HEAD coach David Hockaday is urging Sam Byram to stay with Leeds United for the good of his long-term career.
United are poised to unveil their eighth summer signing today with the arrival of Italian centre-back Giuseppe Bellusci on loan from Catania.
But Byram, 20, is attracting glances from the Premier League with Southampton unsuccessful with their £4.5m bid to secure the youngster’s services.
Sunderland, managed by former Leeds assistant Gus Poyet, are also thought to be interested along with Liverpool and Leicester City and increased offers for Byram look inevitable before the end of the summer transfer window.
But ahead of tonight’s League Cup first-round hosting of Accrington Stanley, Hockaday has issued “strong advice” to Byram to keep in situ at Elland Road.
Byram, who can operate as a right-back or right winger, enjoyed a stellar 2012-13 with Leeds which ended with the Academy graduate being named player of the year. But the six-foot star’s progress was hampered by a hip injury last year and Hockaday feels Byram would benefit from another season of regular football in the Championship with Leeds rather than risk extra competition for places in the Premier.
Hockaday told the YEP: “Sam Byram is a Leeds United player and, in my opinion, and this is just in general footballing terms, the best place for him is Leeds United. That’s because he’s in our team, he’s got the shirt and he needs to get a good season behind him. From an ex-pro, that’s my strong advice to Sam – stay at a club where you feel comfortable and where you are going to get games under your belt.
“Last season obviously he wasn’t able to do that so he needs to get a proper full season under his belt. That’s what I would strongly advise.”
Byram is not thought to have submitted a formal transfer request but the YEP understands that his agent has told Leeds that the defender would want to consider suitable offers to move to the Premier League.
Southampton have money available to them after raising huge fees through the sale of several first-team players this summer but they are yet to up their offer for Byram, whose contract at Leeds runs to June 2016. The south-coast club see Byram as a potential replacement for Calum Chambers, the young defender sold to Arsenal in a £16m deal last month.
Speaking after Southampton’s friendly against Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday, Saints boss Ronald Koeman said: “(Byram) was a player we had on the list and it’s true that we had a bid for him, yes. What I heard was that Leeds didn’t accept it.”
The summer signing of Gaetano Berardi from Sampdoria has also left United with two recognised first-team right-backs but Byram was preferred to the Swiss defender in Saturday’s starting line up in the 2-0 Championship loss at Millwall.
United are still being linked with a host of names on the transfer front and former Italian Under-21 centre-back Bellusci is expected to become the club’s eighth signing of the summer today. Bellusci, 24, will arrive on a one-year loan from Catania with United having the option to buy next summer.
Bellusci is nicknamed ‘the warrior’ in Italy because of his combative playing style and Cagliari’s Brazilian midfielder Adryan, Tours forward Andy Delort and Southampton striker Billy Sharp are among the attacking options linked with Leeds.
Hockaday has promised further recruits before the summer transfer window closes on September 1, saying: “We’re aware, like everybody else is, that we need to strengthen the squad.”
But tonight attention turns to the League Cup visit of League Two outfit Accrington and United have midfielder Tommaso Bianchi back available after serving a one-game suspension.
Steve Morison may also be in line to return from a calf strainbut Hockaday is likely to rest several first teamers in readiness for Saturday’s Championship hosting of Middlesbrough.
Hockaday says that whatever side is selected this evening will be good enough to put United into the second round.
“Whatever team we put out, we’ll be looking to win,” said United’s head coach.
“Having said that, we’ve got a league game on Saturday and we have key players that we have to be careful with. I will be picking a team that I believe will be good enough to win the game but obviously we have got a long season ahead of us so I’m not going to be killing people.
“Accrington work very hard. They’ve got good energy, they’ve got a goal threat and they didn’t get off to a good start either so they will be smarting from that.
“It will still be a really difficult game.”