Will Buckley is a good signing for a Championship club. That really goes without saying. Far more significantly, Buckley joining Leeds United is a sign that Leeds are not willing to sit on their hands.
The club needed a signing like Buckley. It wasn’t urgent or 100 per cent essential – not like a team with no goalkeeper or goalscorer for example – but the front end of the side at Leeds is an area where Uwe Rosler is still trying to get it right.
Chris Wood is a decent centre-forward and his place in the team isn’t in doubt. Stuart Dallas is looking like an astute signing too and he doesn’t seem to have struggled with the transition from Brentford to Leeds.
He’s an international player when all’s said and done and he’s taken the transfer in his stride.
But on the other side of the front three, I see a bit of problem. Before the deal for Buckley was done the choice for the right wing was basically between Sam Byram (more on him shortly) and Jordan Botaka; one player who’s learning about that position and another who’s new to England.
Buckley offers far more experience, not only of the Championship but of the position he’s going to play in. He’s a winger, plain and simple. Not a wing-back and not a wide midfielder. Give him the ball and he’ll run directly at defenders, trying to get to the byline and attack the six-yard box.
Being at Sunderland he’ll be on a decent wedge of money so this signing won’t be coming cheap. That’s a good thing for two reasons.
Firstly, it suggests that the club are trying to sign players who they and Rosler want. And secondly, they’re not letting finance get in the way of decent recruits. This is an encouraging move and I’d hope to see Buckley make a big impact between now and the turn of the year.
To be perfectly honest, I expect him to be a mainstay in the team.
What that means for other players is hard to know. In Botaka’s case, I always imagined that his chances would be a little limited at Elland Road, certainly to begin with. Rosler will want to ease him in and make sure that he’s not throwing Botaka to the wolves by asking too much of him too soon.
As for Byram, time will tell. I’ve followed the goings-on with Sam this week and the whole situation is really disappointing.
I can’t pretend to know the ins and outs of his contract talks with the club but I do know this: the whole thing has been badly handled, not least the way Massimo Cellino attacked Byram publicly this week.
You always prefer to see these matters dealt with in private although these days, with social media and everything else, it’s very hard to keep anything secret. And I guess that when it comes to a talented lad like Byram, the fans have a right to know what’s going on. If Byram was offered a pay cut to begin with then that doesn’t seem like a very productive way to kick off contract talks with an up-and-coming kid.
Fair enough, Leeds might not want to up his wage but it’s pretty rare to see footballers – especially those in the early stages of their careers – give up money. After all, Byram signed the original deal in good faith.
No doubt Byram and his agent are holding out for something specific and maybe, if truth be told, Byram does want to go to the Premier League. If that’s the case, and if that disappoints Cellino, then fair enough.
Cellino is entitled to say as much. But accusing Byram of thinking Leeds are “too small for him” goes too far in my view. I very much doubt Byram thinks that. For the past three years he hasn’t played that way.
This is a difficult situation for the player now. His form this season hasn’t been great and I don’t imagine his frame of mind has been brilliant either. The criticism from Cellino isn’t going to help and Byram will be feeling a bit under siege at the moment.
It won’t be a bad thing if Buckley coming in helps to take the attention off him and allow the dust to settle again. Because I still think Byram is an excellent talent and I still think he can offer a lot this season. I don’t want Leeds to spite their face by cutting off their nose and wasting him.