Leeds United: Bates pledges full backing in loan market

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Leeds United chairman Ken Bates says manager Simon Grayson is being “authorised and encouraged” to make improvements to his squad as the club seek to capitalise on their strong Championship position.

Bates reiterated his commitment to backing Grayson in the emergency loan market ahead of Saturday’s promotion clash with Norwich City at Elland Road.

United will begin the final third of the Championship season this weekend with a firm hold on the division’s last play-off position and a realistic chance of outpacing the four clubs ahead of them to an automatic promotion place.

Leeds moved to prevent their team from weakening at a crucial stage of the term last week by signing defender Eric Lichaj on loan from Aston Villa following an injury to regular right-back Paul Connolly. Grayson is continuing to analyse the transfer market and recently sent scouts to assess the performance of Manchester City midfielder Michael Johnson during a reserve game against Bolton Wanderers.

Bates said Leeds were ready to act if Grayson’s preferred signings become available before the emergency window closes at the end of March, and he claimed that the club had given themselves “a good chance” of reaching the Premier League after successive wins over Coventry City and Bristol City.

Bates said: “We’re doing well with 15 games to go and we’re in with a good chance. The manager is still authorised and encouraged to strengthen the team where he thinks is appropriate. At this time of year, good players and exceptional players are hard to find.

“As we’ve said many times before, there’s no point in signing players to make up the numbers.”

Grayson expects to have a near fully-fit squad available for Norwich’s visit to Elland Road, though Lichaj is set to continue at right-back with Connolly nursing the hamstring strain he suffered in a 1-0 win over Coventry on February 5.

Leeds estimated that Connolly would be absent for up to three weeks and the former Derby County defender is likely to miss both the clash with Norwich and Tuesday night’s Championship fixture against Barnsley.

Two points separate Leeds and Norwich, who went head-to-head for the League One title last season, and ticket sales for Saturday’s match were set to pass the 30,000 mark today.

Bates praised Norwich as a model club and admitted he would be happy to see City win promotion to the Premier League this season, though not at United’s expense.

Bates said: “Why have we both done well so far this season? Because we’ve both got good teams and good managers.

“They’re a good team, a good club, and they’re well run. We have a good manager, a good team, a good ground, great supporters, and we’re being run carefully and wisely. It’d be nice if we both got promotion this season – us automatically and them through the play-offs.”

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