Leeds United: Three key players can make huge difference for Whites – Gray

Derby County manager Steve McClaren consoles his players.
Derby County manager Steve McClaren consoles his players.
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DERBY County can probably count themselves a bit unlucky in Saturday’s play-off final against QPR.

But QPR battled away, as they have done all season, and they showed resilience to get there in the end. And now the hardest thing for a team like Derby will be holding on to their players as they’ve got a lot of good young players. But we now know the teams that are going to be in the Championship next year and it’s going to be the same as last season – competitive again. It’s going to be tough and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to our club.

I think right now the president is just trying to sort the finances out and get the club on a level footing. Then we can start thinking about recruiting for next season. Brian McDermott has not come out and said much but I hear everyone is now meeting up on June 2 so that will be interesting. But the most important thing is that our club is ready to go next season. We are going to have the teams that are coming down from the Premier League and I think Norwich will have a right go to get back up there and then you’ve got other teams like Wigan who I think will be a different proposition. And if Derby keep their players they are going to be another team that’s in contention. But these are the types of teams that we have got to be able to compete with.

I am told we are 22-1 to win next season’s Championship – 14th in the pecking order behind Cardiff and Fulham who are 10-1 joint favourites. But a lot can change in football and a lot depends on what happens at the football club and who we recruit. Those odds could come down drastically but I think the odds are about right just now – mid-table – and that’s where we finished – just below mid-table. Those odds reflect the season we had and how circumstances are at the club. But that could all change by the time we kick-off. Hopefully, there will be progress made, everything will be sorted and then we can move forward and be in a position where we can challenge for the top six. Because a healthy Leeds United and a strong Leeds United is good for the division. We take plenty of supporters everywhere, we get big crowds and it’s always a good atmosphere so it’s important we get things sorted out.

You’ve got to look at the sides who are coming down next season because if they look after their finances correctly then they should have the financial clout to either keep most of the players that they want or bring in new recruits to help them go forward. That’s always going to make it tougher for us and every year that you are in that Championship it’s going to get tougher because the teams coming down from the big league are coming down heavy handed. Put it this way, if someone offered me a sixth-placed finish next season I would take it right away and I think most fans would.

I’d said before that the club needed three or four quality players but there was a letter in the YEP and this chap didn’t agree. He said we needed everybody out but it’s not like that. Because if you get three or four quality players in, players that can change the make-up of the side, it makes a huge difference. You don’t need seven or eight or nine players in all the time, that never really works. But if you get quality players, even three quality players in, a solid defender, a top midfield player and someone who is really good out wide – whatever you are looking for – that can change the way the whole team plays. It’s quality not quantity.

We also had the Champions League final on Saturday and I thought Real Madrid deserved to win the game in the end. But Atletico are a hard team to beat and they make it very difficult for sides though it was terrific to see a British player in Gareth Bale coming up with the goal that was all important. It’s 13 years since we were in the Champions League semi-finals but the gap between that and where we are at present is huge just now. And we’ve just got to concentrate on getting our house in order and getting back into the Premier League. Only then can we think about competing with the top sides again.

Hopefully it will happen sooner rather than later.

Jermaine Beckford made his Leeds United debut on March 21 2006.

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