By Rob Atkinson
In the light of the Gradel reports this morning, we reprint this article as an unashamed "don't say we didn't tell you"
We’ve heard lately about United manager Brian McDermott having “funds” to assist with any player recruitment he might wish to undertake during the forthcoming January transfer window. It’s a pretty vague word, funds. Slightly more specific is the reported “seven-figure sum” invested in the past week or so by Managing Director and prospective Tory MP David Haigh. Again, though, that doesn’t tell us too much, though it is encouraging. We mustn’t get too giddy though. We’re no longer living in the days when a paltry million pounds was quite a lot of money. The one buzz-phrase surprisingly missing from this little shower of clichés is “transfer war chest” – perhaps because what Brian has is not so much of a war chest as a slightly cracked piggy bank. But don’t be surprised if the phrase “war chest” is wheeled out at some point before the new year.
However much we have, or however little – and it’s important to acknowledge the wisdom of not being too specific as to figures because of the inflationary consequences for asking prices – the real burning questions would be: who do we go for? Who, after all, do we need? The team is showing clear signs of increased unity and cohesion under Brian’s benign stewardship, and there must be a certain amount of wariness as to the possibility of rocking the boat too hard. But you can never have enough good players, and for a club with an alarming track record over recent years of getting rid of our best, that maxim has a particular resonance.
Some of those players chucked overboard recently (yes ok, some may possibly have jumped ship) would be welcomed back by many. But, of those, who would really fit in and add something significant to the existing squad? I can think of three – and perhaps two of those might be feasible targets in January if – big if – we were to go down the route of welcoming back old boys. My three would be Snodgrass, Becchio and Gradel. Sadly, Snods is probably beyond us for the moment, although that could and most likely would change in the event of Leeds and Norwich swapping leagues in May (Please, God. Pretty please.) But the other two could just possibly be realistic targets – depending on exactly how much money there is in that piggy bank.
Believe me, I know how that assertion will be received by some. I’ll probably get comments about “never go back”, “unrealistic targets”, “wage structure”, “why would he?” and all the rest. Do save your breath, or your pixels and fonts – I’m aware of all the pitfalls. But maybe if Leeds are taking the view that – hang on, we might actually have a shot at promotion here – there might be a more ambitious attitude to investment to bring about that promotion. I believe that the acquisitions of Becchio and Gradel – with Becchio by far the more likely, but let’s dream a little – would pretty much guarantee a play-off place and could even open the door to the top two. Both would add qualities that we currently just don’t possess.
McCormack has been prolific lately, but he’s a different type of striker to Luciano Becchio – and now Blackstock has returned to Forest, we’re still going to need someone as an option for Rossco to play off. And Becchio is a proven scorer at this level. As for Gradel – just look at those clips of him running at defenders in the white shirt. How bloody sexy is that?? He could do a hell of a lot of damage in this league, and he has a goal in him as well. French football and French crowds are pretty insipid by English standards – could Mad Max be tempted home if we had the right kind of attractively juicy carrot to dangle before him? It’s not impossible – though, again, some will say it is. I wish them joy of their gloomy pessimism and inability to dream.
This is very much a what-if scenario. I doubt that, in the real world, we’ll be making the level of investment required for such an audacious double swoop. Becchio on loan, maybe. The lad is plainly deeply unhappy at Norwich, and would probably walk back to Elland Road given the chance. Gradel would be the cherry on the icing on the cake. It’s undeniable that either or both “could do a job”. Can anybody seriously dispute that?