BRIAN McDERMOTT last night revealed Leeds United were edging closer to signing Cameron Stewart.
The Hull City winger, who has spent the first half of the season on loan at Charlton Athletic, is on the Elland Road radar and talks have taken place over a possible move along the M62.
Stewart, a one-time Manchester United trainee, will be out of contract at the end of this season and Hull are keen to get him off the wage bill.
McDermott said: “We are trying to do a deal and I think we are getting closer.”
Should Leeds sign Stewart, who could be in the Hull line-up today at Middlesbrough after making his only previous appearance for the East Riding club this term in the Capital One Cup, it will represent an encouraging start to January for McDermott after he initially pinpointed four targets.
A more pressing target today, however, is a place in the fourth round as United make the potentially tricky trip to Rochdale.
Dale may be in League Two but manager Keith Hill, during his time at the helm of Barnsley, had a good record against the Elland Road club.
On his counterpart in the home dugout today, McDermott said: “I like him. They play good football and they are a good team.
“They play out from the back and we need to do our homework, which we have.
“Their left-back is suspended, which will be a blow because he takes a lot of set plays. But we have got to play, pass and show quality and desire.”
McDermott has a decent record in the Cup. One of his early victories after taking charge of Reading in December, 2009, came when knocking out Liverpool at Anfield, while as a player he was in the Arsenal squad that beat Manchester United 3-2 in the 1979 final.
He recalls: “The 1979 final is remembered as probably one of the best cup finals ever. But, actually, it wasn’t.
“The first 80 minutes weren’t great. The last 10 minutes were amazing, though. They got back to 2-2 and we scored in the last minute.
“With Reading, we got to two quarter-finals and should have got to a semi-final. We were 2-0 up against Villa at half-time and I said, ‘keep it tight for 15 minutes and we will be playing at Wembley’. Fifteen minutes later we were 3-2 down. So much for that team talk.
“I really do enjoy it. It is a great competition. This is what it is all about. We are going to Rochdale, a team who play really good football and have a manager with a really good record.
“We need to be right and get ourselves back to winning ways. We want to get through. The priority for Leeds United is obviously to try and do as well as we can in the league. But the FA Cup is a great competition.”
Leeds, who have made an enquiry about Bradford City striker Nahki Wells but are believed to have been put off by the £2m price tag, battled through to the fifth round last season before bowing out to Manchester City.
Victory today would not only open up the possibility of booking another glamour tie, it would also represent a return to winning ways after two defeats and two draws over the festive season.
The second of those losses came at home to Blackburn Rovers on New Year’s Day, when McDermott’s side looked jaded.
He said: “If you looked at the first half against Blackburn, there was no point in me saying to the boys, ‘Everything is going to be okay’.
“We basically said, ‘Come on, we need to restore pride in the shirt here – we need to make things happen and try and score a goal’.
“Blackburn played well on the day and we have had a slippery period. We should have beaten Blackpool (on Boxing Day) and we should have beaten Barnsley (five days earlier).
“Previously, our form had been the second-best in the league but we are in a sticky patch and we have to get out of it.
“The big thing, though, is we are eighth in the league and one point off the play-offs. That is why we need to strengthen now for the next four months.
“Having said that, the FA Cup is all we will be thinking about (today).”
Noel Hunt returned to training this week and could claim a place on the bench.