Fabian Delph’s time at Leeds United appears to be over, with an ankle injury threatening to end the midfielder’s season.
Delph is facing a minimum recovery period of six to eight weeks after straining ligaments in Leeds’ recent defeat to Coventry City, and the injury has cut short his month-long loan from Aston Villa.
The 22-year-old was scheduled to make the final appearance of his initial deal against Portsmouth this weekend, but Villa expect him to miss the remainder of the term and have not ruled out the possibility of Delph undergoing surgery.
Leeds sent him back to Villa for treatment last week, and he is understood to have visited a specialist in London yesterday for further assessments of the damage.
Villa manager Alex McLeish said: “He’s not fit and I don’t know if he’ll play again this season.
“I think he’s rolled his ankle enough to rule him out. It’s a shame.”
Delph is fighting to avoid an operation having seen his career at Villa Park hindered by fitness problems, but his latest injury has effectively ended the option of United extending his loan through the closing stages of their Championship term.
Former manager Simon Grayson signed Delph on an emergency basis midway through January, and Neil Redfearn – United’s caretaker in the wake of Grayson’s sacking – admitted last week that the Elland Road club would be keen to retain him.
It is not clear whether new Leeds boss Neil Warnock intended to pursue an extension but the loss of Delph, above, has weakened United’s resources in the centre of midfield.
The England Under-21 international was hurt during the second half of Leeds’ 2-1 defeat to Coventry on February 14, the last five Championship appearances made by Delph.
He left the Ricoh Arena on crutches and was immediately sent back to his parent club for assessment by Villa’s medical staff.
The Premier League were already questioning whether to extend Delph’s loan after rejecting an original attempt by Leeds to sign him until the end of the season.
McLeish recently indicated that Delph would be recalled following the conclusion of his initial deal, saying: “If he’s playing well then he might see there’s an opportunity for him here.”
* Warnock, meanwhile, took the chance to assess the wider reaches of United’s squad during a behind-closed-doors friendly against Hull City at Thorp Arch yesterday afternoon.
Nathan Turner, Lloyd Sam and Billy Paynter all found the net but Hull struck four times in return to claim a 4-3 win.
United: M Taylor, Smith, Connolly, Bromby, C Taylor, N Turner, Thompson, Nunez, Sam, Paynter, Forssell.