Terriers lead chase as Leeds striker is set for exit

THE future of Leeds United striker Ross McCormack is expected to become a lot clearer within the coming seven days, the Yorkshire Post understands.

A trio of clubs have registered firm interest in the Scottish international with Huddersfield Town among the front-runners as Simon Grayson attempts to sign a second player from his old club following the capture of Adam Clayton earlier this month.

McCormack, United’s top scorer last season with 19 goals, has entered the final year of his Elland Road contract after turning down the West Yorkshire club’s offer of a new deal.

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With the striker having made it clear that agreement is unlikely unless the offer is substantially increased, Leeds will not allow his contract to run down as that would mean the Scot leaving on a free transfer next summer.

Instead, it seems McCormack will be sold in an attempt to either raise funds for Neil Warnock to reinvest in the transfer market or allow the United manager to bring in a major target as part of a swap deal.

To that end, sources in Brighton have indicated that tentative talks have taken place between the Yorkshire club and Albion manager Gus Poyet over a possible swap deal that would see McCormack head to the Amex Stadium and Craig Mackail-Smith travel north in the opposite direction.

Agreement, however, is far from close with the Seagulls board believed to be keen on a cash adjustment due to wanting to recoup more of the £3.5m fee paid to Peterborough United striker a year ago.

Brighton and Mackail-Smith are away in Spain at the moment preparing for a friendly tournament that also includes League One Portsmouth but further talks are planned, while the other clubs interested in McCormack are also expected to step up their own attempts to secure the services of a striker who finished fourth in the Championship goalscoring charts last term.

As the Scot’s future edges closer to being resolved, one player heading out of Elland Road – possibly as early as today – is goalkeeper Andy Lonergan.

Last week’s capture of Paddy Kenny from QPR has meant the former Preston North End goalkeeper becoming surplus to requirements at the Yorkshire club.

Bolton Wanderers were the first club to make a move for the 28-year-old and Owen Coyle seems certain to head off late interest from Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town.

All three clubs are understood to have had £250,000 offers accepted by United in recent days but Lonergan prefers a return to his native Lancashire.

Another Leeds player being coveted by rival clubs is Robert Snodgrass, who was yesterday the subject of a bid from Norwich City.

The offer, believed to be in the region of £1.5m, is not expected to tempt United with Warnock being desperate to hold on to his captain.

Snodgrass has been a long-term target of the Canaries, with previous manager Paul Lambert having been a big fan of his fellow Scot.

The Premier League club made concerted efforts to sign the 24-year-old a year ago but were unable to match United’s valuation. Lambert’s successor, Chris Hughton, seems equally confident the Scot can make the step-up into the Premier League in a similar fashion to that made by one-time team-mates, Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson.

Snodgrass, who like McCormack is in the final year of his Elland Road contract, was offered a new deal towards the end of last season that, if accepted, would have made him the highest paid player at the club.

The contract remains unsigned but United are still keen to retain the services of a player who has excelled in each of the last two Championship campaigns.

Whether agreement can be reached with Snodgrass remains unclear, though an increased offer – something that will be dependent on the proposed takeover of United going through – is likely to be required to keep hold of the hugely popular wideman in the long-term.

Due diligence by the group granted exclusivity by the Elland Road hierarchy last month remains on-going as they continue to work towards a successful completion.

For supporters, the wait for positive news has been frustrating but the Yorkshire Post believes no problems have been found and all parties remain confident of being able to strike a deal.

Meanwhile, one of United’s transfer targets – SK Brann defensive midfielder Rodolph Austin – has stated his desire to secure a move to the Championship.

The Jamaican international is on Warnock’s list of potential targets and an offer has been on the table since last week.

Contrary to reports elsewhere, that offer – believed to be around £300,000 – has not been rejected and is still under consideration by the Norwegian club.

Austin, for his part, is very keen to push the deal through – as he made clear when speaking to the Norwegian press after scoring in Brann’s 6-2 win over Odd Grenland on Sunday.

Speaking about the interest from England, 27-year-old Austin said: “I am 27 years now, and I think the timing is right. But it is between the clubs. If I can go to Leeds, that’s something I would like.

“I don’t know if this was my last game here, but if it was then it was a perfect way to finish”.

Former Leeds winger Lloyd Sam is on trial at crisis club Portsmouth.