United boss confirms West Ham made a bid for Leeds’ skipper but says they won’t be returning with another bid. Leon Wobschall reports.
PRIZE ASSET Ross McCormack will still be wearing the white of Leeds United by the weekend – and leading them out for the big West Yorkshire home derby with Huddersfield Town.
That’s the view of manager Brian McDermott, who is confident that the striker will be staying put this month – avoiding an unwanted hat-trick for Leeds, who saw key men Jonny Howson and Luciano Becchio both sold in the New Year windows of 2011-12 and 2012-13 – with fans left to rue both decisions.
West Ham saw a £3.5m bid for McCormack rejected on Friday and despite speculation that they will up their offer in a bid to break United’s resolve before the January transfer window deadline at 11pm on Friday evening, comments from Hammers manager Sam Allardyce suggest the contrary.
Speaking at a morning press conference ahead of the East London outfit’s derby clash at Chelsea tomorrow evening, Allardyce said that he has no plans to make a second bid for the 27-year-old.
McDermott went on to confirm that Allardyce had ended his club’s interest in his own media gathering yesterday lunch-time – having spoken to the Upton Park boss in the morning.
McDermott did reveal that he has received interest in one of his players, but confirmed it was not his captain, or El-Hadji Diouf for that matter, who has been told he can leave the club.
Reports yesterday linked Blackburn Rovers with United striker Luke Varney, who is also believed to have also attracted recent interest from their Lancastrian rivals Blackpool.
But on the McCormack front, the message as it stands is that he is staying put, news that will be welcomed by all United fans.
McDermott insists his star striker, subject of three failed bids from Championship rivals Middlesbrough before signing a new four-year-deal at the end of August, is happy at Leeds, having recently been entrusted with the captain’s armband and speaking of his massive pride at being named as Whites’ skipper.
Questioned on whether he believes McCormack will be remaining at Elland Road, he said: “Yes, I have a great relationship with Ross and he’s a great bloke. We speak regularly every day and he’s my captain and been fabulous for our club and has never said he wants to leave. I know the fans love him and rightly so.
“If I know anything, I tell him exactly what I know.”
On the question of whether West Ham had resurrected their interest in the silky Scot, he added: “I spoke to Sam this (Monday) morning and asked him the question. Because I don’t want to lose Ross McCormack.
“Sam’s a man I know well and I actually spoke to him and they said they put an offer in, the club (Leeds) rejected the bid and Sam said he wouldn’t be coming back.
“Ross is an integral part of what I have been trying to do since April. We’ve spoken about his leadership qualities and I think he’s got those, he really has. He’s been a talisman for us this season.
“There’s interest for one of my players at this moment (not McCormack). And we shall see what happens with that.”
Having brought in Italian pair Antonio Nocerino and Marco Borriello on loan, Allardyce – whose club accounts have revealed that their net debt has increased to £77million for the year ending May 31, 2013 – said the club were unlikely to do anymore business with the two signings taking their squad up to the 25-man limit.
Amid all the stories regarding the takeover saga at Leeds and the interest in McCormack, it was easy to forget that United are in fact in action in a crucial encounter this evening at home to Ipswich Town, managed by boyhood Whites fan Mick McCarthy.
Without a win in seven games since December 14, United are seeking to avoid a sixth successive defeat in all competitions tonight, something which has not occurred since the winter of 2004, in that desperate 2003-04 season when the club were relegated to the second tier.
McDermott insists that the 10-day break between games has come at a good time for his squad, who may have suffered another defeat last time out against Leicester City, but at least got back onside with supporters following a much-improved display that was worlds away from the shambolic displays against Sheffield Wednesday and Rochdale.
United face opponents who have proved obdurate on the road this season, with seventh-placed Ipswich – who claimed a 2-0 weekend victory over Reading at Portman Road – having been beaten just once on their Championship travels in their last nine outings.
McDermott acknowledges that tonight’s task will represent a stiff challenge, but says there are plenty of incentives for his side, who can move within one point of the East Anglians with victory this evening.
With derby rivals Huddersfield due at Leeds on Saturday, opportunity knocks for Leeds, according to their manager.
McDermott, who will again be without striker Matt Smith, who serves the second match of a three-match ban, added: “We are in okay shape and have worked on the team and how we are going to play.
“We know Ipswich and Mick well and know his teams are right up for games. We are going to have to make sure we win the battles early on and then do our stuff.
“We need to get our quality going and our wide players getting crosses and creating chances.
“Mick’s a good friend of mine and I like Mick a lot and he’s a good manager.
“He’s done a good job at Ipswich and got them right in amongst the play-offs.
“But if we can get a result, we will be a point behind them and right amongst it as well. It’s the first time, against Leicester, that I’ve been able to put two wingers on the pitch since I’ve been at Leeds. I think the performance, if not the result, was much better.
“We looked much more solid and that we were going to score goals.
“We looked like a team who are going to go in the right direction.”
Ex-United full-back Frazer Richardson has been named in Town’s squad after joining from Middlesbrough for the rest of the season.
Skipper Carlos Edwards is fit after shrugging off a groin injury.