Friday, August 30, 2013

Ross McCormack signs new deal

leedsunited.com 30/8/13
Club secures long-term future of Scotland international... The club has secured the longer-term services of Ross McCormack after the player agreed a new, improved four–year contract.
The Scotland international, who has started the season in terrific fashion, scoring four goals already this term, was the subject of a number bids from rival clubs in recent weeks, but the club’s owners rebuffed the interest and moved to tie the player down with a new longer-term contract.
United chairman Salah Nooruddin said: “It’s great news that we’ve been able to reach an agreement with Ross regarding his longer-term future. We received a number of sizeable offers for the player, but we are delighted to have agreed a new contract that will see Ross remain at Leeds United.
“We are looking to build a future for the football club, and we see Ross very much as part of that future.”
Managing director David Haigh added: “The interest in Ross has been very public and I’m sure this has been unsettling for the fans. They have been chanting ‘Ross McCormack is not for sale’, and how could we ignore that? He is a key player for us, and as a football club, it is important that we do our utmost to keep our key personnel and the players we believe will take us forward.
“Ross has had a terrific start to the season and we hope that will continue.”
United manager Brian McDermott said: “I am delighted that we have managed to come to an agreement with Ross regarding his long-term future at Leeds United Football Club. I’m sure each and every Leeds fan will share my views and Ross will get a fabulous reception tomorrow.
“I would like to very much thank the owners for their support in this. They have turned down three substantial offers for him and have ensured we retain his services in what will be the peak years of his footballing life.”
Ross McCormack said: “I’m delighted to sign a new contract with the club. I’ve said all along that this club is where I want to be and where I want to play my football. My family are settled here, I love the place, and I’m looking forward to the future now.
“I’d like to thank the manager and the owners for showing faith in me, and I’d like to say a big thank-you to the fans because their support really is something special, and they are what this club is all about.”

More to come from Leeds United team - Mac

YEP 30/8/13
by Phil Hay
Leeds United are bidding to go top of the Championship at Elland Road on Saturday with manager Brian McDermott insisting: “This team will get better.”
United can claim first place temporarily with a victory over title favourites Queens Park Rangers after starting the season with a morale-lifting run of six games without defeat.
The club’s form in the opening month has eased fears that a lack of transfer activity might leave McDermott inadequately equipped for a year in the Championship but the Leeds boss, who remains in the market for one further signing before Monday’s deadline, claimed his existing squad would grow in strength as the term went on.
Tomorrow’s clash provides the most difficult examination of United yet against an expensively-built QPR side who have underlined their post-relegation potential by winning three of their first four matches.
But McDermott said: “I’m looking at the squad we’ve got and they’re giving me absolutely everything. We’re trying to play a certain way and they’re 100 per cent doing the best they can every day they’re involved.
“I can’t ask any more than that but I do think there’s more to come from them. That’s the good thing for me – I know there’s more to come. We’ve got some results where we weren’t at our best but we still got the results. That’s what matters at this stage of the season – getting results and trying to improve. There’s more to come.”
McDermott has used two different formations this season, predominantly employing a midfield diamond but switching to a three-man forward line to good effect against Ipswich Town last weekend and at Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday.
“Players can surprise you and they can adapt,” McDermott said.
“I’m all for fitting a system around the players and that can be any system as far as I’m concerned. I’m known as a 4-4-2 man with wingers. Well, I’ve got no wingers and we’re not playing 4-4-2. We used different shapes against Ipswich and Doncaster and it’s all about the players and what’s right for them. They’ve adapted really well.”
The Leeds boss also spoke highly of QPR manager Harry Redknapp, saying: “He’s well respected throughout football and he knows how to get promotion from this division. He’s been there, seen it and done it. I like Harry. He’s a top guy.”

Leeds United: Newcastle United cup draw brings double delight for Mac

YEP 30/8/13
by Phil Hay
A reunion with Alan Pardew and a tribute to Gary Speed, inset, were the attractions for Brian McDermott after Leeds drew Newcastle United in round three of the Capital One Cup.
McDermott will go head-to-head with the manager who took him to Reading as chief scout more than a decade ago when United clash with Pardew’s Newcastle at St James’ Park during the week beginning September 23.
But the game also features two of the clubs served with distinction by Speed, the former Wales international who died in 2011 at the age of 42.
McDermott said: “The first thing that struck me about it was Gary Speed. He was a great man who played for both clubs and it’ll be a special occasion.
“I texted (Pardew) straight after the draw and said ‘I can’t believe we’ve got you lot.’ I told him to make sure it’s a full house. We need the money!
“I’m looking forward to it. He’s a good friend of mine and he took me to Reading 13 years ago as chief scout. He’s a great manager, a good coach and I’ve spoken to him a lot over the past few weeks. It’s quite funny that we’re playing them.”

Whites ‘hopeful’ over McCormack contract talks resolution

YEP 30/8/13
by Phil Hay
Leeds United remain “hopeful” that a deal will be reached with Ross McCormack to extend his current contract at Elland Road.
United and McCormack have been in discussions over improved terms since the club rejected a third bid for him from Middlesbrough at the start of last week.
Leeds are looking to increase the length of a deal which currently runs until June 2015 and are believed to be in favour of tying McCormack down for a further two seasons.
The Scotland international is yet to strike an agreement with Leeds but manager Brian McDermott said: “I’m hopeful that Ross will get sorted.
“You’ve got lots of goodwill with myself, Ross, the fans, everybody. We all want him to be around. He’s an integral part of what we’re doing here and hopefully we can get something done.”
McCormack, right with McDermott, scored his fourth goal of the season during Tuesday’s League Cup win at Doncaster Rovers and recently earned a recall to Scotland’s national squad.
Winger Luke Varney said: “We’re delighted to see him called up. People might think it doesn’t really bother us but to see Ross get his reward is great. His football’s doing the talking.”

Leeds United: Whites’ board is urged to deliver one more signing

YEP 30/8/13
by Phil Hay
Brian McDermott has asked Leeds United’s board to deliver one more signing before Monday’s transfer deadline after identifying a final target.
The Leeds manager said his interest in the unnamed player – thought to be a winger – was at a preliminary stage and he described the proposed deal as “a maybe” following talks with United’s owners.
McDermott is pushing for a late addition to his squad after the arrival of Scott Wootton from Manchester United for an undisclosed fee last week gave him his fourth signing of the summer.
The Leeds boss submitted a list of eight names to United’s board of directors at the end of last season with the aim of bringing six new players to Elland Road and he is awaiting developments with a potential fifth recruit ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Queens Park Rangers.
United have a well-publicised shortage of wingers and McDermott admitted that a wide midfielder was his next priority after the capture of Wootton deepened Leeds’ shallow pool of centre-backs.
McDermott said: “If anything there’s a possibility of one player coming in but nothing’s nailed down.
“There’s a player in my mind who I’d like to get but it’s very early days. It’s not about the details at the moment, it’s just a player I’d like to sign.
“I’ve had a little discussion with the owners and it’s a maybe. That’s it.
“It would be a permanent move if we can do a deal with the other club.”
McDermott has operated under financial constraints all summer and he conceded recently that any attempt to buy a winger would be hampered by the inherently high cost of players in that mould.
Jimmy Kebe, who thrived during McDermott’s time as Reading manager, looks likely to leave the Madejski Stadium in the next 72 hours ahead after failing to appear once for Reading this month but the cost of bringing him to Leeds would be prohibitive and Crystal Palace are believed to be offering him a return to the Premier League.
West Ham United’s Ricardo Vaz Te, meanwhile, handed in a transfer request yesterday morning in an effort to force his way out of Upton Park before the September 2 deadline. Cardiff City – another of the Premier League’s newly-promoted clubs – have already been heavily linked with the former Barnsley player.
McDermott’s work in the transfer market has been a case of gradual progress, beginning with the free transfer of Matt Smith from Oldham Athletic and continuing with the £1million signing of Luke Murphy from Crewe Alexandra.
Noel Hunt subsequently accepted a two-year deal after leaving Reading and Wootton’s move was finalised in time for last weekend’s 2-1 victory at Ipswich Town.
Despite his desire for further additions, McDermott said: “We’ve signed four players, we’re happy with the players we’ve signed and we’re happy with the players we’ve got.
“I know at this time of the season we have to talk about players we haven’t got but I prefer to talk about the ones who are here and how much they’re giving for the club.”
McDermott said Leeds were still to attract firm offers for any of their fringe squad members, saying he had received “phone calls but nothing concrete” with three days of the transfer window left.

Byram set for development team action against Rams

YEP 29/8/13
by Phil Hay
Sam Byram will make another appearance in a development-league clash with Derby County on Monday after coming safely through a test of his fitness at Huddersfield Town earlier this week.
Byram is to be given an extended run-out against Derby with Leeds increasingly optimistic that their player of the year will avoid an operation on his long-standing hip injury.
The right-back was used for 45 minutes as United’s Under-21s lost 2-1 to Huddersfield on Monday afternoon and United are ready to field him again after seeing no negative reaction.
A successful appearance against Derby at Elland Road would edge Byram towards a first-team comeback less than a month after Leeds looked poised to send the 19-year-old for surgery.
Manager Brian McDermott said: “It’s been good news with Sam, he was okay.
“There’s another game coming up against Derby at Elland Road and we’ll try and give him more than 45 minutes this time. That’ll be a big plus if we can get him through and get him back.
“I hope it’s looking more positive for him. It would be great to have him available.”
Byram has been fighting a hip complaint for almost four months having succumbed to it a week before the end of last season. He has not played in a first-team fixture since Leeds lost at Birmingham City on April 20, McDermott’s third game as manager.
The club seemed increasingly resigned to committing him to an operation at the start of this month but a specialist injection in his injured hip allowed him to resume full training at Thorp Arch.
Monday marks the start of a two-week international break, 48 hours after Leeds play Queens Park Rangers at Elland Road, and the gap between matches could allow Byram to move closer towards a senior recall ahead of the visit to Bolton Wanderers on September 14.
McDermott, meanwhile, paid tribute to United’s academy after Alex Mowatt became the latest self-produced player to follow Byram’s lead by making his senior debut for the club.
Mowatt, 18, turned in an impressive 74-minute appearance in Tuesday’s League Cup win at Doncaster Rovers and McDermott said: “He’s a really rounded young man. The staff have brought these lads up well and Neil Redfearn (Leeds’ development coach) has done a fantastic job. He and his coaches are grounded people and that reflects on the young players here. We should be proud of our academy.”

