Leeds United: Bamba vows to fight his way back into first team

Sol Bamba.
Sol Bamba.
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Sol Bamba has vowed to fight his way back into Leeds United’s starting line-up – and warned: “When I get my turn I’ll make sure I keep my place.”

United’s captain said he “agreed 100 per cent” with his absence from the side after the club’s recent upturn in form but the defender is hoping to see head coach Steve Evans involve him again in the week ahead.

Bamba has not started a game for Leeds since their 2-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers at the end of October.

The experienced centre-back incurred a one-match ban during that game and then suffered a fractured toe midway through last month’s international break.

He returned to contention ahead of Leeds’ 3-2 win at Wolverhampton Wanders a week ago but Evans stuck with a centre-back partnership of Liam Cooper and Giuseppe Bellusci and the pair are expected to start again at Nottingham Forest on Sunday.

Evans, however, gave Bamba hope of a recall during the next seven days by saying a flurry of matches against Forest, Derby County and MK Dons would force him to rotate United’s squad.

Bamba told the YEP: “The team’s doing well so I have to be patient and wait for my turn. That’s how it should be and I’ve got no argument with that. But when I get my turn I’ll make sure I keep my place.

“Over the years I’ve been lucky enough never to have long runs on the bench so this is a bit of a new experience for me but honestly, as much as I want to play, it’s not about me. It’s about the club.

“No-one’s bigger than the club and I’m definitely not. I’m not going to complain and at the minute the boys in there deserve to play. I agree 100 per cent with that. But when I get my chance I’ll make sure I do my job. I’m very focused on that.”

Cooper has been a mainstay in Leeds’ defence throughout this season and Evans revealed on Wednesday that Scotland coach Gordon Strachan had been in touch with him about the possibility of an international call-up for the former Hull City player.

Bellusci, meanwhile, has overcome criticism and controversies to establish himself ahead of Bamba.

Bamba said: “As long as we’re winning I’m happy. I’ll wait for my chance.

“I joke about it with the manager, about the fact that I want to be back in, but in all seriousness it’s got to be good when he’s got three centre-backs he’d be happy to pick.

“Football’s all about competition, about playing to a level where it makes it difficult for other people to get a game. That’s what’s happening with us.”

United’s form in the past month has set them up for a possible play-off push during the second half of the season, with a gap of five points separating Evans’ players from sixth place in the Championship.

Bamba said: “The league’s unpredictable and I’m well aware of that but in this form we’re definitely in the mix.

“I’ve been there before and I’ve been here before with Leeds - you win three games and everyone’s buzzing. Then you have a bad couple of weeks and it all goes flat again so I’d be keeping calm. I’d be saying ‘we’ve got a lot of games to go. We’ve got a lot of work to do.’ Maybe that comes with seeing a lot of football over the years.

“We’re in the mix, definitely, and we want to stay there but it’s too early to tell for sure. We need to be careful about how we’re thinking.”