Steve Evans voiced concern about the increasing number of absentees at Leeds United after three more players were added to the club’s injury list last week.
United’s head coach is awaiting news of a calf strain suffered by Sol Bamba and the outcome of a second scan on Chris Wood’s injured hamstring amid last-minute attempts to sign new players ahead of tomorrow’s transfer deadline.
Bamba started yesterday’s FA Cup tie at Bolton Wanderers after Liam Cooper was ruled out with a bruised hip but the centre-back limped from the field in the closing stages of a 2-1 win.
Cooper is due to resume training on Tuesday morning but Evans said the need for a new central defender would be pressing if Bamba is forced to miss a period of the season.
Wood, meanwhile, will undergo a fresh examination on Wednesday after an initial scan on his hamstring failed to establish the severity of the damage.
Wood aggravated an existing problem in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at Brentford. He was left out of Leeds’ trip to Bolton and is an early doubt for this weekend’s Championship game against Nottingham Forest. A shortage of players at the Macron Stadium saw midfielder Casper Sloth make the bench, despite Evans admitting last week that he was willing to listen to offers for the Dane. FIFA’s January window shuts at 11pm tomorrow but the Football League will open its emergency loan window in eight days’ time, giving Leeds the chance to make 93-day signings.
Evans, who is already without injured pair Gaetano Berardi and Ross Turnbull and saw Sam Byram leave Elland Road for West Ham last month, said: “People can see it. Sam went and we’re operating without Cooper, Wood and Berardi. They’re not all that far away but we don’t want to be down at the level of numbers we’ve got.
“Cooper will train on Tuesday. Could we have played him (against Bolton) at a push? Yes. Do we want to be playing players at a push? No because then you lose them for longer.
“If there’s an issue with Sol we’ll go to the market. If there’s no issue then we’ve got Sol, Liam Cooper and Giuseppe Bellusci in good form so we’re okay with three. But the minute we go down to two, we need to go to the market.”
Wood, United’s leading goal scorer, has suffered from repeated hamstring strains since joining Leeds from Leicester City in July. He has started only once since United’s 2-2 draw with Derby County on December 29 and a scan carried out last Thursday failed to establish a likely return date.
“It was a bit inconclusive so we’re getting him rescanned on Wednesday morning,” Evans said. “I’ll be up front as soon as we get the results.
“The medical team have worked with him and the prognosis was that it shouldn’t be as bad as it was before.
“It doesn’t look that way but the scan wasn’t conclusive. Sometimes the muscle needs time to settle. By Wednesday we’ll get a full, clear picture.”
Souleymane Doukara has been the beneficiary of Wood’s injury, starting a string of games in the past month and scoring four times in six appearances.
His eighth-minute goal at the Macron Stadium set up Leeds’ fourth-round win over Bolton and Evans heaped more praise on a striker who he said felt “discarded” before he took over from Uwe Rosler as head coach.
“If we’d signed this kid from the Premier League for £4m or £5m and he was playing the way he’s played for six weeks, you’d say ‘what a steal that is’,” Evans said. “I arrived, he felt discarded, he didn’t feel loved and that’s harsh when you come away from having a reasonable CV in Serie A.
“I told him I was going to give him the biggest opportunity of his life.
“I don’t think there are many teams who’d look forward to playing against him when he plays like he is now. His heart was crying when I arrived. Now his heart is blessed.”