Luke Varney has spoken of his relief after leaving Leeds United for Blackburn – and defended his decision to back out of United’s line-up when a move to Ewood Park first materialised in January.
The forward was released by Leeds last week, one of seven senior players whose deals will be allowed to expire this summer, and a permanent transfer to Blackburn is expected to be sealed when his contract at Elland Road ends on June 30.
Varney finished the recent Championship season on loan at Ewood Park having joined Rovers with a view to a full-time move in February but he admitted that he was unsure of United’s intentions for him until owner Massimo Cellino published a retained list seven days ago.
The 31-year-old was first offered a loan to Blackburn in the final week of the January transfer window but despite United manager Brian McDermott agreeing to sanction the deal, it failed to materialise immediately as Cellino’s sudden bid to take control of Leeds created a vacuum of authority at Elland Road on transfer deadline day.
Varney came in for criticism from McDermott after the Leeds boss revealed that Varney had asked not to play in a 1-1 draw with Ipswich Town on January 28 with his switch to Blackburn pending and apparently a formality.
The appearance would have been Varney’s second for Leeds in almost two months and the striker said: “To be fair, it was a bit of an awkward situation.
“I didn’t feel like I needed to ask (not to play) because I would have expected a manager to sort things out once he knew another club had come in for me and I wanted to move on.
“He wanted to play me in the Ipswich game but he didn’t need me in the 15 games before that. I didn’t do it to get back at him but it was in my best interests. I could have got injured.
“It’s one of those things, we had an adult conversation, and we both agreed to move on in our own ways. That happens in football. As an experienced player, I felt I deserved a bit of an explanation about why I’d stopped being played.”
Varney was not used by McDermott again and eventually completed a move to Blackburn when the emergency loan window opened in the second week of February.
Midfielder Paul Green had been in an identical position – set to move to Ipswich Town before the January deadline but forced to bide his time by Cellino’s attempted takeover. He also moved on belatedly the following month.
Varney – a £200,000 signing from Portsmouth by Neil Warnock in 2012 – will look back on his two years at Leeds as a period of his career which failed to catch fire.
He featured in much of Warnock’s only season as manager but never found his niche or his goalscoring touch. McDermott used him less frequently, though Varney began the 2013-14 season in his starting side after scoring a pre-season hat-trick away at Stevenage.
“I thought I had a decent start to the season and I wanted to stay in the side once I was coming round to talking about a new contract,” Varney said.
“But something wasn’t quite right and I was in a weird position. I obviously made the decision to move on and hopefully I can prosper now.
“With the manager at Leeds, it was probably what I wanted to do. With the new owner (Cellino), I wasn’t sure if there was maybe a chance of me going back to Leeds but when Blackburn made it clear I’d have a settled future there, it was something I wanted to do.”
Rovers manager Gary Bowyer played Varney regularly towards the end of the season, though Varney failed to score in 12 games and Rovers drifted away from the play-off positions in the closing stages, finished two points below sixth.
“The gaffer’s said it will be a clean slate for me next season and that’s what you want to hear,” Varney said.
“Every manager has a different approach and Brian did brilliantly at Reading. It’s not quite worked out for him at Leeds and it didn’t end there as well as I would have wanted but I’ve got no real regrets really.”