Steve Evans revealed that Leeds United would hold fresh contract talks with Sam Byram in the next 24 hours as he attempted to justify the right-back’s omission from his starting line-up.
Evans defended his decision to leave out Byram for the fourth game running and said he was hopeful of positive developments over the 22-year-old’s future following a 1-0 defeat to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.
Byram – the club’s player of the year in 2013 - has been missing from United’s team since their 2-0 loss to Blackburn Rovers on October 29 and last played as a substitute in a 1-0 win over Cardiff City at the start of this month. The defender has been troubled by a loss of form this season and consumed by discussions about a deal which expires next summer.
Contract negotiations with Byram’s agent broke off this time last year after United owner Massimo Cellino asked him to take a cut to his weekly wages of £12,000 a week and a failed attempt to find common ground in August led Cellino to criticise the youngster publicly.
Evans, who fielded Scott Wootton at right-back at Loftus Road but heard a frustrated away crowd chant for Byram in the second half, said Byram had been sidelined in part because of his form but also on account of the question marks over his future.
Byram’s representative is due to meet with United officials later today.
“There’s two factors,” Evans said when asked about the youngster’s lack of involvement. “There’s Sam’s contractual status where the club want any asset to be secured moving forward.
“What am I doing about that? I’ve got people talking who represent Sam and represent Leeds United. I’ve been working with Sam to make that happen over the last few days.
“Secondly, Sam was out of form but he’s improving now and his training-ground performances have improved significantly in the last week which is good to see. Maybe that’s because he feels his people will be around the table. That could be a factor.”
Evans, however, insisted the inclusion of an in-form Byram would not be enough to alter the long-term performances of a team who have lost their last two games and are in danger of slipping into a relegation battle in the Championship.
“Let’s not get misguided here,” Evans said. “This is a young right-back. He’s not going to be the lifesaver of Leeds United going forward.
“While I understand the frustration, we need a lot more than a right-back.”
United’s head coach, who took charge of Leeds after the sacking of Uwe Rosler a month-and-a-half ago, signed only one player in the recent emergency loan market, landing midfielder Liam Bridcutt from Sunderland after pursuing him for three weeks.
Other bids which, according to sources in Birmingham, included a move for Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish failed to secure further additions and Evans gave a brutal assessment of his squad at the end of a seventh league defeat on Saturday – a game attended by Cellino, despite the Italian vowing to stay away from Leeds’ fixtures amid criticism from the support.
“When you come into this club, the first thing you have to be is very honest with the squad you’ve got,” Evans said.
“If we’re being honest, we’ve got good players but we don’t have enough good players. We certainly don’t have many very good players for this level.
“At this minute the players don’t befit the supporters. This is where it is – in totality, not in terms of individuals. We’ve got gifted individuals.
“This isn’t a criticism aimed at the club but we tried to do three or four bits of business (in the emergency window). I knew that if we didn’t add three or four players then results would go up and down, and they will go up and down. Hopefully we’ll earn the time to turn that around in January.”