Leeds United: Quartet are only Start!

Manager Neil Warnock
Manager Neil Warnock
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Neil Warnock’s plans for next season took a big step forward with four deals in one day – but the Leeds United manager insisted: “The crucial signings are still to come.”

Warnock’s persistent work in the transfer market paid off yesterday as agreements with out-of-contract trialists Andy Gray and Jamie Ashdown followed confirmation that Luke Varney and Rodolph Austin were destined for Elland Road.

Leeds have agreed a one-year deal with Gray, the 34-year-old striker who began his career with United, and goalkeeper Ashdown complete a move to Elland Road in time to make his first appearances in last night’s pre-season friendly at Tavistock.

Varney, meanwhile, is poised to join Leeds after passing a medical and agreeing personal terms and his transfer will be officially finalised once the striker and Portsmouth reach a settlement over wages deferred by him during Portsmouth’s administration.

Austin’s £300,000 move from SK Brann – a signing which Leeds lined up on Sunday evening – is also pending, subject to the Jamaican midfielder securing a UK work permit, and the flurry of announcements took Warnock’s tally of summer signings to eight, added to Jason Pearce, Adam Drury, Paul Green and Paddy Kenny.

But Warnock said: “I feel like the crucial signings are still to come.

“We need a couple of what I’d call excellent signings, maybe three of them. There’s some wheeling and dealing to be done in that area and it’s a priority for us now.

“But I do feel the ball’s rolling. It’s taken time and it’s been hard work but we’ve put these signings to bed and I’ve got to work hard again to get the next one down.”

Asked if further arrivals were dependent on funds provided to him by the planned takeover of Leeds, Warnock said: “We’re working hard to get the players in and trying to get deals over the line.

“I’m as much in the dark as everyone else regarding the timing (of the proposed takeover). All I know is that everyone’s trying to help me secure players. I want to bring in the best players I can.”

Warnock and his squad are one match into their three-game tour of Devon and Cornwall and they recorded their second pre-season win with a 6-0 victory at Tavistock.

Varney is expected to link up with his new team-mates in the south of England during the next 24 hours but Austin is unlikely to play any part in the tour due to the formalities of his transfer from Norway.

Warnock said: “Luke should be down in the next 24 hours but Rodolph will need to go home for his work permit and everything else. But it’s important to get him involved as soon as possible, just to give us a couple of weeks to work with him.”

Leeds struck a deal to sign Varney last week, agreeing to pay the £200,000 sum still owed to Derby County following his move to Portsmouth a year ago, but completion of the signing was delayed by financial complications at Portsmouth’s end. The south-coast club were working this morning to resolve the problem of wages owed to Varney.

Gray, meanwhile, secured his deal on the back of two weeks spent training with Leeds and Ashdown, who was out of contract after leaving Portsmouth at the end of last season, is arriving at Elland Road as understudy for first-choice Kenny.

Leeds were effectively without goalkeeping cover after selling Andy Lonergan to Bolton Wanderers and transfer-listing Paul Rachubka.

Ashdown and Gray both featured against Tavistock but defender Andy O’Brien was missing again with Warnock revealing the experienced centre-back has been in talks with an unnamed club.