Wootton’s sparkling Leeds debut gives McDermott options

Yorkshire Post 29/8/13
Scott Wootton’s bow for Leeds United on Tuesday night was right up there with the best.
A resolute defensive display helped the Whites turn their good start to the 2013-14 campaign into an excellent one with their unbeaten run stretching to six matches following the 3-1 Capital One Cup derby win at Doncaster Rovers.
And he added a goal for good measure.
Yet while the Birkenhead-born centre-half was entitled to bask in the glow of his dream debut, he was just as eager to share the bouquets around.
Positives abounded for manager Brian McDermott, who despite making six changes saw his side see off a virtually full-strength Rovers outfit.
Wootton’s performance and goal were high on the tick list, as was the dominant display of powerhouse striker Matt Smith, who never gave the Rovers’ defence a moment’s peace and crowned matters with the decisive 77th-minute strike to put the visitors 2-1 up with his first goal in Leeds colours.
Few players have had the measure of Doncaster’s redoubtable captain and League One Team of the Year entrant Rob Jones in the past 12 months.
But Smith provided Jones and centre-back partner Bongani Khumalo with a difficult night, with the former Oldham forward winning the majority of the aerial battles and scoring with a thumping header.
Eighteen-year-old debutant and Doncaster lad Alex Mowatt, handed a surprise debut in midfield, also came through with flying colours for United and McDermott, providing an assist for Wootton’s 41st-minute opener to complement the good news story.
On his goal, Wootton, who was watched by several family members, said: “It was a very special moment and I want to be a Leeds United player for a long time and to make my debut was great and to cap it off with a goal and a decent performance, I am delighted.
“My mum, grandad and uncle were here and I am sure they will be happy. They come to most games. My dad works away, but whenever he’s home he always comes, wherever it is all over the country.
“My dad was an Everton fan as a kid, but they all just support me and the team whoever I am playing for now.”
On Leeds’s performance, he added: “We showed at Doncaster we have a good squad and there’s a great mood in the camp at the moment and all the lads are buzzing. It’s a really good place to be, and long may that continue.
“Matt was a massive handful and a great outlet for us. If we were under pressure, the ball stuck to him and he won his headers. We were glad he was on our team.
“I also thought Alex was absolutely brilliant. You would have never guessed it was his debut, he was so calm on the ball and showed a lot of confidence, with some great forward passes.”
Wootton’s accomplished display alongside Jason Pearce has provided McDermott with a potential selection quandary heading into Saturday’s eagerly-awaited home encounter with much-fancied QPR, something the defender is fully aware of.
He added: “There is good competition for places and I’d like to think I have done myself no harm.
“At the same time, Tom Lees and Jason Pearce had great games at the weekend.
“Obviously, it’s up to the manager, but I think they will be disappointed if they lose their places after a 2-1 away win at Ipswich. But I am happy with how I played and hopefully, it will give the manager something to think about.”
Food for thought was also given to McDermott’s counterpart Paul Dickov by Rovers’ goalscorer and ex-Whites forward Billy Paynter. His clinical 63rd-minute headed equaliser, shortly after coming on for Theo Robinson, was one of the main plus points for the Rovers’ chief.
Robinson and Chris Brown may have taken plenty of plaudits in the past few weeks, with Paynter stuck on the bench and largely in the shadows, but the Liverpudlian saw his name in lights, albeit briefly, on Tuesday evening.
The 29-year-old, who went close to a famous winner after coming on late at Wigan last week, admits it has been a frustrating start to the season personally, although it is very much a case of not getting mad, but even.
Paynter, who chose not to celebrate his leveller out of respect for his former club, said: “Brownie and Theo have been playing really well and scoring goals and I can’t complain. For me, it was about giving the manager something to think about.
“I can’t go in and batter his door down because Browny and Theo are doing the business. I have just got to be professional about it and bide my time. If I get some minutes, I have got to try and make an impact.
“I know my game time has been limited this season, but I’ve got to bite my tongue at times as it’s the manager’s decision.”
On his goal, he said: “I didn’t celebrate out of respect and just ran off into the corner.
“At Leeds, it was just a frustrating time. I had injuries in my first season and didn’t really get going.
“But the Leeds fans always wanted me to do well and I thank them for that and wish them all the best.”
leon.wobschall@ypn.co.uk

Leeds United’s men at the top in city’s 40 years of change

YEP 29/8/13
The fortunes of the city of leeds have risen and fallen over four decades when its football club has been led by some of the best-known characters in sport. Paul Robinson looks back on a tale of twists and turns.
The past is the past – that’s the slogan adopted by Leeds United’s recently-installed owners as they try to make a break with the difficult times the club has endured in the last few years.
But it’s not just United who appear upwardly-mobile again, their home city is also back flexing its muscles after a tricky period ushered in by the credit crunch.
The £350m Trinity Leeds shopping centre opened its doors in March, with the £60m First Direct Arena following suit last month.
This isn’t the first occasion, however, that the fortunes of club and city have, for whatever reason, mirrored one other.
The reigns of Manny Cussins, Leslie Silver, Peter Ridsdale and Ken Bates as United chairman all allow, in their various ups and downs, parallels to be drawn with what was happening in the wider Leeds community.
Cussins, the head of Leeds-based furniture chain John Peters, began his chairmanship at Elland Road in 1972 with the club at the peak of its powers under legendary manager Don Revie.
The Whites had lifted the FA Cup for the first time in their history only 10 days before and further glory was just around the corner, with Revie leading his troops to the First Division title in 1974.
‘The Don’ had overseen a transformation of a one-time footballing also-ran that was matched by changes unfolding on the streets of Leeds.
Stage three of the inner ring road was completed in 1974 and the scheme, coupled with the M1, M62 and A1, saw Leeds styling itself as the “motorway city of the 70s”.
There were other ambitious construction projects such as West Riding House, the Albion Street office block that would keep its crown as the tallest building in Leeds until 2007.
Like the Leeds International Pool, designed in the 1960s by soon-to-be disgraced Pontefract architect John Poulson, West Riding House wasn’t easy on the eye.
Brutal and unforgiving, some said – and similar criticism was levelled at Revie’s Leeds side by a London-centric press.
By the time Leslie Silver succeeded Cussins as chairman in 1983, however, the swagger exhibited by Leeds the club and Leeds the city during the previous decade was long gone.
United were skint and in the Second Division, just as Leeds itself was feeling the shattering financial and social effects of soaring unemployment and the break-up of traditional manufacturing and mining industries.
Silver faced calls to resign in 1985 after Revie-era playing hero Eddie Gray was sacked as manager.
But the east London-born chairman, much like the city that had become his adopted home, would not be going away without a fight.
He had built a multi-million pound paint company after starting up with a £250 gratuity on leaving the RAF in 1947.
And Silver eventually worked similar magic at Leeds, with his appointment of Howard Wilkinson as manager in 1988 kicking off a dizzying climb that led to the First Division title for United just four years later.
Football, though, was undergoing a revolution. In Dave Simpson’s book The Last Champions, Silver tells the author: “My predecessor Manny Cussins said, ‘One word of advice. No footballer in the world is worth £300 a week’. Within two years [of the Premiership starting in 1992] we were paying £20,000 a week.”
The city of Leeds, too, was going through a reinvention.
Between 1988 and 1995, a Government-backed quango called the Leeds Development Corporation acted as the planning authority for part of the city centre.
It offered grants encouraging developers to invest in the neglected waterfront of the River Aire – and there was no shortage of takers.
The Calls, to pick just one example, began its revival from “grubby blot” on the landscape into the vibrant setting for flats, offices, restaurants and bars that Leeds knows today.
Confirmation that the city was back in business came in 1991, when it was chosen as the new home of the Royal Armouries – the United Kingdom’s national collection of arms and armour.
The £42.5m museum at Clarence Dock – another revitalised riverside site – was opened by the Queen in 1996.
That same year witnessed the opening of upmarket department store Harvey Nichols in the city centre’s booming Victoria Quarter, soon to be tagged the ‘Knightsbridge of the North’.
By 1997, plans were unveiled for Leeds’s first £1m flat, a penthouse home in a redeveloped warehouse on Dock Street. ‘Bar culture’ was also all the rage, with local favourites such as Art’s Cafe and Cafe Inseine featuring in guidebooks alongside chic destinations in cities such as Paris, Prague and Madrid.
Author and restaurateur Roy Ackerman described the 1990s in Leeds as a “period of real urban renaissance, with major explosions on the bar, cafe and club scenes”.
And nowhere was the trendy image of Leeds at the end of the 20th century better exemplified than at Elland Road.
Money was flowing into a club buoyed by the success of young manager David O’Leary and publicity-savvy chairman Peter Ridsdale.
Ridsdale, a lifelong United fan and former Burtons managing director, had been appointed in 1997 and within three years was appearing on the BBC’s Question Time programme and heading up the Education Leeds organisation.
At the same time, corporate giants such as Nike and Strongbow were paying millions for involvement with a team that was packed with rising stars. Leeds made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2001 and the sky seemed the limit. There was even talk of a move to a purpose-built ground off the A1(M) near Stourton.
On-field setbacks and off-field financial headaches were to follow, however, and by the end of 2003 Ridsdale – the man who said big-spending Leeds had “lived the dream” – had quit as chairman. Two years down the line and there was a new man in charge, the combative former Chelsea supremo Ken Bates.
United, already ousted from the top flight, then fell to their lowest ebb with relegation to the third tier of English football in 2007. Given what had gone before, it was maybe no surprise that, just as the club languished in the doldrums, so the city of Leeds was suffering the biting impact of the credit crunch.
One by one, major construction schemes were put on hold or axed. Victims included the Lumiere skyscrapers development on Wellington Street, the ‘kissing towers’ proposed for Sovereign Street and a residential project called the Spiracle that was due to take the place of John Poulson’s old Leeds International Pool. Earlier this month, though, tycoon Steve Parkin revealed plans for a £50m office building on the derelict Lumiere site.
That announcement, as we have seen, came hot on the heels of the opening of Trinity Leeds and the city’s concert arena. Over at Elland Road, meanwhile, new chairman Salah Nooruddin has watched Leeds make an impressive and unbeaten start to the season. Coincidence? Perhaps not...
Author who told story of people who live for escape
The parallels between recent boom and bust periods for United and their home city were persuasively and artfully set out by author Anthony Clavane in his acclaimed book Promised Land.
Speaking to the YEP in 2010, Clavane said: “The fortunes of Leeds United in particular have almost been a bellwether for the city.
“Whenever the club has done well, the city has boomed economically and socially too. You saw that in the 1960s and early 1970s.
“Then you saw everything take a turn for the worse in the 1980s before things picked up again in the 1990s and early Noughties.
“Then, when I started to write Promised Land two years ago, it felt like we were at the end of another golden era, with Leeds in a division they had never been in before and after the 1990s and early Noughties boom years, the city was now in a rut, sliding back into the dark days of the 1980s.
“Maybe I’m being overly pessimistic. But for those of us who grew up in the 1960s, which I think have been unfairly berated, we were very lucky and I’m not sure if we’ll see opportunities like that again.
“Ultimately I wanted to write about all of that through the lens of a football club.”
Lifelong United fan and sports journalist Clavane also sees some intriguing symmetry between the beautiful game and life in Leeds before the Whites came into being in 1919.
He told the YEP: “There has always been something metamorphic about Leeds, about escaping. In the 19th century the middle classes built the theatres, libraries and the town hall as means of some kind of escape.
“But, for working class people in particular, their means of dreaming was football.
“Whenever I come back to Leeds on the train I always see Elland Road and the town hall, both icons of metamorphosis.”

