COMMENT By Wayne Veysey
The Leeds-Ashley Fletcher transfer saga has had a few twists and turns in the last two windows.
The striker was said to be a major Garry Monk target both last summer when he quit Manchester United after running down his contract and, again, in January.
West Ham won the race for the 21-year-old last July and Leeds’ second attempt to land the forward failed in the winter window when Slaven Bilic’s own attempts to land a new striker ground to a halt.
The Mirror transfer blog (Monday, 7.02pm) claimed Leeds were in pole position to land the West Ham fringe forward right up until 24 hours before the January cut-off.
Yet, it could be a case of third time lucky for the Championship promotion hopefuls as they prepare to reinforce their squad for what could be their first Premier League campaign in 13 years.
The Sun claim the price tag has been settled for how much the London club will pay United for the striker, 21, as a tribunal for the academy product appears to have been avoided.
It is said that West Ham will pay £2million including add-ons for Fletcher, with £1million agreed up front and a further £1million based on appearances, plus a 30 per cent sell-on fee should he be sold.
Intriguingly, The Sun report that, with Fletcher’s valuation now established, he could be offloaded in the summer.
It is clear that Bilic has not been convinced by the United academy product.
His appearance in the matchday squad for Saturday’s league defeat to Hull was his first since early February, and came at a time when the manager’s options are severely restricted by injury.
Fletcher has made 17 appearances for West Ham this season, but only three of those have come in the starting XI, and his goal tally for the club stands at just one.
This provides the ideal opportunity for Leeds to make fresh advances to the striker ahead of the summer window, irrespective of whether they are in the Premier League next season or plotting promotion from the Championship.
Garry Monk’s side’s automatic promotion hopes took a major hit with defeat to Reading on Saturday but they are all but certain to secure one of the four play-off places in May.
The dream to reach the holy grail is very much alive.
Monk will also know his strike force needs quality back-up to main man Chris Wood, who tops the Championship scoring charts after leading the line singlehandedly this season.
For Leeds to be more effective, the goal burden needs to be shared. Signing Fletcher could be one way of achieving that.
In other Leeds transfer news, the club have sealed an out-of-window midfielder transfer.