Brian McDermott believes Leeds United have drawn a line through their reputation as a selling club after striking a deal to keep young midfielder Alex Mowatt until 2017.
Mowatt signed a new three-and-a-half year contract with Leeds yesterday, prompting McDermott to claim that the club have stemmed the tide of talent flowing out of Elland Road.
The 18-year-old secured improved terms just four months into his first season as a senior player and less than a year after turning professional.
His deal is the second major contract extension negotiated by Leeds this term after top scorer Ross McCormack committed himself to the club for four more years in August following a £2m bid for him from Middlesbrough.
United’s decade-long spell outside the Premier League has been littered with contentious and damaging transfers out of Elland Road, many involving players who like Mowatt were developed by their academy.
McDermott said: “Over the years Leeds United have sold so many players - and I know all about that because it happened to me at Reading.
“It’s happened to Leeds over a long period of time and I know the supporters are nervous about it. But with the people we’ve got in charge now I don’t think that’ll be the case anymore, I really don’t.
“That’s my gut feeling and I’ve got nothing saying I’ll be proved wrong. It could happen but I get the sense of a really good feeling from the board, wanting to take the club forward.
“Alex’s contract protects him and it protects us too. He’s 18, he’s playing regularly in the Championship and I think this shows what we think of him.
“He’ll be delighted to sign because there’s nowhere else he’d want to go. I’m really pleased.”
The January transfer window opens in four weeks’ time, potentially exposing Leeds to offers for proven players like 15-goal McCormack and emerging prospects of Mowatt’s ilk.
The young midfielder, who has played 11 times this season, received an England Under-19 call-up last month and has attracted considerable attention since his club debut in August.
Asked if he was worried about hostile bids arriving at Elland Road in January, McDermott said: “A hostile bid to me is someone offering money that’s nowhere near the valuation of the player.
“You saw in the summer that it didn’t happen. We got offered a certain amount of money for Ross and I don’t think that would buy a part of his body now. He’s not even at his peak yet. He’ll get better and better and better.
“Unless someone proves me wrong, I don’t think that this is a selling club any more. We’re going in the right direction on that.”
Mowatt’s new deal was another encouraging step forward for United’s manager after a fifth straight home win over Wigan on Wednesday raised Leeds to seventh in the Championship.
United host Watford tomorrow, going head-to-head with last season’s beaten play-off finalists and a side who won 6-1 on their last appearance at Elland Road.
Watford have struggled for form recently and are 12th in the table but McDermott said: “They’ve got players who are very capable. They’re a good side.
“You can never take anything for granted, no matter who or where you’re playing. We give every game the utmost respect, we do our homework and watch our videos. Our preparation is always right.”
Former Leeds United striker Richard Cresswell has announced his retirement as a player due to “injury issues” and will pursue a career as coach.
The 36-year-old ended his career at the club where he started it – League 2 York City.