Leeds United: Whites decide not to take a risk on defender Ekstrand

Joel Ekstrand
Joel Ekstrand
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LEEDS UNITED are to pursue other defensive targets after deciding not to offer former Watford centre-back Joel Ekstrand a contract.

The Whites had been strongly linked with a move for the 27-year-old, a free agent following his release by the Vicarage Road outfit at the end of last month.

But concerns regarding the fitness of the Swedish international, who has not played competitively since suffering a serious knee injury playing for the Hornets in a Championship game almost 16 months ago, have precluded hopes of a permanent deal.

A play-as-you-play deal is still being mooted as a possibility if Ekstrand can prove his fitness, but any realistic hopes of him earning a long-term contract at Elland Road appear highly unlikely with the 6ft 2in defender having not played since March 2015.

Ekstrand damaged the anterior cruciate ligament and cartilage in his left knee and fractured a bone in a game against Ipswich Town, with his road back to fitness having been gruelling and painstaking.

Worries about his injury record has forced United to focus on other defensive options, with the club seeking to boost their numbers further in that department following the arrival of Kyle Bartley on a season-long loan from head coach Garry Monk’s former club Swansea City.

Central midfield represents another big priority area – exacerbated by the £10m departure of Lewis Cook to top-flight side Bournemouth.

United have so far brought in six players to the club this summer; Swansea loan duo Bartley and Matt Grimes, £2m Swedish forward Marcus Antonsson, Sporting Lisbon loan winger Hadi Sacko, ex-QPR and England goalkeeper Rob Green and £3m Oxford United attacker Kemar Roofe.

Several are likely to feature in tomorrow’s evening Irish tour opener against Shelbourne at Dublin’s Tolka Park. Kick-off for the friendly is 7pm.

Leeds are also in action on Saturday when they face Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium, Dublin. Kick-off is at 3pm.

Meanwhile, forgotten striker Lee Erwin is confident that his target-man qualities can be utilised to the full after joining Oldham Athletic on a season-long loan.

Erwin has endured an inauspicious time at Elland Road after joining from Motherwell last summer, making just 12 appearances in 2015-16, 10 of which arrived from the bench.

The Scot, 22, farmed out for a brief spell on loan at League One outfit Bury in the autumn, is hoping for extended game time in a preferred central role at Boundary Park where he links up again with new Latics manager Steve Robinson, who he worked with during his time at Motherwell.

Erwin said: “I found out about the interest from Oldham Athletic on Tuesday and then I completed the move soon after, so I’m happy it is finally done.

“I have set myself a goals tally in my head, but I won’t be saying what that is.

“I like to come short, run in behind and I can be a target man for the rest of the team.”

Kemar Roofe celebrates his hat-trick with Pawel Cibicki.

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