Peter Lorimer: Leeds United squad need that extra bit of panache

Charlie Taylor in action (right).
Charlie Taylor in action (right).
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For Peter Lorimer, Leeds United have taken a common sense approach to the players they want to keep or let go. phil hay reports.

The retained list at Leeds United was a matter of common sense.

If you’d asked 100 supporters to decide which of the out-of-contract players should leave, at least 99 of them would have come up with the same answer.

It’s fair to say that the lads who moved on last week are good, honest professionals and have done their best for the club. The problem, as we’ve all come to realise, is that the squad at its best isn’t good enough to get Leeds out of the Championship.

Of the senior players released, there’s a familiar theme amongst them. They’re all either beyond the age of 30 or just about there.

And more to the point, they’re much of a muchness in terms of what they bring to the squad.

For any one of them, you could find someone else at Leeds who can play the same way or do the same type of job. We’re not talking about exceptional talent or outstanding Championship quality. I still go back to the summer of 2012 and think we made a mistake by signing a large group of players who were steady, hard-working but unspectacular.

Spectacular is what we need at Leeds.

We’ve got the skeleton of a decent side but the thing we’re lacking is that touch of class in vital areas. For all that the wage bill has gone up and up – and believe me, it’s very big at Leeds – we haven’t invested in enough footballers who win you matches and give you a chance of promotion to the Premier League.

Beyond the retained list, I still expect that the club will look for certain other players who are under contract to move on too. The season just gone was extremely tough, very disappointing in many ways, and Leeds need to be ruthless in deciding who can make a useful impact going forward.

Of course, player contracts being what they are, it’s not always easy to persuade those with deals to uproot and move on.

They’re entitled to stick around for as long as they’ve got a contract and they’re entitled to take their money if they wish. I really don’t have a problem with that. Footballers have kids, families, mortgages and expenses like anyone else.

But when I was a player, sitting idle for 12 or 18 months was something I’d never have contemplated.

If a club didn’t want me, I always looked to move on as quickly as possible. I know a lot of people think football’s about money these days but it’s the games and the medals you work hard for.

Money doesn’t make up for those annoying periods when you’re struggling to get into the team.

So I’d hope that any players who Leeds try to move on are sensible about the situation. Without doubt, the club are going to need their help and co-operation when it comes to reorganising the squad. It’s a difficult time, granted, but tough decisions need to be made.

Last season cried out for a fresh start and a total rethink.

The one notable survivor on the retained list was Charlie Taylor, the young left-back who you’ll remember breaking into the first team a few years ago.

I’m pleased for him and extremely encouraged that he’s signed the deal the club were offering him. He’s been at Fleetwood on loan this season and he’s heading for the League Two play-off final this weekend. I’ve had the chance to watch him on telly a couple of times and he’s grown up an awful lot from the skinny lad who turned out a couple times at Elland Road.

He’s benefitted in no small way from his desire to go out on loan and his determination to make an impact. Make no mistake, if he’d sat around at Thorp Arch for the past couple of years, biding his time and waiting his turn then I’m not convinced that he’d be looking at a new contract today.

Instead, he’s taken the opportunities put in front of him and proved himself, albeit it in a lower league. He’s the sort of academy product we should be taking a chance on and it encourages me to see him being picked out as a player worth keeping.

The challenge for Charlie now is to show what level he’s at. He’s clearly coped in League Two and he’s been a major part of Fleetwood’s season so it’s up to him to come back and prove that he can jump up into the Championship.

Much is said about our academy and it’s dealt with a lot over the years but if you look back season by season, it never fails to throw players up.

I for one would d much rather see us give opportunities to the lads it produces than thrown money at average, experienced players.

Paul Heckingbottom.

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