Debut delight for Scott

leedsunited.com 28/8/13
New United defender on his first appearance… United’s latest arrival Scott Wootton made his debut for the club on Tuesday evening and things could not have gone any better, a 3-1 victory and a goal to his name at the first time of asking.
The defender opened the scoring at Doncaster but it was the team performance that impressed the debutant the most.
“Obviously I’m a defender so I was thinking about defending,” He said. “I was delighted to pop up with a goal.
“The main thing was a good team performance and a comfortable 3-1 victory and we’re into the next round of the Cup.
“I thought that we played well as a team. They probably had a 20-minute spell at the start where they came out of the blocks. But after that we limited then to very few chances and I don’t really remember Paddy having to make a tough save.”
The defender admits to being a little nervous before the Doncaster tie but insists that is because he wanted to do well on his debut for the club.
“You usually get a few nerves before most games but obviously it was my debut and I wanted to put a little bit of pressure on myself to try and do well,” said Scott.
“I was probably a little nervous but I feel good now, I’m happy now.
Scott will be battling for the centre-half positions with fellow defenders Tom Lees and Jason Pearce and the new arrival feels the competition can only benefit the team.
The former Liverpool and Manchester United man has been with his new team-mates for a week now and the defender feels that the mood in the camp is ‘great’.
“There is good competition for places and I’d like to think that I have done myself no harm,” said Wootton.
“Tom Lees and Jason Pearce both had good games at the weekend but it is up to the manager, I’m sure they would be disappointed if they lost their places after the 2-1 win at Ipswich.
“I’m happy with how I played on Tuesday and hopefully it has given the manager something to think about.
“Two away wins, back-to-back away wins so it’s good form. It shows we have good squad depth with some players getting a game.
“There is a great mood in the camp at the moment and all the lads are buzzing for each other and it is a really good place to be.”

Mowatt one of our own - Boss

leedsunited.com 28/8/1
Brian McDermott on youngster’s debut…
Brian McDermott spoke of his delight at the performance of Alex Mowatt against Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday evening.
The 18-year-old, a former United Under-18s captain, made his professional debut on Tuesday evening and put in a performance beyond his years.
And the boss said that he had no problem with putting the youngster into the firing line during the Capital One Cup second round.
“You can’t make a statement like he looked out of place,” said the boss. “He was excellent against Doncaster.
“I had no worries about Alex playing whatsoever.
“From the day I first saw him Neil Redfearn had spoken about him, me and Nigel Gibbs had seen him play.
“We need to look after him because he is one of our own. He was absolutely excellent on Tuesday evening.”

Doncaster Rovers 1 Leeds United 3: Leeds still rule the roost over Rovers at Keepmoat

Yorkshire Post 28/8/13
by Leon Wobschall at Keepmoat Stadium
HOW Leeds United enjoy their away-day excursions to the Keepmoat Stadium.
Five visits to Rovers’s compact and bijou ground, four wins, a draw and an undefeated record with the big 3,770 away contingent who made the short trip able to reflect on another sweet occasion.
With the game delicately poised heading into the final 13 minutes, it was a man that home manager Paul Dickov knows plenty about in Matt Smith – who has credited the former Oldham boss and current Doncaster chief as having a major impact in his fledging career – who swung the tie inexorably in Leeds’s favour.
The big striker, impressive throughout, rose high, to head home an excellent Lee Peltier cross. A few minutes later, man-of-the-moment Ross McCormack – who else? – sealed the deal from the spot after Reece Wabara was penalised for a foul on Dominic Poleon.
It ensured a breeze at the end for Leeds, although it was very much game on at the mid-way point of the half after a face from the Whites past in Billy Paynter showed the predatory prowess that was somewhat missing for one reason or another during his barren chapter at Elland Road.
With virtually his first touch, the Scouse striker headed in David Cotterill’s cross at the far post on 63 minutes to cancel out Scott Wootton’s opener to leave Rovers fans scenting a long-awaited victory over United on home soil.
But, ultimately, things reverted to type and while Rovers were hopeful of landing a plum draw in the next round to bring in funds to boost their transfer kitty, it was Leeds’s night.
Despite a scare or two, it was ultimately an enriching evening for Brian McDermott, who saw his side extend their unbeaten run at the start of the current campaign to six games.
The fact that a couple of debutants provided key contributions – in the shape of opening goalscorer Wootton and provider Alex Mowatt – gave him the icing on the cake.
The latter was the surprise name in the United starting line-up, among six changes made by McDermott, with the 18-year-old Academy product handed a shock debut.
That Wootton started was no such secret and as introductions to United’s supporters go, last night represented the proverbial dream.
A brilliant early clearance in his day job as a defender – to prevent an early goal for Rovers – was impressive enough, but it was his contribution at the other end which ultimately proved more decisive.
The centre-half nodded home Smith’s inviting header across goal from close range via the underside of the bar following an initial searching cross from Mowatt four minutes before the break.
Rovers may have enjoyed arguably the greatest day in their history at Leeds’s expense at Wembley in 2008 when James Hayter wrote his name in club folklore.
But in Doncaster at least, the bragging rights have invariably belonged to United for over half a century – even if match-ups between the White Rose combatants have been relatively rare until recent times.
For the record, Leeds haven’t now been beaten in Doncaster since August 1951, with the West Yorkshiremen following up their second-round victory over the hosts in the League Cup two years ago with a repeat dose.
While it was Rovers who posted the initial menace, Leeds grew into proceedings after a quiet start – although they were afforded a massive early scare as the hosts went desperately close to an opener.
Only a terrific last-ditch clearance from Wootton close to the goalline saved the day after a crossshot from Richie Wellens flew towards goal.
McCormack then fired somewhat tamely over with Ross Turnbull stranded out of goal after weakly punching Adam Drury’s cross clear.
For the remainder of the half, the visitors enjoyed a relative degree of comfort, with a rare dangerous moment arriving just after the half-hour when a header from James Coppinger was grasped in the nick of time by goalkeeper Paddy Kenny.
With half-time approaching, Wootton had his moment to remember with United making the early running on the restart, with Poleon going close at the near post before Smith headed over after a good cross from Mowatt.
But it was a striker with former Leeds associations who had the decisive impact not long after with Paynter clinically heading in Cotterill’s centre, with the goal providing a serious shot in the arm for the rejuvenated hosts.
Ultimately though, it was left to Smith and then McCormack – with his fourth goal of the campaign – to break Rovers resistance.

