The talk in Leeds is still focused on the future of prolific scorer Jermaine Beckford as the transfer window moves to its final stages.
The club chairman has moved to end speculation by insisting the final decision on Beckford’s short-term future will be in the hands of Leeds manager Simon Grayson. Bates stressed Beckford will remain at Elland Road if Grayson deems it necessary as the Whites will willingly forfeit the amount to be paid for the striker. The chairman acknowledges promotion is the objective and if achieving the club’s target implies losing a couple of million then Bates will not complain.
Grayson declared Beckford will stay with Leeds unless the asking price is met and up to this point the Manager said no club has met the player’s valuation. The Manager reluctantly left the door open for the top scorer’s departure by stating anything can happen from now till the closing of the transfer window. In financial terms the sale of Beckford would offer Leeds the opportunity to reinforce the team but the club could be left with little time to replace Jermaine if a transfer goes through nearer to the closing date. Another problem would be finding someone who can match the scoring contribution of Beckford as the striker guarantees at least 20 goals a season.
The transfer rumours are not limited to Beckford, as Max Gradel who is loan from Leicester City has been the subject of much speculation regarding his imminent future. The Whites would like to keep him on loan for the rest of the season or sign him on a permanent basis but Leeds boss Grayson acknowledges Leicester have the final say in this matter. Grayson has been impressed with the attitude and contribution of the Ivorian winger. Gradel has scored three goals in 15 appearances for the club.
One player who has departed Leeds for new pastures is Enoch Showunmi who signed for Scottish club Falkirk. The striker has rarely featured this season with his last start coming back in August in the Carling Cup. The Nigerian striker has found the back of the net six times in 28 total appearances. Leeds have Luciano Becchio, Mike Grella, Robert Snodgrass and Tresor Kandol as their remaining forwards besides Beckford and Gradel. The Whites have been linked with a loan move for Aston Villa striker Marlon Harewood. The player was on loan with Newcastle United who are ironically one of the sides pursuing Beckford. Harewood’s best stints were with Nottingham Forest and then West Ham United. While with the Hammers he scored a respectable 14 goals in 37 Premier League matches during the 2005-06 season. The 30-year-old will bring experience to the Leeds squad and has a good set of predatory skills in front of goal as shown by his decent scoring record.
Despite all the distractions off the pitch Leeds are still on track to win promotion to the Championship as six points separate Leeds from the closest pursuers Norwich City. Leeds will next travel to take on Exeter City in a tricky match considering the hosts have struggled this season but have only lost twice at home. The Whites are at full force for the encounter and Grayson will be relying on the scoring touch of Beckford as well as the drive of Snodgrass and the determination of Patrick Kisnorbo. The Australian Kisnorbo continues to defy the odds with his heroic and committed showings as he put his body on the line at Old Trafford and bled his way to helping Leeds maintain a clean sheet against Wayne Rooney and company. Paddy as he is commonly referred to has won the hearts of the Leeds faithful with his selfless approach, work ethic and commendable attitude. His partnership with club skipper Richard Naylor has been rock solid and a main reason why the Whites have conceded a mere 14 goals in 24 games played. Beckford may be banging in the goals but without the solid defensive contribution of the duo mentioned above Leeds would have lost several points.
The club’s supporters will be hoping all the distractions off the pitch pertaining to transfer reports and football gossip will have little impact on the Leeds bandwagon as the Whites continue their march to the Championship. Beckford will be gone come the summer but the question is will he remain until June or has he already kicked his last ball in a white shirt?