FORMER Leeds United captain Robert Snodgrass last night revealed the chance to step up to the Premier League was one he couldn’t turn down for a second consecutive summer, writes Richard Sutcliffe.
The Scottish international has joined Norwich City in a deal that could earn the Yorkshire club £3m.
Manager Neil Warnock had wanted to keep his captain but with Snodgrass having less than 12 months remaining on his Elland Road contract and refusing to sign a new deal, Leeds took the decision to accept the offer.
His departure, when confirmed earlier this week, came as a huge disappointment to a group of supporters that had come to idolise a player who netted 41 goals in 193 appearances.
Considering the standard of Snodgrass’s performances last season when he, at times, carried an under-performing team, the vast majority of fans didn’t begrudge him the move – especially as a year ago he had been happy to stay with Leeds after Norwich with a £3.25m offer and Wigan Athletic had both come calling.
Snodgrass last night exclusively told the Yorkshire Post: “This is one of those situations where the player doesn’t get to tell the whole side of the story, but I do get to tell my side about the fans and the club.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank every single person connected with Leeds United for your support over the past four years.
“It is a fantastic club with an unbelievable fan base and nothing would make me happier than to see Leeds United back in the Premier League.”
After deciding to stick with the Championship club a year ago amid interest from the top flight, Snodgrass felt the chance to leave this summer was one he simply couldn’t afford to give up.
The Scot, who rejected Warnock’s offer of a contract that would have made him the club’s best paid player to fulfil his Premier League dream, added: “I felt the frustration of the Leeds United fans last season and that is why I stayed on a further year to try and help the club back to where they belong.
“But I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to play Premier League football this time around.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to wish Neil Warnock and his backroom staff all the best for the new season and the near future.”
United’s prospective new owners, a Middle East group currently involved in due diligence into the club, are understood to have been involved in last-gasp attempts to persuade Snodgrass to stay.
But the 24-year-old felt the time was right to leave and is now looking forward to a reunion with former Elland Road team-mates, Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson.
Snodgrass, who made five international appearances while at Leeds, was signed by former manager Gary McAllister for £200,000 from Scottish club Livingston.
In joining Norwich earlier this week, he became the second highly-regarded Yorkshire-based player in quick succession to join the Norfolk club following Jacob Butterfield’s seven-figure switch from Barnsley.
United rounded off their tour of Cornwall and Devon last night by beating Torquay United 2-1 at Plainmoor.
With more than 2,000 fans having travelled from Yorkshire, the visitors took an early stranglehold on the game with a Ross McCormack double strike inside 11 minutes.
Both goals were impressive, last season’s top scorer hitting the first from distance and then curling an exquisite free-kick into the corner of the net.
Luke Varney then twice went close to stretching United’s lead as McCormack volleyed narrowly wide, again from distance, before Kirtys MacKenzie pulled back a late consolation.
Meanwhile, David Norris has completed his £250,000 move from Portsmouth to Leeds.
Agreement was reached with the 31-year-old on Thursday but the deal was subject to a medical, which he subsequently passed yesterday afternoon at the club’s Thorp Arch training ground.
Norris’s arrival means Leeds have signed four players from Fratton Park this summer as he joins Jason Pearce, Luke Varney and Jamie Ashdown in the Elland Road squad.
He will join up with his new team-mates on Monday, ahead of flying out with the rest of the squad to Norway ahead of a friendly against Sandefjord.
Rodolph Austin, who has also agreed a three-year deal with Leeds, is unlikely to make the trip to Scandinavia due to having to fly home to Jamaica this weekend to sign paperwork relating to his £300,000 switch from SK Brann.
One player who could be heading out of Leeds is Billy Paynter, who is on the radar of Doncaster Rovers.
The 28-year-old, told by manager Warnock to find a new club at the end of last season, has struggled to make an impact in the Championship following his free transfer switch from Swindon Town in 2010.
Notts County are also believed to be interested in Paynter, who netted three goals in 27 appearances for Leeds.