Souleymane Doukara’s suspension for biting was as long and punitive as the Football Association wanted but Leeds United’s packed schedule in April saw to it that his eight-game ban came and went in the space of a month.
Doukara has said nothing about the offence or his punishment since the FA found him guilty of biting Fulham’s Fernando Amorebieta during a Championship game in February, but he will return to United’s squad tomorrow with words of support from head coach Steve Evans.
The disciplinary panel who heard evidence against Doukara dismissed his submissions and his denial of guilt, saying the striker “did not present well” in the witness box, but Doukara has always maintained his innocence, despite Fulham submitting photographs of Amorebieta’s injuries.
Leeds voiced disappointment at the original verdict but did not appeal the outcome or the length of Doukara’s ban and the club have yet to comment on what internal action, if any, had been taken against him. The Frenchman began his suspension on April 2 and completed it during Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Charlton Athletic.
Evans, who plans to include Doukara in his 18-man group for Leeds’ last league game at Preston North End this weekend, said the 23-year-old felt aggrieved by his treatment and “remorseful” about being on the sidelines for eight league matches.
“He was pretty down at first,” Evans said. “The kid has always maintained that he didn’t do it and when someone sits in my office and is quite upset – looks you in the eye and says it didn’t happen in the way it’s been described – then as a head coach you have to either believe him or not believe him.
“He’s taken that disappointment and trained really, really well with real professionalism. He’ll be in the travelling party and he’s fit and available. From a training point of view he’s been focused on getting himself ready for selection on Saturday and he gets nothing but applause for me. But it’s never a good thing when you see a player suspended for eight matches.”
Doukara, who at times of his two-year stay with Leeds has been anonymous or peripheral to the first team, was established as a fixture in Evans’ starting line-up when his ban was imposed by the FA ahead of a 2-1 defeat at Rotherham United.
Asked if the club felt Doukara had been treated unfairly, Evans said: “I can’t speak for anyone else but I think perhaps Souley thinks that. You would have some sympathy. None of us have seen any footage to say that he did it and when someone sits as remorseful as the kid was then you have to have an air of confidence about backing him.”
Evans is still deciding whether to put his faith in 19-year-old goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell by handing the teenager a second start away at Preston tomorrow. United’s boss, who gave Peacock-Farrell his full debut against Queens Park Rangers last month after first-choice Marco Silvestri incurred a one-game ban, promised to use the youngster again before the season finished but he stuck with Silvestri for Saturday’s defeat to Charlton, Leeds’ final home game of this Championship.
Peacock-Farrell is in the middle of negotiations about a new contract with his existing deal – a first professional contract handed to him last summer – due to run out at the end of June.
Leeds have offered him a two-year extension but Peacock-Farrell is yet to sign it.
Evans said he was in two minds about whether to field Peacock-Farrell at Deepdale and hinted that a large travelling crowd of more than 5,500 might persuade him to use the more experienced Silvestri instead.
“There’s much debate gone into the team for Saturday,” Evans said. “What I have to do is make sure we give ourselves every chance to win the game.
“When someone tells you how many supporters we’re taking, it’s an incredible amount. We have to make sure we’ve got a team out there that’s befitting of the heavy shirts.
“The answer is, not sitting on the fence, we’re undecided in the goalkeeping department. We’ve got nine of the team on paper picked. Marco is obviously the more experienced, significantly so. His performances, in the main, have been very good and we have to win the game.
“My view, as we sit here, is that he may just cope with that situation a little bit better. But if we’re sitting down to discuss it and the majority are saying Bailey then he’ll play.”