Leeds give rookie defender long-term contract

LEEDS United defender Tom Lees has been rewarded with a new four-year deal after an impressive start to the new season.

Lees has been a regular for the last two months after making his first-team debut against Bradford City in the Carling Cup.

He spent the last two seasons playing League Two football on loan with Bury and Accrington Stanley but has now cemented his future at Elland Road.

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“I’m really chuffed with how things have gone so far,” said Lees yesterday. “It’s been tough, and I’ve been learning lots, but I’ve really enjoyed playing regularly and being a part of the first team.

“It’s been a step up for me and it’s a good challenge.”

Manager Simon Grayson turned to Lees ahead of both Alex Bruce and Paul Connolly and the 20-year-old has played his part in a solid start to the season.

“I wouldn’t have thought I would be in this position now,” he admitted. “But I know my future is here and my aim is to keep improving, keep learning, and keep getting better. I’m delighted to be in this situation and I’m delighted to sign a new contract.”

Leeds host Portsmouth at Elland Road this afternoon after seven days without a fixture, because scheduled midweek opponents Birmingham City were involved in the Europa Cup.

Grayson has been working on defensive improvement after his team conceded three goals against both Brighton and Manchester United.

“We had a clear week on the training pitch and we have sorted out a few problems to make sure we become the all round team that we want to be,” he said. “My philosophy is trying to score goals and be entertaining and we have players who can do that – but we are also working hard on the training ground to get the right balance.

Grayson blames some of the goals on lapses in concentration but also believes his side have been on the wrong end of bad luck at times.

“I’m not saying we are flawless but we have had to change personnel and we have also had a couple of own goals and penalties go against us,” he said. “If those decisions had not gone against us, the goals against column would be less than it is. But I’m not getting away from the fact that we need to be harder to beat and we must not give our opponents as many chances.

“You need an enthusiasm and desire to stop goals and an awareness to sense danger around the box. That’s what we didn’t do last Friday (at Brighton),” he reflected.

“But the hardest part of a football match is trying to score goals,” he added. “If we were drawing 0-0 every week, I would have slightly more concerns.”

Portsmouth may have a smaller squad than Leeds but Grayson says that is a decision down to manager Steve Cotterill rather than a lack of finances.

“Everyone says they have a small squad but it’s full of players who have a huge amount of Premiership experience.

“They have players who are earning a lot of money in this division,” he said.

“That’s how you work out a budget. Do you go for top earners and just get (enough) players in or do you get more bodies in and be covered in different posotions? Steve Cotterill decided to go down the line of buying top players on high wages but lacking numbers.

“They are a tough team and we had two decent games last year,” he said. “Hopefully, we can build on two consecutive home victories in the league against Bristol City and Crystal Palace and finish for the international break in a positive manner. We have had a fantastic home record since I arrived here and that’s testimony to the players and fans.”

Leeds are currently two points above Portsmouth, who have played one game more, and victory today could lift the club as high as seventh in the table depending on other results.

One player desperate to figure for Leeds is veteran midfielder Michael Brown who quit Portsmouth last summer.

Former team-mate Hayden Mullins knows exactly what to expect from Brown and said: “I’d like to play against him – he leaves his foot in and his elbow and all the rest of it. I stayed away from him but I saw him in a few dust-ups in training.”

Portsmouth supporters will be the first to be re-located in the new away supporters area in the West Stand at Elland Road.

Grayson believes it will be an advantage having Leeds supporters behind both goals. The move also entitles the club to charge away supporters increased admission prices.