Thursday, 31 March 2011

McCormack prepared to battle for a place

Ross McCormack admitted today that he was in a worse position at Leeds United than he had been at Cardiff City – but claimed he still had time to make a success of his move to Elland Road.

The striker expressed frustration over a career in Leeds which he said was “still to get going” but revealed he had turned down a number of chances to leave the club on loan in order to fight for selection.

McCormack has not appeared in any of the squads chosen by Simon Grayson for United’s last three games but the club’s manager is contemplating his recall this weekend following McCormack’s resurgence in the reserves and the three-match suspension imposed on Billy Paynter earlier this month.

Grayson made one of the biggest investments of his tenure at Elland Road when he signed McCormack from Cardiff in August but, seven months on, the forward’s starts number four and his appearances 16. He has not scored for Leeds or played at all since their win at Bristol City on February 12.
Paynter, however, will begin his ban during Saturday’s Championship fixtures against Nottingham Forest, creating space on a bench which has recently offered no room for McCormack. Grayson signed Jake Livermore from Tottenham Hotspur on the last day of the emergency loan window.

It is a deal which could fill out United’s quota of substitutes once more, but seven goals in five reserve matches have revitalised McCormack’s prospects with eight games of the season remaining.

“I played 80 times in two years at Cardiff and I came here because I felt I wasn’t playing often enough,” McCormack said.

“In a way, I’m in a worse situation at Leeds because I’m not really playing at all but I’ve still got time to change that and I’m looking for a chance.

“I’ve had a few opportunities to go out on loan, in January and a couple of weeks ago, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do.

“This is where I want to be playing and, as a Scottish international and someone who’s seen a couple of Championship run-ins before, I think I can offer the team some decent experience.

“The move hasn’t gone as I imagined it would and I’m still to get going here. But the assistant manager (Leeds coach Ian Miller) was saying to me the other day that I look sharp and I seem as if I’ve got the bit between my teeth. That’s how I feel.”

That attitude had shone through in McCormack’s run of appearances for the club’s second string, for whom he is their leading scorer.

The forward missed a penalty in Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat to Middlesbrough – a result which might see Leeds relinquish the totesport.com League East Division title – but his finishing touch was in evidence earlier this month, culminating in four goals scored in a 6-0 rout of Hartlepool United.

The 24-year-old’s problem was the consistency of Grayson’s squad selection and the sheer number of players attempting to earn their manager’s approval.

Paul Connolly and Lloyd Sam were similarly unable to ensure their inclusion against Sheffield United on March 19 and Grayson is in possession of more professionals than he can fit into a matchday pool of 18.

But Paynter’s suspension, incurred by him for an alleged headbutt on Sheffield United’s Shane Lowry, has created one vacancy ahead of the visit of Nottingham Forest to Elland Road.

Beyond Paynter’s ban, Grayson’s decisions might also be dictated by the condition of those players who have been involved in international games since Leeds’ 2-0 defeat at Bramall Lane. McCormack said: “Billy’s out but that doesn’t mean I’ll automatically come in. The manager’s got other players to consider and he’s signed Jake Livermore so it’s not a foregone conclusion that I’ll be involved (against Forest). But I’m not just looking to get onto the bench. I really want to be starting games.

“I’ve done what I can to make myself noticed and all you can do in the reserves is score goals and help the team win games. The missed penalty was one of those things and it’s not the end of the world.

“We’d been practising penalties on Monday and I’ve got a thing about taking penalties in training. For whatever reason, I don’t like doing it. It sounds daft but, because of that, I knew I was going to miss (against Middlesbrough).

“But in the last couple of games I’ve been scoring goals and putting away my chances. I’d be confident of doing the same for the first team if I get the call.”

McCormack’s peripheral status at Elland Road created much interest in him in the run-up to the closure of the emergency loan window. Derby County made an attempt to take him to Pride Park and Scunthorpe United were similarly keen on signing McCormack in the short term.

Grayson had previously declared his intention to retain the Scot and was never likely to change his mind once Leeds ruled out an appeal against Paynter’s red card. Paynter was preparing to attend a club function in the Norwegian capital of Oslo while McCormack turned out against Boro, demonstrating his fitness and a willing attitude in a game of few chances. The early stages of McCormack’s time at Elland Road were affected by a minor injury but he has been available since October and said his absence could no longer be attributed to that problem.

“I’ve been fit for a long time,” he said. “I hear talk about how I’ve been struggling with injuries but I haven’t been injured since October.

“We’re almost in April now so to use that as a reason for me being out the team doesn’t really stand up.

“I’m well aware that a lot of other players have been in great form but I hope I’ve given myself a bit of a look-in.

“The best time to be involved is at this end of the season, when results really matter.

“I don’t know what’s in store for me but I want to play a part.”

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