Neil Warnock was facing up to the painful loss of Robert Snodgrass today after Leeds United failed with a last-ditch attempt to keep the winger at Elland Road.
Snodgrass has opened talks with Norwich City and will complete a move to Carrow Road in the next 48 hours if he and the Premier League club agree personal terms.
United admitted defeat in their battle to keep Snodgrass after receiving a £3million bid and being told by the Scotland international that he wanted to call time on his four-year career at Leeds.
The YEP understands that United’s prospective new owners – a group from the Middle East who are working towards a takeover after beginning due diligence on the club’s accounts – were directly involved in efforts to persuade Snodgrass to remain at Elland Road and sign a new deal.
But the planned takeover remains incomplete almost two months after United began negotiating with the unnamed buyers, and Snodgrass delivered a major blow to Warnock by leaving United’s pre-season camp in Cornwall yesterday, travelling to Norwich to begin negotiations.
The Leeds manager fought a running battle to retain Snodgrass, naming him as club captain in February and convincing United’s board to offer him an extension to a contract which expires next summer. The deal would have made Snodgrass the club’s highest earner.
Warnock, who was on the verge of signing David Norris from Portsmouth today, said: “I don’t think I’ve ever tried harder in my whole career to keep one player.
“I offered him the best contract he’s ever had and the best contract the club’s offered anybody for the best part of a decade.
“I made him captain and everyone knew I wanted to build the team around him. I couldn’t have been more open about that.
“But what do you do when people have their heads turned? Everyone at the club fought to keep him, talking to him about the future and what we saw our future being. I honestly think we did everything we could. In the end it’s down to the player himself because I don’t want to keep a player who doesn’t want to be here or who’s going to be worried about getting injured for the next six months.
“The game doesn’t work like that.
“There were other factors too and the takeover and all the complexity of the due diligence has probably gone on too long for us to sort this out.
“If it (the takeover) had been done three or four weeks ago then we’d have had a better chance but everyone behind the scenes is trying to do what’s best.
“These things take time and there’s nothing anyone can do about that.”
Warnock was hoping for some welcome relief in the transfer market today with Leeds looking to beat Sheffield Wednesday to the signature of Portsmouth’s Norris.
The 31-year-old midfielder spoke with Wednesday at the start of this week but is understood to have opted for a switch to Elland Road.
Norris has been on Warnock’s radar since the end of last season and the 31-year-old will become the fourth player to join Leeds from relegated Portsmouth if he puts pen to paper on a contact at Leeds.
But the impending departure of Snodgrass, pictured, – signed by Leeds from Livingston exactly four years ago – is a major setback for Warnock ahead of a season in which the United boss planned to construct his team side around the forward.
“It makes my job that little bit more difficult but today’s another day and I’ll pick myself up,” Warnock said.
“I need to start thinking about players who want to be here, not players who don’t. Rob made it clear he didn’t want to play for us.”