Leeds United's man on a mission Luke Ayling on the rejected bid for his services and his new contract

When another club made their interest in Luke Ayling known to Leeds United this summer, the player was none the wiser.

Wednesday, 16th October 2019, 1:01 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th October 2019, 3:12 pm
Luke Ayling says he wants to finish what he's started at Leeds United (Pic: Getty)

When another club made their interest in Luke Ayling known to Leeds United this summer, the player was none the wiser.

He didn’t realise he was on someone else’s radar until managing director Angus Kinnear revealed in a deadline-day interview that the right-back was one of the four players Leeds received and rejected transfer-window bids for.

Clubs came in for Ayling, Kalvin Phillips, Adam Forshaw and Pablo Hernandez and had their offers turned away, Leeds opting for continuity and identifying all four of those players as of paramount importance to their 2019/20 plans.

Ayling says his new contract was a confidence boost (Pic: Getty)

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Kinnear did not reveal the identity of Ayling’s admirer or admirers.

But it wouldn’t have mattered to Ayling – leaving Elland Road was not on the agenda this summer.

With a recently-signed four-year contract tucked under his arm, both securing his future and boosting a self-confidence that injuries threatened to undermine, Ayling is on a mission that he intends to see through to completion, with a target – Premier League status – he believes is achievable.

“You hear things all the time, just through other people and what not,” he said of this summer’s transfer talk.

“But my agent never came to me and said we’re thinking about this offer.

“I didn’t actually know there was an offer come in for me until I read the piece and I was tagged in a few things.

“That was never really on my mind to leave.

“I’ve started something here and I want to stay until it’s completed.

“Our aim is to get up this year, there’s no doubt about that.”

Ayling joined the club from Bristol City in the summer of 2016 and, under boss Garry Monk, helped Leeds United to a seventh-place finish in the Championship in his first season.

His second attempt at adding a third promotion to those already on his CV from his Yeovil and Bristol City days didn’t fare so well, Leeds finishing a season they started under the care of Thomas Christiansen and finished under Paul Heckingbottom in 13th position.

Last season, with new head coach Marcelo Bielsa bringing in big changes and pointing the club in the right direction, Ayling and Leeds came agonisingly close to a dream end to the Argentine’s inaugural campaign, falling at the penultimate hurdle with a play-off semi-final defeat to Derby County.

The last 21 months have contained plenty of heartache and frustration for Ayling, on both a club and personal level.

Time spent on the sidelines through a serious knee problem was sandwiched between a pair of ankle surgeries during that period, the second of which took place in the summer and forced him to miss pre-season and the start of the club’s latest promotion push. Going through those injuries left him downbeat, he readily admits, so the club’s proposal to extend his stay at Elland Road and the tacit evaluation of his ability as good enough to contribute should they achieve their aim and reach the Premier League, has been a timely lift and one that coincided with his return to action.

On October 1, Leeds United announced a new deal to keep Ayling at the club until 2023 and, later that day, he came off the bench to help Bielsa’s side see out a 1-0 win over West Brom – his first taste of competitive action since last season.

Ayling, fit again following a long period of rehabilitation and a return to football with Carlos Corberan’s Under-23s’ side, ran out onto the Elland Road pitch against the Baggies safe in the knowledge that he is a wanted man, at the club he wants to play for, a club he believes he can win promotion with.

“They’ve signed me to three extra years, so it does give you great confidence, especially me with the problem with my ankle.

“They’ve still come to me and said I’m part of their plans.

“It was a great confidence boost, coming back into the team knowing I’ve signed that deal, knowing I’m here for the next four years.

“It was really nice when my agent called me and said they want to tie you down for longer.

“It was really nice to know that my work over a few years hasn’t gone unnoticed and I’ve got a new deal from it.

“I’ve signed a new deal, I’ve got three more years and I’m sure that by the time I leave or I’m forced out, I think our goal will be achieved.”