Leeds United are pushing to complete the signing of Cameron Stewart from Hull City as Brian McDermott looks for a shot in the arm after his side’s FA Cup defeat at Rochdale.
Stewart is expected to become a Leeds player in time for their derby at Sheffield Wednesday this weekend, the first of a number of players who McDermott wants to add to his out-of-form squad.
The 22-year-old winger was omitted from Hull’s side ahead of their third-round tie at Middlesbrough on Saturday after United asked the Premier League club not to render him ineligible for the remainder of the tournament.
Leeds’ sorry exit at the hands of Rochdale at Spotland made that request unnecessary but it gave a firm indication that McDermott is nearing his first deal of the January transfer window.
The need for new players has dominated the agenda at Leeds since their Championship defeat to Nottingham Forest on December 29, and McDermott cut an anxious figure after United were badly outplayed by League Two Rochdale on Saturday.
Stewart’s arrival ahead of an increasingly important visit to Hillsborough would allow another change of tack and asked if he expected a signing in the days ahead, McDermott said: “We’re close. Once that’s done we’ll try to fill the next one. I’d hope to have one or two in for Sheffield Wednesday.”
Stewart, who spent the first half of the season at Charlton Athletic and has the option of returning to The Valley this month, made the trip to Middlesbrough with City’s squad but sat out of their 2-0 win on Teesside.
Hull are ready to sacrifice him with the winger’s contract due to expire in June and manager Steve Bruce unlikely to use him in the second half of the season.
McDermott’s need for fresh blood is urgent, however, following three straight defeats and a poor run of form since Christmas.
Goals from Scott Hogan and Ian Henderson earned Rochdale a convincing and deserved 2-0 win at Spotland, their first ever victory over Leeds and the first time the club have progressed to the FA Cup’s fourth round in 11 years.
McDermott admitted to a lack of leadership among his squad and said he was looking for a player as influential as Jason Roberts had been when Reading won the Championship title under McDermott in the 2011-12 season.
The highly experienced Roberts moved to the Madejski Stadium to Blackburn Rovers in the January transfer window, helping Reading to close out a memorable term.
“We need leaders on the pitch and I’ve spoken about that,” McDermott said. “You need many leaders, not just your captain.
“I had this same problem in the season we got promoted (at Reading). We made a signing in January which created a leader and four or five other leaders were created from that. We need something to galvanise us.”
United’s loss to Rochdale followed on from tame defeats to Forest and Blackburn, another performance which highlighted the limitations of McDermott’s resources.
The Leeds boss apologised to the away crowd of 3,400 who turned out at Spotland but said: “I’m focused rather than angry. I’m driven. I want to make sure we get it right because it really matters to me.
“The players know what they’re doing and that wasn’t the problem. For whatever reason we were well beaten and we hold our hands up.
“The frustrating thing is that we’ve had a lot of good things going on here this season but in the last two or three games we’ve undone that. The last three games have been a wake-up call.
“My team selection was strong and we had a team capable of going to Rochdale and winning but we weren’t the better side. They were.”