Doncaster Rovers 1 Leeds United 3: Whites new boys set up Cup victory

YEP 27/8/13
by Phil Hay
Billy Paynter had his fun in a way that his career at Elland Road rarely allowed but the night belonged to his former club and three players in particular.
Consummate debuts from Scott Wootton and Alex Mowatt and a first Leeds United goal for Matt Smith negated Paynter’s injection of drama and pushed Doncaster Rovers into the League Cup sidelines.
Paynter scored with his first touch as a substitute to make a game of a tie which was slipping away from Doncaster but the maligned striker was not allowed to steal the show on an evening when others jostled for attention. Late goals from Smith and Ross McCormack were more than Doncaster or Paynter could stomach.
Paynter’s close-range header on 64 minutes levelled the match at 1-1 but Smith proved as deadly 12 minutes later and McCormack converted a gift from the penalty spot after Dominic Poleon drew a loose tackle from Reece Wabara. By then, an earlier goal from Scott Wootton was easily forgotten but the credit in Doncaster flowed his way too.
A slate with Manchester United connections is easily wiped clean by a centre-back who does what Wootton did at both end of the field last night.
A week into his career at Leeds, the club’s newest signing need answer no more questions about old allegiances.
The 21-year-old appeared for the first time at the Keepmoat and made a mark in more ways than one.
His first-half finish set up a second-round win which Leeds deserved but there was more to admire in the calm defending which might yet answer one of Brian McDermott’s prayers.
Wootton watched from the bench in Ipswich Saturday, three days after joining Leeds from the dark side in Manchester, but his influence at Doncaster was as strong as play as he could have made for a Championship baptism of fire against Queens Park Rangers this weekend.
Doncaster at full strength were worn down by Leeds at half-strength, or McDermott’s current version of it. The result offered another injection of optimism after five games without defeat.
Wootton set fire to the tie with a poacher’s goal on 41 minutes, arriving in the six-yard box as Smith guided a header into an uncertain corridor in Doncaster’s box.
Smith’s strength was an asset throughout and Mowatt, the teenage academy graduate who started in United midfield, glided through his own debut with admirable ease. Whether the transfer window helps him or not, McDermott has choices available to him.
The presence of Rodolph Austin, Michael Tonge and Ross McCormack around him gave Mowatt substantial protection but McDermott’s changes ran to six in all, Wootton included.
The tie at the Keepmoat gave Wootton a quick opportunity and a prime one too after Leeds’ defensively-suspect afternoon against Ipswich.
An unchanged team said much about Doncaster’s intentions and Paul Dickov’s desire for a lucky dip in the third-round draw.
Their familiarity was apparent and Wootton came to the fore in the first minute, clearing Richie Wellens’ shot off his goalline after Wellens and Chris Brown sliced through United’s defence. A second chance from the rebound was hacked over the crossbar by Brown as the forward peeled away into another pocket of space.
Rovers pushed the pace from the outset and had McDermott shouting early instructions from his technical area. Pressure on Lee Peltier caused gaping cracks and Wellens scuffed a shot at Paddy Kenny from a dangerous position after David Cotterill worked himself free 12 yards from goal. Doncaster’s half of the field was largely untouched for 10 minutes.
But Mowatt produced the first sign of life from Leeds when his short burst out of midfield carried the ball to the edge of Doncaster’s box where Ross McCormack lashed his lay-off into the stands. Mowatt was given no time to settle but adapted to a difficult environment with a mature head. McCormack’s failure to keep his own denied Leeds the opening goal after 16 minutes.
United worked the ball to Adam Drury who put Ross Turnbull under pressure with a curling cross into the six-yard box from wide on the left wing. Turnbull’s punch was weak and aimless and bounced kindly to McCormack who stroked it over an exposed goal. Chants of “Ross McCormack is not for sale” echoed around the Keepmoat regardless.
It was all Leeds needed to coax them into the tie. Wootton looked strong and alert against a Doncaster’s attack whose joy was brief and McCormack began to find the range of Smith and Dominic Poleon.
Poleon made a mess of Doncaster right-back Reece Wabara with a powerful direct run before clipping a weak shot into Turnbull’s arms and deliveries towards Doncaster’s goalkeeper began to bounce around in a hint of uncertainty in front of him.
The relentless speed of the match leant itself to repeated aggravation with Jason Pearce felling James Coppinger with a two-footed tackle and Theo Robinson’s elbow leaving McCormack in a heap.
Referee Scott Mathieson was scarcely bothered by either incident, booking Pearce and ignoring Robinson’s flailing arm completely. Clear chances were irregular and Kenny’s safe hold of a Coppinger header was an easier save than it looked to most of the crowd. Smith caused problems in the air at the other end but failed to dispatch a couple of headers.
It was nevertheless his towering height which did for Doncaster four minutes before half-time.
A searching cross from Mowatt reached him at the far post and his measured touch met the run of Wootton who nodded the ball against the underside of the bar and over Turnbull’s line. From a point-blank range, Turnbull barely saw the ball pass him and United’s players were all over Wootton before the keeper could pull it from his net.
Dickov sensed the need for a change and used Mark Duffy at the break but trouble continued to brew at Doncaster’s end of the field.
Poleon drilled a deflected effort into the side-netting and Smith almost squeezed an improvised volley inside Turnbull’s left-hand post with defenders swarming around him. The near-miss was Dickov’s cue to call on Paynter.
A sorry presence during his years at Elland Road, it was Paynter’s satisfaction to equalise in an instant. United’s defence covered themselves in little glory, leaving him unmarked deep inside their area, but the striker’s header gave Kenny no chance. Light-hearted threats from the away crowd to invade the pitch “if Billy scores” were not followed through.
The tie had cut loose by then and a mutual reluctance to play for extra-time was palpable.
When it mattered United struck as Smith crashed home one of the many headers he won all evening and Wabara’s trip on Poleon gave McCormack the chance to kill the tie on 77 minutes. The Scottish striker made no mistake. At present, he rarely does.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Chances of enticing winger to Leeds not ruled out

Yorkshire Post 27/8/13
by Leon Wobschall
BRIAN MCDERMOTT admits he is no closer to landing a winger ahead of Monday’s transfer window deadline – although he is not ruling out that situation changing over the coming days.
A wide-sided player remains very much the transfer priority for McDermott, whose Leeds side will be attempting to extend their unbeaten run at the start of the season to six games at the Keepmoat Stadium this evening.
The United boss has confirmed that new signing Scott Wootton will make his debut against Rovers, who were knocked out of the League Cup at the same second-round stage by Leeds in August 2011, when Ramon Nunez netted a brace in a 2-1 success.
Progression in this season’s competition will boost McDermott’s transfer kitty, although as it stands, no business is imminent.
On the prospect of a wing signing to quickly follow on from the capture of centre-half Wootton, he said: “I wouldn’t say so at this moment in time. If you are going to sign a winger and the kind of winger you want, it’s not cheap and is an expensive business.
“It might not be the thing to do; I don’t know yet. We’ll see. We just have to wait and see – if something comes our way and if we can do it, we’ll do it. If we don’t, we don’t.
“I don’t really expect too much to happen. We’ve done four (summer) deals and are working with the players we have got. I wouldn’t say there’s anything that stands out just yet.
“But with transfers, things can pop up at this stage of the season, especially very late on and there’s always a possibility.”
“We know we need some width and we’re working it out at the moment and trying to find a way to get results.”
McDermott says talks with Middlesbrough target Ross McCormack regarding a new deal are ‘ongoing’, with Boro chief Tony Mowbray refusing to concede defeat in his bid to sign the Scot, despite seeing several bids knocked back.
Mowbray said: “I don’t think it’s over. Look at the bigger clubs – is the Rooney issue over, is the Suarez issue over?
“Once the window shuts, he won’t be signing. But I’ve got total respect for the club the boy is playing for and he is doing pretty well for them.”
Meanwhile, highly-rated defender Sam Byram played 45 minutes on his return to action in United’s development squad’s 2-1 defeat at Huddersfield Town yesterday afternoon.
The teenager is yet to feature in the first team this season due to a hip injury.

Byram back in action for Leeds

Sam Byram made his long awaited comeback from injury on Monday afternoon.
Byram played 45 minutes for the development squad in their game at Huddersfield Town after four months out with a hip injury.
The Leeds medical team will now look to see if Byram has suffered any reaction to the injury and they will hope he will have come through unscathed and avoid requiring surgery.
Last season`s player of the season played the first half as Leeds went in ahead at half time thanks to a Danny Pugh free kick.
The side, that also included David Norris, eventually lost 2-1.

We’re desperate for McCormack to stay - Varney

YEP 26/8/13
by Phil Hay
Luke Varney made an impassioned plea for Leeds United and Ross McCormack to stay together beyond the end of the transfer window after a timely McCormack goal earned a 2-1 win at Ipswich Town.
Varney warned that McCormack’s departure in the next seven days would be to the “massive detriment” of Leeds following a strong start to the season which has seen McCormack score three times and United climb into the Championship’s top six.
McCormack’s second-half strike was the difference between Leeds and Ipswich at Portman Road, sealing United’s first victory at the stadium since 2001, and the club were set to resume contract talks with the striker’s representatives today after a spate of unsuccessful offers from Middlesbrough.
Boro have made three bids for McCormack – all of them rejected – and Leeds reacted to the most recent approach by opening discussions with him about an improved and extended deal at Elland Road.
The 27-year-old is already tied to United until 2015 but Boro’s persistence has created uncertainty about McCormack’s position with the summer transfer window entering its most frantic and unpredictable stage.
Varney, who claimed United’s first goal at Portman Road, said: “It’s completely up to Ross but we’re all desperate for him to stay. It would be to the massive detriment to the team if he leaves now. I’m sure the gaffer’s desperate for him to stay too. We all are because he’s a great part of our team. With the start we’ve had it would be a huge disappointment to lose him now. Hopefully September comes quick, we keep this squad and get a couple of additions. We’ve started really well.”
McCormack scored four minutes after half-time at Portman Road, winning a tight match after Varney replied to a 12th-minute strike from Ipswich’s David McGoldrick.
Leeds have taken eight points from their first four league fixtures and will round off the opening month of the term with a League Cup tie at Doncaster Rovers tomorrow and a Championship clash with Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.
Varney said: “We can push on now. We’ve shown our resilience, we feel different to last season and we’ve got a great spirit. We’re getting results.

Monday, August 26, 2013

23 March 1974 - Leeds United 1 Burnley 4

The dire run of results that preceded Leeds United's home game with Burnley in March 1974 had left their once unassailable lead at the top of the First Division looking distinctly brittle.

On 9 February, the Whites' 2-0 beating of Manchester United at Old Trafford extended their advantage over second-placed Liverpool to nine points with thirteen games left to play; at that stage, Leeds appeared certain to reclaim the League title they had won for the first time in 1969.

