I’ll be as disappointed as anyone to see Jonny Howson leave Leeds United.
He’s a smashing lad and a smashing player and no-one at Elland Road can say otherwise. But this was a deal that the club had to do. It was a case of take the money now or risk losing him for nothing in the summer.
Make no mistake – Jonny isn’t being forced out. The club have been trying to agree a new contract with him for months and the offer to him was a good one. But he wants to play Premier League football next season and we can’t promise him that. There’s a great chance of us winning promotion, but it’s certainly not guaranteed.
All I know is that if we’d kept Jonny and not been promoted, he’d have gone on a free transfer. That would have been his right and good for him but it’s not good for us as a club. Two years ago, we turned down £2m to keep Jermaine Beckford and we went up from League One, but Jonny is injured at the moment. At the most he’d probably have played in another dozen games before reaching the end of his deal.
The supporters will ask why a new contract with Howson wasn’t agreed earlier but the fact is we’ve tried. In reality, when Premier League clubs start snooping around good, young players it’s incredibly difficult to tie them down without being in that division yourself. That’s not just down to money (and I really don’t think Jonny is being driven by money). It’s also down to the lure of playing in one of the best divisions in the world.
As for people questioning our ambition, I say again that we’ve got one of the biggest squads in the division. We all expected the players to do better than they have so far, and we’ve had an in-and-out season to be honest, but don’t think for one minute that any of us – myself, Ken Bates, Shaun Harvey or Simon Grayson – aren’t frustrated to be sitting outside the play-offs.
We thought – and we still think – that we’ve got a good enough squad to be right in the mix.
And I’m certain that it will be strengthened over the next fortnight. It was always the intention to bring in new players this month and make sure we were in better shape at the end of January than we were when it started.
You might look at the sale of Jonny Howson and think it weakens the squad, but we now have another sum of cash to invest in the team. In another six months, Jonny might have gone and we’d have been left with nothing. That doesn’t help us.
As a club you have to do what’s best for you and we’ve put many years of work into helping Jonny become the player he is.
I’m sad to see him go, but it would have been far worse had he left for nothing. I understand his thinking but I hope people also understand why this had to happen.