Leeds United: Paynter has a battle on his hands - Grayson

Billy Paynter in match action for Brighton & Hove Albion.
Billy Paynter in match action for Brighton & Hove Albion.
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Leeds United are ready to listen to fresh offers for Billy Paynter, with manager Simon Grayson admitting the club have “other options in front of him”.

Grayson refused to dismiss the possibility of handing a second chance to Paynter, who ended the first half of this season on loan at Brighton, but hinted that a transfer before the end of January would suit both the striker and the Elland Road club.

Paynter returned to Leeds last week after a quiet two-month stay with Brighton, but despite the selection problems facing Grayson and United’s recent shortage of goals he was not named in the 18-man squad used in Monday’s FA Cup tie at Arsenal and looked unlikely to feature at Crystal Palace this afternoon.

The 27-year-old’s future at Leeds seemed doubtful after Grayson agreed to send him out on loan in October, and Paynter made 10 league appearances for Brighton without scoring once.

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His record at the Amex Stadium was a continuation of his struggle at Leeds, where he has claimed only one goal since signing from Swindon Town in the summer of 2010, and suggestions that Brighton might look to make his transfer permanent were dampened when his loan expired without further agreement on January 2.

Asked if Paynter would be made available for another move this month, Grayson said: “That’s what Billy wants and it might be that it suits us both for him to go out on loan or get a move away. But for as long as he’s contracted to us then we can utilise him if we need to.

“While he’s here he’s contracted to the club and he could still have an opportunity. I’m not going to dismiss anybody.”

Brighton saw Paynter as a key addition to their side and a suitable partner for top scorer Craig Mackail-Smith, but manager Gus Poyet confessed that the move failed to pay off, saying: “It just didn’t happen for him, that is football sometimes.”

Coventry City are another Championship club who are understood to have shown an interest in Paynter this term, and City manager Andy Thorn is in the market for a new forward after agreeing to sell Lukas Jutkiewicz to high-flying Middlesbrough.

Thorn revealed that he is currently limited to recruiting players on loan due to Coventry’s weak financial position, but Leeds would be unlikely to block a transfer to the Ricoh Arena with City threatened by relegation and far removed from the fight for a play-off position.

Grayson has no shortage of strikers in a squad which also includes Ross McCormack, Luciano Becchio and Mikael Forssell, but his pool was reduced at the start of the month when Andy Keogh returned to Wolves at the end of a half-season loan.

“Billy went away to get some games and I suppose we’ve got other options in front of him,” Grayson said. “But I’m never going to rule someone out while they’re under contract.

“Billy knows what he has to do to get back into the team and the squad.

“He’s a good player. That’s why I brought him here and it just hasn’t happened in terms of the number of goals he’s scored since coming here.

“He proved with Swindon what a good striker he is and strikers go through fits and starts in their careers – times where they get goals and everything goes for them and times when it’s more difficult.

“No-one ever notices the average games that defenders and midfielders have. Strikers are judged by what they do in front of goal.”

Sheffield Wednesday boss Jos Luhukay believes his side will have to be at the top of their game to at Elland Road on Saturday.

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