In the six chaotic weeks that followed, Leeds had crashed out of the FA Cup at the hands of Second Division Bristol City, seen their 29-game unbeaten run in the First Division destroyed at Stoke and taken just four points from five games.
After Burnley put them to the sword at Elland Road, Brian James wrote
in the Sunday Times, "Leeds were haunted by doubt, undermined by misunderstandings… their reputation was on the verge of destruction."

Read the full story by clicking here

Sunday, August 25, 2013

White wants to fight for place in the side

Leeds United boss Brian McDermott says Aidy White wants to remain at Elland Road and fight for his place.
White, who only signed a new three-year deal at Elland Road last summer, hasn`t been part of the eighteen in the squad for the last two games and his only appearance so far this season was in the League Cup clash with Chesterfield.
The club have already turned down a bid from Blackpool this summer for the clubs longest serving player, despite only being 21-year-old, and reports recently have suggested that clubs are keen to sign the versatile player.
Speaking on BBC Radio Leeds, McDermott said, "There has been a bit of interest in Aidy White but he wants to stay and fight for his place."
White has made 100 appearances for Leeds since making his debut as a 16-year-old in August 2008, having come through the clubs academy system.
McDermott has said that he needs to offload players to be able to add to his squad and with just eight days remaining until the transfer window closes, White could be seen as one player who could be offloaded.

McDermott confident McCormack will commit to Leeds

Talksport 25/8/13
Leeds boss Brian McDermott has told talkSPORT he is confident Ross McCormack will commit his future to the club.
McCormack, Leeds’ match-winner against Ipswich on Saturday, continues to be linked with a move to Middlesbrough but McDermott hopes talks over a new contract at Elland Road result in a successful conclusion.
“He wants to stay and I want him to stay,” he said, speaking on Football First.
“We are trying to talk to him at the moment, trying to get something over the line. I don’t want him to go anywhere and he doesn’t want to go himself. He loves playing for our fans.”
McDermott, who has brought in four new players this summer, admits he is looking to strengthen his squad further before the close of the transfer window.
But, after seeing his side stretch their unbeaten start to the season to four matches with a 2-1 win at Ipswich, the 52-year-old insists he will not be too disappointed if he is unable to complete any more deals.
"If we could bring in another couple of players and it was do-able then we will try and do it. If we can't, then we will go with the players we have got," he said.
“You have got to remember in the Championship that you can always loan. It is not my preferred thing. I want players that are Leeds United players and buying into what we want to do, but we will see. A week is a long time in football."

Why Dubai-based GFH Capital invested in Leeds United

Al Bawaba 25/8/13
So is the investment doomed to fail for GFH Capital? Not according to David Haigh, managing director of GFH capital and Leeds United.
Interest in european football is nothing new for the Gulf’s money men.
In recent years, the high-profile acquisitions of elite clubs such as Manchester City and Paris St-Germain have added to lucrative sponsorship deals signed with Barcelona, AC Milan, Real Madrid and Arsenal, giving leagues in England, Spain, Italy, France and beyond a distinctly Middle Eastern flavour.
But while groups such as Abu Dhabi United Group Investment and Development Limited, Qatar Investment Authority, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have targeted some of the continent’s heavyweights, Dubai-based GFH Capital have done things a little differently.
The private equity investment, advisory and fund management company made headlines in November 2012 when it finalised a £52m ($80.4m) deal to take over English second-tier club Leeds United, gaining a 100 percent shareholding.
Despite the rich history of the club, its ranking over recent years has been well below that of the Barcelonas and Real Madrids of the world, with financial woes and a lack of form sending Leeds from the Premier League to League One (the third tier) in just three years before its promotion to the Championship in 2010.
It’s a far cry from the club’s flirtation with the UEFA Champions League in the early years of the 20th century, and its last major success — winning the old First Division title in the 1991-1992 season, the year before the Premiership era.
And there are now generations of United fans who weren’t born during the golden age in the 1960s and 1970s, which brought both domestic and European success.
But rather than putting GFH Capital off acquiring the club, its recent downfall made it all the more attractive as an investment proposition.
“The term ‘sleeping giant’ is often bandied around, but I think in this case it really is true,” says David Haigh, deputy CEO of GFH Capital, managing director of Leeds United, and — perhaps most importantly — a life-long Leeds fan.
He continues: “People ask ‘why Leeds?’ And the short answer is because it’s Leeds United, full stop.
“Leeds is very special. It’s got a phenomenal history and we want to bring back those glory days. It’s got global reach on a par with top Premier League clubs, and it’s a fantastic investment opportunity in a sector which could gain the interest of new investors, as well as being good fun.
“It’s always nice to have an investment that everyone’s interested in — and it’s one where we feel we can advance and have an impact on the business and community surrounding it.”
Formerly known as Injazat Capital, Islamic private equity investor GFH Capital is a 100 percent subsidiary of Gulf Finance House, based in Bahrain, and is better known for its acquisitions in sectors that include real estate, telecoms and healthcare.
Its current portfolio includes Specialised Technical Services (STS), Solidarity Group Holding, and First Energy Bank among others, with Jordanian production house Rubicon perhaps the best known of its exited portfolio.
While variety has always been a key element to the company, according to Haigh, acquiring a football club seems to have truly broken the mould.
He says: “We’re a large group and we’re always looking at different types of investments for us because we not only want to put our own money into acquisitions, but also that of our investors from across the MENA region, and that means you have to be diverse.
“We’ve looked at things before Leeds, looked at things after, and we are always keen to look at areas we’ve not looked at before. Traditionally we’ve looked at things like real estate, banking, financial services, tech, media, telecoms and healthcare. Those were our specialisms, but we wanted to look into other areas.
“Sport is one area where there haven’t been many Islamic investments — certainly not to the degree of a full takeover by an Islamic investment firm — but we saw a huge opportunity there.
“As an Islamic investor there are challenges — obvious ones — attached to acquiring a football club, but we believed we could overcome them, and we have. Going forward it doesn’t impact the way we run the club, and it actually means we bring some important values to the club.”
Bringing values and money to a club might be one thing, but having the experience necessary to run it is quite another, especially when you have legions of fans to answer to. Just ask fans of Glasgow Rangers, Portsmouth, or Blackburn Rovers if they feel their clubs are being looked after properly.
So why do qualified solicitor Haigh and company feel they have what it takes to make a success of the Leeds United acquisition? He claims a gradual introduction to the inner workings and culture of the club has given them a head start.
“I’ve been involved with Leeds since May last year, in one way or another,” he explains. “We started the acquisition talks with Ken [Bates, former chairman of Leeds United], and I was the first person to meet him. That was more than a year ago. Since then we signed the documents in November and I become director, and I’ve been around the club very regularly since then. So for me, I’ve had a very good period of working with some fantastically experienced people in the club.
“We have a great team here, from senior management all the way down, so it’s not that I’ve just been catapulted in and hey presto I’m the MD. There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes that nobody sees. It is obviously different to what I trained to do, and there are intricacies to being a managing director here, but that’s the case for any MD role.
“I run GFH Capital in Dubai, with a great team of people, so it’s not the first CEO or MD job I’ve had. I’m here on a daily basis now, but this is still one of our group of investments, and we care deeply about doing the best with our investments, no matter what they are.”
As an investment, GFH Capital will be looking to make a good profit in the coming years, and financial statements show that more than half of the 100 percent holding have already been sold, with a ten percent stake going to Bahrain-based International Investment Bank, and the rest going to an unnamed buyer at a profit of $776,000.
But football club ownership can be a bit murky when it comes to the cold, hard numbers.
There are some who have argued that acquiring a football club is a one-way ticket to debt. Leading Kuwaiti businessman Bader Nasser Al Kharafi said the business model “does not make sense” for private firms as they do not offer enough return on investment, while UEFA were forced to rein in excessive spending in 2010 after it was revealed half of all European teams were running at a loss, with more than 20 percent described as recording “huge” deficits during the year previous.
In the 2011-2012 season, Manchester City’s wage bill alone was £202m ($316.37m), with a loss before tax for the club of £99m, and net debt of £58m. Amazingly, the loss before tax the year before that was £197m.
Leeds United’s own financial woes have been well documented, with its debt being estimated at more than £100m at one point before entering administration and plummeting down the leagues.
So is the investment doomed to fail for GFH Capital? Not according to Haigh.
“Ultimately, we’re a bank and we’re here to make money for investors. Why would we invest in something that’s going to make a loss? Of course we wouldn’t. This is primarily an investment, and investments need to show a profit. Why else would we put money into it?
“In terms of whether you can make football clubs turn a profit, of course you can. When looking at the finances of different clubs, and assessing why people buy the clubs, how they run them, and what type of clubs they buy, you can understand why people either make a loss or a profit.”
He adds that one of the appeals of Leeds is that it represented great value for money, offering more promise than most clubs outside the English Premier League.
“We were of the opinion, as were many others who were trying to buy Leeds, that is was one of those fantastic opportunities where you’ve got a club that’s undervalued and only needed a few small changes to make a big difference.
“We’ve restructured the management, paid the most cash amount for a player in the last seven years [Luke Murphy, signed from Crewe Alexandra for a fee thought to be in excess of £1m], improved the academy, and put money into the club.
“Leeds is one of very few clubs in the Championship that has a real possibility of becoming a self-sustaining investment, and we really want to get the club into that position. We are stewards of the club for the next generation and we want to honour that.”
As well as financial responsibilities, Haigh is also aware of his responsibilities to the club’s supporters, Leeds as a city, and the future of GFH Capital as a company.
On the latter point, he admits: “Has it had a good business impact on us? Yes it has. Do we get significant people looking for investments coming to us from outside MENA now? Yes we do. Interest has increased in MENASA and Europe — people know us more now. As a company we have growth plans, and this is one investment which really helps us with those.
“The club has phenomenal potential, not just from the business side, but the community side too. One of the things we did on day one was set up a plan of reintegrating the community. People in Leeds felt like the club wasn’t theirs any more, so we started a campaign of giving the club back to them.
“We did little things like ensuring social media was up and running. When we took over the club they didn’t even have things like Twitter and Facebook accounts. It was an old way of doing business.
“The club wasn’t as much a part of the community as you’d expect a one-club city to be. Every kid in town should be wearing a Leeds shirt, but in the city centre I counted more shirts of other clubs than Leeds shirts. There’s a lost generation of Leeds United fans, so we had to change that.
“Business-wise, if there are more bums on seats, then there’s more money for the club, so you can buy better players and increase your chances of getting back to the Premier League. It all ties in to benefit the club, the community, and the business.
Haigh admits there is a lot of work to do with Leeds, but he will be encouraged by the unbeaten start to the 2013-2014 season, recording a win and two draws at the time of writing.
And away from football, he appears to carry his commitment to community through various other projects.
As a business mentor for Seed Start-up — a Dubai-based start-up accelerator and seed stage venture capital fund — he helps entrepreneurs and small business owners with advice, contacts and networking.
“In Dubai there’s a huge potential for start-up businesses, especially compared to other places in the Middle East,” he says. “There’s a good business environment, it’s a hub, it’s a stable country, and people here understand business. I think everybody who can should help develop this region.”
Equally community-minded is his work in politics. Having set up Conservatives Abroad Dubai and serving as vice chairman of Gulf Tories, his affiliation is clear, but regardless of which party is in power in the UK, he says his intention is mainly to keep expat Brits in touch with home affairs.
“What I saw when I came out to Dubai was a huge number of British people and huge potential in terms of bridging the gap between the UK and UAE, both in terms of trade and community.
“A lot of what I have done is to make sure Brits know they can register to vote back home in elections — it keeps a good connection. Business-wise I try to bring politicians out to the UAE to expose them to the business community, and keep things active there.”
On this evidence it seems Haigh is true to his word when it comes to communities — something from which Leeds United fans will surely draw encouragement.
Only time will tell whether he can help restore United to its former glories, but it sounds as though he’s going to have fun trying.

