Leeds United head coach Steve Evans has attacked claims that the club will put their entire squad up for sale next month, describing them as “drivel” and insisting top players would only be sold for “ridiculous prices”.
Evans reacted angrily to a national newspaper report this morning which suggested Leeds had told officials from another Championship club that they were open to offers for all of their first-team squad members when the January transfer window opens.
The United boss, who revealed today that Leeds have made a fresh contract offer to defender Sam Byram, said he had sought reassurances that leading players - including England Under-19 international Lewis Cook - were not being lined up to depart next month.
Evans insisted he would be “alarmed” if a fire sale was planned following his conversations with owner Massimo Cellino and criticised persistent attacks on the club, saying: “If you throw enough s*** at the wall it’ll stick.”
Leeds are in a vulnerable position with Cellino facing another Football League disqualification and increasing hostility from the club’s supporters, some of whom plan to protest against the Italian’s running of the club during Saturday’s game against Hull CIty at Elland Road.
Cellino angered fans by imposing a mandatory £5 charge - dubbed the “pie tax” - on adult tickets for the South Stand, offering a voucher for refreshments in return.
In the midst of obvious public frustration, a number of teams have been monitoring 18-year-old Cook.
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe is understood to have made direct contact with United in the past fortnight about a January deal for the talented midfielder. Manchester United and Stoke City are also interested.
But asked to comment on suggestions that January could see a mass exodus from Leeds, Evans said: “If I’m reading the same story, an unnamed source at an unnamed club has said that Leeds United players are up for sale because an unnamed person at Leeds United said that?
“I could be a journalist, couldn’t I? We need more authenticity than that. I’d be alarmed if that was the case given my conversations with the president (Cellino).
“I don’t want to swear but if you throw enough s*** at the wall it’ll stick. People do go to sleep and want to wake up and make a story up about Leeds United because they don’t really know what’s happening inside Leeds United. It’s drivel.
“It’s just scandalous nonsense but we just have to almost create a siege mentality inside Thorp Arch and Elland Road. Don’t believe everything you read. There’s some of it you’re entitled to be unhappy with if you’re a supporter but just stick with us.”
Evans said he had asked Cellino about both the likelihood of new players arriving in January and Cellino’s resistance to offers for key squad members during the FIFA window.
“You’d expect me to do that as manager,” Evans said. “If I’m here to build something I have to be given the chance to build it.
“The reply I got was very honest and it’s what I’ve heard from previous chairmen of mine - everyone in football has a price. Unless it gets to what we’d consider ridiculous prices, I think our best players will be staying at Elland Road.
“We don’t want to be selling our best players. If we’re building and selling our best players then it’s a problem, isn’t it?”
One player whose future is in immediate doubt is Byram, the 22-year-old full-back who is out of contract at the end of this season.
He and United have been at odds since Leeds made him the offer of an extension last season which amounted to a cut in Byram’s £12,000-a-week wage.
Byram rejected that proposal out of hand but his agent held further talks with the club this week and the YEP understands that the latest offer to him would match his current salary.
Evans said: “I know that Sam was made a fresh offer earlier in the week to extend his contract, which is a positive step by the club.
“I had a catch up with Sam and the honest truth is that he wanted to speak to his dad. I’ll see where that goes.
“He’s trained well and signing or not signing, he conducts himself properly. He’s a lovely young man. It’s certainly an improved offer.”