Leeds look for wages deal to lure Smith to United

LEEDS United have stepped up their bid to sign former hero Alan Smith by enquiring what wages the former England international will accept to seal an emotional return to Elland Road, the Yorkshire Post can reveal.

The 30-year-old has a year remaining on his £60,000 per week contract at Newcastle United but has been told he can leave as Alan Pardew looks to remodel his squad with a more youthful feel.

As part of their attempts to get Smith off the wage bill, Newcastle are willing to release the one-time darling of Elland Road on a free transfer and subsidise his wages to the tune of around £30,000 per week.

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Even with such a substantial discount, however, Leeds would be unable to afford to make up the difference – a point that has been made to the player’s representatives by the United hierarchy in recent days.

Smith is understood to be receptive to United’s approach, even if it means taking a pay cut. As a consequence, Leeds are much more hopeful of pushing a deal through than was the case even a fortnight ago. If the Rothwell-born striker-turned-midfielder does re-join United, supporter opinion is likely to be divided with some still being angry at his decision to sign for bitter rivals Manchester United following Leeds’s relegation in 2004.

As a consequence of the ill-feeling that still exists among some supporters, Smith was jeered by the visiting Leeds fans throughout their side’s friendly at St James’ Park in 2009.

A good number of United fans are, however, much more happy at the prospect of signing a player who helped Newcastle to promotion from the Championship in 2009-10.

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Whether Leeds can seal a deal to bring Smith back to West Yorkshire remains to be seen but one current United player who seems on his way out of the club is Kasper Schmeichel following the club’s decision to accept an offer from Leicester City of £1.5m.

The 24-year-old is expected to link up with Foxes manager Sven Goran Eriksson for a third time after earlier playing for the Swede at Manchester City and Notts County.

Schmeichel, who moved north from Meadow Lane on a free transfer last summer and has a year remaining on his existing contract, hit out at the Yorkshire club in the wake of Leicester’s bid being accepted, accusing United of trying to force him out.

The Danish Under-21 goalkeeper also insisted he had not rejected the offer of a new contract, something Grayson had alluded to when confirming Leicester’s interest on Monday.

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Grayson has now moved to clarify the decision to allow Schmeichel to move and insists it was purely down to footballing reasons.

The Leeds chief said: “It is something we have been looking at as I am trying to improve the back four or five of last season. When you concede the number of goals that we did, it is obviously an area where one or two players are vulnerable and we need to change it round slightly.

“I am always looking to improve. No-one’s position is safe because I am looking to do better than last year, and that is the line I am going down. You have to do that.

“There are good options for goalkeepers and defenders out there so this was a footballing decision, first and foremost. But, obviously, in this day and age with the Bosman ruling, it can quicken decisions up for you.

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“When Kasper goes, we have other alternatives that will make us better and keep progressing us. Those are the decisions you make at times and that is the decision we have taken at this moment in time.”

Leeds conceded 70 goals last season as they finished seventh in the Championship, the eighth highest total in the second tier.

Grayson has targeted Coventry City goalkeeper Keiren Westwood as a replacement for Schmeichel, though he faces huge competition from Sunderland.

Steve Bruce sees Westwood as someone who can compete with Simon Mignolet for the goalkeeper’s jersey at the Stadium of Light, one-time £9m signing Craig Gordon being deemed surplus to requirements with a year remaining on his contract.

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If Westwood does plump for the Stadium of Light, former Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Lee Grant is believed to be on Grayson’s radar along with Huddersfield Town’s Alex Smithies, though it would take a huge fee to tempt the Terriers over the latter.

Leeds will announce the signing of a goalkeeper in the next few days, though the new arrival will be understudy to whoever is subsequently brought in as Schmeichel’s replacement.

Grayson added: “A week or so ago, before all this with Kasper, we agreed the deal, subject to a medical.”

Meanwhile, United’s first two games of the season will be shown live by Sky after the Carling Cup first round tie at home to Bradford City was yesterday selected for broadcast.

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The mouth-watering West Yorkshire derby, the first between the two clubs since 2008 when a crowd of 20,128 watched Leeds prevail in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy first round, will take place on Tuesday, August 9, kick-off 7.45pm. United’s opening day visit to Southampton had already been selected for transmission on August 6, kicking-off at 5.20pm.

Sheffield Wednesday’s Carling Cup first round tie at home to newly-relegated Blackpool will also be shown by Sky on Thursday August 11.

Hull City, meanwhile, will kick off the Football League season after their home clash with Blackpool was brought forward from the opening day to Friday night for the benefit of the Sky cameras.

As part of Nigel Pearson’s plans for the new campaign, the Tigers are believed to be closing in on Nottingham Forest duo Dele Adebola and Paul McKenna. They also want to sign Leicester defender Jack Hobbs and are hopeful of securing an £800,000 deal in the next few days.