SIMON GRAYSON walked into Leeds United’s press conference at Thorp Arch yesterday to receive a playful update from the assembled media on the latest bookmakers’ odds of him taking over as Leicester City manager.
Following Sven Goran Eriksson’s sacking from the East Midlands club on Monday, Grayson – who played 175 league games for Leicester between 1992 and 1997 – has been among those tipped to replace the former England manager.
“You’re 25-1 at the moment,” said one reporter.
“Bloody 25s,” laughed Grayson. “That’s a joke. I should be a lot lower than that.”
Another scribe called out: “I’ve seen you at 8-1 with Ladbrokes.”
To which Leeds boss Grayson – pride restored and tongue in cheek – quipped: “That’s more like it. Look, I was a legend down there. A bloody legend.”
Grayson, whose Leeds United side could go joint-second in the Championship with victory at Birmingham tonight, has some cherished memories of his time at Leicester.
He was part of their 1997 League Cup-winning side and also that year was named player of the season.
But anyone who thinks he has designs on returning for a managerial stint in the Midlands is sorely mistaken.
Asked whether, in all seriousness, he would rule himself out if the opportunity came along, Grayson clarified his position rather neatly: “It’s a club that’s very close to my heart, but this club (Leeds) is far closer to my heart.”
Grayson went on: “Obviously it was a surprise to everybody when it happened (Sven’s sacking).
“They’re only two points off the play-offs, although, having said that, nothing surprises you in football these days.
“They’ve lost a couple of games recently, but things can change around dramatically.
“But football is a results-oriented business, and, if you lose a couple of games, you can soon be looking over your shoulder.
“I’ve had an affiliation with Leicester in the past, but my sole aim is to do well for Leeds.
“I’m totally focused on Leeds and that focus has never dwindled during my time at the club.
“I’m delighted things are going well here and I want to continue doing the job I’ve set out to do.
“That is my one and only objective.”
On recent evidence, Grayson is making rather a good fist of doing the job he has set out to do.
A seven-match unbeaten league run has propelled his side to fifth in the Championship – just three points off the automatic promotion places – and installed them as genuine contenders for a return to the Premier League.
Tonight’s match is effectively a game in hand and, as such, a potential bonus-in-waiting.
A third successive away win would certainly send another strong message that Grayson’s men mean business after a slightly underwhelming start to the season.
“I think one or two people got a bit carried away with where we were at the start of the season,” he added.
“I was always stating that I was happy with the way we were playing, we just weren’t getting the breaks, we were down to 10 men, we were getting deflected goals going against us, and so on.
“But we were playing decent against some good teams in a difficult period for us, and we’ve kept on doing the things we’ve been doing and getting the results we’ve deserved.
“We’re a match for any team on our day and have proved that this year.”
Asked whether a climb to joint-second would be significant as Leeds hunt another three points at St Andrew’s, Grayson made clear: “It’s only significant come the first week in May.
“That’s when it counts, whether you’re in the top two or the top six.
“But it’s something we’re setting out to do because we want to win every game, and this will be another tough game. At the same time, it’s a game we feel we are capable of winning.
“We’re playing with confidence. The shape of the team is good. Individuals are playing very well, but we’ve got a tough task in front of us because Birmingham have only conceded one goal at home this season.
“Chris (Hughton, the Birmingham manager) always sets his teams up as hard to beat and they should be in the mix this year.
“They’ve kept quite a lot of players they had in the Premiership last year and added to them with other players who are proven Championship players.
“Chris did a fantastic job at Newcastle and we know we’re in for a tough test.”
Grayson is waiting on the fitness of striker Robert Snodgrass, who missed Saturday’s victory at Peterborough with a back injury.
“He trained on Tuesday and we’ll see if there’s any reaction,” said Grayson.
“He’s had some spasms or disc problems, but hopefully it’s settled down now and he’ll be in the squad.”
Last six games: Birmingham WWWWWD; Leeds United WDWWDL
Last time: Birmingham 1 Leeds United 0; February 27, 2007; Championship.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).