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'Cool' Beckford's red-hot in new frugal era

IT is little wonder that scouts from some of the Premier League's biggest clubs are beating a path to places such as Elland Road.

Spend, spend, spend has made way for make do and mend. Players from the lower divisions are in demand and none more so than Jermaine Beckford, whose signature has become sought more eagerly with every passing round of the FA Cup.

"We are moving into an era of the frivolous being unacceptable and the frugal being cool," was how Andy Bond, the Asda chief executive, described the revolution that has taken place in the British economy. His logic applies as much to football as it does to apples and bananas.

Beckford is cool right now. In the summer he will be available free -- and transfers do not come much more frugal than that, particularly not when they involve a forward who has scored 24 goals this season.

Everton are believed to be leading the hunt for his services, which is apt considering that they are one of precious few clubs from the top flight who have a recent track record of unearthing rough diamonds.

In recent years, David Moyes has signed Tim Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott, to name but three, using a recruitment policy that harks back to the age when scouting networks rarely extended beyond English shores. Premier League scouts are now more likely to pop up in Lima than in Leeds.

The tightening of belts that has taken place in boardrooms up and down the country, along with Beckford's high-profile goals against Spurs and Manchester United, have helped to turn the striker into one of the hottest properties around at present.

His name did not appear on the scoresheet last night -- and he was upstaged by Jermain Defoe -- but the chances are that scouting reports will have noted that the former tyre fitter played a crucial role in Leeds' equalising goal and was a thorn in the side of Tottenham's defence once again.

"He would be a good gamble for someone in the Premier League; I am sure someone will take him," Harry Redknapp said. It is unlikely that the Spurs manager will be proved wrong -- and not just because we are in an era of austerity.

© The Times, London