Bates hints at Smith return

Former fans' favourite set to leave Newcastle this summer

Smith kisses the Leeds badge before he left for Manchester United

Leeds United chairman Ken Bates has hinted at the possibility of Alan Smith returning to the club.

The Newcastle midfielder left Elland Road in acrimonious circumstances following the club's relegation in 2004, departing for their arch rivals Manchester United.

Smith, now 30, used to ply his trade in West Yorkshire as a striker but Sir Alex Ferguson moved him back into a deeper role during his time at Old Trafford.

He has now been told he can leave St James's Park and Bates admits there is the possibility of a move back to Leeds, although much will depend on Smith's fitness and wage demands.

Bates told Yorkshire Radio: "First of all it depends on whether the manager (Simon Grayson) wants him or not, which is his decision and not mine.

"Alan Smith returning to Elland Road would be a very popular move, but we have to be careful because unfortunately over the last few seasons Alan's had a pretty poor injury record and one thing we can't afford to do is sign somebody who is not fit to play.

"Alan Smith returning to Elland Road would be a very popular move"

Ken Bates

Quotes of the week

"The other thing of course is Alan Smith's wages. He's been at Manchester United and Newcastle, so his wages are probably in the stratosphere, well over the seven-figure region, so I suspect if he did join us he would have to knock a nought off it and probably half it, which may not suit him or his agent.

"But on the other hand nothing is certain and nothing is uncertain.

"I can confirm we're certainly continuing our quest for the right players and if he was fit of course Alan would be a great addition to the squad, but that would need further consideration and investigation by Simon."

Smith scored on his debut for his hometown club aged 18 at Liverpool in 1998, but was sold for £7million to the Red Devils during Leeds' financial crisis.

He moved on to Newcastle for £6million in 2007, but was restricted to only 14 appearances last season due to an ankle injury.

Any return to the Whites is likely to split emotions among the club's supporters, some who have never forgiven Smith's decision to switch across the Pennines.