SIMON GRAYSON has revealed Leeds United are already plotting for the January transfer window.
The Elland Road club are well placed in the Championship promotion race, sitting sixth with 35 points from 21 games going into Saturday’s home game against Reading.
To ensure United are able to build on that promising position, Grayson spoke to chairman Ken Bates earlier this week to discuss the club’s possible transfer strategy come the New Year.
A central midfielder may well be on that shortlist of targets after it was confirmed Jonny Howson is facing two to three months on the sidelines due to the knee injury he sustained against Millwall on December 3.
Grayson said: “We are looking at targets and certain positions. I am not going to sit here and tell you what they are, but we will be looking to strengthen in January.
“Since pre-season, we have been analysing players and who might be available. I have had a meeting with the chairman this week and we do have a few targets in mind.
“Hopefully, we can go and get what we need to improve the team and the squad.”
United have already lined up one deal for January with Danny Pugh’s loan spell set to be turned into a £500,000 permanent switch from Stoke City.
A decision will also have to be made on the future of striker Andy Keogh, whose loan stay from Wolves is due to run out early in the New Year, while Grayson also admits space will have to be created by allowing some of the fringe players in his 29-man squad to leave.
The Leeds manager said: “It is no secret we will have to let one or two players go to give them the opportunity to play first-team football. That would also free up a bit of money to go and allow us to bring players in.
“The last window was very frustrating. It is never easy in a window to go out and get your targets because everyone is after good players.
“Clubs also want to keep their best players around. You have to try and do your business as quietly as possible. But it can be difficult because other clubs are on the lookout too.
“We are all after similar areas of the pitch and it is what you can offer the player and the clubs in question that make the difference.”
Asked whether Leeds would be looking to extend Keogh’s time at Elland Road beyond the start of the New Year, Grayson said: “It is an option for us that will be dictated by what Wolves want to do and what we can do at this end. Andy has been very good since he got here with his workrate and enthusiasm having been exceptional.
“But there are many other circumstances that dictate whether someone can come, such as it being Wolves’ decision as to whether they want to sell permanently and whether we and other clubs can afford him.”
Grayson will be forced into at least one change tomorrow with goalkeeper Alex McCarthy unable to play against his parent club under the terms of the loan deal that brought him to Elland Road from Reading.
It means fit-again Andy Lonergan will be given a chance to reclaim his place in the starting XI after two months out with a dislocated finger, an injury he suffered in the 3-0 win at Doncaster Rovers.
Grayson said: “Andy is 100 per cent fit. I have no worries about putting him in. Hopefully, he will keep a clean sheet and give me a problem for the following week when we will have Alex McCarthy back available.”
McCarthy, who saved a penalty in United’s 1-1 draw at Watford last weekend, this week extended his loan stay at Elland Road by another month.
Despite that, he has spent the past few days back training with Reading. Grayson added: “Brian (McDermott, Reading manager) assured me he wouldn’t be asking the player all about Leeds because it would be unfair on the lad.
“Certainly, if he had been training with us then we wouldn’t have put him in that position.”
Howson, meanwhile, will be watching from the stand tomorrow as his rehabilitation continues from the knee injury that forced the Leeds captain out of the 2-0 win over Millwall.
Grayson said: “The injury could be a lot worse. There have been certain players who have fallen and twisted their knee to be out for the season. (Nemanja) Vidic at Manchester United was one and that would have been a major hindrance to us and Jonny.
“Two to three months is the timescale but that is just a guide. It might be shorter. Jonny is a fit lad and a fantastic professional. The physios will dictate how things go but the big thing for us is he didn’t need surgery, which was a concern this time last week.”
Asked if Howson being ruled out for up to a third of the campaign meant a midfielder would be on the club’s shopping list in January, Grayson replied: “It is a possibility but we do have Michael Brown, (Mika) Vayrynen and Adam Clayton in that position, while Danny Pugh played well there against Millwall.”