Leeds United manager Simon Grayson insisted today that the threat of a hostile reaction to Alan Smith would not discourage him from taking an opportunity to sign the midfielder.
But Grayson reacted coolly to talk of an imminent approach by revealing he has had no contact with the former Leeds player or Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew over a transfer.
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Smith is one of several Premier League players linked with Leeds since the transfer window opened last week, but Grayson said he was not actively working to secure the signing.
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The 30-year-old courted controversy among United's supporters when he moved from Elland Road to bitter rivals Manchester United in 2004, soon after Leeds' relegation from the Premiership, but his return to West Yorkshire has long been the subject of speculation.
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The former England international is on the fringes of Newcastle's squad and his prospects do not appear to have improved since Pardew replaced sacked boss Chris Hughton, but Smith's salary would be a hurdle to any deal.
Grayson said Smith's relationship with United's fans was of no relevance to him, saying: "It won't have any bearing on me. I'll do what's best for the club. Any signing you make, whether he's a big name or a small name, fans have different opinions.
"He's a good player and forget any affinity he's had with the club in the past. When you get a player of Alan Smith's ability, obviously you would have to be interested.
"But it's all hypothetical because I've not asked the question. I've not spoken to Alan Pardew or Alan Smith and I'm only commenting on it because people are asking me about him. The question might never even get asked. The only person who knows if he's available is Alan Pardew."
Smith was not included in Newcastle's squad for their 5-0 victory over West Ham on Wednesday, and he has played only 11 times for the Tyneside club this season.