Professional football can be a nomadic world. On Wednesday afternoon Liam Bridcutt thought he was joining Cardiff City. By 7pm he was sitting in an office at Thorp Arch, letting Steve Evans talk him into a move to Leeds United.
Evans had tried to sell the club to Bridcutt at least once before and at points of the past month, Bridcutt was basically sold. His loan from Sunderland was, by anyone’s standards, an on-off transfer which looked to be happening at the start of November but needed a last-ditch phone from United’s head coach at the very moment when Cardiff thought they had a deal.
“We had contact a few weeks ago but for one reason or another it didn’t get done when we first thought it would,” Bridcutt said. “To be fair, I was close to going somewhere else. I had a few other options because this fell through at one stage.
“Then I get a phone call late (on Wednesday) night from the manager, saying he’s been given permission to speak to me. I drove down here to meet him and we had a chat. He convinced me that Leeds were the club for me and I was more than happy to get it done.”
It is a measure of Evans’ opinion of Bridcutt – a 26-year-old defensive midfielder with ample experience of the Championship – that he kept lines of communication open with him until the very last minute. Evans thought the transfer was as good as done on November 2 but the delay which followed annoyed Sunderland’s manager, Sam Allardyce, and allowed several other Championship clubs to wade into the bidding.
“It’s interesting that when Sunderland were in a battle last season and needed some points, Liam was recalled back into their side,” Evans said. “I spoke to a couple of Premier League managers who were in opposition and they said he would be fantastic. What I was thinking about him was right.”
For Bridcutt, the empty weeks have dragged. He was as keen to move as Sunderland were to send him out on loan. The Wearside club have not used him this season and Allardyce, who replaced Dick Advocaat in October, said publicly that Bridcutt was the only member of his squad who would be allowed to move on before yesterday’s emergency loan deadline.
“For me, that’s football,” the former Brighton player said. “I know how it is and I know how quickly things happen. You never know what will come up or when things will change.
“It’s much more difficult for my girlfriend and my children than it is for me; my children especially because they’re used to seeing me every day, taking them to school and stuff. The next thing they know, dad’s up and gone again. The way things have worked out I’ll have plenty of time to see them still but moving clubs is part and parcel of the game. If you want to make a name for yourself, if you want a career, you have to make sacrifices. And when I spoke to the manager (Evans), I was clear in my mind about what I wanted to do.”
Bridcutt would admit himself that he needs to set his career rolling again. Evans is likely to give him a full debut at Queens Park Rangers tomorrow and Bridcutt says he has been “waiting for this day since the start of the season.”
Reserve fixtures aside – including a game for Sunderland Under-21s against Liverpool on Tuesday, a fixture which Cardiff scouted – his last appearance came in May. Unfavourable headlines at the time described him as a “misfit”.
“This feels like a long time coming,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for this day from the start of the season. I had a good pre-season and I was ready to play but things happen with managers. I’ve not had a lot to do with Sam (Allardyce) – he’s only just come through the door himself – but he’s got his own ideas and at the minute I’m not part of that.
“But I’ve been training and doing extra training, keeping myself fit and getting reserve games whenever I can. My fitness won’t be a problem. It’s the manager’s decision to make. I’m here to strengthen the squad but I’m here to play. I’ll fight for my place.”
A combative attitude is exactly what Evans wants and something United need. Eddie Gray, Leeds’ former winger and manager, spoke in an interview with the YEP on Wednesday about the club’s squad being too “pally-pally”; of the team lacking a dominant captain, particularly with Sol Bamba injured and recovering from a fractured toe.
“I’ve made my name as more of a defensive midfielder,” Bridcutt said. “I can play other roles too but that’s my main position. If you’ve followed me through my career, I’m a player who’s very vocal. I like to take control and I like to control games. I think of myself as a consistent player and that’s what I’m here to do.
“I wouldn’t say I needed convincing to sign in the end. This was always going to be the club at the top of my list if a move was possible. Speaking to the manager just gave me his views about what he wants to do with the team. I liked what I heard. It sounded like the right move and the right opportunity for me. All he said to me was that he wants me to do what I’ve always done at previous clubs – control games, get on the ball and keep it ticking. I’ll try to give him that.”
Bridcutt could be paired with Lewis Cook at Loftus Road tomorrow, an 18-year-old talent who Bridcutt said was “going to be a top player.” Evans is already thinking about retaining Bridcutt when his initial loan ends in January and, regardless of intense interest from Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, the Scot has no intention of encouraging approaches for Cook.
Bridcutt said the idea of a longer stay at Elland Road appealed to him but he has good reason not to count his chickens with a hard month ahead of him. His Sunderland team-mate, Will Buckley, joined United on loan last month with a view to a permanent deal. Leeds sent him back to the Stadium of Light yesterday after only one start.
“If all goes well and I get the games and results, if the manager’s happy with me, I’d be happy to stay,” he said. “But for now I just want to play. I haven’t had that feeling for a while, not in a first-team game. It’s nice to thinking about that again.”