to Elland Road.
The ex-West Bromwich Albion trainee finished the 2015-16 term with 26 goals and nine assists, figuring decisively in Oxford’s automatic promotion to League One.
Oxford value Roofe at between £1.5m and £2m – committed to securing a substantial fee by a large sell-on clause held by his old club West Brom – but their chairman, Darryl Eales, admitted recently that he would “never stand in the way of a player’s career development.”
Duberry, who retired from playing three years ago and has worked as a columnist for the Oxford Mail, told the YEP: “You know about his goals, his pace and his creativity but he’s also got massive amounts of confidence. That would give him an edge in the Championship because he’d go to that level thinking he could make it and cope there.
“The player-of-the-year award was a big accolade because it’s voted for by people in the game. He’s the top talent in that league because people in that league say so. Clubs above Oxford will like what they’ve seen of him and clubs above Oxford will have deeper pockets. That’s the way football works.
“I’m sure Oxford would want to keep him because they’re a club with ambitions of their own. But players have ambitions, too.”
Eales conceded that Roofe might look for a move up the English pyramid this summer, telling the Oxford Mail: “I’m trying to be realistic. I would love to keep him, but it’s not my decision. That has to be Kemar’s.
“What I would never do is stand in the way of a player’s career development. I think Kemar loves it here but he wants to get to the top.
“The reality is if a club comes in and it’s right for Kemar and he wants to go, I will try to persuade him to stay but he has to look after his own career.”
Duberry spent six years with Leeds between 1999 and 2005 and ended his Football League career with Oxford in 2013.
The 40-year-old said Roofe would experience a very different “culture” at Elland Road if United moved to sign him in the transfer window.
“No disrespect to Oxford but Leeds are different,” Duberry said. “It’s a culture there, a different culture, and you’ve got to be prepared for it.
“I say to people ‘don’t be fooled by their (Leeds United’s) Championship status.’ It’s still got the pressure of playing for a top club.
“If you understand that then you’ll be fine. If you think that it’s an easy move, you’ll get a massive shock. It would be a very big move for Roofe but the confidence he’s got – and the way he delivers on that confidence – makes me think he’d do fine in the Championship.
“He’s got the talent and his performance level this season says that he’s one of the best players in the lower leagues. I’d be surprised if Leeds are the only club looking at him because you have to take notice of someone doing what he’s done.”