Leeds United preparing for life without Jonny Howson after accepting Norwich City bid
Norwich City's hierarchy have yet to rubber-stamp Jonny Howson's Carrow Road switch – but Leeds manager Simon Grayson is already planning for life without his captain.
The midfielder watched the Canaries' goalless draw against Chelsea at the weekend having undergone a medical and discussed personal terms after Leeds accepted Norwich's transfer bid last week.
The 23-year-old's potential switch to Norfolk sparked protests from disgruntled Leeds fans on Saturday at Elland Road prior to United's 3-1 win over Ipswich in the Championship which propelled the Whites to within a point of the play-offs. Grayson was yesterday strongly linked with a bid for Leicester's central midfielder Ritchie Wellens as a direct replacement after rounding on the critics who label Howson's exit as a signal of his club's lack of ambition.
'We've got a group here who we feel can get promoted but it's all about succeeding in that,' he said. 'Deep down I know that Jonny would have loved to get this club promoted but nobody can guarantee that it will happen. It's not a sign of a lack of ambition that a club is signing one of our players. Any club is vulnerable to that. Manchester United were vulnerable when they sold Ronaldo to Real Madrid. We've got no intention of selling any other player. Jonny's deal suited us and him.'
Leeds director and former player Peter Lorimer insisted his club were in a difficult position, with Howson out of contract in the summer.
'You might look at the sale of Jonny Howson and think it weakens the squad, but we now have another sum of cash to invest in the team. In another six months, Jonny might have gone and we'd have been left with nothing. That doesn't help us,' he said. 'As a club you have to do what's best for you and we've put many years of work into helping Jonny become the player he is. I'm sad to see him go, but it would have been far worse had he left for nothing. I understand his thinking but I hope people also understand why this had to happen. Make no mistake – Jonny isn't being forced out. The club have been trying to agree a new contract with him for months and the offer to him was a good one. But he wants to play Premier League football next season and we can't promise him that. There's a great chance of us winning promotion, but it's certainly not guaranteed.'
Grayson is working overtime to make additions to his squad in the final week of the transfer window.
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'We are not too far away with a couple of deals but things can change quickly,' he said. 'Injury concerns at another club can put you back but if one or two of our targets aren't available then we move on to other ones. If we can get the players in we want then that will hopefully lift the atmosphere. Let's not forget, though, that we have some good players here. Sometimes, it is about keeping hold of players that other clubs are allegedly interested in. They won't be going anywhere. We have a group capable of getting us promoted.'