Leeds United are talking the talk, so it is reported, ahead of what could and should be a busy summer transfer window. The question now, assuming that we believe some of the tempting names being bandied about, is: can they actually walk the walk, delivering signings that will radically reshape the squad ahead of yet another season outside the top flight?
On the pessimistic side of this debate, it has to be said that, after the past several years, we’re getting used to “having our expectations managed” (some would call this “being lied to”). Time and again, transfer windows have opened to the accompaniment of earnest declarations of intent and ambition – only to slam shut again with promises unfulfilled and the squad either not noticeably stronger, or sometimes actually weakened. It’s annoying and frustrating – but maybe, just maybe, that won’t happen this time. So far, after all, under the stewardship of Andrea Radrizzani, more actual money has been spent on transfer incomings than for many a season past – though much, if not all of this could be said to have been funded by high-profile departures like Chris Wood. You might even argue that our cash has been flashed, not wisely, but too well – yet the real problem for United has been the stifling effect of the club’s wage structure, effectively ruling out many of the better performers, who sordidly insist on going to clubs where they’ll get more money.
So, looking on the optimistic side now, it’s mildly encouraging at least to hear whispers that the upper wage limit might just be less parsimonious this time around. That, if true, would provide a whole new dimension of possibilities for United’s recruitment process, in that we’d be able to attract a better quality of player – in theory, anyway. Some of the names mooted would seem to suggest that such a loosening of the salary purse-strings may indeed be under consideration. Both Abel Hernández of Hull City, and Birmingham ‘keeper David Stockdale currently command salaries that would have put them out of United’s reach in previous windows. But now, both are being talked about as serious prospects, with respected Yorkshire Evening Post reporter Phil Hay being quite clear that there is some substance behind the Hernández story. This surely indicates that a change of policy in terms of wages could indeed be possible.
By common consent, the Leeds squad needs significant surgery this summer, with some drastic snipping needed as well as some high quality grafting. Getting rid of what has been judged unhealthy excess flab in the squad may be a task in itself, with some unwisely lengthy contracts having been lavishly handed out during last summer’s mainly bargain basement splurge. And, clearly, the desperate need for quality in several areas of the park will not be met on the cheap. Or, at least, we’ll have to hope that the powers that be are not daft enough to suppose that it can.
On the face of it, the recruitment of Hernández and Stockdale would represent a hell of a good start, with perhaps the return of Kyle Bartley and a new deal for our tyro left-back Tom Pearce, a player who made such an impact towards the end of the season just gone, into the bargain. There are other noteworthy names in the mix, some of whom might appear more likely than others. But, overall, if only half of the possibilities being spoken of actually came to fruition, with a bit of dead wood clearance too, the Leeds squad would have a distinctly leaner and fitter look about it come August, and quite possibly a more generous smattering of quality. And that would be nice.
Always assuming, of course, that we’re not being toyed with yet again, having those expectations ruthlessly exploited and then dashed, for the umpteenth time. But, surely – they must know they can’t get away with that again, not and keep the 30,000 crowds coming, anyway. They really must know that – mustn’t they?