Leeds United: Hunt heads surplus to requirements list

Noel Hunt in pre-season action against Dundee United. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Noel Hunt in pre-season action against Dundee United. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Head coach Neil Redfearn is unlikely to have any new arrivals before the loan transfer market shuts. Phil hay reports.

The emergency loan window has always been a biannual event for Leeds United. The club often used it to compensate for the investment they failed to make in the weeks of FIFA’s official transfer window.

This season, Leeds have barely shown an interest in the loan market. Or have barely shown an interest until now. Massimo Cellino was not joking when he said that short-term signings were “a waste of money” and the equivalent of “coaching another team’s player.” This type of move he tends to avoid.

The temptation to use this emergency market, especially in the days before Thursday’s deadline, might have got to Cellino on account of the fact that he expects to incur a transfer embargo from the Football League in January – imposed for a breach of Financial Fair Play rules – but the loan window is likely to close at 5pm on Thursday without any new arrivals.

Cellino carried out his business before the start of September and, in his view, 15 summer signings provided enough resources to see Leeds through both halves of the Championship season.

The last-minute deals for striker Brian Montenegro and centre-back Dario Del Fabro – neither of whom have featured significantly for the first team – were sealed with the specific purpose of preparing for a January embargo and guarding against a shortage of players.

Leeds, like every other Championship club, have until this Monday to supply the Football League with their accounts for the 2013-14 season and the governing body will use those figures to determine which clubs have breached their FFP regulations.

There has been talk at Leeds recently of potential loopholes or the possibility of an amnesty ahead of the January window but speaking on November 4, Cellino said: “We took on a bad financial situation and I covered that. But we are facing an embargo.”

Regardless of that impending punishment, the club’s priority in the next 24 hours – and the priority of their head coach, Neil Redfearn – will be the negotiation of agreements which ship surplus players out of Elland Road. Redfearn has spoken with Cellino and Leeds’ sporting director, Nicola Salerno, about the option of bringing in new players – finding what he called “a bit of help and some Championship experience” for a team who are playing well enough but have recorded just one league win in 10 – but Redfearn is more focused on the negotiations of departures.

The late arrival of Montenegro and Del Fabro in August took the number of names in United’s first team squad to more than 30. In basic terms, Leeds have numbers to work with but Redfearn has all but erased certain individuals from the picture.

Shortly after his appointment as head coach, the 49-year-old began “thinning down” his squad; creating two trainings groups by dividing the wanted and unwanted players. “It’s not personal,” said Redfearn, “and I can’t fault the attitude of the lads who aren’t involved but some of them aren’t going to play and some of them need to move on. They realise that themselves.

“It’s not healthy to have a big squad where a group of lads know that they’re going through the motions in training. We need to get players out.”

Cellino’s dislike of incoming, short-term loans is matched by his dislike of cut-price, emergency exits. United’s owner has stated in the past that he is averse to transfers where clubs allow footballers to leave while continuing to pay a large portion of their salaries. His preference would be for teams interested in available professionals to take on most if not all of their weekly wages.

There are, however, a number of relatively high earners among those who Redfearn is happy to lose. Noel Hunt, whom Cellino talked about as a potential club captain at the start of the summer, is understood to earn over £10,000 a week. He has played only twice this season. United’s head coach is also ready to listen to offers for Luke Murphy, David Norris, Nicky Ajose and Scott Wootton. Between them those players have started eight league games since August.

Norris is believed to have attracted interest during the summer transfer window and was looking to leave on loan before the start of September. A move failed to materialise. Cellino has considered the idea of negotiating settlements to terminate both his and Hunt’s contracts but both players remain on the books.

Leeds have had expressions of interest in a number of players in the past week and Redfearn and Cellino met on Monday afternoon to discuss their next move. Redfearn is adamant that deals need to be done.

“It’s about getting the squad right,” he said. “It’s not that we don’t have numbers here or that we don’t have experienced players – it’s just that some of those players need a change of scene or a fresh start.”

In the meantime, he is also looking for Leeds to finalise the appointment of an assistant coach, almost a month after he took on the job full-time.

Redfearn has identified Huddersfield Town’s Steve Thompson – his former Bolton Wanderers team-mate – as the coach he wants and Huddersfield manager Chris Powell admitted last week that he would not obstruct an approach from Leeds if Thompson wanted to move to Elland Road.

Huddersfield, though, are insisting on a payment of compensation for Thompson, who joined the club as Mark Robins’s No 2 earlier this year, and they and Leeds are yet to meet in the middle.

“It’s ongoing at the moment and I can’t force it any more than I have,” said Redfearn. “The club are trying to do their bit and that’s where it’s at – an impasse at the moment. Ideally, we can get that sorted sooner rather than later.”

Samuel Saiz.

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