Leeds United: Injury wrecks Ariyibi’s hope of making Whites debut

Danny Pugh.
Danny Pugh.
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Brian McDermott last night hinted that he would look to use new signing Gboly Ariyibi during Leeds United’s Christmas schedule – but injury has denied the winger the chance of a debut this weekend.

Ariyibi is nursing a knock which forced him to miss United’s development-squad game against Coventry City on Wednesday and McDermott does not expect him to be fit for Barnsley’s visit to Elland Road tomorrow.

Leeds signed Ariyibi until the end of the season last week and the 18-year-old American looked likely to feature predominantly for their Under-21s having been released from Southampton’s academy during the summer.

But McDermott said Ariyibi would be “in with a shout” of featuring in his matchday squads when he returned to full fitness and the United manager plans to make the most of his squad over Christmas and New Year with Leeds preparing to play four times in 10 days.

“Gboly’s got a bit of a knock which is unfortunate,” McDermott said. “He’ll be touch and go but he’d be knocking on the door of the squad if he was fit. He’d be in with a shout.

“I wouldn’t want to put too much expectation on his shoulders but we’re talking about a winger who’s a strong boy with real pace.

“He looks at a manager now who thinks he’s got a chance and believes in him and that’ll be important to him.

“I played in his position and I know what that means.

“You need a manager who believes in you. I wish I’d found one.”

Leeds have operated without any recognised wingers this season and the club have moved to improve that area of their squad by approaching St Etienne about the availability of winger Max Gradel, their former player of the year.

United are hoping to negotiate a deal to bring him back to Yorkshire during the January transfer window.

But the low-profile arrival of Ariyibi was a first step towards to filling that void and McDermott has cast his eye over numerous trialists since August, previously signing central defender Marius Zaliukas after one appearance for Leeds’ development squad.

United have also given an opportunity to ex-Aston Villa defender Richard Bryan who is likely to remain with them until the end of the season, but the club released former Peterborough striker Shaquille McDonald after using him for an hour in Wednesday’s Under-21 win over Coventry.

“We won’t take Shaquille,” McDermott said. “He’s 18 and we’ve got strikers from the academy coming through at that age.

“But Gboly’s different because he’s the type of player we don’t have at the club. That’s why we felt it was right to take him and it’s a godsend to bring someone in.

“But he hasn’t trained for a few days.”

McDermott has made a habit of picking his squad for Saturday fixtures 48 hours beforehand but he delayed his choice of line-up until this afternoon due to a minor injury affecting Danny Pugh.

Pugh has been an unexpected fixture in United’s line-up since ending a year-long absence from the first team at Charlton Athletic last month and McDermott is hopeful that he will recover to start at left wing-back tomorrow.

Centre-back Scott Wootton, meanwhile, is fit and available having played against Coventry in midweek.

The former Manchester United defender is fully recovered from a twisted ankle sustained against Charlton five weeks ago.