LEEDS United legend Eddie Gray says the Whites can expect at least six notable new arrivals this summer with manager Neil Warnock expected to make a “major overhaul” to the club’s starting XI.
And Gray, among those hugely disappointed by Saturday’s capitulation against Watford, admits based on the weekend display there is not one player at Elland Road who could not be replaced.
United’s 2012 Championship promotion chase looks to be over as while the Whites are still only six points off the play-offs, Saturday’s performance showed that Leeds are some way from being a side capable of challenging for that much yearned place back in the Premier League.
An exasperated Warnock admitted his men are currently “miles away” from the required standard and Gray is in no doubt that this summer will see one of the club’s biggest shake-ups in years.
Well documented have been United’s defensive troubles – an area Gray has regularly stated needs improving – and with Warnock stressing last week that Robert Snodgrass, Ross McCormack, Adam Clayton and Aidy White were the four Whites players whose contracts he wanted extended – defensive recruits seem certain.
Gray, though, admits his former club were lacking in every department at the weekend and expects a major overhaul of the Leeds side as a whole.
“I think Neil Warnock will want to bring at least half a dozen players to the football club,” Gray told the YEP.
“I think there’ll be a few players who will move on – I don’t know who they’ll be and Neil will make his own mind up about that but I think the way Neil has been talking to the media and in private, I think it will be a major overhaul.
“It’s up to Neil who stays but when you look at the performance on Saturday, he more or less said after the game that there wasn’t anyone who performed well though you have to look at the season overall.”
Warnock has also stated his desire to seal the signature of centre-back Darren O’Dea on a permanent deal – the Irishman currently on loan from Celtic – and with the 25-year-old suspended at the weekend United’s defence was at sixes and sevens against Watford.
Two Chris Iwelumo strikes at either end of the game settled the contest 2-0 in the London side’s favour with the Whites roundly booed off at the full-time whistle.
It’s a far cry from when Gray was a player – when Leeds were among the best clubs in Europe – but the former winger admits United no longer have a divine right to win matches even in the second tier of English football.
“We are Leeds United playing Watford and I think the fans think we just need to turn up to win the game,” said Gray.
“But it wasn’t going to be like that.
“I think that’s what gets the fans frustrated, they think we should beat Watford but we have got to be realistic and we have got to look at it and think there are a lot of teams in this league as good as us.
“Watford should have beaten us down there as well as they missed a penalty with a minute to go which would have put them 2-0 up.
“We then equalised with a penalty in the 95th minute.”
Despite that, Leeds actually remain above the Hornets in the table – Warnock’s side currently 10th – but for all that Gray hopes there is still an outside chance of a late surge towards the play-offs, the Scottish legend knows deep down that the Whites are heading for a 10th season outside of the top flight next year.
Like every Whites fan, Gray is desperate for his side to return to the promised land and the Leeds favourite admits this year’s Championship was weaker than normal but Gray expects nothing to be easy in 2012-13 whatever recruitments are made next term.
“It’s disappointing but I’ve said all along this season, for us to get promotion, even though we were getting results earlier, performances would have to improve,” he said.
“If you are not playing well then eventually it will catch up with you.
“When you actually look at the league, we have been in that mid-table position for a long time and other teams have been slipping up.
“We’ve not been playing well and not been getting the points return required to challenge and while you hope it will happen, it’s very doubtful now.
“I look at it and this will be another season and as each season passes the harder it gets because you have got teams coming down from the Premier League and they are coming down with that cash.
“This year it has been the kind of Championship where most teams can beat each other and you look at Blackpool beating Southampton 3-0 on Saturday.
“Hull City got beaten by Coventry at home and it’s just that type of league where I don’t think there is a lot between a lot of the sides.”
Of that there seems little doubt – United’s results themselves proof of the unpredictability of this season’s Championship – Leeds 4-0 winners at Nottingham Forest last autumn only to be turned over by the same side, 7-3 at Elland Road last month.
Anything, it seems, is possible.
Few, nevertheless, will expect a Whites win in United’s next Championship fixture – at second-placed Reading on Good Friday – and you sense Gray won’t have a Whites win on his football coupon, for all that he knows United seem to currently be better suited playing away.
“Neil will try to get his players wound up for the Reading game and we have got to give it our best and try and win the game,” said Gray.
“But you look at Reading and their home record plus the type of players they have got and they have got a lot of pace in their side.
“They have got their two wide players – Jobi McAnuff and Jimmy Kebe and then you have got the power of Jason Roberts up front and it will be a difficult game for us down there.
“They are flying along, they got a tremendous win against West Ham and they are on the best run in the league now. You would imagine it will be difficult but we do seem to be suited better to playing away from home.
“I think we are better when teams have got to come at us and when teams just sit in there I think we find it difficult to break them down.
“Away from home you might get a little bit more space and time to play but it will be very difficult down at Reading.
“It will be a big surprise if we win the game, let’s put it that way.”