United hoping loan stars stay put

Neil Warnock
Neil Warnock
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NEIL WARNOCK insists Leeds United will not need to spend big in the January transfer window – providing the club secure the services of their current quartet of short-term loanees and El-Hadji Diouf until at least the end of the season.

The Elland Road club have been revitalised by three league wins in succession, something United last achieved in the run-up to Christmas, 2010.

Instead of looking nervously towards the bottom end of the Championship, Warnock and his players are eyeing a push for promotion in the second half of the season.

To do so, however, the Leeds manager believes Michael Tonge, Alan Tate, Jerome Thomas and Ryan Hall need to be tied down beyond the end of their loan stays.

The latter three are all contracted to remain at Elland Road until the first week in January, while Tonge is due to return to Stoke City later this month at the end of his 93-day loan.

Warnock wants to keep hold of all four players and says if United’s new owners can do that then he will only want to bring in one new face – a striker – during the window.

“It has been a super week,” said Warnock of United’s victories over Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Huddersfield Town. “We have not had a better one.

“We played the two best teams in the league at home and came out on top, and then had a difficult Yorkshire derby. We are also getting players back into the squad (after injury and suspension) as well and we are not far off a full squad.

“The biggest difference is our confidence. The two new players (Swansea’s Tate and Thomas of West Bromwich Albion) coming in was like the jigsaw puzzle – we just needed a couple of pieces to set everything else off.

“All the doom and gloom merchants had written us off. But that is when you are at your most dangerous in the Championship, when you are written off.

“It is not just Tate and Thomas. We have got other loanees as well. Everyone talks about the January window but, for me, I don’t think we need that much. We just need the loanees tied up and Diouf tied up.

“Then we need to look for a bit of the icing on the cake in January. That’s what I am looking for.”

Warnock’s squad strengthening has very much been a work in progress since he first walked through the door at Elland Road in February.

In the summer, he made 11 signings, but a combination of injuries and suspensions have, at times, left the United manager’s squad down to the bare bones.

However, with Rodolph Austin well on the way to fitness and the bans that followed the recent flurry of red cards now over, Warnock finally has options.

He added: “We have done things slowly but surely. We brought Tonge in and he needed games to get fit, but now he is showing what he can do.

“Ryan Hall can do what he did on Saturday (at Huddersfield) and we have brought two Premier League players in to fill gaps that desperately needed filling.”

As for the January transfer window when prospective new owners, GFH Capital, will have their first chance to back Warnock, the United manager added: “We have been asked to give names (of prospective targets) and that is what I am doing.

“There are three or four strikers I’d like to put pressure on Luciano (Becchio) and I do feel we need another striker in our squad to make sure we are at the right end of the table.

“As for the budget available, I haven’t got a clue. I am just doing what the chairman tells me – giving him names.”

Just what level of funding GFH Capital, who are expected to finalise their takeover of Leeds by December 21, provide in the forthcoming window is being eagerly awaited by the club’s supporters.

Asked if he had spoken to representatives of the new owners about the transfer market, Warnock replied: “Not at the moment. I would imagine that will come, but I think everyone has been so busy.

“I have been asked to give a few names in different scenarios. If we lost every game until January, then we would look at just staying up. That would mean us having a different hit list. But we might be the opposite and do well until January.

“I am not sure there’s an urgency for us. All the loanees have got a part to play and if we can’t keep them then we need to get in very similar players.

“We’ll be looking at either tieing them up or getting someone similar. If we get the four loanees and Diouf then I don’t think we need many more. I only think we’d be looking at a striker on top of that.

“As for competition (for United’s loan signings), I don’t think so. In fairness, I don’t think there’s anywhere better in the Championship than Leeds if you’re going to come to this division. I don’t think that is the problem.

“I just hope that Swansea keep doing well, as I do with West Brom. No disrespect to Tate, but they are probably looking at something better to take the club up the Premier League. We are looking to do well in the Championship and Tate and Thomas have proved that they can do that, as Michael Tonge has.”

United goalkeeper Paul Rachubka, who has not featured since a 5-0 thrashing by Blackpool 13 months ago, has extended his loan stay at Accrington Stanley for another seven days after joining on an emergency loan last week as a replacement for first choice Iain Dunbavin.