Simon Grayson has admitted that out-going transfers from Elland Road will be necessary before any new players come to Leeds United after describing the club’s squad as “top heavy”.
The United manager said he would not consider making further signings without first making space in his dressing room, with the number of professionals at Leeds now in excess of 25.
The club increased the size of their squad last week by signing Danny Pugh on loan from Stoke City – a deal which will become permanent when United pay a fee of around £500,000 in January – but Leeds’ 3-3 draw with Brighton and the concession of three cheap goals at the Amex Stadium raised the question of whether Grayson would use the emergency loan market to deal with his leaky defence.
He ruled out the possibility of any fresh arrivals before today’s game against Portsmouth, preferring to rely on his existing squad, and he insisted that he could not justify increasing his resources unless a number of his fringe players were to leave Elland Road on a temporary basis.
A centre-back is likely to be prominent among his targets if United’s poor defensive record affects results in the month ahead but Grayson already has five fit options in that position, despite losing Alex Bruce to a minor ankle injury earlier this week.
Grayson said: “If anything was to happen in terms of someone coming in then we’d have to let a couple go out at the same time. We’re totally top heavy, particularly in the centre-back department.
“Alex was injured before a reserve game (against Middlesbrough) on Tuesday but even without him, we’ve still got plenty of very good centre-halves here.
“Nearly everybody is fit at the moment, really for the first time this season, and we travelled to Brighton with the 16 lads who played and six who were left out of the squad. That shows that we’ve got a good strong squad, and strong enough to see us through a tough group of games in a short period.
“If I decided to bring any more in then we’d have to shuffle it around to make that happen.”
The early stages of this season were a time of selection issues for Grayson, with several players suffering from injury and four – Max Gradel, Jonathan Howson, Aidan White and Patrick Kisnorbo – sidelined by suspension after incurring red cards.
But striker Davide Somma, who damaged knee ligaments in July, was the only absentee prior to last week’s match at Brighton, and the injury suffered by Bruce is likely to heal soon after the forthcoming international break.
As a team, United are scoring goals regularly but Grayson continues to be hampered by a defence who are conceding at a rate of two a game. He attacked his side’s “mindset” and “mental dips” after seeing a 2-0 lead evaporate at Brighton but decided to rely on the same players ahead of today’s meeting with Portsmouth.
The emergency loan market offers another avenue to a stable defence if Leeds continue to leak goals but Grayson said viable options would be hard to come by on a short-term basis.
“That’s the difficult thing,” he said. “People say ‘just go out into the loan market and bring someone in’ but it’s not always that easy.
“I saw Malky Mackay saying the other day that when Cardiff had a few injuries, he tried to get someone in and couldn’t. The difficulty in the Championship is that you’ve only really got the Premier League loan market to go into. We’ve been fortunate in getting Danny Pugh out of there.
“In League One, getting players out of the Championship wasn’t a problem but Premier League players have big egos and they see dropping into the Championship as a step down. That can make it harder to persuade people to come, even if they’re not playing. Some of them are reluctant to play at this level.
“Over the past three or four weeks we’ve been talking about three or four players – some of them internationals – but I’ve found a few of them unwilling to come to the Championship. Some think they’re too good for it.”