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One in one out on quiet final day of the window
Friday, 2nd Feb 2024 15:45 by Tim Whelan

As ever, there was plenty of speculation flying around on the final day of the transfer window, but the only deals that we actually got over the line were both loans, with Connor Roberts arriving from Burnley and Ian Poveda heading out to Sheffield Wednesday.

There were two reasons why we didn’t do that much business during the last month. One was the need to stay within the Championship’s profit and sustainability rules, so we didn’t have a huge amount to spend in wages or transfer fees. The other was to persuade potential targets that they might get a reasonable number of games in a squad that has plenty of depth in a few areas.

If you’re wondering why on earth Fabio Carvalho would rather go to Hull rather than sign for Leeds that’s why, given the way Rutter has shown how well he is suited to the number 10 role in the formation we’ve adopted since the new year. So the club had to prioritise the area where the squad was weakest, which was the full-back positions.

The need for a new right-back was obvious, with the departures of Spence and Ayling for different reasons, and Drameh having no intention of coming back from his loan at Birmingham. Archie Gray has mostly done well there, but he remains a makeshift full-back and we could do with the option of playing him in midfield.

We looked at several options, the first being Japan’s Daiki Hashioka, until he suffered a minor injury. We then asked about Nottingham Forest’s Neco Williams and West Ham’s Ben Johnson, but both clubs preferred to hang onto their players. And so the attention turned to Burnley’s Connor Roberts. The deal still needed Burnley’s signing of Lorenz Assignon to go through before they would release Roberts, but all was in place by the end of the day.

Roberts was a key member of the Burnley side who won the Championship title last season, and the 28 year-old has joined us until the end of the season. We can add him to our expanding collection of Welshmen, as he has over 50 caps for the principality, and he is also our fourth player who has been at Swansea at some stage of his career.

As with all our other signings, he was making all the right noises when he spoke to the club’s official website. “I think for me personally, it’s a massive opportunity to come and play for such a big club like Leeds United. It’s something I couldn’t say no to and to hopefully be part of something special come the end of the season is what I am aiming for, and everyone in that dressing room is aiming for.”

“If I can contribute both on and off the pitch in every way possible, hopefully we can all be smiling. I have got plenty of friends here who play here and tell me about what an amazing club it is, it’s something that I couldn’t turn down. To even get to play a handful of games for this massive club, it will be an absolute privilege.”

Left-back has also been a problem for us for most of the season, but it looks like we have opted to hope that at least one of Firpo and Byram will be fit for each one of our remaining games. And if they do get injured at the same time, new boy Roberts can also do a job on the left flank. The rest of our business during the window was to allow some of the players on the fringe of the squad the opportunity to get some game time elsewhere.

Ian Poveda’s loan will be down to the difficulty of forcing his way into the side when has four quality wide players ahead of him in the pecking order, despite the form he showed in pre-season. He got a rare outing off the bench in last Saturday’s FA Cup game, and if anything was a little too keen to take the chance to impress, as he ran around enthusiastically, but always seemed to be too rushed when he got to the ball.

I presume we’ve only sanctioned a loan deal because we want to keep the option of bringing him back into the fold next summer, which we might need to do if we don’t go up. In that scenario it’s possible that Anthony’s loan deal won’t be renewed, and we might need to transfer out at least one of the other wingers to make ends meet.

One player who did leave permanently earlier in the week was Leo Hejde, who has gone to Sunderland, in line with that club’s strategy of stockpiling all the younger players they can get. Hejde, struggled when playing out of position at left-back at the start of the season, and has several players ahead of him in the queue for his preferred role as a central defender.

We did look for other options in central defence, but bids for Ben Godfrey of Everton and Leicester’s Harry Souttar came to nothing. Which is good news for Charlie Cresswell, one young defender who will be staying, and seems to have made his peace with Daniel Farke. He did ask to leave to get more playing time elsewhere, but we refused to sell him to promotion rivals Ipswich, and no other club met the £4m asking price.

Liam Cooper was also told he has to stay, even though the 32 year-old will be out of contract at the end of the season. It seems the club captain’s personality is needed in the dressing room if not out on the field, and until Struijk is back from injury will at least need the option of playing him. Especially if we want to maintain the left footed/right footed combination in central defence.

And finally, under 21 players Sean McGurk and Jack Jenkins also left the club this week on permanent deals. Both are now in their early 20s, so if there was any chance of them breaking into the first team squad it would have happened by now, and their careers have got to the stage where they can’t wait around for some future opportunity that may never come.

Will this piece of fine-tuning be enough to provide a squad that is good enough to secure promotion in May? We’ll find out soon enough.


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