Leeds United: Byram is a key cog in machine at Elland Road – Ritchie

Sam Byram.
Sam Byram.

The last month of the transfer window is upon us and as far as I can see, Leeds United have two main jobs before the start of September.

The first is to find a natural left winger or, at the very least, someone who can make an impact in that position. Out-and-out wingers are quite rare and expensive but it shouldn’t be beyond the club to make that signing which gives Uwe Rosler the right balance up front.

You can argue about the depth of the squad at Leeds and perhaps they don’t have the same level of resources as other Championship clubs, but it does feel like Rosler’s line-up is one deal away from completion. That said, so much of the work done by him this summer will be undone if Leeds are tempted into selling Sam Byram before the window shuts.

Keeping Byram is job number two this month. It’s essential that he’s still here when we reach the end of the month. It’s not like there’s ever a good time to lose talented players but we’re on the cusp of the new season and Byram seems to be absolutely integral to Rosler’s plans. In the existing squad, I don’t see any alternative to him.

Like everyone else, I read and hear speculation about Byram all the time. The encouraging thing so far is that none of the rumours have grown legs and that makes me think that the club are genuinely hopeful of keeping him. If they wanted to flog Byram then you’d imagine a deal would be easy enough to strike. There must be plenty of interest in him.

I’ve always rated Byram – which in fairness isn’t saying much. It would be hard to watch him and not be impressed by his talent and his potential. Manager after manager has used him at Leeds and that tells its own story. Of all the young kids who are breaking through here, he’s by far the furthest down the line.

In reality his best position is probably right-back. He’s said that himself and that’s where he’s played more often than not. But the good thing about Byram is that he’s clever enough and good enough to play elsewhere with the right coaching and I reckon he’ll make an excellent right winger if Leeds stick with him in that role.

He’s quick enough to play there and he’s got the skill you need to get around defenders and tee up chances. He’s probably been one of the most impressive players in this pre-season and after a couple of years where his fitness and his form was a bit up and down, he looks like he’s matured again. I don’t doubt for a second that he’s a Premier League player in the making.

The trouble with football is that you can only control these situations so far. Leeds haven’t agreed a new deal with Byram yet and he’s out of contract next summer. That’s a problem. It has to be said as well that if anyone weighs in with a major bid then Leeds are bound to think about it. I’m as clear as anyone that selling your best players is never a good strategy but a lot of things talk in football and money talks most of all.

But in this situation, there’s more to think about than money. If the plan was to cash in on Byram then the club should have set about auctioning him at the start of the summer. At least it would have given them some time to react and think about how the money could be reinvested.

As it is, Rosler has spent the past four weeks moulding a system in which Byram is absolutely vital. Considering that the left wing still needs work, take Byram out of the team and it starts to look flaky up front.

That would be a crying shame because I actually feel pretty optimistic. I’m not going to make any outlandish predictions about where Leeds will finish but they look like a top-half side to me – provided Byram is here.

To be fair to Leeds, they don’t seem in a rush to lose him and I hope they’re thinking the same way as me.

Fair enough, no-one would ever advocate the sale of a top player but selling Byram would be very disruptive at a critical time. He has to stay.