Gaetano Berardi is in danger of missing Leeds United’s busy Christmas schedule after being stretchered from the field with an ankle injury towards the end of yesterday’s draw at Charlton Athletic.
Berardi has been sent for a scan on the problem as Leeds wait to see if a late tackle at The Valley will rule him out of their fixtures in the run-up to the turn of the year.
The Swiss defender, who returned from a two-match ban in London and appeared as a second-half substitute, punched the pitch in agony after being caught by a heavy challenge as Leeds pushed for a winning goal in injury-time.
Head coach Steve Evans described it as a “naughty tackle” and criticised referee Andy Davies for failing to notice as a second half which United dominated strayed into four added minutes. Evans said: “It’s a naughty tackle. We’ve got a twist and a kick to the ankle to deal with. He’ll get scanned and then we’ll see if there’s any damage.
“I don’t want the referee to get a mention because I don’t think he deserves to get a mention. Our performance in the second half should be what people write about.”
The possibility of another absence for Berardi – one of Leeds’ most consistent players this season – will reignite the long-standing debate about Evans’ choice of right-back.
Scott Wootton started again at The Valley, chosen ahead of both Berardi and Sam Byram as Evans retained the team who beat Hull City 2-1, but Wootton was replaced by Berardi early in the second half having been booked in the opening minutes of the game.
Byram’s involvement with United’s first team has been limited recently amid the dispute over his dwindling contract and his decision to turn down a final offer from Leeds this month – effectively starting the countdown to his exit from Elland Road – threatened to keep him on the fringes of the side.
Evans, however, used the 22-year-old from the bench in the closing minutes of Leeds’ goalless draw at Charlton and insisted again that he was willing to use Byram over Christmas, despite advising United to sell him in January and cash-in on a player who is out of contract next summer.
Evans said: “I’m not going to be scared to play Sam Byram if it’s the right thing to do. When it goes past January 1, I’ve got a different view on that and I’ve shared it.
“But Berardi would be a loss. It shows you how influential he is that he was the one player we were debating putting into the team after Hull. We’ve got good players there but he would be a loss and this time of year is always busy.”
Evans, meanwhile, insisted again that on-loan midfielder Liam Bridcutt could remain with United next month following comments from Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce which cast fresh doubt over Bridcutt’s future at Elland Road.
Bridcutt joined Leeds from Sunderland on an emergency basis last month with a view to extending that deal until the end of the Championship season but league leaders Brighton are being strongly linked with him and Allardyce said he would favour a permanent move which raised transfer funds.
Allardyce appeared to warn Bridcutt against remaining at United by saying that the midfielder’s career “needs to get back on track and realistically his career is not at Leeds and not here.”
But Evans said: “I’d imagine Liam Bridcutt’s got a say in where he wants to go and what he wants to do. It’s amazing that other people outside our club know whether we can buy him or not. I don’t know and I’m in the club.
“We’re a long way away from buying him. The kid came on loan and there’s a gentleman’s agreement to say he’ll be here to the summer but the key person in all this isn’t Sam Allardyce, Steve Evans, the owner at Sunderland or (Massimo) Cellino. It’s Liam Bridcutt and he hugged me in the dressing room (after the Charlton match) and said ‘I’m loving every minute of this.’”