MATT SMITH has spoken of his shock at being told Leeds United were looking to sell him – just 72 hours after signing a new three-year deal.
The striker completed a move to Championship rivals Fulham for a fee in excess of £750,000 just before the summer transfer window closed at 11pm on Monday night – linking up again with former Whites marksman Ross McCormack at Craven Cottage.
Smith had been the subject of rival interest from Fulham’s London rivals Millwall before the start of the season, only for the club to announce he had agreed fresh terms on August 18 – with the former Oldham forward happy to seemingly put speculation surrounding his future to bed.
But three days later, Smith was told he was on a shortlist of players who United were looking to offload, which he admits left him perplexed.
Despite the circumstances of his exit from Leeds, Smith admits he will still leave the club will great memories, while being determined to move on and embrace his next challenge at Fulham.
On his exit, Smith, 25, who had been expecting to play a full part on the pitch in the coming seasons for Leeds, said: “Obviously, after signing the new contract, I would have to say it has been a bit of a
surprise, to be honest with you.
“Going into the signing, I was under the premise that I was a massive part of the plans going forward and I was very humbled and excited at the prospect.
“Then for whatever reason; I don’t still to this day quite understand, I heard I was on a short-list of players that were looking to be offloaded.
“I was enjoying my time there. I was obviously aware of interest from other clubs at the time, but the club had made it very clear that - one, they were not going to sell me and two, that I was a massive part of their plans. So the contract came at a good time.
“You can imagine my shock that 72 hours later, I am told I am a shortlist of players that they would be looking to move on, if at all possible.
“Since then, I was obviously very flattered that the interest came in from Fulham and very happy to be starting a new challenge there and I am really looking forward to the prospect. As one door closes, another one opens.”
Following the closure of the transfer window, United owner Massimo Cellino is switching his attentions towards finding a successor to David Hockaday, having suffered a blow following leading target Oscar Garcia’s decision to take charge of Championship rivals Watford.
The Spaniard, 41, was confirmed as the Hornets new head coach yesterday.
Former West Brom head coach, who Cellino has spoken to, remains the bookies favourite, but is unlikely to rush into accepting any prospective job offer, should it come.
The name of Swindon Town manager Mark Cooper - son of Whites legend Terry - is also figuring prominently in the betting, but it is understood no contact has been made by Leeds.
Speaking about the link, Cooper, 45, said: “Listen, it’s always flattering to be associated with jobs and especially Leeds with the family history.
“But I’ve got a big job on here. I’ve started a project, it’s going the right way and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself.”
Current caretaker-manager Neil Redfearn is rated among the favourites along with ex-Watford head coach Giuseppe Sannino.
The Italian is understood to be eager to stay in England despite surprisingly resigning at Vicarage Road on Sunday.
The 57-year-old has spoken about his affection with English football and also spoke glowingly about compatriot Cellino’s achievements at Cagliari after Watford beat Leeds 3-0 at Vicarage Road in April - in the United owner’s first game in charge of the club.
Speaking at the time, Sannino said: “Yes I know him because he is president of Cagliari - from when my clubs Siena and Palermo played Cagliari.
“I am very happy for him because he is the kind of person that did a great job at Cagliari.
“He is now the boss of a club with a great history like Leeds and, in my opinion, he joined English football because he believes he can do a good job here.”
Rolando Maran, who has a wealth of managerial experience in Italy, having managed Cittadella, Brescia, Bari, Triestina, Vicenza, Varese and Catania, is another strongly linked with Leeds.