Leeds United: The pressure is off Gradel

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SIMON Grayson says Max Gradel will have nothing to prove to West Ham United if he restores the winger to Leeds United’s line-up at Upton Park tomorrow.

Simon Grayson says Max Gradel will have nothing to prove to West Ham United if he restores the winger to Leeds United’s line-up at Upton Park tomorrow.

Grayson was continuing to ponder his options today with the return from suspension of Gradel and Jonathan Howson complicating his choice of team, but the Leeds manager said Gradel should feel no additional pressure if he plays against the club who bid for him last month.

United’s player of the year was the subject of a £2.5million offer from West Ham, submitted to Elland Road shortly after Grayson’s squad resumed pre-season training.

Leeds turned down the bid and have not received an improved offer, and West Ham are unlikely to increase their valuation before the transfer window closes in 11 days’ time.

Gradel – the scorer of 18 goals for Leeds last season – will have the opportunity to display his talent to the London club should Grayson opt to rearrange the team which earned United their first league win of the season against Hull City on Tuesday night.

Grayson claimed he was untroubled by the possibility of Gradel encouraging a fresh bid from Upton Park, saying: “I want my players to go out and produce performances every time they put the shirt on.

“If Max scores a hat-trick and they come back in with an offer three times or five times the original money then it would be something to consider but I want him to play for the shirt – not to show them what they’ve missed out on.

“He understood (why Leeds turned down the offer) and it’s had no effect on him. He loves playing for this club and he takes it all in his stride. I’m sure there’ll be a joke or two tomorrow about which dressing room he’s walking into it but it was never a serious concern because their offer was nowhere near the value we’ve got on Max’s head.

“If we were to sell him it would have to be at the market value and their offer wasn’t anywhere near the market value. We didn’t find it acceptable.”

Gradel is available again after serving a one-match ban in midweek, and Leeds captain Howson is also free to play having completed an identical suspension for the red card shown to him in a 1-0 defeat to Middlesbrough.

Both players are in firm contention to reclaim their places tomorrow, though Grayson insisted once again that their return to his starting line-up was not a formality after Tuesday’s 4-1 rout of Hull.

“As a manager, you can pick your team and then change it overnight,” Grayson said.

“There won’t be major changes – one or two maybe, or possible none. I’m still undecided because the lads who came into the team did very well the other night. But you’ve also got to look at the two players coming back and think about what they’ve done in the past and what they could do in a game like this.”

Striker Billy Paynter will miss tomorrow’s match with a thigh strain and defenders Leigh Bromby and Ben Parker both have hamstring problem, joining an injury list which already includes Luciano Becchio and Davide Somma.

Liam Cooper.

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