Motherwell striker Lee Erwin has emerged as a major target for Leeds United.
The 21-year-old is wanted by the Yorkshire club and his representatives are understood to have held talks with United owner Massimo Cellino last week.
But Erwin was involved in controversy yesterday before being one of three players sent off in the tunnel following a fiery Scottish Premier play-off clash with Rangers who lost 6-1 on aggregate.
The trouble kicked off when Erwin pushed Rangers’ Bilel Mohsni after his offer of a handshake was refused. But the Tunisian defender reacted with fury, swinging punches and kicks as players from both teams rushed in. Mohsni, Erwin and unused Well sub Fraser Kerr were sent off in the tunnel.
Erwin – a 6’2” centre forward – is out of contract at the end of this month but Motherwell have offered him a new deal and Leeds would be required to pay a fee for him due to his age.
The Glasgow-born youngster came through the academy at Fir Park and has been capped by Scotland at Under-19 level.
A new striker is a priority for Leeds after a Championship term in which the club averaged little over a goal a game. Erwin’s tally for this season totalled six, although five of those goals came in his last nine appearances.
He would give new United head coach Uwe Rosler an option to lead the line in the German’s preferred 4-3-3 formation but several rival Championship clubs are also chasing him. Motherwell have been fighting to keep Erwin and speaking earlier this month, manager Ian Baraclough said: “We’ve spoken to him. He’s been at the club a long time and we want to keep him here. He wants to stay, he knows he is better off here playing his football. Lee is getting a regular run of games and is scoring goals, he is a real handful. If someone wants to come and take him it will take a lot of money.”
Leeds’ attempt to land Erwin and other new players will be aided by the impending appointment of Martyn Glover, West Ham’s head of recruitment, to the same role at Elland Road. United have approached Glover after pulling out of a deal to appoint Norwich City scout Steve Head as their new head of recruitment last week.
Head appeared to have secured the job after visiting Thorp Arch and reaching an agreement with Cellino but Cellino withdrew his offer after learning that Head was due to depart on an immediate holiday. Leeds are pushing for signings after naming Rosler as head coach and Cellino said he had “no time” to wait for Head to start work at Elland Road.
The Italian has also spoken with Celtic scout David Moss in the past month but Glover – West Ham’s head of recruitment since 2011 – is emerging as Cellino’s preferred alternative. Before moving to Upton Park, Glover worked as head of recruitment at Blackburn Rovers. He is under contract at West Ham but the Premier League outfit are set for a summer of change after parting company with manager Sam Allardyce.
Leeds are revising their entire backroom team and news of their move for Glover comes as former Leicester City boss Rob Kelly prepares to become Rosler’s assistant.
United are also close to naming a new goalkeeping coach, with Cardiff City’s Richard Hartis in the frame.
Hartis – once a member of Manchester United’s youth-team staff – has been with Cardiff for the past 18 months.
Neil Sullivan, who worked as Leeds’ goalkeeping coach during the recent Championship season, is expected to remain with the club and return to his academy coaching post.
Kelly, meanwhile, replaces former assistant Steve Thompson, the coach who United suspended in controversial circumstances at the beginning of April.
Thompson has spoken for the first time about his sudden departure from Elland Road, protesting his innocence and denying rumours of a fall-out between him and Nicola Salerno. Salerno – Leeds’ sporting director last season – was responsible for signing the letter which notified Thompson of his suspension on April 2. The reasons for the decision were never explained to Thompson but the 50-year-old was told in the letter that his contract with United would not be renewed when it expired on June 30. Salerno is no longer working for Leeds, though the club are yet to formally announce his departure from the role of sporting director.
Speaking to FootballFanCast.com, Thompson said: “There was no incident. I was suspended for no reason whatsoever. It’s been very upsetting. I can say with 100 per cent accuracy that I did absolutely nothing wrong.”
Thompson was brought in from Huddersfield Town to assist former head coach Neil Redfearn midway through December. The final weeks of Redfearn’s reign were plagued by problems, including the suspension of Thompson, pressure from the club’s board not to play Mirco Antenucci due to a clause in his contract and the contentious withdrawal of six foreign players through injury ahead of a 2-1 defeat at Charlton Athletic in April.
Thompson said: “You cannot work under those circumstances and (with) how things in the dressing room were. There are many things that are not right at that club.”