Gaetano Berardi’s Leeds United debut fell comfortably into the running for the worst of all time: sent off for a tackle resembling a kung-fu kick in a League Cup win over Accrington Stanley.
He was dismissed again at home to Huddersfield Town a month later, a second red card on his fourth appearance for the club. At that stage it was fair to ask if Leeds had burdened themselves with a loose cannon.
The Swiss defender has been in and out of United’s team all season, in no small part because of his disciplinary record and the inevitable bans that followed his red cards, and his recall at Wigan Athletic last weekend was a rare occasion when Neil Redfearn felt the need to use him.
Berardi, however, has an admirer in his head coach, described by Redfearn in all seriousness as the “ultimate professional” and a player whose attitude is an example to others.
Redfearn has talked previously about his domestic style – saying that of all the foreign contingent at Elland Road, Berardi looks “most like a player you’d find in the Championship” – and he is one footballer who Redfearn will be happy to retain if Leeds keep him on as head coach next season.
The opportunity to play at Wigan, Berardi’s first start for two months, was down to an injury to Liam Cooper. Cooper is fit to play against Nottingham Forest tomorrow but Berardi was largely faultless in a 1-0 win at the DW Stadium, a result which relied on stoic defending. Redfearn has made a point of promising his squad that convincing performances will not go unrewarded.
“He’s been patient and he’s had to stick it out a bit,” Redfearn said. “But he’s got a chance now to stake a claim for the run of games we’ve got left.
“I’m impressed with him. Not everybody sees how he is through the week but he’s an ultimate professional. He’s never a minute’s problem. He works hard every day, he understands when you change things around but when he gets into the team, he goes in and does a job.
“It was difficult to come straight back at Wigan because the pitch was a poor surface and Wigan were desperate for points. He had a really good game.”
Leeds recruited Berardi on a two-year deal from Sampdoria, part of their influx of 15 signings last summer. He has been a squad player in the main, filling in here and there and playing on both sides of the defence despite being a recognised right-back.
Redfearn fielded him behind Charlie Taylor last weekend, leaving Taylor to continue as a left winger.
Berardi’s display was sound and free of any reckless tackles, barring one risky lunge at Wigan right-back Gaetan Bong late in the match.
“He’s got that aggression about him, a competitive edge,” Redfearn said. “Sometimes he runs a bit close to the edge but he can play.
“He’s a good footballer. He can pass and he’s got a turn of pace.
“His aggression can be his strength and his weakness. He’s ultra-competitive and he’s a full-back who lets a winger know he’s in a game. You want to harness that but the discipline side is important too because you want him on the pitch.
“He got it right at Wigan.”