United aim to finish on winning note at Elland Road

Jermaine Beckford, set to return to Elland Road to play against Leeds United.
Jermaine Beckford, set to return to Elland Road to play against Leeds United.

NEIL Warnock may already have been planning for next season for some time, but he wants his Leeds United team to sign off this campaign on a winning note at home to Leicester City.

A battling 1-1 draw at play-off contenders Cardiff last Saturday showed that the Whites had not quite packed their bags for their holidays just yet and more of the same commitment will be demanded this weekend in another lunchtime kick-off.

After such a disappointing season, especially at Elland Road, it is seen as important to sign off with a win, if only to win end with a record of more home wins than defeats.

With 10 league losses at Elland Road the Whites have already equalled an unwanted record, but other than pride at avoiding another defeat there is little at stake in the final match with opponents Leicester also disappointed with their campaign after starting the season among the favourites for promotion following some big spending in the summer.

They have managed to prolong their season a little longer than United, but have still missed out on a top six place no matter what result they achieve at Elland Road.

They bring with them two high profile ex-Leeds players in Jermaine Beckford and Kasper Schmeichel and it will be interesting to see what reception they get from the home fans.

If he is included, Beckford, certainly, can expect a warm reception with fond memories still of the goals he got to seal promotion and against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Schmeichel may not be met with the same warmth, although it could be argued that United have missed him this season with goalkeeper problems at various times. His shock sale last summer was the first sign of the lack of ambition that has seen Leeds stagnate this term and ultimately end in mid-table.

With both teams unable to reach the play-offs now it will be tempting for the managers to experiment with their team selections, but Warnock has little room for manoeuvre with the United line-up with suspensions and injuries ruling several players out and on-loan defender Darren O’Dea told he had played his last game for the club following his sending off in the midweek game at Blackpool.

Teenage utility player Zac Thompson can expect to gain some more experience, however, after coming back from his own suspension to play in midfield at Cardiff.

Warnock has indicated that he is already on with preparations for next season with his first signing, believed to be a central defender, expected to be revealed next week.

The one advantage of knowing from a long way out that the play-offs were out of reach is that Leeds can steal a march on rival teams by making some signings early and the manager intends to do that as well as rid himself of players not in his plans.

Left-back Ben Parker and midfielder Mika Vayrynen were the first to be released last week and there are doubts over the future at United of strikers Mikael Forssell, Danny Webber and Billy Paynter, wingers Robbie Rogers and Lloyd Sam and defenders Alex Bruce and Paul Connolly plus several others.

The highly promising Aidan White is also out of contract, but has been in talks over a new deal with a decision expected soon.

Warnock would like to keep the full-back-come-winger and has gone on record as being a big admirer of Robert Snodgrass, Luciano Becchio, Adam Clayton and Tom Lees, but a big turnover of players is certainly expected as the manager looks to rebuild from top to bottom.