Leeds United are set to clear Gaetano Berardi for the start of pre-season training after the right-back completed his recovery from ankle ligament damage.
Berardi has reported to Thorp Arch a week after the end of United’s Championship term for fresh examinations on the ankle he hurt in a 2-2 draw at Hull City last month.
The defender was stretchered from the field at the KC Stadium and subsequent scans revealed that a foul by Hull’s Jake Livermore had aggravated an injury which forced Berardi to miss two months of the season either side of Christmas.
Berardi suffered torn ligaments during a game at Charlton Athletic in December and did not recover until February but while his latest problem saw him sit out of the final two games of the term, Leeds expected him to be fit before the end of this month.
Head coach Steve Evans, who is continuing in his job despite no guarantees from United that he will be in charge for the beginning of pre-season training, said: “Berra’s in for a bit of work this week, just to make sure everything’s as it should be.
“The timescale’s been as we’ve expected but we have to be sure there’s no scar tissue or anything like that. All being well, he’ll go off for a break with his family and come back for the start of pre-season.
“He’s an important player so we want to make sure he’s right. With Berra on the right and Charlie Taylor on the left, the full-backs here are as good as anything in the league.”
The majority of United’s first-team players departed on holiday after closing out the season with a 1-1 draw at Preston North End on May 7, departing with instructions to wait for a text message confirming the identity of the club’s head coach for next term and a start date for pre-season.
Evans has a contract until the end of next month but has not been told whether United owner Massimo Cellino intends to replace him. Cellino will hold a meeting of United’s board of directors tomorrow to discuss plans for the coming 12 months.
Evans, who travelled to France to watch two league games over the weekend, said: “My situation’s unchanged and so’s my focus. I’m getting on with my job.”
Midfielder Lewis Cook, meanwhile, is on course for an appearance at the European Under-19 Championship in July after making the England squad for two warm-up games against Mexico.
Cook, who was heavily involved in the Under-19s’ successful qualifying campaign, has been named in a 24-man group chosen by coach Aidy Boothroyd for back-to-back meetings with Mexico on June 4 and 6.
The fixtures will complete the youngsters’ preparations for the European finals in Germany, which start on July 11.
England are in a group with France, Croatia and Holland and are bidding to win the competition for the 10th time – 23 years after their last success in 1993.
The competition runs to July 24, potentially ruling Cook out of much of Leeds’ pre-season schedule.
The new Championship term is due to kick off on August 6.
Cook – the reigning Football League young player of the year – has already enjoyed international success after helping England win the European Under-17 Championship two years ago.
Speaking about the Under-19 finals last month, the 19-year-old said: “It’ll be a great tournament and hopefully the same can happen and we win it again.”
Cook is one of only four Championship players in Boothroyd’s provisional squad.
Reading goalkeeper Luke Southwood, Charlton winger Ademola Lookman and Middlesbrough defender Dael Fry have also been included.