Leeds United narrowly missed out on securing a place in the Premier League last term — but their scintillating brand of football still have punters convinced they are destined for the top flight.
But one aspect of being the side that everyone aims to beat is that the bigger fish come circling looking for bites. And this is the case for coach Marcelo Bielsa as he prepares to go in to the new Championship minus one of his most exciting starlets, Jack Clarke.
The talented youngster, who is aged 18, has seemingly passed a medical at Tottenham Hotspur ahead of a switch to the North London outfit, who were beaten in the Champions League final last month in a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
Clarke was instrumental in the Elland Road side’s title bid last season and made 25 appearances as they blazed a trail for much of the campaign. But he couldn’t do enough to get the Whites into the Promised Land and they eventually finished third and lost out to Derby County in the play-off semi-finals.
But, quite obviously, Clarke’s dazzling displays were enough to impress Spurs chief Mauricio Pochettino and a deal said to be worth around £9million could go through any time soon.
Another club desperately keen to establish themselves as a Premier League outfit are Middlesbrough. They go into the new season with a new chief at the helm in the shape of Jonathan Woodgate, who has been named as a replacement for the ongoing Tony Pulis.
And former Real Madrid defender Woodgate, who has penned a three-year deal at the Riverside with Robbie Keane as his No.2 (ex-Boro keeper Danny Coyne and Leo Percovich complete the coaching team), reckons Middlesbrough can challenge for promotion.
Former England ace Woodgate was one of Pulis’ assistants and he has paid tribute to his ex-boss, formerly the manager of Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion. He said:
“Tony Pulis was a superb man and I got my grounding from him. You look at the different coaches I’ve worked under: Bobby Robson, Terry Venables, Harry Redknapp. I want to impose my style on this team. I know every single player, I know the club inside out and I know what needs to change. We need to get more fans in the Riverside Stadium and we can do that with the style of football we will play.”
Meanwhile, West Brom have offered teenage marksman Louie Barry a three-year deal in a bid to see off interest from Barcelona, Sky Sports News has learned. They have offered Barry, who has represented both England and the Republic of Ireland at youth level, a one-year scholarship followed by a two-year professional contract, with the Catalan giants said to be keen on recruiting the starlet to the Nou Camp.