EXPECT Simon Grayson to be busy placing big red circles around a selection of stellar names available on the released players list and crossing out those of several others – with mobile phone close at hand.
It’s that time of year where speculation goes into overdrive and internet messageboards are awash with signing rumours.Behind the scenes agents frantically hawk their clients’ wares to prospective suitors, with scores of out-of-contract players keeping abreast of developments by the comfort of their sofa or some warm and secluded far foreign beach – if they are lucky.The bargaining business has begun, with Whites boss Grayson confirming after the final game of the campaign at QPR that he is seeking to augment his squad with some quality and experienced recruits – most likely on free transfers.His hit-list of targets is likely to involve the names of several prominent candidates available under the Bosman ruling who have failed to agree terms with their current clubs and are heading for pastures new.The pendulum works both ways with midfield duo Bradley Johnson and Neil Kilkenny yet to resolve their United futures, although as each passing day goes by, the likelihood of them remaining at Leeds grows shorter.And while the last thing Leeds will be doing is breaking the proverbial bank, Grayson is confident that the gravitas and standing of Leeds United will continue to speak for itself in his efforts to put together a squad fully capable of pushing that extra yard for a cherished promotion and return to the Premiership Promised Land in 2011-12.
On his summer plans, Grayson said: “We probably need to add a little bit more experience. There have been times this season where we’ve shot ourselves in the foot.
“I know what I need to get. We’ve got one or two players out of contract who will leave of their own accord and other players who will leave because we aren’t offering them new contracts. That happens at all football clubs; you lose some good players and bad players. But we’ll bring good ones in on frees and hopefully not too many bad ones.
“Players who are going to come to the football club in the future will come on our terms and not just for the money because we are not one of the biggest payers. But we’ve got the attraction of a football club who are moving forward with a fantastic fanbase.
“We’ve never found it difficult attracting players because of the size of the club and facilities. I have agents ringing me all the time wanting players to come and play for our football club, because it’s such a big one.
“Our attendances have been something like 28,000 this season and in terms of the fanbase, we’re probably one of the top five or six in the country, never mind in the Championship.”
The released lists have been finalised at virtually all Championship clubs, with beaten play-off semi-finalists Cardiff yesterday announcing that their star duo of English international Jay Bothroyd and ex-Rangers winger Chris Burke will be leaving the club after failing to agree fresh terms.
Everton, Sunderland and Fulham are among a clutch of Premier League clubs reportedly chasing Bothroyd, while Burke – so impressive in the Bluebirds’ 4-0 romp at Elland Road in October – is tipped to seek a move back to his native Scotland.
Nottingham Forest, facing a fight to keep hold of several off-contract players including Robert Earnshaw and French midfield enforcer Guy Moussi, are set to announce their released list shortly, with the likes of Derby target Nathan Tyson also expected to be heading for the exit.
As will Reading and Swansea following their priority business in the Championship play-off final at Wembley on Monday afternoon, with the future of Swans midfielder and play-off semi-final hero Darren Pratley – under the microscope all season with the Londoner’s deal expiring next month – set to finally be decided.
As with others off-contract, Pratley has been free to talk to other clubs since January, with stories in the north west suggesting he may have already held discussions over a close-season switch to Owen Coyle’s Bolton Wanderers.
Pratley has also been linked with the likes of Newcastle United and Wigan and has also attracted firm interest from Forest and West Ham, according to reports.
One man who has already swapped the Championship for the Premiership this week is big Ipswich Town defender Gareth McAuley, who has rebuffed interest from Glasgow Rangers to join West Bromwich Albion.
The Tractor Boys’ other leading player confirmed to be heading for new employers after failing to thrash out terms is players’ player of the year David Norris, who United are in the market for along with the likes of Forest and Hull City. The hard-working midfielder is likely to be seeking a three-year deal.
Nigel Pearson’s Tigers are in the box seat to land another in-demand engine-room grafter in the shape of Crystal Palace’s Neil Danns, whose agent confirmed last week to the YEP that Leeds haven’t – as yet – enquired about him.
The Liverpudlian, impressive in the Eagles’ 1-0 Easter Monday victory over the Whites, which sealed their Championship safety for another year, is virtually certain to leave Selhurst Park under the Bosman ruling, despite boss Dougie Freedman’s desperate efforts to keep him.
It remains to be seen if United’s interest in a couple of former midfield targets last summer – Sheffield United’s Leeds-born destroyer Nick Montgomery or Watford skipper John Eustace – resurfaces, with the future of both up in the air.
Derby have been linked with a move for the latter – who still has a year left on his Hornets deal – as a direct replacement for the retiring Robbie Savage.
But Leeds, mindful of the situation with Johnson and Kilkenny, could yet resurrect their interest in the 31-year-old, who decided against a move to Elland Road at the 11th hour last summer.
With the Blades needing to slash their reported £12m wage bill following relegation, Montgomery is one of a host of senior players who could leave Bramall Lane along with the likes of fellow midfielder Stephen Quinn.
Another experienced schemer with a fair amount of pedigree who will be heading elsewhere this summer is Middlesbrough’s out-of-contract Argentine Julio Arca, Boro supporters’ player of the year for 2010-11.
Boro will embark on a mass cost-cutting exercise this summer with the 30-year-old, whose lucrative five-year deal at the Riverside Stadium is due to expire next month, one of those who will be moving on along with striker Kris Boyd, on reported wages of £25,000 a week.