Leeds United didn’t need to send Dan James to Fulham on loan in order to finance the signing of Wilfried Gnonto on deadline day, according to Phil Hay.
The Welsh winger signed for a season at Craven Cottage in the final hours of the transfer window, despite none of the Whites’ attempted headline buys coming off during a dramatic turn of events on Thursday (1 September).
Jesse Marsch has intimated that for the likes of Cody Gakpo or Bamba Dieng to arrive there had to be an outgoing, but Hay believes that didn’t apply to signing teenager Gnonto, as a deal was already in place for January, and has suggested that the documentary scenes of his collapsed move from Swansea on Leeds United: Take Us Home were more relevant.
Speaking on the Monday episode of The Phil Hay Show (5 September, 21 mins) he said: “I’m not so sure that Gnonto would have strictly required Dan James to go because Gnonto is not an expensive player, he’s not on expensive wages.
“It transpired that Leeds pretty much had a deal in place to sign him in January with Zurich, so had already done medical tests prior to deadline week, and it meant that they were in a position when nothing else was coming off they could bring that forward.
“Because that was so late in the day, and it really was the last few hours of the window, I don’t think there was any way in which Jesse Marsch was going to say, ‘Even if we don’t get anybody, bring Dan James back’.”
He then went on: “The problem is you’ve had a documentary where one of the episodes has rested heavily on James being stitched up right at the death coming into Elland Road.
“You’ve had, I think it was Kinnear, writing in programme notes… about how bad that was, how unfair it was, how when the opportunity came to sign him again Leeds almost felt obliged.
“It would have looked to some extent fairly hypocritical to have put him through the same thing.”
For all it might be nice to see the Whites care about James’ feelings in this instance, it poses far more questions than it provides answers.
How could they mess up their recruitment plans to the point where they were still scrambling in the final minutes of the final day to sign anybody in attack? And more importantly how did they get themselves in a position to be obliged to weaken their squad for good manners?
It would have certainly been frustrating to call the 24-year-old back up from London, but it would have shown they believe he can offer something.
The way things played out the club essentially implied that it was not worth the hassle to call him back so they would simply rather go without an extra option going forward.
Hay suggested that a player’s personal feelings are important as this is still their job, and he is right about that. They shouldn’t be treated like robots just because they are paid a lot.
But then James would probably also have liked to play on the wing in a United shirt instead of be repeatedly asked to fight a losing battle up front where his skills are more ineffectual, but that has happened plenty of times.
Even he would probably accept that Gakpo would have been a step up from him and the opportunity to make that move needed some manoeuvring.
But since it fell through he has to feel pretty discarded if it ended up not being financially necessary for him to leave, and yet he still has.