McDermott - We dug in

Leeds United boss Brian McDermott felt his side dug in to come from behind and claim three points at Ipswich Town.
Leeds were under pressure for much of the first half, Ipswich deservedly going ahead through David McGoldrick on twelve minutes, but Luke Varney brought Leeds level just before the half hour and in demand Ross McCormack scored the winner for Leeds early in the second half and McDermott was delighted.
Speaking on the Football League Show, McDermott said, "I thought we dug in. Ipswich played really well for the opening 25 minutes and if they had scored a second goal, we would have been in trouble.
"We changed things around at half time and I thought after the winner from Ross, we did really well."
Leeds have now picked up seven points this season after going behind in games and they are showing a real resilience under Brian McDermott to grind out results.
The win for Leeds moves them into the play-off places at this early stage in the season. Leeds are fifth with eight points from their opening four games, they welcome championship favourites and early pace setters Queens Park Rangers at Elland Road next weekend.

Why I bought Leeds United

Arabian Business 25/8/13
By Neil King
Interest in european football is nothing new for the Gulf’s money men.
In recent years, the high-profile acquisitions of elite clubs such as Manchester City and Paris St-Germain have added to lucrative sponsorship deals signed with Barcelona, AC Milan, Real Madrid and Arsenal, giving leagues in England, Spain, Italy, France and beyond a distinctly Middle Eastern flavour.
But while groups such as Abu Dhabi United Group Investment and Development Limited, Qatar Investment Authority, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have targeted some of the continent’s heavyweights, Dubai-based GFH Capital have done things a little differently.
The private equity investment, advisory and fund management company made headlines in November 2012 when it finalised a £52m ($80.4m) deal to take over English second-tier club Leeds United, gaining a 100 percent shareholding.
Despite the rich history of the club, its ranking over recent years has been well below that of the Barcelonas and Real Madrids of the world, with financial woes and a lack of form sending Leeds from the Premier League to League One (the third tier) in just three years before its promotion to the Championship in 2010.
It’s a far cry from the club’s flirtation with the UEFA Champions League in the early years of the 20th century, and its last major success — winning the old First Division title in the 1991-1992 season, the year before the Premiership era.
And there are now generations of United fans who weren’t born during the golden age in the 1960s and 1970s, which brought both domestic and European success.
But rather than putting GFH Capital off acquiring the club, its recent downfall made it all the more attractive as an investment proposition.
“The term ‘sleeping giant’ is often bandied around, but I think in this case it really is true,” says David Haigh, deputy CEO of GFH Capital, managing director of Leeds United, and — perhaps most importantly — a life-long Leeds fan.
He continues: “People ask ‘why Leeds?’ And the short answer is because it’s Leeds United, full stop.
“Leeds is very special. It’s got a phenomenal history and we want to bring back those glory days. It’s got global reach on a par with top Premier League clubs, and it’s a fantastic investment opportunity in a sector which could gain the interest of new investors, as well as being good fun.
“It’s always nice to have an investment that everyone’s interested in — and it’s one where we feel we can advance and have an impact on the business and community surrounding it.”
Formerly known as Injazat Capital, Islamic private equity investor GFH Capital is a 100 percent subsidiary of Gulf Finance House, based in Bahrain, and is better known for its acquisitions in sectors that include real estate, telecoms and healthcare.
Its current portfolio includes Specialised Technical Services (STS), Solidarity Group Holding, and First Energy Bank among others, with Jordanian production house Rubicon perhaps the best known of its exited portfolio.
While variety has always been a key element to the company, according to Haigh, acquiring a football club seems to have truly broken the mould.
He says: “We’re a large group and we’re always looking at different types of investments for us because we not only want to put our own money into acquisitions, but also that of our investors from across the MENA region, and that means you have to be diverse.
“We’ve looked at things before Leeds, looked at things after, and we are always keen to look at areas we’ve not looked at before. Traditionally we’ve looked at things like real estate, banking, financial services, tech, media, telecoms and healthcare. Those were our specialisms, but we wanted to look into other areas.
“Sport is one area where there haven’t been many Islamic investments — certainly not to the degree of a full takeover by an Islamic investment firm — but we saw a huge opportunity there.
“As an Islamic investor there are challenges — obvious ones — attached to acquiring a football club, but we believed we could overcome them, and we have. Going forward it doesn’t impact the way we run the club, and it actually means we bring some important values to the club.”
Bringing values and money to a club might be one thing, but having the experience necessary to run it is quite another, especially when you have legions of fans to answer to. Just ask fans of Glasgow Rangers, Portsmouth, or Blackburn Rovers if they feel their clubs are being looked after properly.
So why do qualified solicitor Haigh and company feel they have what it takes to make a success of the Leeds United acquisition? He claims a gradual introduction to the inner workings and culture of the club has given them a head start.
“I’ve been involved with Leeds since May last year, in one way or another,” he explains. “We started the acquisition talks with Ken [Bates, former chairman of Leeds United], and I was the first person to meet him. That was more than a year ago. Since then we signed the documents in November and I become director, and I’ve been around the club very regularly since then. So for me, I’ve had a very good period of working with some fantastically experienced people in the club.
“We have a great team here, from senior management all the way down, so it’s not that I’ve just been catapulted in and hey presto I’m the MD. There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes that nobody sees. It is obviously different to what I trained to do, and there are intricacies to being a managing director here, but that’s the case for any MD role.
“I run GFH Capital in Dubai, with a great team of people, so it’s not the first CEO or MD job I’ve had. I’m here on a daily basis now, but this is still one of our group of investments, and we care deeply about doing the best with our investments, no matter what they are.”
As an investment, GFH Capital will be looking to make a good profit in the coming years, and financial statements show that more than half of the 100 percent holding have already been sold, with a ten percent stake going to Bahrain-based International Investment Bank, and the rest going to an unnamed buyer at a profit of $776,000.
But football club ownership can be a bit murky when it comes to the cold, hard numbers.
There are some who have argued that acquiring a football club is a one-way ticket to debt. Leading Kuwaiti businessman Bader Nasser Al Kharafi said the business model “does not make sense” for private firms as they do not offer enough return on investment, while UEFA were forced to rein in excessive spending in 2010 after it was revealed half of all European teams were running at a loss, with more than 20 percent described as recording “huge” deficits during the year previous.
In the 2011-2012 season, Manchester City’s wage bill alone was £202m ($316.37m), with a loss before tax for the club of £99m, and net debt of £58m. Amazingly, the loss before tax the year before that was £197m.
Leeds United’s own financial woes have been well documented, with its debt being estimated at more than £100m at one point before entering administration and plummeting down the leagues.
So is the investment doomed to fail for GFH Capital? Not according to Haigh.
“Ultimately, we’re a bank and we’re here to make money for investors. Why would we invest in something that’s going to make a loss? Of course we wouldn’t. This is primarily an investment, and investments need to show a profit. Why else would we put money into it?
“In terms of whether you can make football clubs turn a profit, of course you can. When looking at the finances of different clubs, and assessing why people buy the clubs, how they run them, and what type of clubs they buy, you can understand why people either make a loss or a profit.”
He adds that one of the appeals of Leeds is that it represented great value for money, offering more promise than most clubs outside the English Premier League.
“We were of the opinion, as were many others who were trying to buy Leeds, that is was one of those fantastic opportunities where you’ve got a club that’s undervalued and only needed a few small changes to make a big difference.
“We’ve restructured the management, paid the most cash amount for a player in the last seven years [Luke Murphy, signed from Crewe Alexandra for a fee thought to be in excess of £1m], improved the academy, and put money into the club.
“Leeds is one of very few clubs in the Championship that has a real possibility of becoming a self-sustaining investment, and we really want to get the club into that position. We are stewards of the club for the next generation and we want to honour that.”
As well as financial responsibilities, Haigh is also aware of his responsibilities to the club’s supporters, Leeds as a city, and the future of GFH Capital as a company.
On the latter point, he admits: “Has it had a good business impact on us? Yes it has. Do we get significant people looking for investments coming to us from outside MENA now? Yes we do. Interest has increased in MENASA and Europe — people know us more now. As a company we have growth plans, and this is one investment which really helps us with those.
“The club has phenomenal potential, not just from the business side, but the community side too. One of the things we did on day one was set up a plan of reintegrating the community. People in Leeds felt like the club wasn’t theirs any more, so we started a campaign of giving the club back to them.
“We did little things like ensuring social media was up and running. When we took over the club they didn’t even have things like Twitter and Facebook accounts. It was an old way of doing business.
“The club wasn’t as much a part of the community as you’d expect a one-club city to be. Every kid in town should be wearing a Leeds shirt, but in the city centre I counted more shirts of other clubs than Leeds shirts. There’s a lost generation of Leeds United fans, so we had to change that.
“Business-wise, if there are more bums on seats, then there’s more money for the club, so you can buy better players and increase your chances of getting back to the Premier League. It all ties in to benefit the club, the community, and the business.
Haigh admits there is a lot of work to do with Leeds, but he will be encouraged by the unbeaten start to the 2013-2014 season, recording a win and two draws at the time of writing.
And away from football, he appears to carry his commitment to community through various other projects.
As a business mentor for Seed Start-up — a Dubai-based start-up accelerator and seed stage venture capital fund — he helps entrepreneurs and small business owners with advice, contacts and networking.
“In Dubai there’s a huge potential for start-up businesses, especially compared to other places in the Middle East,” he says. “There’s a good business environment, it’s a hub, it’s a stable country, and people here understand business. I think everybody who can should help develop this region.”
Equally community-minded is his work in politics. Having set up Conservatives Abroad Dubai and serving as vice chairman of Gulf Tories, his affiliation is clear, but regardless of which party is in power in the UK, he says his intention is mainly to keep expat Brits in touch with home affairs.
“What I saw when I came out to Dubai was a huge number of British people and huge potential in terms of bridging the gap between the UK and UAE, both in terms of trade and community.
“A lot of what I have done is to make sure Brits know they can register to vote back home in elections — it keeps a good connection. Business-wise I try to bring politicians out to the UAE to expose them to the business community, and keep things active there.”
On this evidence it seems Haigh is true to his word when it comes to communities — something from which Leeds United fans will surely draw encouragement.
Only time will tell whether he can help restore United to its former glories, but it sounds as though he’s going to have fun trying.

