Will Buckley’s first week with Leeds United crept along at a painful pace. The impulsive side of his character wanted the club to cut him loose immediately – and throw him in at Middlesbrough last Sunday.
“Common sense”, as Uwe Rosler called it, won him round and Buckley is primed instead for debut at home to Birmingham City this afternoon, 11 days after his first training session at Thorp Arch.
“You know how it is,” he said. “I’ve been itching for a game. When I was told how the loan would be done, I was really sorry not to be playing at Middlesbrough. Obviously I wanted to.”
It is not a complaint but rather an expression of his own impatience. He and Leeds agreed about the logic of delaying the completion of his loan from Sunderland until yesterday, even though Buckley began training with Rosler’s squad on September 22.
This way, his 93-day deal runs to January 2. Completed any earlier, Buckley would have re-joined Sunderland before Christmas.
“It’s best to do it this way, without a doubt,” Buckley said. “I miss one game, a big game, but get probably three or four more to compensate. We had to think long-term.”
Rosler’s view in any case was that two full weeks of training would do Buckley good.
The 25-year-old last made a first-team appearance in April and was comprehensively frozen out at the Stadium of Light once this season began.
“He’s had the time to adjust and to settle in,” Rosler said. “We’re not asking him to swim in deep water now.”
Buckley, regardless, has been waiting for this chance. Rumours of a transfer to Leeds refused to go away during the summer transfer window and the link was genuine. Rosler liked Buckley but Sunderland were holding out for a fee of £1m and Buckley’s wage – worth more than £20,000 a week – made any agreement over a long-term loan to the Championship difficult. Leeds left Buckley alone as the window closed went back to the Stadium of Light after their recent win at MK Dons to ask about an emergency loan. Sunderland were willing to find common ground.
By then, Buckley had been warned by Dick Advocaat, the Sunderland manager, that he would play with the development squad if at all.
“I’d known about interest from Leeds for a while,” Buckley said.
“Once I realised my chances were on the edge at Sunderland, this was the club I wanted to come to. It was always in my head to come here. Sometimes things just take time to get sorted.
“There were reasons why I wasn’t let out on loan before the transfer window shut but that’s for Sunderland to speak about. This is a good move for me and for Sunderland and I hope it’s good for Leeds.”
Buckley is known in Championship circles as a rapid, direct and dangerous winger; prone to inconsistency but excellent on his day. He had his day against Leeds more than once during three good years at Brighton.
Rosler confirmed that Buckley would be in his 18-man squad this afternoon, and potentially in line to start against Birmingham. The German now has three out-and-out wingers in a squad where once, two short months ago, he had none.
“In my head I’m ready,” Buckley said.
“Whether I’ll have that match sharpness yet...it’s probably going to take a few weeks but I’m here to play and hopefully to go straight in.
“But there are good players here and some good wingers too. I’m not taking it for granted that I’ll start every week. I’ve got to work for it like every other player. What I do on the pitch will earn me starts.”
Buckley takes the same view about the idea of securing a permanent move from Sunderland. Leeds want to keep him until at least the end of this season but loanees at Elland Road have found before that initial plans change as form pans out. Jimmy Kebe and Cameron Stewart were both signed with a view to full-time moves in 2013. United changed their mind on both players in a very short period of time.
“It would be great if Leeds did want me (to stay) but you go from week to week in football and opinions can change,” Buckley said. “The loan’s to January, I’ll do my best and we’ll see what happens then. It’s a long time in football, three months.”
He does, however, appear to be close to the end of the line at Sunderland just 12 months after signing from Brighton. “Not necessarily,” Buckley said.
“Premier League football’s where everyone wants to be. Hopefully I can help get Leeds up there (in the Championship table) before January and that’ll determine whether Sunderland want me back or agree to let me stay longer. It’s not just whether it suits me. Everyone’s got to agree on the best thing.
“That’s what I’m saying. It’s hard to talk about what can happen in January because we’re not there and I haven’t played yet.
“First things first, I have to play well. Then we’ll see what happens.”
It would still suit Buckley to remain in these parts. Oldham-born, his family are based in the north of England and he has a four-month old daughter to think about.
“I had a great time in Brighton but being close to home is better,” he said. “You never know what happens in football but this loan move was important. Leeds is a good place for me.”
Buckley hoped Sunderland would be good for him too and his transfer there last summer was earned on the back of a productive time at Brighton. The club reached the Championship play-offs in the his final two seasons there and Sunderland paid £2.5m to buy him.
His limited impact at the Stadium of Light was the result of a combination of factors: basic form, untimely injuries, the loss of the manager who signed him – Gus Poyet – and the wider malaise which Sunderland are currently dealing with.
“I don’t like to blame anyone,” Buckley said. “There are different reasons why. But I still think I can play in the Premier League.
“Things change, managers change and I had little injuries. Eventually, and I’m only 25, I want to play a lot more at Premier League level.
“Not playing is frustrating. Even being on the bench, you get that itch to start games. My chances were limited towards the end of last season and at this moment I’m not part of the squad there at all. So I’m really looking forward to this.
“Playing games automatically gives you base fitness.
“You need a run in the side so hopefully I can get some 90 minutes under my belt and get back to my best.
“Because I’ve probably not been at my best since I went to Sunderland.”