Sale of Leeds stars stops now, pledges Warnock

United's match winner Luciano Becchio celebrates after the final whistle with David Norris.
United's match winner Luciano Becchio celebrates after the final whistle with David Norris.
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NEIL WARNOCK has vowed that no key players will be allowed to leave Leeds United following the recent takeover.

The Elland Road club were taken over by Dubai investment bank GFH Capital last week and two goals from Luciano Becchio ensured the new era began in style with a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough.

In taking his goal tally for the season to 17, Becchio moved into the top 10 of United’s all-time league scorers with 74.

With the January transfer window looming, the Argentinian’s prowess is certain to have attracted a host of potential suitors, but Warnock is adamant that the days of Leeds’s best players being sold are over.

The United manager said: “I don’t think we will lose anybody that we will want to keep. I can guarantee that while I am in charge and they (GFH) are in charge, there will be no key players leaving here – unless we want them to leave.

“There will be no one going from here unless we agree to it because we need every good player. We want to look upwards, not downwards or sideways.

“It’s not just Becchio, either. If I was a Premier League manager, I would be looking at three or four of these players.

“I can answer the phone (to Premier League managers) but I know what I will say and I don’t think the new owners will mind me saying that.”

Warnock’s words will reassure supporters who have grown weary of seeing United’s best players leave for the Premier League with Robert Snodgrass the most recent departure last summer as the Scot followed a path previously trodden by Jonny Howson, Bradley Johnson and Jermaine Beckford.

Becchio’s double was enough to settle an enthralling Yorkshire derby which Boro could consider themselves unfortunate to lose.

On his top scorer, Warnock added: “I bet in a third of the games Luciano has not even played very well. He has had poor games so imagine if he’d got some consistency going. I keep telling him that.

“He surprises me but I know that when he plays well, we play well. But there are days like Derby (when Leeds lost 3-1 on December 8), where if you look at the metres he covered, it was an embarrassment.

“The two strikers at Derby, Ross (McCormack) and Luciano were very poor. The statistics showed that one of Derby’s lads was doing more than those two put together. That can’t happen.”

The comeback win over Boro was enough to move Leeds up to eighth in the Championship and Warnock is determined to build on the momentum that comes with five wins in six games.

That means delving into the market once the window opens with a deal to sign Michael Tonge, who has returned to Stoke, plus fellow loanees Alan Tate and Jerome Thomas.

A striker is also on the wish-list of Warnock, who added: “If anything happened to Becchio, where do we go?

“We need competition in that area. In most other areas we are covered. I have been speaking to them (new owners) for quite a number of weeks. I have told them what I think and I think they trust me totally.”

Warnock has been drawing up a list of potential targets for several weeks in the hope that the takeover would go through.

He added: “I will get the support I need, but it is also a case of whether we are able to get the players.

“Teams want to hang on to good players and can make it difficult when you try to sign them.

“You never know who else might start looking either. We’ve got to have a bit of luck that the clubs where we go looking for players let us do it.”

Sheffield Wednesday moved out of the Championship relegation zone at the expense of neighbours Barnsley by defeating Charlton.

Dave Jones’s side were again indebted to a slice of good fortune by a refereeing decision. In their recent derby win at Barnsley, the referee failed to penalise Owls striker Gary Madine for a foul on goalkeeper Luke Steele.

On Saturday, referee Gary Sutton failed to award Charlton a penalty after Yann Kermorgant was felled inside the area.

A half-time protest resulted in Addicks chief Chris Powell being sent to the stands, and Owls manager Jones said: “It looked a penalty, but the referee has got to make a quick decision and maybe it’s that little of luck we’ve been missing.”

Rhys McCabe gave the hosts a 20th-minute lead with a tremendous volley and Jeremy Helan added a second in stoppage time with a good, angled finish.

Barnsley recorded a fine win at Millwall and are level on points with the Owls, whose neighbours Sheffield United went to the top of League One at Crawley.

Doncaster Rovers, in fourth, were frustrated when referee David Bond deemed the Keepmoat pitch unplayable for their League One encounter against MK Dons.

In League Two, waterlogged pitches cause the postponement of Rotherham’s game at Bristol Rovers, Bradford City’s match at Wycombe and York City’s home encounter against Gillingham.