Ipswich Town 1 Leeds United 2: McDermott hails McCormack impact

YEP 24/8/13
Brian McDermott hailed the impact of striker Ross McCormack as Leeds continued their impressive start to the Championship season with a 2-1 victory at Ipswich Town.
McCormack played an integral part in Leeds’ equaliser, as Luke Varney crashed home to level David McGoldrick’s 11th-minute opener, before the striker celebrated his recall to the Scotland squad with a winner three minutes after the restart.
McCormack has been the subject of a reported three bids from Middlesbrough but McDermott is unwilling to sell given his importance to the side.
The manager explained: “Ross is a quality player who scored a quality goal.
“I don’t know how many bids we have had - I leave that to the owners and the player’s agent. But I want him to stay and Ross wants to stay.
“I think selling him to another Championship club sends out the wrong message.”
Aside from praising his striker, whose talks over a new deal at Leeds to warn off potential suitors continues, McDermott was equally delighted with his side’s gutsy performance.
Ipswich dominated the first 25 minutes, scoring with a lethal 20-yard finish from McGoldrick and then seeing a lovely curling effort from left-back Aaron Cresswell cannon off the crossbar.
But after Varney equalised and McCormack grabbed a winner that Leeds overall deserved, McDermott said: “They were on top for the first 25 minutes and we had to change our shape in the second half.
“We have been 1-0 down (in three league games) this season, but that happens in football. There is good resilience and desire in the dressing room I thought we were good value for the result.”
Town boss Mick McCarthy was disappointed his side didn’t capitalise further during the dominant opening throes of the match - and also admitted his keeper Scott Loach came in and apologised to the dressing room after reacting slowly to McCormack’s skidding winner.
McCarthy said: “We should have put them to the sword when we were on top in the first half.
“But then they got a fortuitous equaliser which changed the course of the game.
“The second goal was a real poor one to concede, from the moment we gave the ball away to the shot.
“He (Loach) came in and apologised - he should have saved it and he knows that. There is no point dancing around the issue.”
As his own side reflect on a tough Championship start that has seen them accrue just three points from a possible 12, McCarthy paid tribute to their opponents.
He added: “Leeds have got some good experienced players and the front three (Varney, McCormack and Noel Hunt) are a real handful. “They defended doggedly in the second half but we should have made them pay in the first half.
“If it had ended up 1-1, we would have taken that.”

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Leeds United: Recruitment tactics give new players chance to develop - Hay

YEP 24/8/13
by Phil Hay
It was no great secret that Leeds United wanted Gordon Greer. It was no great secret either that Greer fancied the move. But Brighton refused to deal and the clubs moved on. Greer signed a new contract at The Amex last week.
The fall-back for Leeds was Scott Wootton, a 21-year-old centre-back who cut his teeth in Manchester United’s academy. They are poles apart Greer and Wootton: one a Scotland international who turns 33 in December, the other an England youth international with little in the way of comparable experience. Wootton is not a like-for-like replacement.
That speaks volumes about Brian McDermott’s approach to the transfer market. You can surmise from the change of tack that his intention this summer was not to sign a generic, experienced defender. He bid for Greer because he liked Greer and when that deal went south before United’s game at Leicester City he resisted the temptation to sign an alternative who, for want of a better phrase, fitted the bill. There are numerous workmanlike centre-backs out there, none of them difficult to find.
Matt Mills is the perfect example, McDermott’s former captain at Reading. Bolton Wanderers will release Mills on a season-long loan to any club who can pay half of his £25,000-a-week wages. They hoped quietly all summer that Leeds would be that club. The move was easily justified – a player who, like Noel Hunt, McDermott had relied on before to good effect. Someone who in principle he could trust.
Back in the real world, Bolton are the second of two teams who have paid exorbitant wages for Mills and then found themselves punting him on a year later. There was a risk of Leeds walking into that one. Mills excelled under McDermott’s management but he and McDermott went their separate ways in 2011. This is a footballer whose value appears to have peaked; an unimaginative target. The obvious ones are sometimes the worst.
Wootton is different; an unknown quantity in many respects but an unfinished article too. In amongst their few summer signings, Leeds have recruited a few of those – Wootton aged 21, Luke Murphy aged 23 and Matt Smith aged 24. How good they will be is a matter of debate but all three have the scope to develop and improve. Combined with Sam Byram, Tom Lees and others of equal standing, there is the potential at Elland Road for the core of settled, established team to grow over time. It is precisely how a club with United’s limited budget should be operating.
If money were no object, Leeds ought to have pushed the boat out and paid what it took to sign Curtis Davies, by far the best centre-back in the Championship last season. But money is an object and Leeds are managing it tightly. Davies costs too much at £2.25m so why not seek out an option who might, if luck and ability allow, morph into that calibre of defender? As part of a three-year plan, which United’s owner GFH Capital appears to be pursuing, it beats throwing thousands of pounds at someone in his 30s who is starting to tour the lower-league circuit.
Leeds have been down this road before and with some success. In 2008 they picked up Bradley Johnson, Neil Kilkenny, Robert Snodgrass and Luciano Becchio. Between them, those four players had an average age under 24 and mixed experience of domestic leagues in a number of different countries. It was that recruitment drive which underpinned promotion from League One in 2010 and the near-miss in the Championship in 2011 – a season which would have been different had Leeds put together something resembling a defence. When money is tight it pays to scout well and it pays to sign players with longevity. One of McDermott’s reputed strengths is his ability to pick out bargains with pedigree.
None of this is to say that the transfer window has been perfect or that McDermott’s business should cease with the signing of Wootton. There is always a need for marquee transfers and a balanced squad with the right amount of nous. Leeds have no wingers, or none that McDermott is willing to use, and without them they will find chances as scarce as they have been in their first three league matches.
But McDermott’s position is like GFH Capital’s – a complex situation need not prevent him from making an impact or playing the long game. After signing Murphy for £1m, McDermott used a phrase which resonated – “one for today, one for tomorrow” – and he should hold to that policy. It’s not foolproof but in the circumstances it makes sense.

Boro may cool interest in Leeds’s McCormack

Yorkshire Post 24/8/13
Tony Mowbray has hinted that he may be ready to finally admit defeat in his pursuit of Leeds United striker Ross McCormack.
Middlesbrough have had three bids of between £1m and £1.5m for the Scotland international rejected by their Championship 
rivals over the past fortnight.
Leeds boss Brian McDermott said in his weekly press conference on Thursday that they had resumed contract negotiations with McCormack and that in rejecting three bids for the player they had made their feelings known.
Coincidentally, the potential availability of former Leeds striker Luciano Becchio at Norwich City could also help Mowbray move on from McCormack, with the 
Argentinian surplus to requirements at Carrow Road.
When asked about transfer targets in his press conference yesterday, Mowbray said: “The deals have to be right and in the meantime we get on with the team we’ve got, which is doing fine.
“The conversations continue with the clubs that we’re talking to. It will only intensify as next week starts to run away and September 2 looms, because some of the deals we have on the table to some of these teams, they will know that offer will be off the table when time runs out and they either need the money or they don’t.
“We have said enough is enough and moved on. I’ve tried to get across without being too direct that we are talking to other clubs and if one deal comes in that we like we will just forget and never go back.
“I don’t think it’s right to say that applies to him (McCormack) but we have irons in the fire. That’s not a veiled threat, it’s reality and I’m sure they know that.
“You can’t only have one target in football. We are pursuing different avenues and hopefully one falls in that we like.
“We have a valuation of footballers and once you start going beyond that you are going into water you shouldn’t be (in).
“There’s one or two players we’ve enquired about and the numbers quoted back have been ridiculous so we just forget about them and move on.”
Ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Wigan, in which Boro look for a second away win of the season, Mowbray said: “Hopefully we can finish strongly before the international break arrives.”

