Chris Wood will make his Leeds United comeback this week with head coach Steve Evans insisting the striker has “nothing to prove” after almost two months on the sidelines.
Wood came through a full training session at Thorp Arch today and could make the bench for tomorrow’s game at Cardiff City after an extended battle to recover from hamstring problems.
The forward has started only one game since the turn of the year – a 1-1 draw at Brentford in which he limped off after 17 minutes – and Leeds battled through a prolonged spell of poor league form without him, wary of aggravating his injury further.
Evans said Wood was certain to feature in the 18-man squad at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday if United chose to leave the 24-year-old out again tomorrow evening but he described Wood as “frustrated” after his recent absence from the team.
The New Zealand international was a marquee signing by Leeds last summer, arriving from Leicester City for a fee of around £3m. He is still United’s top scorer with eight league goals but injury has disrupted his season since Christmas.
Evans said: “It could be that he’s on the bench at Cardiff. It’s a possibility so long as there’s no concern about him. But if it’s not Cardiff then he’ll definitely be involved at Blackburn on Saturday.
“We’re desperate to have him back and to be fair, he’s desperate to be playing too. It’s been frustrating for him but we saw in January that these problems can reoccur easily. We’ve really missed him but we’ve tried to do our best by him.
“He’s got nothing to prove though, and certainly not to me. I think he’s a top player in this league and people have seen the difference when he’s been in the team.
“I keep saying it but Burnley have had Andre Gray free from injury all season and they’re top of the league. It was difficult for Birmingham when Clayton Donaldson was out and against us (in December) Hull had chances which Abel Hernandez would probably have taken if he’d been fit. A player like Chris is massive for anyone.
“It’ll make a big difference to us having him back. But if it’s not Cardiff for him then it’ll definitely be Blackburn.”
Lewie Coyle has been ruled out of tomorrow’s Championship game with the young right-back due to undergo scans on the ankle he injured in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers.
Liam Cooper will travel to Cardiff despite pulling a hamstring at the weekend and Scott Wootton is expected to be fit after a foot problem.