AS his former club looks to ward off big-money interest in Chris Wood with the offer of a new improved contract, Simon Grayson admits today’s match between Leeds United and Sunderland has “the feel of a Premier League game”.
Leeds make the trip to the north east on the back of an encouraging start to the season that has yielded five points from three games, an identical record to that of the newly-relegated Black Cats.
It is, however, Wood’s future that is uppermost on minds at Elland Road with Burnley this week having had a £12m plus add-ons bid rejected for the New Zealand striker.
The Clarets are expected to return with an increased offer to test United’s resolve over a forward who finished last season with the Championship Golden Boot after netting 27 times.
Head coach Thomas Christiansen is desperate for Wood to stay and the club has offered a new, improved contract extension designed to keep the Kiwi at Elland Road until the summer of 2018.
“My intention is to keep Chris with us,” said the Dane.
“I believe more in the player than in the money and I believe that he can help the team to achieve our goals.
“Finally, what will happen, we will see, but the club have made a good effort and offer to keep him.”
Christiansen believes Wood can help him become the first manager to lead United to promotion since Grayson brought the club out of League One in 2010.
For his part, the Sunderland manager is looking forward to locking horns with his old club in front of the live Sky cameras this tea-time.
“If you ask a lot of supporters,” said Grayson, “they would like to see Sunderland and Leeds back in the Premier League, because of the sheer size of the clubs, and the fanbases.
“It does have the feel of a Premier League game, but, at this moment, neither club has the divine right to be in there.”
Grayson took on a sizable task in the summer when swapping Preston North End for the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland had just been relegated and morale was rock bottom, but, as the midweek draw at Sheffield Wednesday proved, he has already started to turn things around. Managing Leeds, he says, has helped in that respect.
“I was only about 40, late 30s, and yet managing a big club like Leeds,” he said. “I was so young, and had only been a manager for three years.
“But I learned from the experience. Coming here, you can see the comparisons between many different things. Hopefully the years of experience that I’ve got anywhere at clubs will help along the way.”
Asked about his exit from Leeds in February, 2012, Grayson added: “Because it was the first time I’d been sacked, it was not easy to take.
“I have a big affiliation with that club. Supported it, played for it, managed it, but, believe me, come Saturday night, there will be no one more happy than myself if we have won the game.”