After the transfer window comes the emergency loan market and a reprieve of sorts for Leeds United.
A week on from a “bad day at the office” and a failed attempt to round off his summer transfers, Simon Grayson has joined the queue for short-term signings from the Premier League.
The Football League’s loan window – a system designed to circumnavigating FIFA’s restrictive rules on transfers – has been used expansively by Grayson in almost three years as United’s manager, with mixed results. On this occasion, it is his means of atoning for August’s unsatisfactory conclusion.
Grayson talked of three potential signings “more or less done and dusted” in the final hours of the summer window but the plain reality of August 31 was that Leeds sold Max Gradel, the club’s player of the year, and made no additions to their squad.
Only five materialised in the window as a whole. The frustration Grayson admitted to was shared by a fanbase watching his every move and already riled by United’s limited transfer activity.
In the absence of any further deals, the club’s manager will defer to the emergency window which opened to Football League clubs this morning.
The temporary market was teed up by Premier League sides declaring official 25-man squad lists last Friday, confirming which of their players are eligible to take part in the first half of their domestic season and which are surplus to requirements.
Only Queens Park Rangers and Stoke City omitted established Premier League footballers from their lists – among them former Leeds players Danny Pugh and Rob Hulse – and the offerings from the top flight consist predominantly of young professionals, the likes of whom Grayson has dabbled with repeatedly in the past.
The United manager has negotiated no fewer than 18 emergency loans in his time at Elland Road, a roll beginning with striker Liam Dickinson and ending with Tottenham Hotspur’s Jake Livermore.
Certain deals, like that which brought Eric Lichaj to Leeds from Aston Villa in February, made the case for temporary signings. Others suggested that short-term solutions are no substitute for permanent acquisitions.
Pugh has been swiftly linked with Leeds, the club he joined from Manchester United in 2004 and left two years later. He is known to have been among Grayson’s targets on the last day of the summer transfer window but proved unattainable as Stoke worked until shortly before FIFA’s 11pm deadline to sign Winston Palacios, Peter Crouch and Cameron Jerome.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis reluctantly excluded Pugh from his 25-man group, admitting that the 28-year-old was a solid squad member who had fallen victim of Premier League rules. Of the experienced players sidelined by Stoke and QPR, Pugh will be one the more sought-after.
It remains to be seen whether Leeds follow up their prior interest in Pugh by taking him from Britannia Stadium on a short-term loan but his attributes would appear to suit Grayson’s needs.
He is a recognised midfielder who can also play at left-back, a position which lies vacant with Aidan White banned for Saturday’s game against Crystal Palace.
With Ben Parker injured, Darren O’Dea moved from centre-back to cover the left side of defence following White’s dismissal at Ipswich Town on August 27. It is one of a number of areas requiring attention.
As Grayson admitted last week, emergency loans are a less reliable option for Football League bosses than standard, temporary deals. Any players he signs in the current market will come to Leeds for a maximum of 93 days, a strict limit which would see deals struck today expire in early December, at a time when both FIFA’s transfer window and the emergency loan market are closed.
New signings will also be subject to a recall clause after 28 days with United, a threat which Leeds avoided when a recent injury to Wolverhampton Wanderers’ forward Sylvan Ebanks-Blake raised the possibility of Wolves cutting short Andy Keogh’s loan at Elland Road. Keogh, however, joined Leeds on a half-season contract last month and the nature of his loan denied Wolves the right to recall him early.
Speaking ahead of the August deadline, Grayson said: “You know where you are with standard loans.
“The player is yours for as long as you’ve taken him and there’s no recall clause. You can’t bring players back. With emergency loans, clubs can recall the player after 28 days so you prefer to do standard loans if you can.”
Grayson is nonetheless under pressure to exploit the Football League’s window after a frantic and unsuccessful end to the transfer window.
The last-minute sale of Gradel to St Etienne stripped Grayson’s side of their established left winger and a planned approach for Lichaj fell foul of a serious injury suffered by the American defender.
United’s interest in Pugh indicates that Grayson is still not satisfied with a midfield which is light in central positions, particularly since Michael Brown suffered a calf strain before United’s 2-2 draw at West Ham United.
Brown was one of a number of players who Grayson hoped to see recover from injury before this weekend’s meeting with Palace, along with Parker, Leigh Bromby and Luciano Becchio.
The international break gave Becchio the chance to feature for Leeds’ reserves on Tuesday and put himself in contention for a recall on Saturday, though Grayson said the striker was “still a bit off being 100 per cent fit.”
United’s manager was still confident enough in Becchio’s condition to allow him to play for an hour of a 4-0 win over Hull City, despite an original plan to use him for 45 minutes. His run-out could earn him a place in the bench against Palace, potentially his first appearance in a matchday squad since April.
Bromby also played against Hull, and Billy Paynter’s run-out has given the striker a chance of reclaiming a place in Grayson’s plans, a week-and-a-half after he attracted an offer from Championship leaders Brighton.