David Prutton: Leeds United need to make a statement of intent this summer

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As a player I always found the annual summer break refreshing and weird in equal measures. The closest thing I can compare it to is school. For most of the year you’re in a fixed routine which dominates your life. Then, for a couple of months, you’re free to do what you like and go where you like.

That’s great on one hand but strange on the other and the close season gives players a touch of the butterflies. No matter who you’re playing for, you know that the summer transfer window is when clubs see most change.

Nobody stands still. You can never be certain that when you walk back into the training ground the sights, sounds and smells will be as they were.

More to the point, there are summers where you don’t even know if you will be reporting back to the same training ground at all.

I was lucky in my career that I had a fair amount of security and I don’t remember too many windows where I knew a club were trying to get rid of me. I went from Southampton at the end of my contract before I came to Leeds which, quite honestly, was the right move for both of us but I can still relate to the situation at Elland Road.

Leeds have had a poor season and because of that, heads will roll. Changes have to be made and you know that they will. Given how few players impressed over the course of this season, I doubt there are many in the camp who feel 100 per cent secure.

Kyle Bartley.

Kyle Bartley.

Every club sees movement in the transfer market but as a rule you tend to know when your time’s up. On occasions, like when I went to Southampton, you’re worth a bit of money and a rival club meet your valuation so ambition kicks in and you decide to go.

But in other circumstances, like when I was playing for Sheffield Wednesday, you become so peripheral that you see a transfer on the horizon.

Wednesday were probably the club where I felt most like that. In the summer after promotion from League One I was miles from the first team. I hadn’t played too much towards the end of the season and the reality dawned on me when we went on pre-season to Portugal.

In one friendly – I forget who against – I was given five minutes at the end. Five minutes in pre-season is a complete waste of time.

Leeds United need to make some big statements. They need to make statements with the players they sign but also with the players they move on.

David Prutton

At least in the league you can help to see out an important game out or pick up an appearance bonus but a token run-out in a summer kickabout was a way of saying ‘you’re not really needed Dave’. So I went on loan to Scunthorpe. It had to be done.

You might ask why I didn’t just sit and take the money, the easy life as people see it, but the reality is that most players hate not playing.

Okay, you can draw in a wage but the longer you’re idle the less of a commodity you are. The less people remember you. One thing you can be certain of is that you’ll need the money you’re earning because kicking your heels does nothing for your career.

That will be the mentality of the majority of the players who Leeds try to move on before next season. It’ll be tough for some of them to take because when you think about the number of long contracts that were handed out this season it seems pretty obvious that Leeds felt this squad had long-term potential but I don’t see a clear-out being a massive challenge.

Paul Heckingbottom.

Paul Heckingbottom.

Yes, players are owed money and that will need to be dealt with but they’ll be honest enough to realise that they’ve put themselves in the firing line. You can’t be mediocre at Leeds. Not unless Leeds actually want to be mediocre.

And quite honestly, a season like this is going to have consequences.

There is, it’s fair to say, a lot of disillusionment around Leeds. I don’t want to overstate it but they fell so far short of the top six that confidence in the club and the board was only going to fall. Because of that, the club need to make some big statements.

They need to make statements with the players they sign but also with the players they move on.

When it comes to conceding that this season wasn’t good enough, actions need to follow words.

You can’t gut a squad from top to bottom but I would expect the team to look very different when August comes.

Someone like Kyle Bartley would be a very good start. It shows that the club have the money and the draw to sign a player who other good Championship clubs would like. That’s the level Leeds should be working at and not just for one or two deals. Repair the spine of the team and then go from there.

In a perfect world you want a tip-top squad with a choice of quality options in every position but sometimes you have to build from the ground up. The biggest frustration about this season is that you don’t even feel like Leeds under-performed. They finished as high as their squad should have done.

And having finished 13th, they need to be realistic about who they’re aiming at.

Spend what Wolves have spent and you can take the Championship by storm but on a lower budget, Leeds have to first work their way past your Sheffield Uniteds, Millwalls, Brentfords and Prestons before thinking about smashing into the top six.

It’s that old thing of walking before you try to run. Be ruthless because you have to be. But be sensible about it.

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