Leeds United close in on Hunt deal as Millwall pull out of race

Noel Hunt.
Noel Hunt.
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Millwall have pulled out of the race to sign Noel Hunt with the Reading striker on the verge of sealing a free transfer to Leeds United.

New Millwall manager Steve Lomas abandoned plans to make an offer to Hunt after being informed that the 30-year-old had all but resolved to take up the opportunity available to him at Elland Road.

The development came as Leeds boss Brian McDermott revealed that a deal with an unnamed player was likely to be verbally agreed “in the next couple of days”, following on from United’s capture of Oldham Athletic striker Matt Smith.

Smith – a 6’6” tall centre-forward – finalised the terms of a two-year contract on Monday morning, giving McDermott his first signing as manager.

Hunt will also be available on a free transfer from July 1, when his contract at Reading expires, and Lomas’ failure to tempt Hunt into talks appeared to confirm that the Republic of Ireland international will join McDermott at Elland Road instead.

McDermott admitted earlier this week that he was “inches away” from landing another recruit and he reiterated his optimism last night, saying: “That’s ongoing at the moment and I’d like to think that in the next couple of days we’ll have a verbal agreement in place.”

Hunt made more than 150 appearances for Reading between 2008 and the end of last season but the club’s refusal to give him a new two-year deal led to a parting of ways.

Reading were willing to tie Hunt down for another 12 months but the striker admitted in April that he was looking for “more security”.

“I want a bit of security because I’m getting married in the summer and that has to come into the factor,” he said.

“They (Reading) asked me what I wanted so I told them that and I want to start a family so I’d like to have more than just a year.”

McDermott, who received an invite to Hunt’s wedding, relied heavily on the forward during his three years as manager at the Madejski Stadium and Hunt’s arrival would complement a group of strikers that already includes Smith, Ross McCormack and Steve Morison.

Luke Varney, El-Hadji Diouf and youngster Dominic Poleon also played up front at stages of last season, with Poleon starting and scoring in United’s final game away to Watford.

Leeds have expressed an interest in Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Kevin Doyle but the Midlands club are not willing to consider approaches for their Irish forward until he and new manager Kenny Jackett discuss his future face-to-face.

The pair are due to meet on June 24, the date of Wolves’ first pre-season training session, and Doyle is likely to make clear his intention to move on from Molineux with Leeds and Scottish champions Celtic both monitoring him.

Celtic are believed to be tracking a number of other goalscorers but their need for new strikers will increase if Gary Hooper – once a target for United while Simon Grayson was manager during the 2010 January transfer window – secures a move to Premiership new boys Hull City.

The East Yorkshire club have tabled a seven-figure bid for Hooper, believed to be in the region of £4m, and are likely to find Celtic receptive to their approach with the 25-year-old heading into the last year of his contract.

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