LEEDS UNITED'S bid to sign striker Stern John from Birmingham City was heading towards failure last night.
Manager Kevin Blackwell had been hoping to sign the Trinidad and Tobago international ahead of tomorrow's Coca-Cola Championship game with Coventry City but sources in the Midlands say the 27-year-old is not keen on a move to Elland Road.
Both Coventry and Nottingham Forest have jumped ahead of Leeds in the queue for the player's services and a decision on his future is expected this morning when he returns from international duty.
John, who scored in both his country's games this week, spent three years with Forest after arriving from American club Colombus Crew in a £1.5m deal. He joined Birmingham on a free transfer in February 2002 but is now surplus to requirements at St Andrews following the signings of Emile Heskey and Dwight Yorke.
Although Leeds are set to miss out on John, who is valued at £250,000, they remain favourites to land West Bromwich Albion's transfer-listed midfield player Sean Gregan.
Again, Blackwell is anxiously awaiting news of developments in the transfer negotiations but it is understood that Leeds are close to meeting Albion's £1m valuation.
"It is unlikely that we will have any new faces in before the Coventry game, which is frustrating," said Blackwell. "And if Stern John doesn't want to play for Leeds, it wouldn't be a disappointment, because I only want players who want to play for this club. At the moment, I am in the dark about his intentions.
"I am on the look out for another striker because although we already have three good ones at the club, you always need a fourth."
Former Leeds manager Peter Reid, now in charge of Coventry, is preparing to return to Elland Road for the first time since his sacking last November.
Reid has described the final weeks of his tenure as the 'hardest' he has faced in management but refuses to criticise former chairman John McKenzie.
"John was a lovely man, we were friends and he was my chairman," said Reid. "The problem was that he had been put into the position by others and was thrown in at the deep end. He had a million and one things to deal with and suddenly he was being asked to deal with football and he wasn't a football man. He was out of his depth. That wasn't his fault, you have to look at the people who put him there.
"It was the hardest time I have had in management," he added. "I knew what was going on. If you have a public debate about a manager and start asking supporters and members of staff about him then something is wrong.
"When you are then told you have four football matches even I knew I was under the cosh. My biggest disappointment is that I just thought things weren't handled right. "I think it was hard for anyone who has been connected with the club," said Reid. "There's always got to be a Leeds United. Not just for the city or for Yorkshire, but for the game as a whole. "Leeds is a huge club with a terrific fan base and, whatever happens, I want to see them get back into the Premiership where a club like that belongs. I'm still sorry I couldn't turn it around."
Blackwell has allowed reserve team midfield player Martin Woods to join Hartlepool on a one-month loan.