Steve Evans wants to bring Sam Byram’s contractual situation to a head and clarify the defender’s future plans after leaving him out of Leeds United’s 3-0 win over Huddersfield Town.
Evans said tactical reasons were largely behind Byram’s absence from the squad at the John Smith’s Stadium but admitted Byram’s dwindling contract was causing him concern with the 22-year-old heading towards the last six months of his deal.
Byram’s fourth season as a senior professional at Leeds has been overshadowed by the fall-out from failed contract negotiations between his agent and United owner Massimo Cellino.
Cellino was publicly critical of Byram in August, claiming the youngster thought Leeds were “too small for him” following Byram’s refusal to accept a new deal which would have reduced his weekly wage.
Byram’s existing contract ends next summer and he looks increasingly likely to leave the club.
He has been in and out of United’s side this season and Evans’ predecessor as head coach, Uwe Rosler, claimed the right-back’s form had been affected by the contractual dispute.
Evans fielded Byram in his first three matches in charge but dropped him to the bench for last week’s 1-0 win over Cardiff City and left him out of the 18 at Huddersfield on Saturday.
Byram travelled to the John Smith’s Stadium but watched from the stands as Evans packed his bench with attacking players.
“I wanted to take into account the possibility of being a goal or two down, if we needed to win the game,” Evans said. “That’s why there were so many forward players.
“Also, a little part of my reason is that I want to sit down with Sam over a cup of coffee and see if he wants his future to be here.
“I’m getting told from above that I’m going to be here for a long period of time. I’m inside the club now and I just want to know if Sam wants to be here. I want to know if it’s the case that his real desire is to play for Leeds United because I know his contractual situation.
“We don’t have this with (Alex) Mowatt or (Lewis) Cook and I don’t want it with Byram. I think he’s a terrific talent.”
Evans implied that he would push Cellino to re-open talks with Byram’s camp if Byram was willing to stay, saying: “I’ll make my recommendation to the president for what we should do. I need to know that somebody (Byram) is prepared to come in the building and get a deal done. Then we keep him.”
Evans, who has taken the unusual step of arranging a friendly at Wycombe Wanderers this Friday with the international break upon him, remains in the hunt to sign Sunderland midfielder Liam Bridcutt before the Championship season resumes against Rotherham United on November 21. The United boss has been pushing to recruit Bridcutt on loan for the past week but the move appeared to be in doubt on Thursday when Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce described it as “confused – like Leeds.”
Evans spoke with Bridcutt directly on Friday night, however, and said: “It (the conversation) went extremely well.”
Evans, meanwhile, allayed fears of any serious injury to Liam Cooper after the defender was stretchered from the field after 18 minutes of Saturday’s derby.
Cooper was hurt in a clash of heads with fellow United defender Scott Wootton and Evans said: “The medical staff gave me the option that he could continue after a minute or two but I’ve always taken a view in these circumstances – that’s somebody’s son out there. It was easy to make the decision.”