When Brian McDermott spoke this week about Leeds United’s squad being “overloaded in certain positions”, he was pointing his finger in no small part at the glut of central midfielders at Elland Road.
Regardless of the room for improvement in that area, Leeds were top-heavy before the summer transfer window began. In signing Luke Murphy, McDermott increased the pool to nine and raised the need for subsequent cuts.
United’s manager is more fixated on players coming in than he is on those he hopes to move on but he agrees with the club’s owner, GFH Capital, that movement in both directions is necessary. Reluctant though McDermott is to bruise egos by publicly deeming anyone surplus, a quick head count tells him that several members of his squad can have no part to play next season.
While some at Leeds offered a route to quick money – Ross McCormack, Tom Lees and Sam Byram especially – McDermott’s focus has been on freeing the wage bill of anyone under him who “won’t get an opportunity and needs to play.” A number of his midfielders will inevitably fall into that category.
Signed for £1million, Murphy joined a crowd featuring Rodolph Austin, David Norris, Michael Tonge, Paul Green, Michael Brown, Chris Dawson, Zac Thompson and Danny Pugh, most of whom were expected to play in today’s friendly at Farsley.
Dawson is recovering from a shoulder injury and, as the latest academy product on whom Leeds will hang their hat, faces no threat whatsoever. Pugh remains on the transfer list, as he has for more than a year, and could make his way back to Sheffield Wednesday after finishing last season on loan at Hillsborough. But McDermott is likely to cut his cloth more substantially to keep his part in the bargain of “balancing the books” at Leeds.
“We’ve had little enquiries, nothing of a concrete nature, but that’s what might happen,” McDermott said. “We’ve made signings now and there’s a situation where players might go out the door – players who aren’t going to get an opportunity and need to play.
“That’s part of football and part and parcel of trying to build a squad.”
United’s players will travel en masse for a three-game tour of Slovenia on Monday having completed their first full week of work at a steadily-improving Thorp Arch training ground.
McDermott has instigated a number of changes at the complex, arranging an extension of the sprinkler system, the installation of barriers around certain pitches and re-organising the lay-out inside Thorp Arch’s main building.
“It was work which United’s boss saw as necessary, despite Thorp Arch’s traditionally impressive reputation.
McDermott said: “When I talked about the potential of the training ground, everyone said it was great but I just felt that we needed to changes things. I just want to make sure we use the space as well as we can.”
Leeds start their new Championship season four weeks today and the club have moved to attract a large crowd to their opening match at home to Brighton by declaring the game Category C.
The announcement came amid a raft of changes to match-day prices which have frozen last season’s charges and introduced new concession rates for students and young adults next term.
New managing director David Haigh said: “We’ve looked long and hard at our pricing structure and feel we have come up with the most sensible solution.”
LEEDS UNITED’S CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS – How the battle for places shapes up:
LUKE MURPHY: The signing of the summer so far at a cost of £1million. Primed for a big season at Elland Road.
RODOLPH AUSTIN: Prominent under McDermott – until he was sent off against Brighton. Should still feature heavily.
DAVID NORRIS: Played 34 times last season but underwent knee surgery in April. Fit again now.
MICHAEL TONGE: Made more league starts than all bar four players in 2012-13. Under contract for another two years.
PAUL GREEN: In and out during his first term – in part because of injury – but became the defensive point in the midfield diamond favoured by McDermott.
MICHAEL BROWN: Turns 37 in January but an extension to his deal has placed him under contract until next summer. Last season brought him 15 league starts.
CHRIS DAWSON: A rising star and a Wales Under-21 international whose best years are in front of him.
ZAC THOMPSON: Yet to really break through but would have started the last game at Watford had he not been ineligible.
DANNY PUGH: Transfer-listed for a year and is likely to leave.