Leeds United eye Champions League heroes to help rebuild
On May 2 2001, Lee Bowyer and Alan Smith started and Jonathan Woodgate was on the bench for Leeds as the previous year’s runners-up Valencia were held to a goalless draw at Elland Road in the first leg of a Champions League semi-final encounter.
Over a decade on, Leeds aren’t anywhere near the final four of Europe’s premier club competition but they are on their way back from the brink, bidding to once again challenge for promotion to the Premier League after finishing seventh last season.
And the improved fortunes of the Whites since Simon Grayson’s appointment as manager 30 months ago has persuaded several of their stars from the glory days at the turn of the century under David O’Leary to consider a move back.
Grayson has admitted talking to the agents of Woodgate and Smith, with the former without a side after leaving Tottenham and the latter out of favour at Newcastle, and is also keen to reacclimatise free agent Lee Bowyer with west Yorkshire.
He said: If you had a fit Woodgate and a fit Smith then you would have a host of clubs queuing up for them in the Premier League.
“The one thing we have got going for us is that they know the club and our ambition. That could help us if we go down that line but there as a long way to go before we even start considering it.
“Bowyer is another good player and we are aware he is available, as all the other 91 managers in the country will be. We all get the same list. But I have not spoken to Lee yet, even though he is a name that keeps being thrown around along with Leeds.”
The Whites are something of a forgotten force in the fight for Premier League football, with odds of 16/1 offered on the winning the title and 6/1 available on them gaining promotion in 2011-12.