Scott Wootton: Leeds United ticked all the boxes for me

YEP 23/8/13
United defender Scott Wootton says it was an easy decision for him to leave Old Trafford for Elland Road. Phil Hay reports.
Big, bold and brave decisions have shaped Scott Wootton’s footballing career. His transfers to date are not those of a man who believes in unbreakable boundaries: Liverpool to Manchester United and Manchester United to Leeds United.
The first was more delicate than the second, or so Wootton says. When he left Anfield for Old Trafford in 2007 he gambled on the fact that as a 15-year-old defender, he had no standing in the game and no reputation. His transfer to Leeds on Tuesday was pushed through by a manager dangling senior football in front of him. “A no-brainer,” Wootton called it, regardless of what he was leaving behind.
Manchester United looked like less of a dead-end for him than Liverpool had. He made his debut for the Premier League champions last season and played twice in the Champions League. At Anfield he was confronted by a different scenario where talented youth-team players were stuck in a bottleneck created by heavy investment in foreign juniors.
The decision to jump from Merseyside still created anxiety in a way that Tuesday’s transfer didn’t. By the time Wootton signed a three-year contract with Leeds, he was fixated by the move. The rivalry between United and those across the Pennines did not come into it. “They’ll welcome him here with open arms,” said manager Brian McDermott.
Wootton hopes so. “I can’t answer for the fans but I hope it’s not a problem,” he said. “I’ve had a good education at Man United but I’m a Leeds United player now and I’ll be giving everything for the shirt. It’s all I can do. I’m sure they won’t hold it against me.
“Man United’s a big club but I felt that this was exactly the right time for me to move on. Hopefully I’ll be getting more regular football and at the age I’m at that’s what I need. It wasn’t a very difficult decision. It was quite straightforward.
“It would have been difficult if I wasn’t sure about coming here or – no disrespect to other clubs – if I wasn’t going to a club as big as Leeds.
“I might have had to think about it more. But Leeds tick all the boxes as far as I’m concerned. They’ve got everything.”
The same could be said about both of his previous clubs but his reluctance to stagnate is obvious. He quit Liverpool at a point when their Under-18s were a dominant force in England but the route to their first team seemed impossibly congested. On both occasions he has been brutally honest about his prospects.
“Leaving Liverpool was probably a more difficult decision,” he said. “I was 15 and I hadn’t really done anything at that stage so to make the move wasn’t easy.
“I’d been at Liverpool for four or five years but they’d won the FA Youth Cup for two years on the run and players from that team were struggling to even get into the reserves.
“I was an Under-14 at that stage and I felt that the path into the first team was blocked by quite a large influx of foreign players who weren’t necessarily better than the players coming through the youth team. Again, it was quite a brave decision for me to make.”
Wootton was given a glowing reference by Paddy Crerand yesterday, the former Manchester United player describing his transfer as a “terrific bit of business” for Leeds, and McDermott spoke with new Manchester United manager David Moyes repeatedly while negotiations played out. Wootton was appearing regularly for Manchester United’s Under-21s – McDermott watched him in a derby between the Old Trafford club and Manchester City earlier this month – and they demanded not only a fee for the centre-back but a sell-on clause in his contract at Elland Road.
The appeal to McDermott, aside from Wootton’s talent, was his flexibility - a defender who can play in a central position or at right-back and, in McDermott’s view, in the centre of midfield. He also sees Wootton as someone who can slot into his team immediately. “He’s come here to play, which is true of all the players,” McDermott said. “I watched him 10 days ago and he’s ready, definitely.”
Wootton had other offers to him but, much like Luke Murphy before him, found McDermott infectious and the idea of joining Leeds appealing. As many as three other clubs liked the look of him but United forced the transfer over the line after McDermott spoke with his board to encourage them to tie down a signing which he claimed “increases the value of our squad.”
Wootton said: “There were a few clubs interested but once I knew Leeds were interested they were definitely top of my list. “With a couple of the clubs I knew I wouldn’t be going there to play in the first team and that wasn’t something I was after at this stage of my career. I need first-team football.
“I’m a young lad but I’m very hungry to play. It’s a massive challenge and one I’m really looking forward to. It took a little while to get it done and I knew about the interest probably two weeks ago. Things moved quite quickly early on and I’m not sure what the complications were but now that everything’s done and signed, I’m made up.
“I spoke to the gaffer and he just said ‘you’re perfect for me.’ He seems like such a good guy and a good manager. He was a big influence.”
McDermott might resist the option of handing Wootton his debut at Ipswich Town tomorrow. Tom Lees and Jason Pearce have occupied the centre of defence since the start of the season and are likely to stay there. But the Championship is not a new environment for Wootton. He has played at this level with Nottingham Forest and Peterborough United and was happy to return, despite tasting the Champions League last season. “He wants to kick his career on,” said McDermott.
“If anything the Championship’s probably got better,” Wootton said. “It’ll be the same style as before and the teams will set up in the same way but the personnel gets stronger. You hear a lot of people saying that but it’s generally true.”

Byram out to prove his fitness

YEP 23/8/13
Leeds United are ready to throw Sam Byram into a youth-team fixture and give him the chance to prove his fitness with the club continuing to resist the option of surgery.
Byram completed a full training session on Thursday (Aug 22) and is likely to be used in a forthcoming development-squad game as Leeds look to make a final call on whether the defender requires an operation on his long-standing hip injury.
The club’s player of year seemed likely to go under the knife after being sent for an injection in his troublesome hip at the start of the season.
Manager Brian McDermott said: “I don’t want to say too much about him and let’s just take it day by day but at some point we’re going to have to play him in some type of game to see how he looks.”
Byram is United’s only major fitness concern ahead of Saturday’s clash with Ipswich.
Midfielder Paul Green, who suffered a back injury against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, is fit to play and Stephen Warnock, Lee Peltier and Tom Lees all appear to have shaken off minor problems.

Wootton’s strength of character helped pave his route to Leeds

Yorkshire Post 23/8/13
by Leon Wobschall
NEVER let it be said that new Leeds United signing Scott Wootton is scared of making big decisions.
The central defender may only be 21, but he has crossed bitter divides in football not once but twice in his embryonic career.
His move along the M62 from the red side of Manchester to Leeds on Wednesday ensured he became just the eighth player to switch from Old Trafford to Elland Road – following in the illustrious footsteps of the likes of Johnny Giles and Gordon Strachan.
The last player to switch between the two arch rivals was Liam Miller in 2005.
It is fair to say the main rancour has been reserved for players heading from West Yorkshire to Greater Manchester, something to which messrs Smith, Cantona, Ferdinand, McQueen and Jordan will testify.
While moves between Leeds and Manchester United can be classed as infrequent, a transfer between players at Anfield and Old Trafford is pretty much unheard of, the last one being Phil Chisnall, who headed across the East Lancs Road to Liverpool almost fifty years ago in 1964.
But Wootton, albeit in his guise as an Academy player at Anfield, did make the journey from Merseyside to Manchester, joining the Red Devils in 2007 after turning down a youth contract at Liverpool.
Then, just as now, the only concern for the Birkenhead-born player was his career development, and the centre-back did not hesitate in joining Leeds when he heard of the club’s interest, turning down three other Championship sides to sign.
Hopeful that his previous professional allegiance to the Premier League champions will not be a factor with Leeds supporters, Wootton – behind such as Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Jonny Evans and Phil Jones in the Old Trafford pecking order, said: “I have had a good education, but I am a Leeds United player and I will be giving all I can for the shirt.
“It is all I can do. I’m sure they will not hold it against me (being at Manchester United).
“There were a few clubs interested, but once I knew Leeds were interested they were definitely top of my list. They’ve got great fans here and why wouldn’t you want to play in front of 30,000? It is a no-brainer.”
On his earlier controversial move, he added: “That was probably a more difficult decision at the time. I was 15 and I hadn’t really done anything at that stage, so to make that move wasn’t easy.
“I had been at Liverpool for four or five years. I just felt that Liverpool had won the FA Youth Cup for two years on the run and players from that team were struggling to even get into the reserves.
“I was Under-14 at that stage and I felt that the path into the first team was blocked by quite a large influx of foreign players who were not necessarily better than the players coming through the youth team.”
Wootton’s CV is already impressive and incorporates Champions League experience, having featured for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in the group stages against Romanian side Cluj last term. In terms of character, Leeds manager Brian McDermott insists Wootton also ticks the right boxes.
On landing Wootton, who has joined on a three-year contract for an undisclosed fee with the Red Devils having inserted a sell-on clause in the deal, McDermott said: “It has been going on for a little while and it is good that we don’t have to talk about our fourth signing because it has been made. It is bordering on relief for me. It was a position I was nervous about because of the lack of numbers. We have brought in someone with pedigree.
“I don’t think (moving to Leeds from Manchester United) will be a problem. He’s a Leeds United player and that’s what our fans will see. He’s wearing our badge, our shirt. He will be welcomed with open arms.
“He is a good defender, he can pass it off both feet and he is a really good character. I have asked two or three managers who managed him what he’s like as a character and they told me he is first class. One of the most important things is that he wants to get better and wants to improve. He wants to kick his career on now.”
McDermott confirmed the club are continuing in talks with striker Ross McCormack regarding a new contract and feels the resolve shown in rebuffing the persistent advances of Middlesbrough, who saw another big-money offer turned down this week, underlines the club’s strong desire to keep the Scot.
He said: “The club are talking to him (McCormack) regarding his own contract.
“Middlesbrough are making offers and the club are turning down the offers and that tells you something. We want him to be here.”